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Special Dedication To: Anthony Byron Holt (June 22, 1953 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; May 5, 2017) The first poet I ever knew. - Holly Holt, Design Engineer and Social Media Executive
Others Behind the Scenes
Art Editor - Peter Ristuccia .................................................................. email@example.com Prose Editor - Shane Etter.................................................................... firstname.lastname@example.org Poetry Editor* - Scott Thomas Outlar .................................................. email@example.com Music Editor - Dusty Huggins .............................................................. firstname.lastname@example.org Interview Requests - Adam Engel ........................................................ email@example.com * Chani Zwibel was the poetry editor for this issue, but all future submissions should be directed to Scott Thomas Outlar.
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Table of Contents Intro ........................................................................................................................................................... 5 Abigale Louise LeCavalier ......................................................................................................................... 7 Adam Levon Brown ................................................................................................................................... 9 Andrea Jurjević ....................................................................................................................................... 10 Anoucheka Gangabissoon ........................................................................................................................13 Yuan Changming ......................................................................................................................................14 Gretchen Heffernan ..................................................................................................................................16 Louis Gallo ................................................................................................................................................21 Michael Rosenwasser .............................................................................................................................. 22 Patricia Walsh.......................................................................................................................................... 23 Prince A. McNally .................................................................................................................................... 26 Ricky Garni .............................................................................................................................................. 27 Sheikha A. ................................................................................................................................................ 29 TC Carter ................................................................................................................................................. 32 Bo Higgins ............................................................................................................................................... 37 Bonnie Medford....................................................................................................................................... 38 Casanova Green ....................................................................................................................................... 39 Cassidy Richards ......................................................................................................................................41 Katie Fesuk .............................................................................................................................................. 43 Maria Klouda ........................................................................................................................................... 46 Kimberly Simms Gibbs............................................................................................................................ 47 Craig Finlay ............................................................................................................................................. 50 James H Duncan ..................................................................................................................................... 54 Scott Muirhead ........................................................................................................................................ 57 Angela K. Durden .....................................................................................................................................61 Roy Richardson ....................................................................................................................................... 66 Sean Hastings .......................................................................................................................................... 70 Clayton H. Ramsey .................................................................................................................................. 75 Sandra Wooldridge .................................................................................................................................. 84 Dustin Pickering ...................................................................................................................................... 86 The Teacher with Wit and Wisdom – Keith Hughes .............................................................................. 89 Musician Interview with Wyatt Espalin ...................................................................................................91 3|The Blue Mountain Review Issue 7
Author Interview with Michael Moore ................................................................................................... 94 Author Interview with Dan Albergotti .................................................................................................... 98 Musician Interview with Hannah Zale Toland ..................................................................................... 102 Musician Interview with Chelsea Shag ................................................................................................. 104 Interview with Roy Richardson............................................................................................................. 106 New Member Interview with Michael Burke ........................................................................................ 108 Fresh Talent Spotlight â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Samantha Eubanks ........................................................................................ 116 Interview with William S. Tribell ...........................................................................................................123 Publisher Interview with Gretchen Heffernan of Backlash Press ......................................................... 127 Musician Spotlight with Jessie Albright ................................................................................................ 131 Musician Feature with the Misty Mountain String Band ......................................................................133 Author Touch-Back with William Wright ............................................................................................. 138 How Our Home Hones Us..................................................................................................................... 140 Finding the Divine at the Vortex ........................................................................................................... 146 Restaurant Interview with 61 Main .......................................................................................................153 Stan Cohen.............................................................................................................................................. 157 Patricia Martin Holt .............................................................................................................................. 158 Jill Cobb ................................................................................................................................................. 162 Isabelle Gautier ..................................................................................................................................... 166 Patricia Perrier Radix ............................................................................................................................. 167 Piotr Strelnik ......................................................................................................................................... 168 Rae Broyles ............................................................................................................................................. 172 Jean-Charles Millepied .......................................................................................................................... 177 Outro ...................................................................................................................................................... 182
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Intro Thoughts on Spring Spring is the time for new projects. The Equinox, that brief eternity when day and night are of equal length brings a hopeful twilight to life that breaks into a longer dawn. The tide of the seasons shifts, and a spirit of renewal enlivens the Earth: spring. Ancient creation and founding myths are set in the spring: God creates the world, Rome is founded; April First is a New Year of wise fools and May Eve a night when the dead and the living dance side by side around the bonfire. That day, I stood on the banks of a tarn. The air was chill and a light rain fell. Winds from the gray halls of sky chased white breaker waves until they threw themselves onto banks of shattered rock. Water and stone: the raw building blocks of the world, whence rose all of its stories. Standing at the edge of creation, thoughts of new life came to my mind. Life and its attendant stations are timely, specifically concerned with when they occur as much as they are with the fact of their occurrence. Recently, I accepted the position of Art Director with the Blue Mountain Review. A shifting of the seasons was transpiring, both in the outside world and the inner world-as it always does, whether or not we perceive the change, and when we do, it is full of small, quiet, portent that gives wings.
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Abigale Louise LeCavalier Forgetting Thinking of you in a way abstract, trying to find significance in words, turning the page smoking burning the fingertips. And I know you are listening to my far away song, I'm not quite dead yet, just skeptical the way the mouse is of the cat. I have been swallowed whole before. Letting go of water, not willing or wanting affliction, pasting your picture at the ending of an unread book. Placing a milk glass in your hand; invisible, you have touched my soul and left it. Never forgetting the Moon and that I'm always in your shadow.
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Repeat Offender Waking up in water turning turning you have been holding me down in the river for so long. Waiting waiting never the chance to catch my breath, you hold your hand over my mouth and pinch my nose with your teeth. I can taste your oppression like a mosquito tastes blood, running running away away away away, and I don't want to share my clothes with you anymore. You should look me in the eye when I evaporate, You should cheer me on when I finally let you go.
Abigale Louise LeCavalier lives in San Diego California by way of Mammoth Lakes California. An admittedly 'self absorbed poet' and full time Alien, Abigale writes from the heart. Most of her pieces are dark and revealing narratives of things and issues she has had to deal with in her life. Giving the reader a look on the not so bright side of life. Her poems have appeared in Jersyworks, Black-listed Magazine, Illogical Muse, The Sheltered Poet, Blaze Vox, The second Hump, Long Story Short, Vox Poetica, Abandoned Towers Magazine, Leaf Garden, The stray Branch, The Camel Saloon, Polu Texni, Filling Station, Record Magazine, Black Cat Press, The Off Beat, and many other online and print publications. 8|The Blue Mountain Review Issue 7
Adam Levon Brown And so I say Hypnotic transience circulates through the body of time And so I say; Dance with the bones of your ancestors until you join them Hedonists sip on the philosophical And so I say; Burn in the flames and spread your ashes to the edge of the world Achilles is gone forever and Sleep is the brother of death and so I say; Light your candles now before dusk settles on your eyes
Adam Levon Brown is a published author, poet, and cat lover. He is editor of Madness Muse Magazine, and a book reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine. He has over 120 poems published in 9 different countries. He has been published in venues such as Burningword Literary Journal. www.AdamLevonBrown.org 9|The Blue Mountain Review Issue 7
Andrea Jurjević Parting We hold onto this moment as if it were a paper boat that we take from the warm bedroom out into the chill, place in the shallow puddle by the trees’ roots, and like silent children we watch as if the boat’s folds will somehow resist the rain, won’t go to pieces in the mud, as if love is some imaginary silver sail—long, iridescent and primitive—that cuts through the waters in which we drown.
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Untranslatable The morning is dank. The mesh screen windows of the Hot Fish diner sag heavy like hungover eyes, and beneath them, draped across the green juniper, the slow blink of Christmas lights offsets the fog. Reed, washed-up weeds, and splinters of grey wood scum the surface of the greasy, long-collapsed deck, and while the wind hammers the chests of gulls, the ocean recedes, falls back into its impassive self. The sky hangs like strung flags, sloppy and wind-torn, just like back in the house you nod, sink your thoughts into the couch pillows, their white untranslatable stuffing, and later you leave only a few silky hairs on the bathroom floor, in the towel, a salty trace of your semen, a note, Both demons and love can sneak up like an illness, make a man disappear.
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Skeptic’s Prayer How to have faith in this thing, a new man whose hands you’ve fallen into, and in which you act as if nothing of you is broken? As if this loving doesn’t make you feel pitch-high, drenched and naked under the sky that churns with flocks of night birds. As if, while you edge his borders— the scar above his lip, the inked Reaper clutching the scythe tipped into black soil, the drumming hymn of his chest and the warmth of his ass—as if you don’t ache for the air to remain this ripe, and like a square skeptic act as if everything you say isn’t a prayer for the birds to stay.
Andrea Jurjević is a native of Croatia. Her first poetry collection, Small Crimes, won the 2015 Philip Levine Prize. Her poems, and her translations of contemporary Croatian poetry, have appeared in Epoch, TriQuarterly, Best New Poets, The Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2013 Robinson Jeffers Tor Prize, the 2015 RHINO Translation Prize, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Hambidge Fellowship.
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Anoucheka Gangabissoon The Outcast! I am a girl, yes But I am a loner It can happen! I wish not to socialize I wish not to sit and talk I wish not to party I wish not to sing and dance I wish not to laugh over a joke! I am a girl An outcast, maybe But does it matter? Do I have to be a stereotype Do I have to be like the rest Pray If I harm not If I destroy not Why canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t I be left alone! Why World, Be and let me be Yes Be and let me be, for Your meaning is still a mystery Your expanse is meant to hold diversity World Accept me And tolerate me I shall, in return Give you all of my heartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s treasures!
Anoucheka Gangabissoon is a primary school educator from Mauritius, who writes poetry and prose as a hobby. Her works can be found on poetrysoup.com and have also appeared in SETU, Different Truths, Dissident Voice, Destiny Poets and in an anthology for the group Immagine and Poesia.
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Yuan Changming Getting Inspired With a storm With a gull With your breath Goes the thought With a vague vision Beyond the bogland With your heart Hawking aloud in the wild With dripping blood An unformed concept A shoal of consciousness Bubbling with feeling With a photon With a quantum With your mind concentrated On a twisted other
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Towards Taoism To/To Seek/Balance Yang/Yin From/With Yin/Yang Is/Isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t The same/The same As/As
Seek/Balance Yin/Yang From/With Yang/Yin Before/Unless We/You Zigzag/Zagzig Our Path/Your Way With/Without A thought/Any feeling About/Towards Nature/God Here/There
Yuan Changming, nine-time Pushcart and one-time Best of the Net nominee, started to learn English at age 19 and published monographs on translation before moving out of China. Currently, Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1249 others worldwide. 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 7
Gretchen Heffernan The Wet World A night in February can close over London like a sack over a head. I peer out from my umbrella at chandeliers inverted fires glowing and suspended – faces inside pub windows caught in the imagination as otherworldly, as content. The streets are full of strangers, familiar to the night as foxes and shoes against pavement, wheels grinding over sodden leaves, and the sound of old trains. These things swell in me like water from a gutter swells a drain before it falls, reuniting with the cavern, my body, is dry – I have come 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, like 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, so dry 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. Conversation between us developed like a photograph in a murky solution, no solution, but we uncovered captured moments, then sat holding them like terrified birds in our hands before letting go. Again and again, watching the dark shapes of ourselves flap away and dwindle into nothing, silence. You live in a house at the foot of Mt. Lemon – 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 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 7
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 his brown forehead like a soothing storm – maybe that is all he, we, needed you can say to yourself, you can look straight at the light as it glosses, rounds off and coaxes the spirit from its rough house, ours, you can feel the water ease over past, those hot rocks, easy as a flock of geese through the air that colour pulls seamlessly through, the end of string, of a wound ball of thoughts, running them out of the mind, you can change shape in this light, one bird falls behind, it leaves you, one bird takes the lead, it leaves you, still, you can go a long way without water, you.
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The Spectre Inside Elizabeth’s Bishops Poem The Fish What It Takes To keep all my little silences working together, yet individually, like the scales of a fish toil to move it’s entire body through the dark and ahead, two water lilies open like hands unfolding a secret shining their moon phases over the waters surface. Breasts with the body submerged. Ideas move beneath me in stealthy circles, their scales scraping like plates of steel and the water, that color too, not black, but metal dark and the thoughts that arise like bubbles before my voice slips away – released it travels deeper.
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The Spectre in Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth SwitchgrassSwitchgrass Nothing can prepare you for the desolation of endless grass. A constant moving that’s stuck like a mind to a body that cannot walk away. People compare the grass to waves, but waves are molecules, uncontrolled and travelling though a system that would kill us should we dare to breathe it, where no day is the same. Better to compare the waves to air moving in circles around the skin, and the heart or even just it’s tight and pumping chambers to the oceans depth. There are no trees here. Trees, you see, grow to live in the sky. Trees anchor.
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The Spectre in Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Jan Vermeer I had to open the window like the hands of your letter opened me – And before in rapt darkness there inhaled life beyond a pain that was never meant to be – You’ll witness a thin reflection like a ghost the woman to come. I came and came for your affection now lost for losing now wretched now undone.
Gretchen Heffernan is a poet, novelist and publisher. She co-founded Backlash Press and has published poetry in journals such as Agni and Brittle Star. She is the author of The Carving Circle, The Book of Dirt and, forthcoming, The Book of Insects. Her novels combine visual and poetic narratives with myth. She has a degree in Creative Writing and Modern Poetry from Vermont College. She has completed two Faber Academy writing programs and has been involved with The Poetry School in London. She also loves trees and manages ancient woodland in East Sussex, England.
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Louis Gallo Portrait in Gold I like the way she hooks her thumbs into the belt loopsof her jeans to hoist them up abit then juts out a saucyhip, a sliver of fleshstill exposed between the jeans andbottom seam of her t-shirt. I like the way herwheaty hair absorbs sunlight asif part of the sunlight, theway her striated lips part slightly todisplay the two front milkteeth. I like herinsouciance as she so stands, theself-aplomb and proud exuberance of beingexactly who she is with noneed to explain anything to anybody .. . I like how sheoverpowers the scene and makes the rest ofus disappear.
Louis Galloâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared or will shortlyappear in Southern Literary Review, FictionFix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic,, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, NewOrleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review,Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania LiteraryJournal, The Ledge, storySouth, HoustonLiterary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), GreensboroReview,and many others. Chapbooksinclude The Truth Change, The Abominationof Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is thefounding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.
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Michael Rosenwasser Nice Sometimes when we sit across from each other and the blue of her eyes blazes a trail inside me and the whimsy of her smile inspires a deep meaningful laughter It can be in the kitchen or the backyard garden a diner maybe no matter the venue no matter the time no matter who else is with us Nice the thought of Nice Resonates in my mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye And I reflect on all the other souls who have sat across from a similar bright light reveling in the magic of the moment Michael Rosenwasser has been interpreting himself and his world through poetry for most of his life. He uses his garden as another creative outlet and golf to build discipline and character. He has shared his world with Suzanne for 45 years. A transplanted New Yorker, for three decades he has called the South his home.
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Patricia Walsh Algorithm Close to breaking point, closer to tears executed in private, away from the sketch. Exposed in various faults of my soul, fast clearing a table on my arrival. Asking for insults advancing my arrival she looks fastened as I walk past, some glory evaporates as I sit closer an algorithm of society, standing in scorn. None of this is my fault, I know now, picking away the blame from my sleeve the stigma of socialising burns deeper questions about performance slight away. Guilt of association foisted on others reputation of sorts, namely taint my way an innocent bystander stuck with association no fault intended, a rod for my back. How lovely I was, still pale with affection, Sleeping under tears all and every night, chain of fools never wanting to understand holding power where none was intended. Millroys, suffocation, songs belting the hour until a welcome night settles matters. Guilt of association melts inadequacy until an eligible creatures alights. God alone knows the loneliness of the perpatual latchkey of society, milling for some association lacking friends who would last the distance discarded once the fun is over.
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â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Past is a Finite Resourceâ&#x20AC;? (Douglas Coupland) When I consider how my life is spent chasing filigree notions on life everlasting call upon the forces driving the flower destroying the ephemeral, a fait accompli. What have I got aside from these trinkets? A thorny memory on a stuck event eating at my intellect, passing slow lying after death my only destination. Being let down is a given, confidential converstions immured in the moment taking hints and walking towards the door past rejections fresh in my recollection. My private world where naught can entertain feeds my core with situation comedy. An unexplainable smile unnerves those observing none past the event, chiding in the action. Burning the archives of a life well hid memories ot the insignificant wash over me more useful than the next, in my next adveture looking at mirrors of life everlasting.
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Cut and Dried Blood Blood's a bar I cannot pass. Guilt by association, sullied by favour expected from changing the world some favour in our time complicates matters. Other colours, a chain of tales repossessed, a was a conundrum of stories beating back of the brow of fitting in, chair of camaraderie reigning supreme. Some interior castle chimes the hour. Switching distance at the rate of minures giving away life, a free gift to the misbegotten, surfing the chides. Where to stop, where to begin. Screeching slow processing what is easier in the perpetrations complicated threads making up a garment knitted into unity, dissention punished. Annexing friendships, a local archipelago meanders through bad weather, tales of survival another colour, a generation dispossessed divided for permanence, a wound congealed.
Patricia Walsh was born and raised in the parish of Mourneabbey, Co Cork, Ireland, and was educated in University College Cork, graduating with an MA in Archaeology in 2000. Previously I have published one collection of poetry, titled Continuity Errors, with Lapwing Publications n 2010, and have since been published in a variety of print and online journals. These include: The Fractured Nuance; Revival Magazine; Ink Sweat and Tears; Drunk Monkeys; Hesterglock Press; Linnet's Wing, Narrator International, The Galway Review; Poethead and The Evening Echo, a local Cork newspaper with a wide circulation. I was the featured artist for June 2015 in the Rain Party Disaster Journal. In addition, I have also published a novel, titled The Quest for Lost Eire, in 2014. 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 7
Prince A. McNally The Blood of The Slaughtered They stole everything they could get their hands on... The live stock, the rice and what ever vegetables available. They stole, the beautiful vibration and the lively motion of an entire village Wielding their guns and machetes Destroying a rich history and budding futures simultaneously They stole the purity And the innocence of the young For they knew nothing of the taste of violence and death... And thus, their promising futures, would suddenly cease to exist in this moment of blind and ruthless slaughter Their jubilant smiles and laughter... forever silenced And just, As swiftly as these rebels came, They left...on their caravan of evil and death Leaving nothing but the buzzing of hungry fruit flies in their wake, to feast and lay their lava upon the dead As the blood of the slaughtered boiled beneath the hot African sun... Transforming the brown, burning soil... to a deep -crimson- red. Prince A. McNally's poetry and prose reverberate from the walls of the beautiful Brownstones of tree-lined Brooklyn NY. He is but a seeker, a scribe and a deliverer of love and enlightenment through his pen, And performance poetry. Prince is a freelance writer and also teaches creative writing on-line. He has been featured and interviewed several times on Blog Talk Radio. His work has also been published in numerous literary magazines and anthologies in the U.S. and abroad. He is currently preparing to release a chapbook as well as a full-length poetry collection due in early 2017.
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Ricky Garni What Happens When You Die You keep going, only everything works that didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work before. For example: that taxi is now free, the wind is there, soft on your neck, and the little sparrow, confused and frightened in the street, is now resting comfortably in that very tree.
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Secret Service We are so used to watching them on television or in the movies. But every time that the camera focuses on the agents, the music commences a dull, droning sound in the background, getting louder and louder, measure by measure. Someone is going to try to shoot the President! If you are a real secret service agent, you hear that droning all the time, from the time you adjust your crisp white shirt in the morning until you remove your wrinkly white shirt in the evening. But you never hear the sound of the gun, only that droning sound. Imagine in the morning, eating a bowl of Rice Krispies, and there it is again, that terrible, awful sound.
Ricky Garni has worked over the years as a teacher, wine merchant, musician, and graphic designer. He began writing poetry in 1978, and has produced over thirty volumes of prose and verse since 1995. His work can be found in many online publications, print magazines and anthologies and he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize on seven occasions. COO, a tiny collection of short prose printed on college lined paper with found materials such as coins, stamps, was recently released by Bitterzoet Press. 28 | 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 7
Sheikha A. Flee(t)ing Spring recoils quickly from the stubborn moss growing on the walls of my old brick home, the sky is an azurite envy to the deep brown wetness, and sprung between its soil ridges have little white-petal flowers, sparingly, crouched foetal-like into their pale pink buds, their fragrance not yet intensified for visiting breezes to carry through the rest of the patches, or my hung-ajar window, instead leaving scents of an oncoming summer mixing with distressing wood; spring does not visit me for my odours even though rain offers its virtue unabashedly, but stays only to freshen the decaying history settled like whitened dust in shrunken crevices hard to reach. There is never cleansing for me; spring stays shortly, like a fickle houseguest, as summer unctuously piles on.
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Catatonia The clouds hang like strands of phlegm, thickly and viscously, offering no scenic story on the grained paper assumed would hold together the water in colours – water drips in timely cue from a loose shingle, the hours collect methodically into a pan, till it brims with coppery scents and tea-tainted visions – silence is death, mostly philosophically appropriate, where souls no longer have tongues, and the walk over the bridge is a test of feet that haven’t died as yet – soon, the hour will decease with the spill, the clouds will have dripped off its paper, the dark curling up into circular fists and the feet will come alive
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There are ablutions many, layer after layer, across a sea of alabaster laying like queries of God; a thousand riddles peppered upon velvet ribbons called skies upon which vigil sentinel curators saunter peripheries of guiltless adequacies carrying quills fresh with ink laboured from a stealthy day of listing fallacies forming the basis of evolution. The stars, I imagine, hop in routine inspections, floating purposefully house to house, pensive pursed lips and thick goggles of myopic lenses spotting out weak-willed, battered souls to judge of their trysts with fates never unfair. I notice a flake of white pock my window in a spherical rimâ&#x20AC;Ś believing I have been visited tonight. To it, I lay like a query unbothered guessing in my sleep lumbered mind as getting marked: a subject pending approval.
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her work appears in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. More about her publications can be found on her site sheikha82.wordpress.com 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 7
TC Carter Video: I am Doc Holliday The Mountainside I thought that I would never leave it It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t gravity that held me there Or some misplaced thought that I mattered To that small dot of earth and sky and air Even though I must admit, if I am true That it welcomed me, a stranger passing through With no plan of putting roots into the earth Or finding out what staying there was worth But some unseen force Some work of God I often think Brought me to that mountainside Where I found the missing link To who I am and what I was meant to be Like a bird in a gilded cage, set free But birds sometimes fly away The circumstance of seasons Makes it hard to stay Some return, you see them in the spring And once again watch their flight And hear them sing And circumstance it is, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s moved me From the home of my heart But of memory and soul and longing There remains a part Of this passing stranger Who put roots down in the mountainside And when I left it all behind I cried When I left it all behind I cried
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Mute I write songs that will not be sung and poems no one will read and have thoughts that will never break the tension of the air or find their way to that blank and silent page lying there
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Born To The Leather He was the kind that tends to cattle With other men of horse and saddle Where camaraderie ends the night â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Round a campfire glowing bright And a poem or two might find its way To end another cowboy day With songs and stories sung and told As flame dies down to glowing coals Before their sougans call it seems To beckon them to peaceful dreams He was held in high esteem Amongst this cowboy roping team His looped riata deftly throwed Flew to places that he knowed Would surely snag a mossy steer And drag him there to here Or catch his horse up in the morning As night surrenders to the dawning And through the day, the horse and he Were always where they ought to be He had struck out young, all brass and bold To seek the place he had been told Is where grass had not been turned It was country that he yearned To see and feel beneath his feet Cattle trails the only streets And plow and fence were only words Never seen and seldom heard His Ma had sobbed and sorely wept The day he said goodbye and left And Paw had held back his approval He did not favor the boys removal From his spot behind the plow To chase a dream of tending cows He did not understand or know In life beyond the things that grow In ground turned over by the blade There are other ways some men are made And so he walked his way to Texas Not concerned with what perplexes Men with dreams formed too small And no desire to join the ball Or wander where few men have been This thing they might consider sin 34 | 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 7
Is to some men instant calling And not related to angels falling He struck a camp out on the trail The cowboss thought it strange as hell A young boy out here all alone Good size he was but short of grown All he owned tied in a sack And farmer’s rigging on his back The cook had set him up to beans The boy had no jingle in his jeans But the grub Cookie dished was free Just cow trail hospitality He said he’d rather earn his fixings If they would tolerate his mixing Into work he’d never done But he could work from sun to sun He was eager for the prize That was showing in his eyes The cowboss thinking way down deep If this boy would do to keep He liked the way his jib was cut And though he was a farmer’s pup Boss thought he just might make a hand Amongst this tribe of cowboy man He said, son, I’m sort’a in a tight We lost a cowboy the other night So if you’ve a mind to have a taste I’ll hire you on to fill his space Well, this was like a dream come true And the boy knew exactly what to do He said, Sir, I’d be mighty proud To throw in with this cowman crowd So they rigged him up in dead man’s clothes From top of head to tip of toes The riggings made him look the part But he also had the head and heart So the boys taught him all they knew The young man learned and quickly grew They seemed to come as second nature These things of cowboy nomenclature He was a man born to the leather Not to beds of sheet and feather His gizzard full of sand and grit His vocabulary excluded “quit” The cowboss had made a good decision 35 | 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 7
He had a cowboy cut to real precision A condition of his humble birth To prove his mettle and his worth Now with trail dust clinging to him Like the vestments of a priest His battered hat a cowboy crown With an old Montana crease His green eyes full of light That reveals a bit of mirth He gets up every morning A prince of all the earth
TC Carter was born in Virginia in 1939. He started military service at the age of seventeen, after which he spent the next three decades in the western United States. Most of that time he spent as a ranch hand on the northwest Kansas plains. started writing in February of 2012 with a special interest in cowboy poetry. His first public reading was at an open mic in Dahlonega, GA four months later. Poetry lead to songwriting which lead to guitar lessons. He is thankful that his Lord Jesus Christ has blessed him with a new life, a good wife, and two fine sons. 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 7
Bo Higgins Happy 30th Anniversary If I were to write of you It would start on the table Stained with â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Overlapping wet circles that She cried down Your gin and tonic With the lime tryst. And your hollowed ribs With the dry rub. There is no doubt you are the best cook I know. No one simmer and boils over quite like you.
Bo Higgins is a Creative Writing graduate from Reinhardt University and now a student participating in Reinhardtâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Etowah Valley MFA program. His passion for writing comes from his love of editing and years spent workshopping with peers and watching everyone blossom into better writers and better people. He currently works for Shane Company as a Customer Service Associate and Blog Writer, but aspires to become an editor or college professor in order to help develop like minds. 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 7
Bonnie Medford Broken Glass I may be broken, but my arms are almost as much your home as your own four walls. I can see the shatter of broken beer bottles in your eyes. You left for a little brunette. I saw her picture. Just another someone you use to know. A woman delivering pain in shot glasses. You said she looked beautiful in her first wedding dress, but she was turning someone else’s hair grey, then. The wrinkles at your eyes tell me more than your words. They whisper of late night fights growing distant into the dangerous quiet, of bags being packed and a man too tired to keep fighting. You told me when you took your ring off replaced by skull tattoos, covering that slice of skin with a nasty grin. You are safe here. Pick up your bottles. Make yourself at home; start again. If she is your sandy beach, I’m your broken mirror. Her affection is a stopped clock, battery acid leaking into the chamber. Mine like the blood retuning to your heart through grease filled veins. Broken to pieces long ago, neither of us will ever be whole again. With a few more patches glued on, sewn with thread, stapled in the corners we can only keep rearranging the pain. We will still get cut and Waste Management will collect our wreckage.
Bonnie Medford started writing poetry in high school as a way to express herself to a friend who also wrote poetry. Having many interests, Bonnie studied law, sociology, English, and history in North Georgia Technical College and Reinhardt University. She added creative writing classes to practice for an assignment in sociology. There she discovered a release through expression and has not wanted to quit writing again. Bonnie was published in Reinhardt’s Sanctuary journal in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Bonnie enjoys writing about topics such as social situations, criminals, and fairytale themed escapades. Now, Bonnie is in Reinhardt’s MFA program. 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 7
Casanova Green Letter to My Unborn Child We picked names for you as we coasted through the palmetto-lined highways of the Carolinas Heading to our delayed honeymoon. We returned home and you were our surprise. Your mother was told she could not have children and I honestly thought my health would prevent you from happening. We shared with those closest to us. We even saw a grainy picture of you as the doctor confirmed you were real. I stared at your mother laying helpless whispering penitent apologies as I looked at the bleak spring Lancaster twilight My mind began to wander. I asked God why he took you. Heaven was silent. I whispered “I’m not mad at you. I love you.” We held hands for minutes that seemed like days as we realized you were a fading memory. We said “And we know that all things Work together for the good of them who Love God and are called according to his purpose.” I picture you looking at me with your large gray eyes, olive-toned skin, and your mother’s wide smile. I touch your brown woolen hair and wonder if you want dreadlocks like me or let your hair fall like willow branches. I hold and caress you and sing the latest song I wrote or The vibrations of the notes and the heaving of my chest Lull you into a peaceful rest. I love you, my precious child. Poetry Voice Listening to poets read is like quieting a profane baby. 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 7
Saying things that seem vulgar to the general public is much sweeter in a soft cooing voice than screaming it like a woman on Maury wearing a multicolored weave. Picture your father telling you how he and your mother just had sex on the kitchen table, couch, patio, and in your bed in celebration of a bank robbery they accomplished while you were in school. Now picture Mr. Rogers is your father. That is poetry voice. Poetry voice can make the sacred sinful, the mundane magical, and the insane inevitable. Putting the right emphasis on the wrong syllable can make rain sound like a rock concert and the symphony sound like a sparrow. Poetry voice is a demilitarized zone where you can taunt the world and leave unharmed.
Casanova Green began singing at a very young age under the training of his mother, the late Evangelist Vonzelia Woods. He began writing songs and poetry at 12 as a way to express his life and communicate with God. He continued his musical pursuits while attending Ohio Northern University participating in many groups and ensembles, creating the outreach group People of Worship, and serving as the Contemporary Worship Leader at St. Johnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Evangelical Church (formerly St. Johnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s United Church of Christ) in Kenton, OH from 2008-2009. After graduating in 2010 with a BA in Language Arts Education and minor in vocal music, he returned to Columbus, OH and resumed his service to his local church, Judah Christian Community. Currently, he serves as the Minister of Music at Judah Christian Community and has ministered locally and abroad in Kenya and the Czech Republic. His debut CD, A Worshiper Mentality, was released internationally by Tate Music Group on January 26, 2016. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia. He and his wife currently reside in Reynoldsburg, OH. 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 7
Cassidy Richards Home Made Shortcake was the first thing I ever learned to make, After failed attempts at spongy muffins And blackened sugar cookies. The first batches were pale, Overcooked, chalky, bitter, And I sweated beside the oven, Curly hair matting, And with aching young fingers Mixed the milk, sugar, bisquick and butter And loaded pan after pan with lumpy globs of dough Until i’d destroyed the whole kitchen And exhausted every ingredient. My mother didn’t scold me. Instead, she restocked the pantry and fridge And let me try again And again And again Rising Uninterrupted And determined, Until I’d created something delicate That melted in her mouth Golden brown And beautiful.
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The Riverside, Down By The river runs through me and everything, Smooth and slow, down the mountain side Where boys and girls make wind chimes From glass bottles Of coke, cooled in the stream And emptied on parched tongues. It moseys past small postcard towns that boast Old world charm with wooden-toy store fronts selling Glossy, hand pulled salt-water Taffy and teeth freezing, Slow churned, peppermint ice cream. It slides beside dirt roads that lead brothers down Righteous paths to bleached churches, where Lord praisinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Is the only thing happening on Sunday, save for baptisms In the creek, where Magnolias offer white petal blessings. It bleeds into the city where cars bump along potholed Roads squeezed between posh shops and restaurants that Offer up the same thing: new takes on southern living, Cool cotton dresses and salted cracklin' with greens. It bends behind towns where neighbors come by with Fresh veggies grown in backyards and sweet Jellies And tart jams and crispy fried peach pies and place gentle hands on your back, blessing your heart. The river runs through me and everything, From Helen down to Columbus, and finds Me ankle deep in the Hooch sucking on a honey suckle, or some lemonade, hiding In the shade with the bugs, smooth and slow.
Cassidy Richards is a self-proclaimed professional dreamer. With a BFA in Creative Writing and currently pursuing an MFA in the same concentration, Cassidy believes the most powerful tool in the world is understanding and she aims to help people achieve that through her writing. 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 7
Katie Fesuk Onomastics for My Kids, or, How Naming Can Be Like Earth Science You’re better off asking: why is it warm at the equator and cold at the poles? How does rain form? These questions are old, hard to explain. Things move from atmosphere to lithosphere in a process that determines the character of an environment. Determines the character. My children are learning the weight of their names, how to carry the words we have given them— what it means to write, learn, know each letter. What it feels like to be called by them, summoned across a room or down a long staircase. When their names are fired like a shot to signal trouble, loosed from the lips as a blown kiss, name like a hand wave, spoken for its own sake, reminding me that they are real, that my son’s hands have grown big, clipped nails small crescent moons falling from his body, my daughter at midnight, arms thrown around a stuffed caterpillar, her brother, me— bringing all the world into the orbit of her hold. Like veins occupying a rock fissure, its fault, the sadness of names begins: my son in kindergarten, bewildered, tells me for the first time that the boys in class say his last name is funny, his middle name girly. He’s confused by others’ audacity, laughter, his parents’ boldness that he be called anything else but wind and rainfall and seawater; coal beds, river deltas, salt marshes; my daughter in preschool struggles with grips and pencils and keeping straight lines. She wants to know why her double name is so long, cries when learning to maneuver the curves and symbols. Why so many letters? she demands. I’m tired. We take small steps. Initials first, one word, one word plus one letter, and now in spring, the whole name calls to be written. Nautilus, volcanos, bright coral. How have we gotten here so early? Early for both of my children to look at me through tears, demanding to know how dare you? How dare I speak that worn path of language for them 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 7
before they could speak for themselves, give them the only word the world guarantees every time they shake a hand, receive a callâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; one to carry around all their waking lives? Ask instead: how does air temperature help desert formation? Do topography and ocean currents influence the weather? The answers are what they are, driven by sunlight, same as those names: carbon cycling through oceans, shells, erosion, death, rocks, birth. Upwellings of deep water. Whole hunks of white cliff. My sea, my trees: they washed up on my shore.
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Moonshine I imagined tiny men polishing a crescent in the night sky with soft small blankets— dusting away particles, dark matter, astral powder. Drunk off its light, in revelry. My mother always kept a bottle of moonshine in our freezer Near stacks of cash wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed into Ziploc bags like fish or loaves of bread multiplied at feast time, it stayed. I vaguely understood its potency but loved its name. She barely drank, an easy blusher, but sometimes, whether to impress or to terrify, she would take the clear bottle, loosening its silver screw top like a Christmas star then say, Watch this.
Katie Fesuk was a 2006 Georgia Author of the Year Award nominee for her chapbook, If Not an Apple (La Vita Poetica Press). Her first full-length manuscript, If Men Were Angels, was a two-time finalist for the Violet Reed Haas Poetry Prize (Snake Nation Press). Her poems are featured on Atlanta’s WRA 88.5 radio poetry program, Melodically Challenged, and she has been both a featured reader and presenter at Callanwolde Arts Center and Kennesaw State University. Her poems can be found in Five Points, Slant, Bloodroot, Poet Lore, Chattahoochee Review, Water~Stone, Caesura, Rock & Sling, and No Tell Motel, among others. She teaches at The Walker School in Marietta, GA, has studied in GSU’s New South doctoral program, and is currently a student in Reinhardt University’s MFA Program. 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 7
Maria Klouda Shadow You are the shadow. A golden, skittish Palomino. Tall, elegant, afraid. The horror you lived through to get here. You have been beaten and neglected. The marks have faded but you have not forgotten. They didn’t tell me, yet I am aware. It’s been months and progress slow. I hope that you will learn to trust again. If not me – anyone. You’ve been walking the ring for an hour. Your eyes blink with caution, though your body settled in exercise. Nuzzle up for a nose rub at the fence where I sit watching you. Red clay dust rises in the ring with each of your steps. The birds are quiet. We are both sweating. Today is the day. I ease in to the saddle, gently lower my weight. We walk together. A slow walk. Hope. The saddle squeaks with the rhythm of our dance. From behind you, a friend — it’s always our friends that throw us. She picks up a training whip that we have never used; that you cannot see wholly. Eyes wild. Your vision catches glimpses of memory in the sight of the whip. Ears back. Snorts. Panic. Screaming. I hold on for a while. You finally throw me. I ride the fence then fall. Shocked and broken and still loving you. Aren’t we all afraid of what we can’t see? Aren’t we all leery of shadows? Throwing us? Begging us to get back on and ride again. I’m terrified to let go. Maria Klouda calls Canton GA home and has deep roots in the new South. She was born in Atlanta and grew up in Conyers. She has a BBA in Marketing, a MBA and is currently writing her way to an MFA at Reinhardt University’s Etowah Valley Writing Institute. She is also the Copy Editor and Social Media Manager for The James Dickey Review. She is the previous owner, publisher and editor of edible Metro & Mountains. 46 | 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 7
Kimberly Simms Gibbs Mama’s Song We grew up with feet in red dirt, knew nothin’ but the rushin’ of our little creek. We grew taters, tobacco, okky and maters. All us littl’ins helped Ma and Daddy pickin’. Sometimes when I smell honey as March starts to warm I turn towards the purple trees and think of that little farm. When we moved on the mill hill, I saw the electric lights. I dreamed of yellow ribbons in my hair. I figured we were rich. Didn’t matter no more about rain. Six days a week I stand at the frames, Dreamin’ the songs of pulsing cicadas.
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Whittling Sundays the men lean around the porch, their little knives just going, whittling pirate knives, rifles, raccoons, bears: laughing about the slide in last weekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s baseball game and the catch that sent Bud over backwards. The minute a fish is finished, a youngâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;un is asking for the toy. You get so used to doing, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to stop. Men find some silence in every chisel of the blade. Each whittled bit individual design, expression free from a textile machine.
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Pelican What is it? The grand bird with giant wings. Foreign flapping and smacking of curved jaws, they had never seen such a mechanical animal. Course they had never seen the beach or blue waves that clatter against the hard horizon. Then the beast plummeted to within inches of the surface, glided over the sheet of river. They stood beside the beating copper bell like they had all the minutes in the world their mouths gaping like clam shells in a low tide. As if a thousand strings weren’t calling their names, as if mill machines weren’t falling silent. Boss man bellowed, “It’s just a pelican! So what! You fools!” But it was a plain wonder! A fisherman’s omen so far from the sea.
Kimberly Simms Gibbs writes about the people and the history of the south. These poems are from her new collection, Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill, which is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in September 2017. All three of these poems are set in the 1920's in a southern textile mill village. 2016 Writer-In-Residence ♦ The Carl Sandburg National Historic Site ♦ Winner of The 2016 SmartARTS Teaching Artist Award ♦ New Poetry Book Forthcoming Fall 2017 firstname.lastname@example.org ♦ 864.436.0045 ♦ www.kimberlysimms.com ♦ www.witsendpoetry.com @witsendpoetry (Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/ Facebook) 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 7
Craig Finlay Men 1. The Taxidermy Man, or: It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. For years, from his window he watched the taxidermy man throw his entrails in the sideyard next door Wednesday nights they always stood behind the taxidermy man’s wife and sang By night, he watched them both, squinting And how the old man’s neck pulled his mouth back, how he’d sweat and tire and she never made a noise When he was 15, the signals started. He heard those secret dispatches, between the stations transmitted in a dryer’s spin-cycle scream the morse code of dew drops on spiderwebs He knew the connections and why they strung Last Wednesday, his voice. Yelling to the congregation: She’s a meat robot, she has no memories He builds a new one every night, by half-lamp Just look in the sideyard, for the leftovers. 2. The Library Man, or: One day he just stopped showing up Of course the slow drags a cigar inhaled he’s always here the library man watches CNN, watches ESPN, watches anything reads books about war wears whatever fits smokes whatever will get him there fastest. 3. The Maintenance Man, or: Finals Week at the Art School And she is thinking of copper how it moves, can be made to move and how it is her favorite shine.
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The Arts building is a fury final projects, senior exhibitions readying. Trey is screen printing across the hall and downstairs Sarah Szajewski is tending furnace She loves the shared purpose all of these beautiful crazies soul and sweat everyone out there a little more than they were last semester, and so on into the morning. Now she sets hammer to awl moves about lines like a prayer wheel and the janitor, in his 33rd year moves about the halls so essential to the Arts.
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Extinction So she made a hobby of extinction the recognizable ones, spraypaint stenciled well in black all about the sleepy college town The Great Awk, I saw on a mailbox (the last two, incubating an egg, were strangled, the egg smashed, by two sailors) Then the Tasmanian Wolf in the alley behind the bar (The last one died of exposure after being kept outside in a zoo in bad weather) The Dodo appeared one night on a stop sign (between the sailors and the pigs, they disappeared in the late 1600s) The Falklands Wolf may have been on the sidewalk (Most of them were poisoned by sheep herders in the late 1800s) I saw her painting only once, through the coffee shop window A quick look left, then right, and a flourish of can of paper leaving behind a Quagga, I think (Hunting, mostly, and the appetite of European zoos) And behind her, the staff photographer from the student newspaper. The photo essay generated a fair bit of web traffic (Especially after she was arrested)
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Myopia After eight they agree to a ragged, flickering montage and their face are like the strange hundred square-eyed goats that looked like they knew something, crowding and waiting and bleating in intervals. Of course they’re not really waiting on you now but perhaps you’ll make it through as in tallest grass. And how the lights of a place beneath a wingtip once seemed to be the very best possibility of the thing. This is the fount you prime and pump, the god of the gaps, the way you turn a city from the street like it’s the edge of a record but instead of crazies and whatever Isaac brock sang about the people you knew, the actors, it’s all just a bunch of fucking goats. And if you had the chance of camaraderie with anyone there in the heat did you instead find yourself reflected in those square pupils, did the black of you dance around sunshafts, thrown dangerous and wicked in long arcing seconds to anyone waiting just over there in the next bar, the next park bench, catching your glances between flips of vinyl at Logan Hardware or pulling a copy of IQ84 at that bookstore in Wicker Park where everyone looked at you like goats, too, but you didn’t look at them like anything? Catch the ratatat of the el just out there over Milwaukee and periodic. Look through the spaces at the yellow light of the windows, soft and ever and always. Speak to the path of a labyrinth. It was mine. It was. So much like you breathe a letter to you lungs, laughing down the rungs. When scent was not simply a jerk, quick to old memory. And me? Today I found myself evidenced in archived emails, a path through the entrails and all that entails. The hallways, the lost combinations, old lockers and she tasted of copper. Better the devil you wade through like water. I sang and wallpapered with sheafs of police blotter. In a clearing by a country spread, three boys stand three abreast. Uncomprehending cat, bow and arrow, cut to black.
Craig Finlay grew up a rural part of Illinois that the locals call Forgottonia. He now lives in South Bend, Indiana, where he spends most of his time being a librarian at a small university. His poems have appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Five 2 One, Asimov's, Apex Magazine and The Roundup Writer's Zine. 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 7
James H Duncan Poetic Focus: From I to Eye By James H Duncan About ten years ago I received a poetry rejection from a magazine editor who shall remain nameless (because I can’t remember who it was for the life of me). This editor told me he rejected my work because the poems were all about myself, the poet, and nobody cares about “I” poems anymore. While this was (and remains) untrue in the wider sense, it took me years to understand where this editor stood and what he meant by his rejection. Many of us start out writing solely “I” poetry, the brand of lines and stanzas that focus on how we feel, the things we do, the actions we take throughout the day. We write about the thing we know best: ourselves. It’s how we break through in writing, the first line of defense that falls in our conquest to create art that means something to us, as well as the greater world. The thing is—it’s easy to stop at that first line. It’s easy to write the “I” poems and keep writing them because every single one of them is important to us, symbolic to us, and tells the story of us, but this doesn’t always mean the “I” poem is developed enough to mean anything to anyone else. When I first tried poetry, just a few pieces in college, I didn’t really have a lot to say. I just wanted to try my hand at it. Reading them now, they’re really corny, clichéd, almost paint-by-number Beat poems by an On The Road wannabe. They were poems about me going down that road of life, heading out on adventures I wasn’t really taking. Later, after having given up on poetry for about four years, I went through a nasty breakup, a divorce in which my spouse had cheated and done some pretty terrible things, and I went through a long year feeling broken, listless, uncreative, lost, drinking too much and thinking about how I didn’t want to wake up in the morning anymore. I was wandering through a bookstore and an author’s name caught my eye, someone a college friend suggested I read but I never got around to doing so. I bought Charles Bukowski’s The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps. It saved me. I realized, I can do this. I can write stuff like this. And I finally had something worthwhile to write about. I’d been broken, and I was healing, slowly, and I wanted to document that. I knew I didn’t want to copy him directly though, but I did end up writing all about me: my broken heart, my aimless nights, my memories of being married, of getting hurt, of loss and nostalgia. Not unworthy topics in the least, but the poems were all me, me, me, I, I, I. Looking back, the poems are sealed off from the world, flat, monotone. Some still work, some still get to me and hurt a little, but the majority of them are written by me, about me, and for me. I can see why so many editors rejected them. They weren’t for anyone else. They didn’t even consider the reader, the audience, the wider world. The poems of the “I” were not for you. Does this mean poetry exploring one’s own inner feelings and experiences are weak, unrelatable, and not worth writing, reading, or publishing. No, never. It was, for all means and purposes, a great place 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 7
to break into poetry, right at the deepest part of the wound. But that can’t be where we wallow, right at the “I”. It can’t be where we remain. Artists interested in exploring the artform, in exploring the world, in developing a greater understanding of themselves must also turn they eye of the mind outward and write not about the “I” and all the things we experience immediately, but the things out there that we have yet to understand, things we observe, struggles we witness, a universe of personal experiences shaping a humanity that only poetry and the arts can assess and parse, understand and retell. When I began writing about not just myself, but the greater world and my small part in it and the small part of you, and how the great spaces in between ignite with loneliness and wildfire and all the wonderful terrible things happening in between us, I felt I began to really write. I began to place more and more work in magazines. I began to truly connect with other writers, editors, and people. And while how many pieces I publish is not a measurement of any sort of meaningful success, it does tell me I’m starting to make connections out there, that’s I’m moving from the “I” to the “Us”. It tells me I’m building bridges, I’m opening doors, parting the curtains, helping myself and others see more of this world. There is nothing wrong with writing about our experiences, and no editor should ever tell a writer that nobody wants to hear what the poet thinks of the poet anymore, but no poet should stop there. Keep going. Drop the word “I” from your vocabulary for a few weeks, a few months, a few years. See what else you can explore and understand and explain and share. Turn that lens from inward to outward, and tell me what you see. I’m waiting. We’re all waiting, on you.
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a contributing writer-at-large with The Blue Mountain Review, and a former editor with Writer’s Digest. He is the author of Dead City Jazz, What Lies In Wait, Berlin, and other books of poetry and fiction, and his work has also appeared in American Artist magazine, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Pulp Modern, Drunk Monkeys, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other publications. He currently resides in upstate New York. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com. 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 7
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Scott Muirhead Daddy Come See My Garden The little boy stood erect in the backyard, beaming with a knowing satisfaction at the narrow strip of brown earth that was his garden. The strip was three feet wide and about fifteen long, and there he had planted butter beans and yellow squash. He would only eat squash if his great aunt had prepared it, because she would cook it for hours, until a pot of the yellow-skinned slices and chunks had been reduced to a tiny fraction of what they had been; and she made it sweet, so it was like dessert with his real food. But she rarely visited; he could only remember her coming once, the year before, when she cooked the squash. He would grow new squash, and one day maybe his great aunt would come again and cook it her special way. In the days after he planted the squash seeds and butter beans he had come home from school and gone directly to his garden, hoping to see his tiny plants come forth into the world. Then one day they came; the whitish-green tubular stems began to crack the earth and muscle their way upward, pushing away the tiny clods of earth above. The child shrieked with joy and lay down on his belly to observe as closely as he could the marvel of the seedlings emerging from their natal bow to stretch and reach for the sky, craning toward the light, alive and there with him. He stood and gazed upon his tiny garden, and he was as proud as he had ever been. The little patch of life was his; he had planted the seeds; he had nurtured them to life, and he was enthralled by the wonder of it all. It was early summer and the moist air was thick and familiar, like all the Mississippi summers he had known in his short life in the deep South, where there are only two seasons, and the cooler one is brief. His father had broken the ground for him in a rear corner of the yard, using a shovel and a lightweight push plow, a steel frame that rode on a single, steel spoked wheel and had a small plowshare attached. It was not a very effective thing. It was too large for the boy, although he repeatedly would grab the handles and push and grunt and try mightily to force the plow forward through the grass. He could not; but his father could. His father could do anything. The year was 1959, and the hula hoop craze was inundating the land with bright blue and green and red plastic hoops that children everywhere would wiggle their hips in, to propel the rings round and round their waists. When the fad reached into the lives of the boy and his family, he and his siblings immediately began begging their parents for hulahoops. They pleaded and cajoled and badgered the adults, and hoped that at the end of every day when their father returned home from his job that he would have hulahoops in the back seat of the car. Finally, one Saturday morning the man and his three children climbed into the family car and headed toward downtown, where the railroad sidings and spurs and the great vaulted roof shading the depot were; where the tantalizing call to the 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 7
adventure of unseen towns and cities and oceans beckoned to all who would listen; where the mainline tracks led east and west into infinity, promising newness on the horizon. That part of town was also where the plumbing wholesale house where the man worked was located. The kids had been there before, and they loved to come inside the showroom where a small fish pond in the floor provided a universe for a few fat, lazy gold carp that never seemed to move, except for the gentle, almost imperceptible fanning of their fins. The boy wondered how such big fish could live in so small a pond, where water tumbled down a miniature waterfall only to be recaptured by a hidden pump and returned to the top of the fall for another round. He felt sorry for the fish, and he wondered if they would be happier in a bigger pond, where they could swim fast and long. The father took his children through the office where during the week women sat at desks and typed and filed papers and drank coffee and talked about their preachers and their husbands. Some of them would smoke cigarettes, just like almost every man the children had ever met. The father had by that point in his career advanced from the loading dock where, fresh out of the Marine Corps and then two semesters of schooling at the college in Starkville, he had gotten his first job, slinging pipe and coils of copper tubing into and out of the big trucks that backed up to the dock. He was now the office manager, and had given over his dungarees for slacks and a button up shirt and necktie. He took his children through the offices and into the warehouse that was dark and smelled like old wood and dust and copper. From one high shelf the man tugged at a coil of black plastic tubing, and lowered it onto the concrete floor. In a few seconds he had unrolled some of the tubing and cut three lengths from it. He somehow knew just how long to cut the pieces. Then he tied some strings around the rest of the coil, to keep it from springing into a tangle, and put it back on the shelf. The children watched as their father then moved to some bins that held valves and small pipe fittings of brass and steel and plastic. He took three black plastic couplings from a bin; then he bent one of the lengths of pipe into a ring, and inserted the coupling into both ends, and suddenly there was a hula hoop; then there were three, one for each child. Squealing with beautiful ecstasy, the happy children began wiggling their hips in the hoops their father had made. Diagonally across the family's lawn from the boy's garden was a sweet gum tree, the only one in the back yard, and big enough for a boy to climb high in and survey the world he knew. He would one day build a small platform in its limbs and call it his crow's nest. He imagined his platform to be atop the highest mast of a great wood and canvas clipper ship, where he could stand and navigate the oceans below, oceans of green lawns and hot, gray asphalt, upon which tiny vessels would catch the wind and scoot across imaginary waves, yielding the right of way to his magnificent ship, and blowing their horns as he waved them by from his high perch. His harbor lay inside a galvanized chain link fence, on a corner lot on Belvedere Drive, and what the boy then knew of the world consisted of a 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 7
family of five, living in a compact, stucco house in Jackson, MS. His brother was a year-and-a-half older, his sister two-and-a-half years younger. His mother was a secretary for a law firm, and on Sunday mornings before the family left for church, he would listen in awe at the speed at which she could type up the Sunday school lesson she would present in a couple of hours. His father was a deacon, and the family would be in church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday night. On Saturdays in the long summers the father would push a gas powered mower back and forth across the thick centipede grass, spraying sweet, fresh blades onto the street and driveway. In the fenced back yard the family kept a small, short-haired dog named Bobbie, who spent much of her life at the chain link gate, expectant, optimistic, ever hopeful that any minute one of the children would appear to pet her and talk to her and love her. In his garden the boy also nurtured six tomato seedlings that his father had bought for him at the hardware store. He had transplanted the fuzzy, pungent little plants, and he doted on them. He touched them, talked to them, caressed them. They were his children and he bore the weight of his responsibility for them with a pride that swelled his chest and made him feel wor thy. One afternoon the boy went to his garden and became alarmed when he realized that the tomato branches were drooping and badly in need of water. They would need a lot of water, he reasoned, and the only source for it was at the hose bib at the house. There was no hose, and a bucket of water is heavy, and more than a seven year old boy can manage. His father had always carried the water. He began to panic. It did not occur to him to tote a lesser amount of water than the bucket would hold. His father had always carried a full bucket. That was how it was done. Just then his father turned into the driveway and pulled his Bel-Air sedan into the garage. He was frantic but jubilant that help had arrived, and he raced to his dad's side. "Daddy! The plants are dying! They need water right now! Come on, Daddy, and help me!" His father smiled tiredly. "Okay, son, I'll be out later, and we'll water them." "No, Daddy, we have to do it now! They're dying!" "They'll be okay," the man said. "We'll get to it." The father went inside and his son paced the yard, anxious and impatient. After a few minutes he burst into the house and urged his father to come quickly. "I've got the bucket full, Daddy. Can you come now?" The father was seated at the kitchen table, poring over a stack of letters, mostly bills, bills that were and are the weighty albatross around the neck of every aspiring middle class family man who worked and hoped that someday the pressure might ease. "I can't do it right now," the man said, perturbed and not bothering to look up. 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 7
He went back to the garden, becoming more and more afraid that his plants were dying. He tried to carry the bucket of water to the rear of the yard, but it was too much; it was too heavy. Then he ran back into the house and begged his father, the man who he knew could do anything, to come then and save his little garden. The man slammed his pen down on the table and lurched upward, shoving his chair against the wall with the back of his legs. His face looked like hate, and it was something the boy had seen one time long ago and could not forget. He turned and ran ahead of his father who followed right behind, all but trampling over the top of his little son. The man reached the bucket of water and snatched it up and strode intensely to the rear of the yard. His son ran behind him, suddenly awash with a sick feeling of dread, sensing what was about to happen. The man got to the garden and heaved the bucket upward by its bail, grasping the bottom rim with his free hand. Before the boy could cry out, before he could do anything, he watched in horror as the man furiously hurled forty pounds of water into the air. The water crashed madly on top of his plants, as the man threw down the bucket and spun and strode away without a word. The little boy crumpled to the ground, sobbing and bewildered and suddenly unknowing of anything, sobbing and bewildered. Fifty years later he returned to the little stucco house. By then it was a shambles, as was the entire neighborhood and half the city. The geography was unchanged, but it was no longer the place he had grown up, where he had ridden his bicycle to the elementary school a mile away; where he played in the streets and yards of his friends; where he had lived. The chain link fence still surrounded the backyard, but no evidence remained of the little garden spot. The grass had been working, and had covered the garden patch, and it was as if it had never been. He leaned on the fence beneath what was by then a huge and mature sweet gum tree. There was no evidence of his crow's nest. He looked to the rear corner of the yard, then he closed his eyes and he thought and he thought and he tried to remember, but he could not. He could not remember when his father had hurled the water onto his little tomato plants whether they had survived. He thought and he thought, but he could not remember if they had survived and flourished and matured and borne fruit; or whether they had even been badly injured at all; but he knew he had. Scott Muirhead is a Deep South curmudgeon, born on the edge of a Mississippi cotton patch, and now living in the mountains of western N. Carolina. A dozen years or so ago he began writing "The Devil's Dictionary Revisited," as a tribute to his mentor and humanitarian extraordinaire, Ambrose Bierce. Muirhead has worked as an investigative reporter, and has written columns for local newspapers, as well as crackpot letters to the editors. "Shooting people with words instead of bullets keeps me sane and out of prison," he said; "Plus, it's good therapy." 60 | 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 7
Angela K. Durden Dance Floor Wars: Dispatches from the Front (excerpt) Dear Reader, The line between love and hate is thin. These eight words describe all relations between man and woman since Adam was introduced to Eve and they had their first dance. Oh, what a dance it must have been. This is, at last, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, Adam said to Eve. We can well imagine Eve batting her perfect eyelashes in that first come hither. We know what Adam was thinking: Hot damn. I’m getting laid. But the glow of that first love didn’t last long. It never does. Adam and Eve’s perfect love story went to a cold, cold hell, and war was thence declared between the sexes. Those of you who have been reading my columns and feature stories all these years will know that contained in this book are but a few of the dispatches from the most recent battle of The Dance Floor Wars because it is there, and only there, battles are waged and decisively won or lost within three-and-a-half minutes, six minutes if the song is the club version. Yet the volunteers continue to sign up for each campaign as they praise their conscription and mobilize, gaily marching off to war. Familiar weapons of choice are flattery and feigned interest, sincerity and artifice, hiding and seeking, wine and song, and sometimes the promises of pleasure and maybe a little bit of pain, if you like that sort of thing. Reasons for re-upping are as varied as there are conscripts. There has never been a truce in this war. There never will be — no matter what the experts say, no matter what the preachers preach, no matter what the people pray for. This writer must admit as white flags are waved and injustice decried, an end to this war occasionally wavers on the horizon as an oasis shimmers in the desert heat, and hopes raise. But though women may march for peace from those sons of bitches, demanding an equality that can never exist. Though men may cower and only talk big when their women are not around. Though they seek through law and legislation to right the wrongs done to them. No man nor any woman has the power to change nature. It is impossible. To think otherwise is insanity because thus God made them. The man. The woman. Two separate species destined forever to duke it out and then make nice for a moment as they come together ultimately bringing forth the next generation of new combatants who — upon their loins stirring — think they have discovered something unknown to their boring old parents. Foolish little children. Their turn will come and they will be on the front, furiously dancing, energetically smiling, privately worrying. Wondering if they will find love, true love. Not the love of 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 7
their parents. Never the love of their parents. Please, God, never that, they pray fervently to the god of their choice. In this book you’ll find nothing new. There are only the stories you’ve never heard. I have changed all names and attempted to leave out as many identifying details as possible of both people and places — except for one woman dear to me who broke my heart. You may ask why no real names, and I’ll tell you. They don’t matter. This war correspondent, embedded thirty years at the front, is tired; tired and, yes, jaded and, truth be told, shell shocked. Lay back, it’s all been done before completely sums up my reason for being and for writing this book: Love is complicated. But damped down against the cold night of a life I thought to be over, the fire in my soul rose with vigor, strength, and a warmth I had never known. Through one encounter with a human being so alive that in the midst of the Dance Floor Wars — a long and bitter battle raging from there to here to eternity and back — I found hope and a reason to live after the war even as the pain of remembrance keeps me company. And thus on such randomness as this hinges the fate of humankind. I claim no special knowledge. I have only a true writer’s willingness: To bare all in self, truthfully and clearly witness the vagaries of mankind, accept one’s place in the process, and tell the story well. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them mad. Make them sad. Make them think. Make them act. Gordon Wesley Asbury, Journalist Reporting from the front of the Dance Floor Wars in this the 6,045th year of the eternal war between the sexes Your comments are always appreciated: GordonUnplugged@outlook.com
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Chapter 1: Planning a Campaign This reporter met Lucinda at a coffee shop. Quite by accident we ended up sharing a table. The place was packed and the only available seat was with her. I didn’t want to take my coffee and go. I needed to be around people living ordinary lives. My paper had sent me on a week-long R&R because, as my editor told me in an email, I was getting too close to the action and needed to take a break. I reluctantly agreed and found myself in this coffee shop sitting with, of all things, one of the main combatants in this war, even if neither of us knew it at the time. Lucinda, reading a book, barely acknowledged my question by a shake of the head as I asked if the seat was taken. She kept reading. But I found myself drawn to her. There was something about her I couldn’t put my finger on, and the reporter in me, always able to sniff out a story, said there had to be one here. I bided my time and finally found an opportunity to speak. I was right about her. She was fascinating. I couldn’t help thinking of a movie featuring live and animated characters. I did not remember the name of the animated character, but she had Barbie Doll-proportions blown into bombshell curves. Her famous line went something like, “I’m not bad; I’m only drawn that way.” That described Lucinda, but not physically, though tall and with legs that didn’t quit, but even that wasn’t what was fascinating. There are a multitude of gorgeous women on this planet, and Lucinda wasn’t the most gorgeous at all. For the purposes of telling a story honestly, I must admit there were other seats to be had at the coffee shop, but I was drawn to the one at her table as if it were the only one. It was as if a beacon of light pointed at the chair and a neon sign said Take This One, Stupid. I couldn’t explain it then and I can’t explain it now. All I can tell you is this: I had to sit at her table. Eventually, with my ability to get a conversation going anywhere, I got her to talking and found out she came there every day for one cup of coffee and a gentle read. I showed up the next day, early, and waited. There she came. She saw me and said hello like we were old friends from way back. I felt welcomed. I was famous for never hugging anyone, but I stood up and hugged her. There wasn’t one false note to her, yet she was mysterious; she was transparent, yet deep. She went to a table and I followed, as if it were the thing to do. We had a wonderful visit and I felt alive in her presence. She occupied a large corner of my mind unlike any other woman had done before or since. Over a period of four days, I found her to be naturally engaging, witty, and funny as hell. I could not remember a time when I had laughed so much at the human condition and felt hopeful about it. But with her, I did. She was brutally honest about her life. Only every now and then did I catch a glimpse of bitterness. I thought this woman wouldn’t mind me asking about the bitterness. So I asked. It was simple, she said. She had believed that if she did all that was asked of her — by society, religion, family, and husband — she’d have her life turn out a certain way. But come to find out, they lied and she, sometimes only briefly, felt like a goodly portion of her life had been wasted. She smiled. Here she was, out and about, quickly making up for lost time as she tried to figure it all out. At this confession, she noticed my face and asked me what my expression meant. As a trained reporter, intent on not inserting myself into a story, I had not thought any particular expression 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 7
showed from me. I asked her to describe what it is she thought she saw. I must admit to you here, now, I was dismayed that I was such an open book. She began: Gordon, she said, you seem sad. As if you have had no good thing in your life, ever, and no hope of any. As if you have seen the horrors of war over and over, yet you must remain above it all so you can report these things to the citizens back home with a clear-eyed view. It is as if you know you will never see peace in your lifetime…are you okay, Gordon? I couldn’t speak, but finally managed to find my voice. I asked how she knew. How do I know what, she asked? How did she know I was a reporter, embedded all these many years on the front of the Dance Floor Wars? The expression on her face fills me with joy even to this day. Words cannot describe the gentleness of her eyes and the softening of the line of her lips as she laid her hand on mine and patted it. She said she did not know what I did, but it was obvious to her what I had been through. I asked, a touch of disbelief in my voice, how it is she could smile in the face of the lies from every facet of civilized society and still be kind to a stranger. Oh, that is easy, she said, she seemed to have a high tolerance for pain and besides, she had always planned for the worst and it seemed her imaginings of what worst was wasn’t as bad as her reality, so it’s all good. I think back on my time of knowing her and following her as she went out and about. I think of this woman who could draw different people toward her without even trying. And I thought of her exhusband, the one she fondly called the son of a bitch. It was clear to me he was in over his head from the beginning and did what a lot of people do when they are in over their heads: They panic, make all the wrong moves, and drown. The ex had no idea how to handle this woman who only wanted to be happy and surrounded by happiness. This woman, so simple were her desires, she seemed more complicated than any other. This woman, so sincere in her intentions toward him, he thought she was scheming him harm. The poor, deluded, shallow man. So he did what he thought best to protect himself: He kept her under his thumb. He insulted her. He frowned at her constantly. He never gave her a compliment that didn’t involve a backhanded insult. And I thought of her long, lonely existence, for long and lonely it was and is. But that part of the story will come later; I am getting ahead of myself. We met every day that week, and the stories she told me and the people she introduced me to — many of which you will read about in this book — have helped me to give this in-depth treatment on the Dance Floor Wars. Those days passed quickly and, on what I thought would be my last day of R&R, she made an offer I couldn’t refuse: “Why don’t you, seeing as how you are a reporter and all, follow me around as an observer when I go dancing?” She thought it would be fun to get my impressions of what she experienced. She also thought it would be a blast to hear what men and women said about her when she wasn’t there. Wouldn’t it be fun, she said, for me to know you and you to know me but we both pretend we don’t know each other so you can go around asking about me and listening or finding out about others? 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 7
I asked if she wasn’t worried about hearing negative stuff about herself. She said she didn’t care, and I believed her because she was brutally honest about herself. Besides, she said, it would give her the information she needed to know if she was making the right conclusions about the people she met. Trust but verify, she said. I laughed out loud; she slapped my hand and asked what was so funny. I told her I didn’t think she was coming to too many wrong conclusions, if any. The smile stayed on her face, but her eyes went dead and she simply said, “Yes, well…”
Angela K. Durden is that rare writer who has successfully crossed genres and industries. Words are her in her DNA and blood; they are her life force. If the project involves words, she has probably chosen them for it. From columns in newspapers to articles in trade publications; from internal and external communications for large and small corporations to bios for authors, CEOs, musicians, and artists; to website content for content distribution platforms; from business to children’s to novels to songwriting. For almost four years, Angela was managing editor for an international nonprofit trade group association. For six more, she guided the manufacturer-mandated dealer validation process for a multi-location retail new and used commercial truck dealership. Angela won national attention in 2000 for her first published business book, "Nine Stupid Things People Do To Mess Up Their Resumes." On her first in-studio appearance, she advised syndicated host G. Gordon Liddy about how to best address the long career gap on his resume. In 2006, she launched the Mike and His Grandpa series of children's books with Heroes Need Practice, Too! and The Balloon That Would Not Pop! The release of the first children’s books was followed by Eloise Forgets How to Laugh. "Whitfield, Nebraska" is her first published crime novel featuring a former military policeman who turns civilian investigator, Benjamin Turner. In between teaching creative writing workshops at schools, she was project coordinator and graphic designer for a four co-author book entitled "Opportunity Meets Motivation", about why and how four women from different walks of life created thriving businesses. "Twinkle: a memoir" is available on Amazon.com. In development are a series of crime novels branded as From the Case Files of Smith and Jones, and The Dance Floor Wars. These are being pitched to movie and television production companies. Angela is dedicated to helping companies, authors, music artists, and musicians find success and be profitable, and looks for opportunities to do that in a variety of ways. Both she (as songwriter) and her company, Second Bight Publishing, are affiliated with SESAC, ASCAP, and BMI. Angela is also a member of the The Recording Academy, and Grammy-allied Georgia Music Partners. A Georgia native, she has two grown children and two grandchildren; loves to meet people who are engaged in life, have a positive mindset, and who never say die. Durden is also the inventor, CEO, and founder of a SaaS for music creators called MyDigitalCatalog.com. It allows songwriters to track and validate ownership status so they will get paid. To find out more, please visit: http://angeladurden-books.com/books/. 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 7
Hillbillies Prefer Blondes (Excerpt)
First grade in 1960s Georgia was pure hell for me. Because I had not attended kindergarten, I was put in with a bunch that the state in their pre-PC wisdom had deemed “Slow Learners.” A cage packed with Howler monkeys would have been more civilized. In front of me sat a freckled, snub-nosed little girl with blunt-cut hair so sun-bleached it was almost white. Her skinny legs bore scabs on both knees, which she picked at as she appraised me coolly through squinted eyes. “Daaang, little boy, you sure are ugly!” she decided. “You look like my granny’s billy goat!” I was taken aback by her redneck candor. True, the Good Lord in his infinite wisdom had graced me with a cleft palate, but the accompanying scar had never been described to me as ugly, and I had certainly never been compared to a farm animal before. I made what I imagined to be a truly ugly face at her, and decided that the best way to cope would be to ignore her. This established my relations with the opposite sex for years to come. Behind me in this trailer park version of the Inferno sat Wilber the Stutterer. I quickly concluded that given a choice between stuttering and looking like a goat, Pan would win every time. Poor Wilbur was hounded relentlessly by the other little hillbillies. I myself did not tease Wilbur. Whether it was out of true compassion or just a Baptist fear of burning in Hell, I cannot say. Poor Wilbur took this simple act of Christian restraint as a sign that we were to be lifelong friends, and proceeded to follow me around like an OCD puppy dog. While Wilbur’s vocal handicap did not vex me, he was in fact dumb as a post, and tended more and more to react to the unrelenting taunting of his fellows with violent outbursts. So while I did not torment poor Wilbur, I did decide it would be in my best interest to distance myself from him. Slow as he was, Wilbur was no fool. He approached me one day with his hands stuck in the pockets of his grubby jeans, a purposeful look on his dull face. He pulled one hand free and extended it to me, saying “I-I-I want to give you this for being my f-friend.” In his sweaty, thick-fingered little paw was a grimy quarter. I was screwed. With trepidation beyond my years, I took the twenty-five cents. Fortunately for me, this moral dilemma soon resolved itself. Based on my grades and the recommendation of my long-suffering “Slow Learners” teacher, one Mrs. Garner, God bless her soul, I was transferred from her torture chamber into an “Advanced Learner” class. While this group had its own entirely different set of problems, at least the smart kids were a little quieter. Not long after my ascent into the higher echelons of grade school learning, I received a reminder from whence I had come. I was standing in the lunchroom line with the rest of the Shining Elite, when a sharp pain lanced into my arm. I turned to see the grinning face of the Little WhiteHaired Girl, who had just pinched the hell out of me. 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 7
“Hey, Ugly!” she shouted happily, evidently delighted to be able to insult and injure me in front of a whole new group of my peers. Conjuring up the worst epithet I could imagine, I hissed back: “Hey, Turd!” She looked sorely injured, and made no reply, save to scowl and jut out her lower lip. That was the last time I ever saw her, as her family soon moved off to parts unknown. Many years would pass before I gained enough insight into the female psyche to realize that “Ugly” had been intended by the Little White-Haired Girl as a term of endearment, and that she probably had been genuinely hurt by my retort. I have occasionally wondered, as the years have gone by, whatever became of that little girl. I like to picture her as a grade school teacher, wrangling year after year with increasingly large classrooms full of loud, ugly little children. Of course, judging from the examples of other old flames that I have encountered in recent years, it is equally likely that she is either a dominatrix, or ensconced in an asylum somewhere. But as I was to discover, humiliation at the hands of a blonde could come at any time and place, even in the assumed safety of your very own hearth and home. Such an occasion arose when my parents gave a party for my seventh birthday. While the guest list for this august event was comprised chiefly of male schoolmates and cousins, there was one female in attendance. Coming as she did from my Sunday school class, one would naturally assume that the perky Miz Catherine Cofer, blonde or not, could be trusted not to lead a naïve and adoring young man astray. But she was a Baptist, and it was a Saturday, and so she was soon to be about the Devil’s work, for would she not be forgiven her sins on the morrow? My parents had seen fit to dress the birthday boy in a precious new navy blue suit, a get-up far removed from my usual attire of stiff-assed blue jeans, flannel shirts and Jonny Quest deck shoes. From the way my father cringed every time I slopped cake on myself, or crawled around on the floor, that damned monkey suit must have cost more than a few of his hard-earned pennies. “For God’s sake, son, will you quit that wallerin’!” was his refrain on that fine day. Wallerin’, along with hootin’ and hollerin,’ and raising Cain, were all activities to which my father objected most strenuously, and usually handled with corporal discouragement. On this particular day, I had already seen him gripping his belt in frustration several times, dissuaded from his usual leathery admonishments only by my mother’s disapproving stare. Once the candles were extinguished, the cake and ice cream consumed, and the presents opened, we young’uns were turned outside to better pursue our childish hootin’ and hollerin’. The green grass and red Georgia clay called out my name. Why it did not occur to me to go and change into more appropriate wallerin’ clothes, I cannot say. All I can plead is that an attack of what I would later learn to call the “nooky stupids” had incapacitated my higher brain functions. While this happens to everyone of the male persuasion at one time or another, it was still no excuse for what was to follow. As I stood on our cement front porch surveying the birthday gang at play in the front yard, I heard a hiss from behind my Daddy’s big-assed Cadillac. It was the lovely Catherine, wielding a cap67 | 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 7
firing derringer that I had just unwrapped moments before. “MEEEOW! Die, Batman!” she yowled, pumping me full of imaginary lead. Without thinking, I let rip with a loud “UGH! You got me, Catwoman!” gripped my pretendperforated body, and dropped to my knees, gasping my melodramatic last breath. We were all in the throes of Bat-mania in that year of Our Lord, 1967, thanks of course to the dubious charms of Adam West and Burt Ward in the “Batman” TV show. I confess to having been a bit embarrassed by the campy silliness of it, but the not-so-dubious charms of Julie Newmar as Catwoman more than made up for my nerdish reticence. Reticent I was not when it came to portraying a noble dust-biting. I was quite the experienced “die-er,” having bought it not only in historical settings like Gettysburg, the Little Big Horn, and Normandy, but in fictional arenas as well, such as the Bat Cave and the bottled shrunken city of Kandor. But being shot by my very own Blonde Cat Woman was a new and undeniably titillating opportunity to gasp, drop, twitch and give up the ghost, one that could not be passed up due to the threat of mere bodily harm. However, a fate much worse than my planned fake death descended upon me. Just as I was about to topple face-first into Bat-heaven, my Daddy’s work-hardened hand snatched me up by the scruff of my precious navy blue neck. “Dammit, son, what was I just tellin’ you? Look at this mess,” he growled, helpfully whacking the orange dust off my knees and behind. He planted me roughly on the porch swing, my face and rear end glowing a humiliating matching cherry red. I groped for my favorite new birthday present, a ridiculous-looking Bat-beanie, that I suppose I hoped would somehow ameliorate my unjust degradation. Of course it only made me look even more foolish, sitting there in my fancy suit and cowl, making like a dejected little Bat-turd. Caught between the calamitous dueling forces of my Daddy’s ire and my youthful ardor for the tow-headed Miz Catherine, I knew I was boned no matter which way the Bat-chips fell. Some thirty-odd years later, I ran into Miz Catherine Cofer at a class reunion. She was Mrs. Something-or-Another at that point, of course, but it didn’t really matter; we had had not kept in touch, had not in fact even been close at any point beyond the Catwoman party, other than random chit-chat when we passed one another in the hall at school. We had run with different crowds, and our lives had taken totally different paths. Nonetheless, I recognized her right away; lust objects and humiliations rendered at an early age tend to stick with a fella. Throw in a whoopin’ and a Bat-beanie, and well, let’s just say I probably couldn’t have forgotten Miz Catherine even if I wanted to. We ran out of polite party talk fairly quickly, and I decided that I wanted to see how her memories of the infamous birthday party compared to mine. I was not surprised to learn that she had no recollection of the incident whatsoever. It has been my experience that folks who have kids (and grandkids, as was the case here) tend to replace their own childhood memories with those of their offspring. Perhaps the inverse is true as well: it may be that I recall these traumas from my dweeby youth with such clarity due to the fact that I myself have never reproduced. 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 7
Displaced memories or not, she got a kick out of my tale. “C’mere, honey, yew have got to hear this,” she called across the room in a country twang that matched what I remembered from decades before. A large but reticent individual lumbered over, looking as though he’d have been more comfortable skinning rabbits than taking part in a social event. Catherine introduced him as her husband, and I immediately forgot his name, labeling him instead with an appellation I thought most appropriate: Bocephus. When his wife explained I’d had a crush on her years before, he looked as though he’d have liked to have skinned me. Undaunted, I repeated my story. At its conclusion, Bocephus scowled and said, “Thas a real amusin’ tale, son.” But his expression and tone of voice conveyed an entirely different message, one that I, having been raised in Dixie, knew translated roughly as “Stay away from mah wo-man, sumbich, lessen yore wantin’ an ass whoopin’!” He needn’t have worried. The mere fact that she had chosen to wed this hulking hillbilly was the last nail in that particular crush coffin for me. And though I could tell Miz Catherine was flattered and amused, all her country charms were obviously centered on the irascible Bosephus. I had merely been used as a tool to focus his undoubtedly limited attention span. Yew go, gurl! For myself, I was kind of glad she had no memory of my youthful foolishness. There are far too many out there who can recall in excruciating detail other, even more silly-assed mishaps from my misspent youth. And unfortunately, most of them are blondes.
Writer/artist Roy Richardson hasn’t had a real job in over thirty years, except for four years of teaching, which proved to be a mistake. He and his wife currently illustrate the long-running syndicated comic strip “Mary Worth,” which leaves him one day a week for writing, if he keeps up with his deadlines. Check out his Author’s page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hillbilliespreferblondes/?ref=aymt_homepage_pane 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 7
Sean Hastings Blue Phoenix Ed racked his shotgun the moment Joseph started running. He aimed and grit his teeth as his finger coiled the trigger. Joseph’s feet propelled pebbles and dented the ground with his steps. He turned seconds before Ed fired, the pellets barely missed him. “Damn it,” Ed muttered. Joseph’s heels kicked up gravel as he fled the destroyed mountaintop. The floodlights turned on by Ed were the only reason why neither man fell to his death. Nowhere to hide, the only choice was flight. He racked the pump and aimed once again. He took two heavy breaths before pulling the trigger. The blast sent ripples through his flabby jowls and echoed through the Appalachian valley. But Joseph was kept running. “Shit.” Joseph slid down a man-made hill and passed a backhoe. Ed held the shotgun upward in one hand and used the other to stabilize himself as he followed Joseph down the hill. He racked the pump a third time and shouldered the weapon before Joseph reached a gigantic dump truck and ran behind its boulder-sized wheels. Ed lowered the shotgun and started running again. The dump truck was so big, so wide that Joseph hardly had to crouch to go underneath it. On the other side, Joseph tried to slide down another man-made hill but slipped and rolled most of the way. Ed saw him enjoying an all-you-can-eat serving of dirt while following him down. At the base of the hill, Joseph landed on his back–clothes, face and hair covered in soil–and saw someone standing before him; a nineteen-year-old girl with brown hair and too much damn makeup. Joseph blinked and she was gone. Ed’s feet crunching on gravel reminded him to get up and run. Instead of going down the hill, Ed ran alongside the main road and passed a sign saying, “Blue Phoenix Mining Industries.” Joseph hid behind a tree, tried to get his eyes clean but saw the girl, again. “Sooner or later, God’ll cut us down,” he remembered her saying. Joseph’s body snapped when a twig broke and started running again. Ed sprinted after him, running faster than he had in the decades since he had left school. Joseph crashed through bushes and kicked up leaves while his heartbeat increased. He was in better shape than Ed, but the fact the chase had gone on for so long was beginning to scare him. He did not know how much longer he could keep running from Ed in this forested, hilly terrain. All Ed needed was time and stamina, then the shotgun would do the rest. Every passing second made Joseph think more and more about the fact he could die. Sooner or later, God’ll cut us down. “Why is that?” he replied, at the time. “Cuz…” she replied. “I mean, He always does. Especially round here.” 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 7
Ed slowed down to a speed-walk but remained in pursuit. He bounced off of trees and slipped on leaves but kept Joseph in his sights. He thought about stopping to aim before he tripped on a fallen trunk. His finger pulled the trigger when he hit the ground but nothing happened; there was no shell in the chamber. He jumped up and forced his heavy legs to get back running. Joseph knew Ed was still on his trail. He rammed his face into pine needles and low-hanging branches in the star-lit black. He jumped off of stumps, over rocks, and past the split-second distance between him and his death. Joseph’s heartbeat was so loud he could not hear the leaves his feet were pushing through. They made two lines that Ed could follow even at his slower pace. Joseph reached the railroad and kept running; Ed remained in pursuit. Both men ran under a conveyer belt and past a building used to load coal into trains. Joseph was sweating and looking for a place to hide. Sooner or later, God’ll cut us down. Joseph saw an extant train car on his diagonal right and turned. God’ll cut us down. “Maybe not.” Joseph sprinted behind the train car and Ed’s feet pounded the earth, although his panting was even louder. Ed made a right turn when he reached the open car, then took two steps back. Joseph stood there, just stared at him. Ed sucked wind as he tried to comprehend what was happening. “I’m not running, anymore,” Joseph said. “The hell are you doin’ here?” Ed asked. “Sneakin’ in in the middle o’ th’ night?” “I know about the water pollution,” Joseph said. “Hmm?” He pulled a vial of liquid out of his pocket. “This is part of a testing kit. You can buy them online. Might be hard to see in this light, but you notice the color? That means lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. That means levels that violate the law. Blue Phoenix has been poisoning this land, Ed. And I bet you knew about it.” Ed was silent, cradling his shotgun before replying, “Joseph, you cain’t tell no one ‘bout this.” “Fat chance, Ed.” “We trusted you, Joe. I trusted you! You one of them protesters? Got tired of sittin’ in trees, so you just got a job here? Did one of them environmental groups send you to infiltrate?” Joseph, surprised that Ed knew that word, shook his head. Ed kept hyperventilating. “Please tell me you ain’t a cop or a fed.” Joseph shook his head. “I’m none of those things. I’m a journalist.” 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 7
“A journ’list? Like New York Times or Fox News?” “I used to work for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, along with some small, local newspapers in Atlanta suburbs. Nowadays, I’m a stringer. I go out on my own, wherever I want to cover whatever I want. That’s how I ended up here in West Virginia.” “So, you spent a month workin’ here just to get a story?” “Honestly, it wasn’t my best idea.” He snickered. “It was one of the shittiest ideas I’ve ever had. I mean, I almost died in this damn mine for nothing. Tonight, I just said ‘screw it’ and snuck in. Enough of this crap. Let’s just get some evidence and get the hell out of here.” “Did you really have sex with Walt’s sister?” “Uh…” Joseph left his mouth open for a few moments. “Yeah. Didn’t plan that, but it ended up… Occurring.” “Man, she’s nineteen,” Ed replied. “You’re like… thirty.” “Twenty-eight.” “Still, man. I mean, she’s hot. And legal. But still…” “Look, I’ve got my fair share of shortcomings,” Joseph interjected. “But my whole purpose for being here was to find out why people in this is area were getting sick. Now I’ve got proof, it’s in the water.” “I cain’t let you leave with that water, man. And I can’t have you tellin’ people ‘bout this.” “If I do, you’ll kill me?” Ed started shifting the shotgun in his hands. me.”
“Here’s the thing, Ed. There’s only one thing that will stop me from writing this story. Shoot Ed mouthed, “What?” Joseph smiled.
“Joe, I don’t wanna kill you. I don’t wanna do it, but I will if I have to. I ain’t got no choice. This is ain’t just about me, Joseph. I need this job to support my family. This was never just about me. If I hadn’t gotten into this, my kids wouldn’t have a roof over their heads! They’d be goin’ hungry.” “Here’s the reason I got involved in this, Ed. Down the Kanawha River, there’s a town where people are getting sick. There was a school were five people–four teachers and a student–died of cancer. The only thing all of these different people had in common was that they drank well water. Blue Phoenix claims the water is safe, the West Virginia state government claims the water is safe. I’ve got evidence they’re all lying. I’ve got evidence they let all of those people die. There is only one way that I’m not telling everybody about this, Ed; shoot me.” “Joseph, don’t–.” “I’m not messing around and I’m not running, anymore. I don’t care who Blue Phoenix has paid off or what you say you’ll do to me.” 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 7
“Joseph–” “Ed, you seem like a guy who’s done a lot of things he regrets. But murder isn’t one of them.” Ed raised his shotgun. “Joseph, this is your last warnin’. You cain’t say anythin’ about this.” “Kill me or I’m walking out of here.” Ed racked another shell and aimed at Joseph’s abdomen. Sooner or later, God’ll cut us down. Ed placed his finger on the trigger and his hands started to shake. Joseph stood still and looked Ed right in the face; he looked down the barrel but somehow managed to stay calm. Thirty seconds of shaking and baring his teeth, then Ed let out a guttural moan and lowered the weapon. “Fuck,” Ed said, a tear forming in his eye. “Goddamn it.” “Called it,” Joseph responded. “Sometimes the best results come from taking a leap of faith. Hey… Ed?” Ed put the gun down and started banging his fists on the train car. “Ed?” He let out a scream and kept pounding the metal. “Ed?” “What’m I gonna do?” he whispered. “Ed?” He turned and waited for Joseph to continue. “How about I interview you? Tell me your side of the story, give me an insider perspective.” “You son of a bitch! You’re ‘bout to destroy my life, and you have th’ balls, th’ awedacity, the ask me to help you do that? Go to Hell!” “Ed, you know about the Witness Protection program, right?” Joseph asked. “I don’ give a shit about that! How’m I gonna feed my kids now? My wife don’t make enough money to support alla us. We’re gonna lose our house, Joseph! All cause you wanted to dig up dirt for a story.” “This dirt… Well, water, actually, is making people sick, Ed. Let’s not forget that fact.” Ed took a deep breath and more tears flowed. “Ed, did you know that people in the Witness Protection Program get a stipend from the government?” “Huh?” “The government gives people in the program money. C’mon, you know how much politicians love to spend taxpayer money. That money will be enough to provide food and housing for your 73 | 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 7
family. While you’re waiting for the trial to start, you could start attending community college. If you give me information, and we take this to the FBI, this could lead to you getting a better job. Providing a better life for your family.” “I… I mean… But I’d never come back, here, again. My wife and I, we’d never see our brothers or sisters. My kids, they’ll never see their friends again.” “Ed, I’m offering you a way out,” Joseph said. “This is the only out that you’ll be offered. The only out that will allow you to stay with your family.” “Even if we do this, how are the feds gonna come after Blue Phoenix? They’ve got the whole state bought off.” “I don’t know. But it’ll be a start. It’ll set an example: we did something. We didn’t just stand by and let this happen. I’m walking out of here, Ed. I’m going to get in my car and drive back down to Georgia. I’ve got my bags packed and everything. I can give you a lift, if you want. Or not, if you don’t. But once I’m gone, I’m not coming back. Decision time, Ed: me or Blue Phoenix.” Ed was silent again. Joseph shrugged and started walking. Ed felt stung in his chest every time Joseph took a step. He clenched his jaw, balled his fist, and held his breath until Joseph was almost at the gate. “Okay!” Ed called out. “Let’s take these bastards down.”
Sean Hastings is an undergraduate student at Oglethorpe University, studying to achieve his BA in History and Minor in Writing. He also spent three months studying Creative Writing at Oxford University. He has wanted to be a novelist since he was fifteen years old. He has previously competed in online short story competitions and self-published two novellas, Legacy of Secrets and The Irishman, on Amazon.com. 74 | 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 7
Clayton H. Ramsey Senses One of the genuinely delicious pleasures of reading is the immediacy created by the act. While snug in your leather chair, a cup of Earl Grey close at hand, you can feel the briny spray of the sea with Ishmael and Ahab in their perilous quest. You can feel the ooze of mud and offal and death in a trench on the Western Front, or the sun on your face as you float lazily down the Mighty Mississippi with Jim and Huck, or the choking smoke in your nostrils of a burning Atlanta as Rhett and Scarlett escape the city. You can hear the roar of cannon with Tolstoyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pierre at the Battle of Borodino, or feel your heart race as you charge with the man of La Mancha across a Spanish plain, lance leveled at a windmill on a brilliant summer afternoon. You can feel the nausea of bloat after a Roman feast with Nero or the clawing pang of thirst as you search for mĂŠlange spice on the desert planet of Arrakis. One of the reasons we read, and find the experience so exhilarating, is to drop into other minds and bodies and places and times and feel, truly feel, what it is like to have another life. Never been to the top of Everest? Join the expedition of Sir Edmund Hillary between the covers of his High Adventure and feel the tear of gale force winds and the numb of frostbite and the gasps of thin air. Never been in a Soviet gulag? Solzhenitsyn can make you feel the struggle of a forced labor camp, the privation and inhumanity. Never dug your toes in the black sand beaches of a tropical island, or sung Matins in a drafty medieval monastery in the chill before dawn? A good book will allow you the chance to do all these things, feel all these things, and so much more. This is the mysterious alchemy of reading, the sheer joy and fundamental thrill of something so infinitely varied and so profoundly satisfying. We open a book or (heaven help us) power up an e-reader, allow our gaze to jerk across the page as our eyes take pictures of strokes and whorls and loops of an alphabet, and somehow, seemingly by some spell of a cosmic magus, our stimulated imaginations take us to planets and empires and climates and centuries that we could have never possibly conceived, nor felt, apart from the endowment of books. So what happens when we read? What makes this supremely intellectual exercise such a sensory experience and what does this mean for us as writers? We begin this exploration with the primary, classical question of epistemology: What is the source of our knowledge? Of course this entire branch of philosophy is
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devoted to the question of knowledge: its acquisition, its nature, its reliability and its verification. Early empiricists like John Locke talked of our minds as a tabula rasa, a blank slate, upon which ideas and experiences, derived from our senses, are inscribed as we live life in our bodies. So-called innatists, like Rene Descartes, believed that we were born with some ideas, that the mind was not an empty page, ready to be filled with the impressions of sense. The empiricists, of course, beginning with Aristotle, had a great effect on the history of science, emphasizing the importance of experimentation and the validation of theory by experience. Hypotheses about the physical world were not to be confirmed by divine revelation or pure thought or tradition, but by actual testing and gathering data systematically, mediated through our senses, investigating truth through what we could measure and see and feel. Now Descartes in his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) conceived of an â&#x20AC;&#x153;evil demon,â&#x20AC;? who was powerful and deceptive, a hypothetical being who could mislead our senses and manipulate us to believe in a reality external to us that really didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist. His point was that the senses are not always the best, and certainly not the only, source of reliable knowledge. Philosophically I understand his argument. But sense impressions are not to be discounted entirely and still remain as one of our primary ways of learning about our world and ourselves. Certainly these are just two perspectives on the debate, and Locke and Descartes are not the only participants in this conversation about our sources of knowledge. There have been others, and there will be more to come. Without wading any further into a discussion that can be quite esoteric, I want to suggest to you that the most successful writers are unabashed, utterly unreserved empiricists in their work. Regardless of whether they personally believe that God-given ideas are inherent in the human brain at birth, or are driven by sociohistorical forces, or develop by the myriad influences of nature and nurture, when they sit to write, the best of them become shameless empiricists. They believe the best writing appeals to the entire range of senses possessed by their readers and they intentionally craft their work to stimulate these senses. In the language of epistemology, knowledge must come through what can be sensed and the insightful writer will recognize that his story must be told through the senses.
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And what do we mean by “senses”? Traditionally there are five – sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. Scientists now believe our range of senses, those avenues we have to assess our physical environment and our place in it, are not confined to these five. We also have sophisticated sensors that determine pain, spatial orientation, pressure, temperature and other variables in our world. Some might even consider intuition and spiritual awareness as others. For the writer who in practice is an empiricist, each of these senses is another way to make the story real, to bridge the gap between world and reader’s brain that must occur if the story is to be believed and truly experienced. What is so remarkable about this process is that the author does not show up at a reader’s house and enact the story with players and props. The experience is mediated by text. In other words, that’s all the author has – words – symbols on a page or screen. These markings must do the work of conjuring an experience, a full sensory experience, in the mind of a reader. And this is where the magic lies. So how does this work? There is a good book by Stanislas Dehaene called Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention (2009). He does a nice job proposing a pathway that developed relatively recently in our history as a species in which written language is processed by our brain. In short, words are read and create sense impressions on an area of the retina called the fovea. These visual inputs are transmitted to the visual cortex in the back of the brain, then shuttled to a specific region in the left side of the brain called the left ventral occipito-temporal region, what he and a colleague named the “visual word form area,” or more colloquially, “the brain’s letterbox.” Through tests that have ranged from lesion studies to MEG/EEG and diffusion and functional MRI, he presents a compelling case that this region of the brain has developed to deal specifically with written words, not faces, not landscapes, not any other visual input, but written words only. This area serves as the “essential switchboard for the reading circuit,” according to Dehaene and his colleagues. From there information is broadcast by fiber bundles to many other regions in the brain, to those areas that function to encode word meaning, sound pattern, and articulation. They lead to the hippocampus, where memories are stored, activating our archive of sound and smell and touch and place, as the meaning of the words we read unfold in our brain as story. They touch regions of the sensory cortex. Even our motor cortex, regulating movement, can be activated by motion-related words.
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As you might imagine this is an exceptionally complex and sophisticated process and is still not fully understood by neuroscientists. However, they know it happens very fast, involves parallel routes, engages multiple regions in the brain, and is experienced universally, regardless of language or culture. According to Dehaene, there is a general architecture of the brain that is inherited from ancient ancestors, but this arrangement has plasticity, a capacity to change and develop in response to stimuli. In other words, both Locke and Descartes were right. So what does this mean for our writing? On a most basic level, we interact with the world through our physical senses. Printed words, as symbolic representations of aspects of our world, stimulate sensory regions of our brains. Written language, then, mediates our connection to the world. Thus, if you want to enhance the experience of the world you build through the words of your story or poetry, then verbally stimulate the senses of your reader. The more senses you engage, the more of the brain you involve in the process and the more the reader is immersed in the experience you are trying to create. Diane Ackerman wrote a lovely book called A Natural History of the Senses (1990), in which she beautifully explores the realm of sense. It’s a good place to start if you want to be more attuned to this aspect of your writing. Sensory language, words that directly arouse smells, sounds, sights, textures, tastes, temperatures – the physical experiences of life – should be used often and liberally. Use vivid words that prompt the reader to smell what you want them to smell, to taste what you want them to taste. We are not sterile reading machines; we are fleshly, physical creatures who interact with our world in a vast range of ways. Appeal to as many of those avenues of sense as you can in your writing. Mix senses through synesthesia. Pull the entire mind and body of your reader into your work through the use of vivid, sensory words. Reading is an act of the intellect, as words are decoded and meaning is determined. The body is still while the brain is active. But this does not mean the senses should be ignored. The brain is not just a rational organ; it is the fundamental destination, coordinator, interpreter and center of our senses as well. So get the whole brain, and hence the whole person, of the reader involved in your writing. It will heighten their experience, make it more memorable, and intensify their enjoyment of your story-world. And isn’t that the reason we tell stories in the first place?
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Why Art? Why Art? It is a simple question. It is asked by the college student trying to decide whether it is worth assuming the debt and investing the years in a Master of Fine Arts degree. It is asked by the parent debating the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling her child in an after-school music program. It is asked by the legislator considering the complexities of fund allocation and the couple at the end of a long week as they think about whether to go to a play or a basketball game on their night off. It is asked by the fundraiser as she solicits donations for a foundation that supports the humanities, the businessman as he thinks about his projected charitable giving at the beginning of a new year, and the city councilman as he argues for or against a local arts initiative. A thousand different people in just as many contexts. And while the deliberations are shaped by variables like time, money, priorities, personal interests, institutional commitments, and a host of other concerns, the question is resolved in some way in each case. Traces of the answers are seen in schedules, budgets, and agendas. They are seen in private and public spaces. The question at times is politicized and monetized, wielded as an accusation, used as a litmus test. And that is unfortunate, for while the question is simple, the way we approach it is just as complex and nuanced as we are. It remains, though, a question that requires an answer. Why Art? Because of its brevity, several meanings are conflated. Why is there such a thing as art, is one meaning. The other is, why should we support, encourage, engage in, struggle with and otherwise celebrate art? I suppose there can also be a third: why are we even talking about art, when we should be talking about other more pressing issues, like climate change, or geopolitical threats, or scores of other matters that directly impinge on our shared life in global community. The first meaning tucked in the question is one best left to anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, paleoarchaeologists, semioticians, and the whole tribe of academics who explore those first tentative steps we took from the mists of prehistory at the dawn of time. They have their theories why the paintings in the French caves of Lascaux some 20,000 years ago were drawn, why art has been a part of our experience for millennia. Surely organic life can be imagined that does not involve art. But that is not our history. Why we use symbols,
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why we want to graphically represent our reality, why we developed multiple media for expressing what appear to be innate artistic tendencies, how language emerged—all fascinating questions, and all beyond the scope of this essay. Art, at least in this context, is a given. It is a magnificent part of our experience. Why it is so is a profoundly philosophical discussion for another time. The third question—why are we even talking about art—seems to have a rather obvious answer. It’s everywhere. In the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 Apple had revenue that topped $78.4 billion. That’s almost $80,000,000,000 for a single quarter of sales of laptops, iPods, iPads, desktops, watches, and all the accessories that this one company alone produces. And this is just the hardware for a significant market share of the media industry. Movies and iTunes and eBooks and videos--images and text and sound in dazzling and constantly evolving variety available through the exponential expansion of technology. This is art in the broadest sense. Art as creative expression and culture as the web of meaning we inhabit as social creatures and media as platforms of experience can now all intersect on a two-inch square screen strapped to your wrist. Of course there are traditional metrics for measuring the ubiquity of art. There are over 35,000 active art museums in the U.S. (Institute of Museum and Library Services), and 39,356 indoor movie screens at 5,463 sites (National Association of Theater Owners). There were 37 million televisions sold in this country in 2012, and last March the Washington Post reported that, “The U.S. has as many televisions as humans.” (3/15/16). Based on their research there were 323 million people and 338 million televisions in the U.S. in 2013, all broadcasting dramas and concerts and programs with creative content. According to the Bowker Reports, the number of new books, both self- and traditionally published each year in the U.S., has grown by more than 600,000 since 2007, surpassing 1 million annually. And of course that is only books. There are other written formats and plenty of other experiments in art, some shown in galleries, in theaters, and on screens, but many more unseen and unshared, manuscripts on hard drives and sculptures in garage studios and centuries of unedited video. All of this covers an enormous range of style and skill. One can rightly argue that there is a colossal difference between a Murakami and an amateur writer who scribbles on the weekend, between a Van Gogh and a retiree with a couple of tubes of oils and a brush. But that is beside the point. The beginner and the expert,
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though separated by years of craft, both have every right to create, have every desire to create, and we, if only in response to the sheer volume, should talk about and celebrate their creations. The point is, of course, that art is everywhere. So why shouldn’t we talk about it? I won’t discuss the issue of standards of judgment, or the lines that are drawn to separate pop and sophisticated art, low and high culture. Art is a universal experience, and whether you are counting books, canvases, or the components of technology as proof, the evidence is undeniable. Which leaves the second meaning imbedded in the question, Why Art? Why should we engage in art? Why should we encourage it with our patronage, our free time, our talent? What is it about the gloriously messy act of putting words on paper, or spreading paint on canvas, or coaxing music from quivering strings that makes it so important, so necessary, enough to forgo some other causes that clamor for attention? The purists among us point to the ancient maxim of Ars gratia artis, art for the sake of art. Must art be for something? Must it do something? Must art somehow fulfill some predetermined social or economic function? The idealist would not feel the need for justification beyond the act of creation. Homo faber, the maker of tools and myths, creates. That is what we do. It is a genetic legacy. Why art? Because creation in color and word and shape is a human birthright and the act of storytelling and fashioning something new is as natural an endowment as any other characteristic of the rational animal, touched by divinity, that is the human being. Art is human, profoundly, inextricably so. What reason beyond that must exist to validate its expression? Writers write, photographers photograph, singers sing. As they ever should. Such idealism must, of course, be tempered by pragmatism. I understand the stark economics of any kind of production, including that of artists. I understand, for example, that writers and their agents, publishers, editors, and publicists have to eat. But even given market forces and economic necessities, I would still argue there is something profoundly, sublimely different about art. In the pristine environment of the studio and writing nook, untethered to concerns of commerce, creation of art is play, a symphony of mind and hand, vision and skill. It is enchanting beauty and sublime delight. Truman Capote once wrote, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” This is the glory of art, the stunning incarnation in myriad forms of the uniquely
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human creative talent. Elevated or debased, the initial impulse and capacity remain hallowed. Why art? Because it can express the best of our humanity, that transcendent part of us that touches the precincts of heaven. This playful aspect of art, the verbal gymnastics in Perec and Nabokov and Joyce, the infinite variety of form and hue, of chord and image, is the sacred core of the enterprise. This is the act before marketing plans and quarterly sales. This is the joy and magnificence, the experiment with technique and the music of the spheres. But as pure as artistic creation can be, it is not done in hermetic isolation. All art starts as mimetic, as an imitation of the world we inhabit. Our ancestors painted their spear carrying neighbors and the bison they hunted on cave walls. They told the stories of the pursuit around cooking fires. This was the genesis of art, a representation and memorializing of their lives. This mimesis, even when highly symbolic and infused with the energy of imagination, still serves a significant role in our art making. This representative “realism” not only captures transitory historical moments, it also opens the possibility for evaluation. With exposure comes affirmation of the best of the human spirit and experience, and understanding of the worst displays of ugliness, presenting at least the potential for acknowledgement and reconciliation. Han Kang’s Human Acts (2017), the story of the violent suppression of a student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea, in 1980, is a recent example of how art can function as memorial and prelude to justice by exposing the inconvenient, uncomfortable facts that some want desperately to hide. Why art? Because we need that truth. Especially after French philosopher Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1975) and subsequent analyses, one cannot talk about art (and knowledge) without considering its relation to power. Art can be propagandistic, a hijacking of the plasticity of media to serve the agenda of state sanctioned power structures. But it need not end in subsuming art to state. Foucault himself talked about parrhesia, a speaking of truth to power, and art can serve this purpose as well. It can be confrontational. It can be satire and dystopian fantasies. It can challenge orthodoxies, trace inconsistencies, and expose hypocrisies. It can serve as jester and prophet. But as critical as this public function of art is, if it is just the negotiation between nodes of power, if it sees only raw self-interest, then there is the threat of disillusionment and cynicism. The result would be only nihilism. But art need not devolve into this black hole, because it points beyond. And that is where I think the noblest purpose of art lies, in clearing space for hope.
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T.S. Eliot wrote about the “heap of broken images” that littered the modernist landscape. Postmodernism fractured our cherished narratives and now we have stumbled into a post-truth, post-factual era where the links between signifier and signified, referent and symbol have been severed. Our world is broken, and it is precisely in this brokenness that art can and must exercise its most honorable function. At its best, art is an act of hope; art can assume a redemptive purpose. It not only provides an outlet for the expression of some of humanity’s most brilliant inclinations, it can also ennoble in the process. In identifying with lives that are different from our own, other perspectives are opened up for exploration and growth. Ways forward are now available. New worlds are achievable. Happy endings are possible. The despair of one crushed life is replaced with the hopeful visions of a thousand others. Art shows us the lush variety of potential, offers the gift of re-imagining, and helps us envision and fashion a world we want to inhabit. We share in networks of meaning, draw truth from traditions of wisdom, grow in compassion as we touch the pain of others. We are no longer confined by the solipsism of a single life, a single country, a single time. There are others. And there is More: more justice, more grace, more joy, more beauty. If only we would be open to the possibility. Why Art? Because art is primordial, personal, connective, enlightening, cathartic, enrapturing, redemptive. It is a bright star among the constellations of science, religion, literature, philosophy, and other endeavors that span the firmament of human achievement. Why art, indeed. Without art, we would be less than human; with it, we are only limited by the boundaries of our imaginations.
Clayton H. Ramsey is a native of Atlanta and holds degrees from Princeton and Emory. By day, he works on a research team with the Pathology Department in the School of Medicine at Emory. At night and on the weekends, he indulges his love of books and writing. He has served two terms as president of the Atlanta Writers Club, a 700-member, 103-year-old community of writers in the Atlanta area and is currently both an Officer Emeritus on the Board of Directors and VP of Contests, Awards & Scholarships. He has been a moderator for panel discussions at the Decatur Book Festival for years and is on the selection committee for the Townsend Prize for Fiction. He writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novels, non-fiction articles and essays. He has been published in Georgia Backroads, Mash Stories, Fickle Muses, and an anthology of Atlanta writers called The Treasure Trove. He has also contributed to a number of scientific articles, and has been honored by the Atlanta Writers Club, the Georgia Writers Museum, and Mash Stories for his writing. He lives in Decatur with his wife and cat.
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Sandra Wooldridge Non-Fiction: Luxury Vacation on a Budget When my boyfriend and I were looking to take a vacation, we searched high and low for the right destination at the right price. Let’s face it, finding a great vacation package on a budget is tough. Finally, we talked about taking a cruise. He had never been on a cruise and I hadn’t been in years. We searched the websites and travel agents for the best deal. Just a tidbit of information for you, if you are planning a cruise, go directly to the cruise line website for the best deal. I got a 4 day cruise for 2 for less than $800. Of course, this was in February, so it was off season and that is when you get the best rates. You may think you would rather go in the summer when the weather is warmer. Well, it was 36 degrees when we left Georgia and drove down to Port Canaveral, Florida to board the ship. Once on the ship and out into the Ocean, the temperature stayed well into the 70’s. It was not miserably hot but not too cool. During the weeks leading up to the cruise, we researched our destination ports, read reviews and searched the internet for any useful information for first time cruisers. There are several helpful videos on YouTube. Once the cruise was booked, the cruise line offers shore excursions, which is extra. Some of the excursions looked really interesting, however, they come with a hefty price tag. The prices for the excursions are per person. For example, there was a beach day excursion which included lunch. At first, it sounded great, then I read what it included and read the reviews. It was $39 per person, which included transportation to and from the beach and the BBQ lunch. After reading the reviews, the BBQ lunch was, according to most reviews, not satisfactory for the price paid. We decided, after reading through all of the excursions, to simply “wing it”. So, with the cruise planned, we decided to leave one day early and hit some other destinations on our way. Our cruise would leave Port on Sunday afternoon around 4pm. We left out Saturday morning and drove down to Savannah. Neither of us had ever been. I made reservations to eat at The Lady and Sons restaurant while in Savannah. If you have not had the pleasure of eating there, the experience is a must. The food was amazing and the service was excellent. We walked around down town Savannah and took pictures of the horse drawn carriage rides and the many activities taking place. Once we left Savannah, we ventured South to St. Augustine, Florida where we rented a room for the night and visited St. Augustine Beach. On Sunday morning, after already having a relaxing day of vacationing, we drove further South to Cocoa Beach, Florida, which is just down the strip from the Port where we would embark on our cruise. We had a wonderful time at the tiki bar on the Cocoa Beach pier, then visited the Ron Jon Surf shop. At 2pm, we headed over to the Port and embarked on our ship. The check in process was a little lengthy but well worth it. 84 | 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 7
The onboard experience was so much more than we expected. There is nothing like waking up and walking out onto the deck to watch the sunrise over the ocean. We had coffee while sitting in a deck lounger with the ocean only a few feet from us. The morning breeze was warm and inviting. There were several things to do during our Day at Sea. Each evening the room steward would deliver an itinerary for the following day. So much to do! When we reached Nassau, the beach was only a short walk from the ship. Shopping was just through the gate and there were restaurants and bars all throughout the main strip. A word to the wise, do not venture beyond the tourist areas. Some of the locals are a little shady. After a fun-filled day at the beach and lunch at a local pub, where we tried fried Conch, we were really glad we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t book an excursion. Back on the ship, the DJ was cranking up for a deck party. There were also deck games, shuffle board, basketball, karaoke, and bingo. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not forget that there is a spa onboard all ships where one can relax with a massage after a long day at the beach. Another great thing about most cruise lines, they usually leave a gift in your room for special occasions. We went at the end of February, which is the month of my birthday. Even though my birthday had passed, I received a nice birthday card from the cruise staff with a photo voucher and a $50 spa gift card. What a bonus! When the cruise was over, we found ourselves wanting to go again right away. The experience was amazing! So, if you are looking for a great vacation and ant to relax on the beach or party by the pool, look no further. With so many cruise lines and so many destinations, the possibilities are endless!
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Dustin Pickering ESSAY: The Process of Re-Invention: Man Becomes God in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Man-Moth” Elizabeth Bishop’s odd and intriguing poem “The Man-Moth” is one of her earliest successes in poetry, and since it remains mysterious it is fruit for tedious interpretation. Some have suggested it relates Ms. Bishop’s alcoholism, her “inherited illness”, or that it represents the creative process. I suggest the poem unconsciously reconciles the differences between Surrealist and Impressionist art. I further suggest the poem is a broad metaphor for the human condition as well as a humanist conception of God. Much scholarship already relates Bishop’s poetic approach to womanhood, lesbianism, and her own innermost guilt about succumbing to alcoholism. Bishop, a pupil of Marianne Moore, was certainly not naïve or world-shy. Her life is one of tumultuous tempers and troubles that often plague the strongest spirits. She inherited the gene that inclined her to alcoholism and she was tossed from family to family until settling with the aunt who brought her to verse. During these trysts with trial and tribulation, she probably learned to understand the rootlessness that comes with poetic temperament. “The Man-Moth”, written after reading a typo in The New York Times, is counted as one of her most surreal achievements. She wrote it young and while still in college. The poem reflects a serene darkness that parallels some of Dali’s own paintings. It begins with an underground moth-like creature that climbs a skyscraper toward the moon. This powerful imagery suggests something otherworldly, perhaps a sense of destiny. The moth creature appears resolute and unperturbed by the height. There are references to a “tube” and “photographic cloth”. This pertains to historical reflection. The moth creature later falls Icarus-like and enters a subway underground. The Impressionist era was rife with art that reflected multiple aspects of the emerging technologies of the times. The railroad was new, and the Impressionists enjoyed traveling and painting it. Tubes of paint became popular. Photography ascended and created new ways of perceiving the world. The spontaneity of movement that photography captured invigorated Impressionist art, and the blurring effect, used by Monet and Pissaro amongst others, was inspired by a photographic effect as well. The new art was so radical it inspired a fuss in the exhibits. Experts were appalled and denounced the paintings because they were not the realism they were accustomed to. Surrealists also employed photographic effects such as double exposure, combination printing, montage, and solarisation. Both these art forms strived to recreate our perceptions of reality. Surrealists were heavily inspired by psychoanalytic thought clarified by Sigmund Freud. In Freud’s thinking, the rational mind suppresses the power of the imagination. This finding is communicated in The Interpretation of Dreams. The founders of Surrealism also combined Marxist thought with their understanding of Freudian theory. The goal was to demonstrate that the imagination could liberate “we the people” from those contradictions inherent in civilization, and eventually liberate us completely from taboos empowered through the suppression of imaginative forces. Surrealism specifically used images to shock or jar the observer’s assumptions so they would acknowledge their inhibitions. Art is essentially the liberation from social forces that seek to enslave human passions, and neither of these modern forms is different. Oddly, the technologies that inspired these remarkable artists were created through the leisure allowed by massive human industry. Could that question be inherent to Bishop’s juxtaposition of the man and the Man-Moth? 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 7
The rational mind is, of course, symbolized by the man himself who is characterized by his hat and shadow. The shadow is especially revealing because it is an archetype in Jungian theory that personifies primitive animal tendencies in the collective human psyche. In this poem, even the ManMoth has a shadow that appears like a “photographer’s cloth” as he climbs the building. I suspect the man, who doesn’t see the moon but only recognizes it analytically, is the personification of human reasoning in contrast to the Man-Moth who embodies human imagination seeking perfect freedom. At the same time, the Man-Moth is a creature who confronts us with our unique past. Vertebrae creatures emerged 500,000 years ago, scientists suspect. Perhaps the oldest vertebrae fossils to be discovered is that of Metaspriggina, a tiny fish, which was found in sediment at Walcott Quarry in British Columbia. As written in Nature 512 (pages 419-422) by Simon Conway Morris and Jean-Bernard Caron, “This primitive fish displays unambiguous vertebrate features: a notochord, a pair of prominent camera-type eyes, paired nasal sacs, possible cranium and arcualia, W-shaped myomeres, and a post-anal tail. [italics mine]” Note the use of “camera-type eyes.” The Man-Moth eventually ceases his climb up and returns to “underground springs” where he faces backwards on a subway train. Normally, we think of “below” as regressive but I suspect in this poem it is the opposite. As the ManMoth returns to his rightful position as underground creature, he is more revealing of human thought than the man in the street. His backwards-facing mode is a reflection on revisiting the past, both collective and individual, and facing its deep darkness. “Just as the ties recur beneath the train,” writes Bishop, approaching the subway situation as a mental landscape. The railroad ties suggest fixations, reminiscent of Freudian theory again. Aside from Freudian theory, the poem anticipates the behavioral-cognitive approach that emerged from it. Aaron T. Beck, MD says, “Well, first of all, just to pick up the old thoughts. I never really thought that cognition caused depression or that it caused anything else. As thinking human beings, as total human beings we think and we feel and we act. And one very important part of what we do, which influences our feelings and so on, is the way we process information. And my point was once a person is depressed they tend to process information in a negative way. What causes the depression, of course, is something totally different. It can be caused by biochemical factors. It can be caused ultimately by defeats or desertions, losses and so on and so forth.” Dr. Beck further assigns depression to an evolutionary adaption used to conserve energy. This “looking back” in evolutionary time is another profound implication of the poem’s symbolism. Bishop’s struggle with alcohol, referred to in this stanza, may be her source of wisdom on this observation. Man-Moth then is the past climbing skyward then returning to critique itself. What do we call this process? I believe we should approach this eerie symbolism as scientific speculation. Bishop portrays the human condition as one of isolation to an extent, but she isn’t nihilistic about it. The poem itself is a search for God, a quest to believe the unfathomable; that is, to liberate our imaginative forces from the shackles of reason. The Man-Moth climbs only to be tossed down, but he doesn’t recognize the moon as a distant object. He sees it as something fixed on the sky. He perceives reality as determined and childlike in its sensibility. The moon is not a rock fixed by gravity in cosmic space, but is rather an aperture or perhaps the entry to another full world if only the Man-Moth climbs high enough. Embryonic Man sees the world in the same immaturity. We are unable to calculate the motions of three simultaneous bodies in cosmic space, and our instruments have not perfected our observations yet. Cameras and railroads spur radical art movements, but most people are unable to grasp the ingenuity of them until decades pass. In an August 10, 2012 article in Scientific American, Ferris Jabr writes, “The earliest insects in Earth's history did not metamorphose; they hatched from eggs, essentially as miniature adults. Between 280 million and 300 million years ago, however, some 87 | 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 7
insects began to mature a little differentlyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;they hatched in forms that neither looked nor behaved like their adult versions. This shift proved remarkably beneficial: young and old insects were no longer competing for the same resources. Metamorphosis was so successful that, today, as many as 65 percent of all animal species on the planet are metamorphosing insects.â&#x20AC;? The symbolism of the MothMan suddenly becomes apparent. As we try to reconcile ourselves and reinvent our standing in the world, we strive not only to know God but in many respects to become God.
Dustin Pickering is a poet, playwright, publisher, event coordinator, visual artist, and sometime musician. His books The Daunting Ephemeral and The Future of Poetry is NOW: Bones Picking at Death's Howl were self-published. Another collection, Salt and Sorrow, was published by Chitrangi Publishers (Calcutta, India). His collection of "flash wisdom", A Matter of Degrees, was published earlier in 2017 by Hawakal Publishers. He is currently at work on his first novel, Dominus Vobiscum. 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 7
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The Teacher with Wit and Wisdom – Keith Hughes Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks I began teaching in the summer of 2014. It was a struggle, and leading an unconventional student body left me grasping at straws in the initial months. However, one student suggested that I used tutorial videos in my lessons to not only add color to the three-hour-long courses, but give me time to shut up (I think that was for mutual benefit). After I scoured the Internet for a few hours I found Keith Hughes. Thank God. Keith Hughes, of “Hip Hughes” as he’s known to his devoted students, attentive fans, respected colleagues, and fortunate superiors has maintained the highest level of classroom success for the better part of twenty years. His videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/hughesDV) not only lit up my pupils, literally and figuratively, but also rejuvenated my passion to brush up on American history. His engaging lectures have been an integral part of my lesson plan for almost five years. With every new video, there comes a spark of excitement like a kid on Christmas morning. Over the last six months Keith Hughes and I have been in talks about a spinoff podcast, but more than anything the comradery of kindred spirits prevent me from throwing in the towel on education. Hughes has a razor-sharp wit and humble to the point you want to get him in a headlock and say, “Admit you’re a genius! SAY IT!” Yet, I doubt in the extreme that even in a headlock he’d admit his true aptitude. Recently he was featured on the History Channel’s special presentation on the transfer of power from one president to the next. Hughes is a husband and father hard to match in this world. The man works an ungodly amount of hours and then makes time to enjoy his family in events like his daughters’ and wife’s burgeoning roller derby team. If you want a lesson in how to raise intelligent, driven kids with the ability to knock out anyone foolish enough to try and intimidate – look no farther than Keith and Debra Hughes. So, sit back and follow the link that breaks down a wall in this journal of culture by watching Hughes answer his interview questions in the medium he is most comfortable. Afterwards, be sure to check out his videos and be sure to add a “like” to his fan page at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=keith%20hughes%20fanpage. You will quickly discover the fun in learning while immersing yourself in our countries rich history.
The link: Keith Hughes Interview w/SCE
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Musician Interview with Wyatt Espalin Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks Wyatt Espalin has grown more as a musician than any other I’ve known. I met him as college roommates at Shorter College in 1994. We shared the same faith in art and the Here After. There are an ample amount of funny stories I can tell you about Wyatt, but I am not because he knows far more, and far worse, on me. We are brothers of the highest order, but we still like to jab at each other. He has always been gifted in playing so many stringed instruments. From those earliest memories I first recall being amazed with his expertise. Over the 20 years we’ve know each other, there have been long periods of unintentional silences, but we kept up with the successes of the other via social media. Last year I attended one of his concerts, and since we’ve plotted the interview you’re about to read. Please follow the links provided, and listed for the April 2017 NPR show on WUTC the last Sunday in April (30). If you miss it, the gig is archived on our page: www.southerncollectiveexperience.com. 1) We have to start with the basics: Where are you from? Born in Los Angeles but raised by my maternal grandparents in Hiawassee, GA.What made you first fall in love with music? I learned how to clog and mountain-style buck dance when I was 8 and was always hearing fiddle music. I fell in love with the fiddle and asked my Granddad to get me one for Christmas so I could learn to play. Do you feel that God brought you to this divine spark of sound? Music seemed to get spiritual for me when I got serious about songwriting in college. The divinity that I experience in my songwriting is manifested in what I learn I about myself through the process. How many instruments do you play?I play guitar, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, trumpet, clarinet and a little piano. How awesome to do you think Cliff Brooks is? I think he’s a major talent. He’s someone that has influenced me and my thinking more that he’s knows. 2) How has it been to craft yourself as a man in music with an absent father? You often speak, and sing on this topic with tact and lack of melodrama. I can relate to this, and write of it is the same style with poetry. Does addressing this hurt in your music and personal story help you purge its sting? It’s difficult; most of my songs have a deep yearning. My father is not someone I ever think about. You wouldn’t know it from listening to my songs. But I had an absent mother and father most of my childhood so there are some abandonment issues that I’ll always deal with. It stings only when I’m performing sometimes and the lyrics that I’ve worked on so thoughtfully take on a new meaning and something new is revealed to me about who I am and the kind of person that childhood shaped me to be. Plus, I think there’s a lot of melodrama in my songs, lol. I’m pretty dramatic. Do you think it aids others to do the same? It’s healthy for me to tackle the truth about my life and turn it into a song that can 91 | 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 7
speak to someone else on a level that I never would have imagined. I’m amazed at the interpretations that fans have shared with me of my songs. I hope there’s a mystery to my songs that allows the listener unlock their own sense of self. Poetry, music, art, etc. is a beautiful tool to allow one to experience something amazing-seeing something from someone else’s perspective. 3) You do the damned thing! What I mean by that is you tour constantly. You hone your craft constantly. You work with a variety of different talents to push your limits in sound. How do you find the time? I feel like I don’t play enough shows. Nights that I have off, I don’t know what to do with myself. I love being onstage sharing these songs. But for a selfish reason: When I sing them for others, I get to experience my life from another’s perspective. That is so helpful in learning to love one’s self and understanding who God made you to be. How do you find these fantastic talents to team up with? I’m a whore for the stage and I seek out my idols and mentors and peers and I let them know I’m not fooling around. I want to collaborate and I want to be pushed to the next level. I get bored easy. But, I’m honored to have worked with some of my favorite songwriters like Amy Ray, Michelle Malone and Jennifer Knapp. Do you feel it is the hand of God that makes such gorgeous projects come to fruition for you? Um, I don’t know if I FEEL that way. I believe whatever happens to me is probably the hand of God but I learned a long time ago that believing and feeling are two different things. I get what you’re asking. It’s just that a lot of my early expression of belief was based on feelings and it skewed how I see my relationship with God. I tackled this with my songwriting when I used to write ONLY Christian music. I was driving down the road one day listening to a Patty Griffin song that spoke to me more than any gospel song I’d heard. And she was just being real and spouting out how she felt lost, abandoned, joyful, hopeful, useless-just all of these REAL emotions. That’s when I decided to write about my real life as a Christian and a human being. I’ve never looked back. 4) Speaking of faith, how does that fit into your daily life? Faith is just as hard to fit in a day as anything else when one is busy and ambitious and always searching. But when I think I haven’t made time for it is when I realize that it has influenced all of my decisions and steps I’ve taken. Faith is the something I don’t feel abandoned by. Who are some of your favorite ministers? To be honest, I don’t have any now. What are a few scriptures you bring up when times get hard? I don’t anymore. I love scripture and have a great history of relying on it. But that seems like a lifetime ago. It’s remarkable that I’m saying this after coming off the two most difficult years of my life. I just have a different relationship with that way of life now. Man, these are tough questions and I’m trying not to use my bullshit button. Lol. 92 | 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 7
5) Will Trees Leave ever get back together? Unfortunately, not. A reunion tour? Nope. A single show? Yes, tomorrow (3/31/17) at John C. Campbell Folkschool in Brasstown,NC, but it’s supposed to be a surprise. Give us a little hint. When I play in Nashville, Cobi Ferguson (my Trees Leave duo partner) always joins me onstage. He’s a successful upholsterer in Nashville married with two young daughters so he’s too busy to travel. But when it’s convenient it’s just like old times! Every new song I write, he’s usually the first to hear it and critique it. He will also appear on my upcoming recordings 6) What is your biggest dream? To be on tour performing songs I wrote constantly. Drop the humility and feeling of greed. If God gave you the chance to have something or live the life you want most: What would it be composed of?I don’t know. I just want to tell stories. Maybe a film director? 7) What causes or foundations do you support? JAM program in NC that gives free instrument lessons to kids and teaches Appalachian style music. I was a youth minister for a few years so I have a passion for youth and the struggle with drugs and teen suicide prevention. 8) Who are your top five musicians that no one has heard of that you think need far more attention? Kim Ware and her band, The Good Graces/The Stray Birds/Ann Egge/Mipso/Mount Moriah 9) What is your definition of a "Southern musician"? I recently watched this documentary on Levon Helm of The Band and it is argued that Robbie Robertson took credit for writing all of those songs they recorded. He’s Canadian and he supposedly was culturally influenced by Mr. Helm and his upbringing to capture the images and sounds those rich songs embodied. I’m sure he probably didn’t solely write them. But whoever did write “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” or “The Weight” is my definition of a Southern musician. Just understanding that culture-that way of life that makes the South the South. 10) This is where you add a question that answers something I don't know about. Add several if you wish. Make this yours. You know me. You ain't gonna piss me off. I honestly can’t think of anything that you don’t know about me. I have no huge secrets. The secrets I do have are cryptically revealed through my lyrics—like a true Southerner. Wyatt Espalin Links www.reverbnation.com/wyattespalinmusic www.wyattespalinmusic.com www.youjizz.com
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Author Interview with Michael Moore Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks When you meet Michael Moore the first thing you pick up is his deep kindness. In my experience, not to throw stones, but many authors who have made it to any flavor of notoriety have a jaded edge to them. Moore does not. That open heart and forgiving soul is slathered all in his latest work Man in the Blue Moon. The novel owns you from the first page. You get a similar feeling with you hear him speak. He teaches the finer point of writing, and visibly lights up when one of his students finds enlightenment. Enlightenment is what I hope you discover in this interview. I want to thank Michael Morris for his time, honesty, and humor. Please find, and buy his work. This is a man who uses an excellent story to take you away from what ails you. 1) Please tell us how you view Southern literature in 2017. How does growing up in the South affect your storytelling and the music you use while spinning a tall tale? I have heard you speak, and found myself wrapped up in the way you speak of your past, family, and philosophy. It is fascinating to experience. Were there specific moments in your history that you realized it was your destiny to live this life? If so, what were a few of them? First, thanks for remembering my talk at the Writer’s High retreat where we were both presenters. You have an amazing memory. I’m not sure I said anything worth remembering but I appreciate you saying so. I did not grow up in a family of readers. I grew up in a family of storytellers. My mother’s parents were extremely instrumental in my life and helped raise me. In childhood I spent a huge amount of time in my grandparent’s home where there was always something cooking on the kitchen stove. My grandmother’s sister was always there too. Practically every night she would come eat supper with us. As a kid I would sit in the hallway and eve’s drop on their conversations – stories about ancestors I only knew through photographs or from their graves at the cemetery. I would envision these swashbuckling stories they told as movies in my mind. My grandfather was another big storyteller. He wore a Stetson cowboy hat and thought he was both the sheriff and mayor of our small paper mill town in North Florida. The way he moved his hands when he told a story were hypnotic. His theatrics made a story come to life and he could imitate everything from the call of a Florida panther to the squeal of a fearful woman. I’ve finally figured out that my path to writing started in my grandparent’s home, listening to these wonderful storytellers. Today I am fearful oral history and storytelling are passing away with social media. It seems even in the small towns people would rather sit behind a computer and communicate with people who live right next door to them. Perhaps I’m cynical – I think I was born in the wrong era. I prefer the old time storytelling of my grandfather where the storyteller’s expressions are just as compelling as the words. 94 | 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 7
I’m always on the lookout for good stories in the Southern tradition. Last weekend at the Southern Voices Festival in Hoover, Alabama, a writer named Michael Farris Smith was a participant. I’m reading his novel, Desperation Road, and I’m spellbound. He writes with the grit and beauty of Larry Brown. It’s exciting to find a writer like Smith who quickly becomes a favorite. 2) When I heard you speak, you talked extensively on how hard it is for many novelists to place their first book. You had a hurdle to jump in that regard. Why do you think this exists in the publishing world, and how did you overcome it? What advice to you have for those writing their first novel to avoid unnecessary heartbreak? Is that heartbreak necessary? Publishing is the craziest business I know. Fifteen years after having my first book published, I have yet to figure it out. And it seems the industry is always changing. We might see one trend that seems to guarantee a bestseller. Then, just when a writer decides to write a novel about that particular topic, the trend changes again. From my perspective, publishing is an arbitrary and subjective business. I have finally realized that writing is art. Ten years ago I probably didn’t appreciate this way I do now. My wife is an artist and through her experiences I have learned that we do is an art form too. I’ll give you an example. My wife often exhibits her work at shows in various towns. I’ve stood in the booth with her and one person might walk right by a painting and not comment – the next person walks by the exact same painting and immediately purchases it. Writing is like that too. It is a subjective art form. One person might love what we produce and another person might not have any interest – I’m thinking of not only readers but also acquisition editors. How else can you explain why some books are passed over, eventually published either with another publisher or self-published and then become popular with readers? For a first novel, I am a big fan of small independent presses. For one thing the smaller presses are more likely to consider manuscripts that aren’t represented by an agent. My first novel was published with a small press and knowing what I know now, I realize they did a great job. I didn’t know how to appreciate it then. I also found that smaller presses tend to do more hand holding with the author. You mentioned heartbreak. I don’t think heartbreak can be avoided. It’s part of this wild, sometimes bipolar, world of publishing. I mentioned publishing is a crazy business and I was not being flippant. I don’t think anyone has a formula on how to get the stars to align and make a book a bestseller. It is a tough business – that is why I always say we have to write for ourselves. We have to write the book that we would put money on the counter and purchase.
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3) Let's take a step back, Mr. Morris: What novels, anthologies, or projects you have out on the shelves today? You have an impressive body of work. You are obviously keen of where you need to put your time, and you spend your time there wisely. I understand that you are part of a couple of new anthologies, one related to the recently passed Pat Conroy. Give us a rundown on all you have behind, and in front, of you. I’m working on revisions to a manuscript that I hope will be my fifth novel. The theme is much like the others in my stories – the meaning of family during life’s hurricanes and that family can be defined as those who are not necessarily our blood relatives. Recently, I submitted two essays for upcoming anthologies. One is Cook and Tell: Recipes and Stories from Family Kitchens by Jonathan Barrett. It’s due out in September with Mercer University Press. The anthology/cookbook includes essays from Janis Owens, Mary Kay Andrews and Damon Lee Fowler. Full disclosure: I cannot cook a lick. But for me food is memory. When I taste a piece of fried chicken that is just the right shade and temperature, I am immediately transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen table. Food feeds my soul as much as it does my stomach. The essay I submitted is about food serving as memory. I’m also excited to be included in an upcoming tribute anthology for Pat Conroy. It’s a collection of writers sharing personal reflections and ways in in which Pat helped form their work. The University of South Carolina Press is publishing that book. 4) Pat Conroy is a hero to us both. If I may: Do you have any personal stories with Conroy you can share? What place to you think he will take in the pantheon of Southern literature? I mentioned I come from a family of storytellers not readers. In fact, I didn’t start seriously reading until college. But one summer I was in my hometown library in Perry, Florida, and literally I stumbled upon The Prince of Tides. Everything about the novel drew me in. It’s one of those novels whose opening line I have memorized. The novel spoke to my soul. Even though I had never been to South Carolina, the beautiful descriptions of the Low Country seemed very similar to the Panhandle coastline of my hometown. Of course, I went on to read all of Pat’s books. Never in a million years did I ever think I would get to know him on some small scale. His wife, author Cassandra King, and I were at a book festival and hit it off. She is a wonderful human being. Through Cassandra, I met Pat. By no means do I want to say I was a close friend of Pat’s. He was a tremendous encourager to me like he was to many writers. It’s funny because if I happened to miss his call, he would always leave a message saying; “It’s up to me to keep this dying friendship alive.” When he passed away I began reading all of these tributes from writers and they mentioned receiving that exact same message on their phones. But somehow when he said it, you felt like you were the only one hearing it. He had a self-deprecating, wicked sense of humor but he was also a gifted encourager. He could sense when someone needed a boost and he would pick up the phone. There are several sayings he had that come to mind. He advised writers to ignore all reviews. He said the good ones inflate you and the bad ones deflate you. Pat had a unique gift in getting you to open up and be real. There was no pretense. If he hadn’t been such a brilliant writer he could have easily been one helluva psychiatrist. He had no tolerance for 96 | 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 7
anyone with a pompous writerly ego. And I loved that about him. I revere his humility as much as I do his beautiful words. 5) What hobbies to have that take your mind off that nagging plot twist that won't unravel or character you struggle to flesh out? Do you listen to music while you write? If you do, who are your Top 5 Go-To Artists? Are there any rituals you perform before writing or things you must have/places you must be to get into the right headplace for creating? Well, this question makes me realize I need more hobbies! I find when I’m working out, I’ll think of plot ideas or different ways a story might work. I try to keep a small pad in the car so when I get random ideas, I can jot them down. My writing habit is to go to a cubicle in the public library and work. For me, there is something about the environment and being surrounded by books. I also start by writing backstories for the main characters. I have a list of about 35 questions I answer. I’ve found I not only get to know the characters inside and out that way but I also come up with plot ideas. It’s funny you ask about music. While I’m knee deep in the novel, I don’t listen to music while I write. But during revisions, I always listen to music. I tend to develop my own playlist for each story. I’ll never forget when my first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass, came out I was asked on a radio show what is the theme song for the book. I had never thought of that and just sort of stammered, “something by Loretta Lynn.” Now every time I work on revisions I think of a theme song. The novel I’m currently revising is definitely, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry.” In fact, the entire novel is a Hank Williams playlist and I even mention some of the songs in the novel. It’s a natural fit because my main character is a huge Hank Williams fan. I guess that might be the part of me that wound up in that character.
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Author Interview with Dan Albergotti Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks I have watched Dan Albergotti’s career for over five years. His poetry and thoughts on its composition have influenced my approach to the genre. Dan’s demeanor is calm, thoughtful, and he laughs easily. Dan strives to create the best in what he does. That is said so often to fill space in other interviews, but I have read and experienced this in Albergotti. The poetry he creates has a methodical freedom to it It is a gift he hones from book-to-book, and that is the logic I use to urge those who have fallen for one of his collections to get others so you might experience the journey he keeps marching along in every installment. Dan has done a million interviews in the course of his literary conquest. Not only has he been the one on the receiving end, he has years of experience as one conducting interviews. So, to fuse the two, Dan and I decided to leave this Q&A in an uncharted territory. Neither of us were fully aware of the direction this would take. We both pray you dig the destiny it created. 1) What are the roots of Dan Albergotti? Where do you go when you remember your youth? Where do you work now and what position do you hold? Is there a particular shoreline or grove of apple trees you see yourself in as the golden years set in with the world at bay? I grew up in Florence, South Carolina. I like to joke that it’s the cultural antithesis of its Italian namesake. No great art or culture—just chain restaurants and strip malls (at least when I was growing up there). When I’m asked if I’m a Southern poet, I feel self-conscious saying yes, because I don’t have that connection to the rural landscape that one associates with it. But I do think there is a Southernness to my work in that I am obsessed with what I’ve called before “the Southern landscape of denial.” There’s so much that is unspoken in the air here that it’s nearly suffocating. And yet I kind of love my South too, and I am happy now living in Conway, SC, a mere fifty miles from Florence. I’m a professor in the English Department at Coastal Carolina University. 2) What sparked your love of words? Did that love begin with poetry, or did the music come first? What was the first poem you wrote that made you proud whether anyone saw it or not? I’m not sure where the first spark came from, but I always remember loving stories and reading. Things got serious in high school when I first read poems by the English Romantics. I remember my first encounters with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. Suddenly homework had transformed from burden to discovery. Saul Bellow defines the writer as “a reader moved to emulation,” and I think that’s what happened with me. I started trying to write my own poems, wanting to be able to do what those poets I’d read had done two hundred years earlier. I did it very badly for a long while, but I kept at it. 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 7
Since you mentioned music, I’ll add that late in high school punk rock also had a big effect on me. There was something about what The Clash was doing, what X and Black Flag and Gang of Four were doing, that seemed to be right in step with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. The urgent spirit of revolution is in all of that, and I think it is always in poetry, even in the quietest poems. The first poem that made me proud? I can’t recall which one first gave me a sense of pride in creation, but I do remember the feeling I had after finishing a poem called “Methuselah Dead” (which is included in my first book, The Boatloads) in 1998. I had never written anything quite like it before, and I had a strong feeling right after completing it that, though I would probably write poems better than it as I continued to develop, I would at least never by embarrassed by that poem. And that feeling has held true. There are earlier poems that embarrass me plenty—I’d like to find every print copy of them in the universe and destroy them all. But “Methuselah Dead” seems to mark a watershed moment for me. I am happy to stand by it and nearly all of the poems I’ve written since then. 3) What are the books you have on the market our readers can find to begin their attempt of figuring you out? Are you books autobiographical, or do you tend to tell the stories of others? Is there a difference to you? Ha! I love the way you put that: “their attempt of figuring you out.” All I can say to those readers is “Good luck! I’ve been trying to figure myself out for nearly 53 years.” But seriously, thank you for the question. I have published two full-length collections of poetry and one chapbook between those two. The above-mentioned first collection, The Boatloads, was selected by Edward Hirsch for the Poulin Prize in 2007 and was subsequently published by BOA Editions in 2008. In 2013, Unicorn Press published my chapbook, The Use of the World, and in 2014 my second full-length collection, Millennial Teeth, was published by Southern Illinois University Press after being selected by Rodney Jones as a winner in the Crab Orchard Series Open Competition. Those books are available directly from the publishers and via online vendors like Amazon. There is a lot of autobiographical material in my work, but I’ve also written a number of persona poems. In The Boatloads, there are poems in the voice of Cain and Prometheus. But I probably write primarily from personal experience, though I wouldn’t call my work “confessional.” I would never want to presume that details of my life were interesting to a reader because they are details of my life. I remember Jack Gilbert once saying in an interview that while he is “in” many of his poems that “the poems are not about me, but about what is important about what happened” (I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of his answer). I like to think I’m trying to do the same thing—mining experience for its elusive “importance,” for the meaning that seems so ephemeral as we move through life. 4) Do you have a particular mantra you chant before writing, song(s) you listen to, place you go, book(s) you read before sitting down to compose? Please tell us what you do to create the fertile ground that I've enjoyed relaxing in as I read your work. I have no rituals. I wish I did, as that might make it easier to get the work started. The sad truth is that I work more in fits and starts. I would love to be able to write on a more regular schedule, but if I 99 | 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 7
make myself compose when the time doesn’t feel right I quickly descend into a hole of self-loathing, and that’s never good. I work best when I can devote long periods of time to nothing but the writing. I’m reminded of Elizabeth Bishop’s assertion that “what one wants in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.” It’s so hard to find that “self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration” in the midst of our painfully distracted modern lives. Whenever I can find it, I seize it. I’ve been lucky enough to get residency fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences (in Rabun County, Georgia), and when I’ve been at those centers, I’ve produced a lot of work, far more than I could in the same amount of time in any other circumstance. 5) If you had a moment to speak to a 21-year-old version of yourself, what would you say? What advice would you give that young man? What warnings would you whisper to dodge maximum heartbreak? “Son, if you want to write poems in 1985, get your nose out of that Norton Anthology and maybe read a poem or two that was written in this country in the last fifty years. I mean, I’m glad you know the canon and all—that’s required—but if you want to write poems today, you’d damn well better know how the game is played today. So get to work reading contemporary poems! But hey, you’re okay, kid. I really like that Joy Division t-shirt.” 6) What writer and/or poets are out there that you believe deserve more attention? Considering the dearth of attention poets and writers get in our culture today, I’m tempted to say, “All of them.” There are so many fine poets writing now. It’s probably the most fertile time in our literary history. And because of organizations and conferences like AWP and Poets & Writers, most of those writers are brought into contact with one another to some degree. So not only are there a lot of really good poets working today, they’re virtually all in conversation. I feel like if I were to mention one living poet that I wanted to get more attention I would want to list twenty, fifty, a hundred more. So I will just give four names here, all of poets who have left us: Jack Gilbert, Larry Levis, Jake Adam York, and Claudia Emerson. I hope that readers of this interview who have not read those poets will seek out their magnificent work now. 7) What causes do you support or charities that you hold dear that more should notice? How can writers and those who enjoy the written word support the arts to see what you do on a broader, higher audience? In terms of literary causes, I would advocate supporting the websites Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, both of which perform an invaluable function by each day reprinting online a poem that has recently been published in print in a literary journal or book. These sites give readers free and easy access to a broad spectrum of contemporary poetry. It’s also important to support the work of small literary journals and literary organizations both locally and nationally. And of course the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, and NPR need everyone’s support right now, both financially and politically.
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Beyond the arts, I regularly support (and encourage the support of) The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Nature Conservancy. Dan Albergotti Links Millennial Teeth on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Millennial- Teeth-Crab-Orchard-Poetry/dp/ 0809333538/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_ img_4?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1& refRID=C5T05CW1VBQSR5VB461G on SIU Press site: www.siupress.com/books/978-0-8093-3353-0 The Boatloads on Amazon: www.amazon.com/Boatloads- Poulin-Jr-Poets-America/dp/ 1934414034/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_ img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1& refRID=V93KP43YNNMB1J2V2EZJ on BOA Editions site: www.boaeditions.org/products/the-boatloads The Use of the World on Unicorn Press site: www.unicorn-press.org/books/Albergotti-The-Use-of-the- World.html There's also a page at Emory University's Southern Spaces. The information here is pretty dated, but there are a lot of links to interviews, reviews, etc. through 2008: southernspaces.org/2008/shadowsalong-waccamaw
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Musician Interview with Hannah Zale Toland Compiled and Composed by Dusty Huggins Hannah Zale Toland has immersed herself in music since a child. Her degrees in social media, theory, and music business from The University of Georgia truly show her love affair for this magical beauty we call music. As you will read, she is a family centered individual with extreme support from them all. The human, Zale, is truly an incredible individual with a story to tell, but the musician, well; she is undoubtedly as unique and entertaining as one could ever ask for. Her music bleeds the Blues, reaches the soul with meaningful messages and, just when you think you know her, busts out with fuzzy rock and roll riffs that would make Zeppelin proud of modern rock. This Atlanta rocker is just getting started in her career and I strongly urge you to check out her music on the link enclosed and any live show within a hundred miles that she is playing. You will not be disappointed. When did you know that music was your calling in life? I remember my first real solo in 1st grade as a defining moment. It was a full 2 minute song; just me with the microphone in my right hand and a blue plastic umbrella in my left hand. It was a jazzy number about rain. The bridge was a scat section and I loved practicing it over and over. I remember feeling confident for the first time and deeply connected to the people listening to me. I remember making different kinds of people smile and I liked that part a lot. I remember asking my mom on the way home from that concert if I could audition for an upcoming production of “Annie” a town over. I think I was hooked from the first solo because I have never really looked back. Music is my greatest love in life. What would you say your largest influences are? My music is heavily influenced by true rockers like Jack White, Grace Potter, Zeppelin, and The Black Keys mixed with alternative rockers like HAIM and Cage the Elephant. My main vocal influences are Amy Winehouse and Ann Wilson from Heart but people tell me that my tone is eerily similar to Amy Lee from Evanescence. I also find more and more influence from crossover artists like Maren Morris, Pharrell, and Adele. Who has been the biggest promoter and influence in chasing your dreams in music? The biggest promoters and fans I will ever have is my family. ZALE is a family affair and not just because of the use of our family name. My mom, Pam, and dad, Dan, will drive two hours to see my play a 45 minute opening set. My sister, Tali, helps me with all my business administration affairs, and my brother helps me make and keep budgets for tour and recording projects. I am so lucky to have them as my team. I think the biggest influence has been my guitarist and best friend, Christian Gerner-Smidt. He pushes me to listen more, try more, and be more every day. He is my rock in this unstable industry. We support each other’s dreams by sacrificing for the good of the band and keeping a very open line of communication about what our goals are and how we feel. Who would you most want to collaborate with if you could choose any artist? I want to collaborate with EVERYONE! The best music is made when many hearts and minds interact to tell a truth. I collaborate currently with ATL hip hop artists like Sammy K, Yacht Rocks’ Greg Lee, 102 | 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 7
and NYC-based producer Nova. If I had to pick just one current artist to collaborate with right now I would say Bishop Briggs. She is on fire in the alternative rock scene and I think our styles and voices would be killer together. She also looks like she’d be super chill and fun to wear pigtails and talk shit with. How has living in Athens influenced you as a musician? YES! Athens has hugely influenced me as a musician. The reason I play rock n roll is because I went to college in Athens, GA where you can find a busker on every corner downtown. I didn’t pick up a guitar until my freshman year at UGA. I remember coming back from seeing a show at The Caledonia Lounge and sitting in my second floor room in Brumby Hall playing a D chord over and over again. Athens provides accessible, safe places to share your stories through song. That place is magical. I was also part of the UGA Music Business program from 2009-2013 and it rocked by world as well. I learned the strategy and organization behind bands and the rapidly changing industry as a whole. I learned how to be an artist, performer, and boss in Athens. What are some of the biggest advantages/disadvantages does being a front woman, if any? ADVANTAGES OF BEING A FRONT WOMAN: -I get to write the lyrics and melodies to our songs. -I get the best spot on stage. -I get to be the face and voice of the band and represent us in the media. -I get to make the final call on set lists and staff. -Being a front woman (instead of a man) was once novelty but I find more and more successful female fronted bands these days. Women still only make up 2% of the music industry so I guess front women haven’t lost all their oddity. I am grateful for that in a way, because no one I have seen in the current marketplace is doing the front woman thing the way I do it. #WOMENROCK DISADVANTAGES OF BEING A FRONT WOMAN: - I have to make tough calls, organize complicated logistics, and take on a lot of personal risk. We are a true independent rock band. We manage and book and pay for everything ourselves. One day I hope to have a team of professionals who can help me keep it all together. -I have to fire people. -People often confuse my dramatic stage persona for my actual personality. My job is to entertain people. Audience members often touch me, try to flirt, or shout inappropriate things after shows. I love engagement with my listeners but I prefer to keep it PG-13 At what point would you be able to sit back and call your musical career a success, if any? I will probably never sit back and say that. I ask myself what success is very often. Honestly, I am still figuring it out. I think I would be happy making a living playing original music for people that want to listen. I would also love a Grammy and family of my own. What are you goals for the near and distant future? THANK YOU SO MUCH for featuring ZALE. We are touring regionally this summer while we finish our upcoming record. We are working diligently with Madison Record’s Tanner Hendon and Wyatt Oates to bring something unique and powerful to the alternative market with these 9 new songs! Find everything Zale at zalemusic.com. Follow me @hzale.
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Musician Interview with Chelsea Shag Compiled and Composed by Dusty Huggins When one first reviews Chelsea Shag’s biography on her website and social media, the memoire declares “You can’t put Chelsea Shag in a box – she’s made up her own. It’s not just pop – it’s jazz, blues, R&B, soul, funk, and hip hop all in one”. After listening to het singles “Us Kids” and “New Perfume” I could not agree more. The first sounds of “New Perfume” seems to start out with feedback of a Black Keys song that is about to take place in a warehouse, but moves swiftly into an uplifting jazzy feeling tune that puts the fun in funky. As a child that spent her days singing and dancing with her family from Canada to Atlanta, it is not unusual that Ms. Shag has been influenced by the many genres she loves. Not to give too much away, as this is her story to tell, but Chelsea is truly making a unique and ambitious move to the beat of her own drum. Her influences are of a mass variation, but her sound is refined and definitive. Atlanta is proud to call this young lady her own and invites you to check her out at the following links. When did you know that music was your calling in life? Ever since I can remember. I don't remember a day that I didn't dance and sing with my family. I've always gravitated towards the great energy that is music. I started playing drums when I was 6, guitar when I was 10. I believe I was just simply born with it. What would you say your largest influences are? John Mayer, big time - I love his songwriting, his guitar playing. Justin Timberlake was one of my first musical loves - his RnB influence really had me as well as his dancing. I love big production, big sound as well as simplicity (that's where my love for JM comes in). I love ALL kinds of music - Hip Hop, Soul, R&B, Pop, Rock n Roll. Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse are on my list as well as big influences. Who has been the biggest promoter and influence in chasing your dreams in music? My momma. She's been my biggest fan, my biggest supporter since the day I was born. She is a great singer and had always wanted to perform... it's kind of like she's living her dreams through me now. Everyone has always been so supportive in my family though... nobody has ever doubted me. I'm so thankful. Who would you most want to collaborate with if you could choose any artist? I've got to say Johnny. John Mayer, I feel like he'd get me. Pharrell Williams though... that would be THE BOMB. How has moving from Canada to the South influenced your music? Well, I've got that kind, weird, Canadian heart in me; you know what I'm talking about? :) My father being a French Canadian and then my mother being from the South, I've got that northern edge and that southern grit to me, I'd say. My songs have depth, but they're also fun and funky.
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What are some of the biggest advantages/disadvantages does being a front woman, if any? The advantages are that I'm a woman rocking a guitar - It's not as common for women. I love being the woman that breaks the barrier with her guitar. I play better than a lot of dude rockers out there and I think that surprises people. The disadvantage is that I'm a woman in the music industry - there's still this tension with men and women unfortunately, because men mostly rule this industry. There's a certain expectation they have of us - the way we look for instance. I try my best not to be pressured by those people, and just be myself. I'm a woman who loves to break rules and smash expectations. At what point would you be able to sit back and call your musical career a success, if any? This is something I'm still trying to figure out within myself. I have high expectations for myself that I have not met yet. I won't stop until people are calling me a legend. (or) What are you goals for the near and distant future? I've got new music on it's way, and new music videos. I'm working on my content. It's all about getting out there - I want to be touring very soon. In the mean time, I'm recording in the studio, and working on my chops. This journey is long and beautiful, but I've got a long way to go. Thank you for these lovely questions.
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Interview with Roy Richardson Compiled and Composed by Shane Etter Roy Richardson is the author of “Hillbillies Prefer Blondes,” the title tale from an upcoming collection of short stories set in the South of the 1960s and 70s. Roy, tell us a little about yourself. Well, I was born and raised in Norcross, GA. In 1983, my girlfriend (now wife) June Brigman and I moved to New York to break into the comic book field, because, back in those pre-Internet days, that was what you had to do. Then in 2007, we moved back to GA. We live in the “Big Blue Dot,” ITP, “inside the perimeter,” in Chamblee, GA. So you moved to New York to write comics? Not exactly. My naïve idea at the time was that I was going to do it all: write and draw my own comics. Being only 23 and a hillbilly from Norcross, I had no idea of the skill set involved in such an endeavor. I crashed and burned as a “comics multi-tasker,” but I did write some comics I was proud of. I also made a living as a comic book inker. What were the titles you wrote? I did an issue of Star Wars for Marvel that I also drew the cover for, I had my own Sci Fi series that I co-wrote with artist Rod Whigham called “Tomorrow Knights,” and June and I did a Graphic Novel adaptation of “Black Beauty” that turned out well. Are any of those currently in print? No, but they’re all readily available in the aftermarket, via Amazon or Ebay. So how did you transition from working in comics to writing your Hillbillies stories? I had always thought I’d write fantasy or science fiction, because that was what I liked to read, but writing that stuff did not come naturally to me, it was always a struggle. Then I discovered the work of Mary Karr and Rick Bragg, and a light bulb went off. Karr and Bragg are both memoirists, does that mean “Hillbillies Prefer Blondes” is autobiographical? No, not strictly speaking. While some of the incidents in the stories are obviously based on my life, it’s fiction, not autobio. I’m more interested in telling good yarns than documenting my life story, so I’ve given myself the leeway of just making stuff up rather than sticking to the literal truth. Hopefully, greater Truths will be revealed in the process.
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I noticed you referenced comic book characters more than once in “Hillbillies,” is this a reoccurring theme in your stuff? Yeah, “write what you know,” as they say. I have one story, “Viking Funeral,” that’s all about a comic book artist at the end of his rope. That one won first runner-up in an Atlanta Writer’s Club contest. The “Hillbillies” excerpt we’re running is hilarious, are all of the stories in your collection going to be humorous? No, some are poignant, others tragic, the one common factor being that they’re all set in the South. One thing I hope to accomplish with my stories besides providing entertainment is to help bridge the current political gulf in this country. Having lived in both the North and the South, in Red and Blue states, I think I’m uniquely qualified for that. I hope to achieve it by writing stories that anyone, regardless of their politics, can relate to. Hillbillies and city slickers are more alike than they know.
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New Member Interview with Michael Burke Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks I met Mr. Michael Burk nearly ten years ago at the Phoenix and Dragon Metaphysical Bookstore’s open mic night. He leads that event, and his smooth, Zen personality, New Orleans-thick accent, and genuine, loving demeanor makes all those that attend feel right at home. Burke is a jack of all trades and uses his carpentry skills to beg out divine shapes in homes all over the South. In his personal life he is a poet, a friend, teacher, and goes beyond expectations to help heal those in need with music, love, and understanding. Burke recently blessed the Southern Collective Experience with his membership, and after you read this interview with him, you’ll see why we are ecstatic to have him on board. 1) Tell us about yourself. What is important to you when thinking of "Yourself"? What have people failed to get out of you in previous interviews that I can peel out of you? In thinking of “myself “, I am honored and humbled when people recognize me as a poet. Being published around the Atlanta, Georgia area has opened a wonderful energy of soft recognition. Getting my name out and around through various publications, as well as social media posts, has brought about unexpected moments of conversations, as new acquaintances suddenly become quite interested to talk about a poem they read. They also share beautiful stories with me concerning how a particular poem brought something up for clarity or brought some form of release from them reading it. I'm always quite honored to speak with others about the art of poetry. Poetry is a lifelong love of mine. It has been the ultimate therapist for me personally, and I'm honored that various poems of mine have touched others, not only in entertaining ways, but have often provided some kind of healing value as well. Poetry is medicine. Poetry is therapy. Poetry is a release. Poetry is a lover as it tortures the soul. All of these are "truths" that cannot be hidden in the glorious reality of the art of poetry. Sometimes it hurts, and the poem slices deeper, only to be the very salve that comforts the pain. I. Love. Poetry. Poetry has come and gone many times in my life and woven amazing threads throughout. I often say, “Poetry is an art that shall never die”, but it does enjoy napping. Waves of creative exuberance seem to come as well as waves of people being interested in poetry at any particular time. It's been like family to me with all that that the word “family” implies. I am fortunate that my creative output is not limited to writing poetry. I find great satisfaction in the artistic carpentry I am blessed to do for clients, as well as my profession as a Sound Therapist at several Treatment Centers and Healing Centers around the Atlanta area. I love to play "sound" quite a few times a month at gatherings where a space is created for all to blossom. I'm known as a "Sound Artist", and will often mix in some spoken word to the ethereal mix of instrumentation. I'm a Jazz cat at heart. In life and in love, I’m in tune with constant improvisation. This keeps me alive, awake and aware. 108 | 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 7
2) What is the strangest job you have ever had? You are a carpenter by day now, right? Is there a Zen you get out of crafting things into delicate shapes from nothing but the client's description? Strangest job I've ever had was as a dealer. I “procured” various items for clients as I supposedly worked as a disc jockey in New Orleans nightclubs. No stories are printable, and some are not even able to be spoken. Of course, I am long past those days now as a man. These days I am a carpenter, and I design and create custom artistic woodworking for private clients. It is a Zen Utopia. Very often I am brought in when there is a unique space that requires something creative or a room that requires something to "pull it all together". My company, Creative Carpentry, has been doing custom projects for 26 years. Carpentry brings me a sense of being highly productive, especially with being compared to my earlier "career" as a disc jockey/dealer. I love being my own boss, making my own schedule, dealing with eccentric personalities and creating from an open space. It's actually easier for me in my world, to create this way. Clients are not really sure what I'm building. They have all loved the final product. I have never had an unhappy client, and I never will. This hands-on labor of love has brought me closer to God, Buddha, The Atman, The Nothing, The All, or Christ Consciousness - whatever you prefer to call it. I am one with all these when I create. I almost always disappear into a Zen flow and do not really see the entire vision of what I create until it is finished. Then, just as content, I'm off to create again. 3) Please tell us what provoked or inspired you to delve into the more metaphysical side of life. How has it changed your worldview since getting knee-deep in the ethereal? What classes do you teach that others may wish to join to understand your connection to sound and spirit? I teach a sacred sound course every now and then through Unity North. Unity North is a spiritual home for me. Other than that I do not teach, merely provide a space for the awakening of the Divine presence within ALL INDIVIDUALS. This elusive bond remains woven somewhere in each of us and entwines our very DNA with Every Thing. This call to the metaphysical, this energy to explore within myself for My Self, came from authors such as Carlos Castenada, Teillard De Chardin, Rumi, Neale Donald Walsh, Robert Pirsig, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, James Redfield, Don Miguel Ruiz, as well as Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsburg, Terrance McKenna, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bill Nelson, and so many whose names I do not know, yet their influence scribbles notes on the ethereal paper in my head... I could go on and on about people and things that have inspired and continue to inspire me. But, alas, this drive was first awakened within me by the pure removal of the reality I had experienced up to the age of 17. My creative and spiritual worlds united when I was gifted some LSD 25. After respectful experimentation, EVERYTHING changed. I was introduced to a truth that has resonated throughout my existence this time around in too many ways to even consider describing. Suffice it to say, I have grown by exploring and the exploring is what growth seems to be about most for me. Not exploring in a 3D rational, makes sense kind of way. Exploring in a sense of observing allowed me the gift of Becoming the Moment. I am an advocate of meditation, but not in a particular method or practice. I have found that to be “in the moment 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 7
"requires me to not do or think anything, ease away from any attachment, abandon thought, become the energy that is (just is). Inside of the moment that is, I am that precious moment. Meditation, to me, is not about quieting the mind; it is about going into that place in the mind where it's already quiet. This has changed my worldview by allowing me to engage in the Matter of the Moment. I attempt to no longer be triggered by anything. It is up to me to decide, to choose, in this moment, how I shall respond to anything. Between breath-in and breath-out is all of our power. A gift is given by breath. We don't take a breath, we are given a breath. What we do with that breath out, the movement, the grace, the balance of that moment is up to us, with each and every breath. That is to be aware, to be awake to the divine dance that is all of us before we are any of us. 4) We met at the Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore several years ago. Your poetry, at least as far as I've seen, has gone from the immaterial of ideas, emotions, and spiritual awareness to a much more personal, tangible world of you, those in your life, and your hands-on relationships in life. I took a similar path. Do you feel that was due to a fear of the personal, a need to develop your voice first, or simply the way it rolls in your world? That is simply the way it unfolds. You came and heard poetry that was relevant at that time in my life. It was, and is, relevant in a way of where I was, relevant of my fear to share, and relevant of my being naked. We read not among sheep, but among wolves. I am usually writing about all manner of stuff in my life. I only shared what I thought I wanted to. Not productive of me as an artist. Hosting the open mic poetry night at Phoenix and Dragon Metaphysical Bookstore completely opened in me the passion, the pain, the splendor of truly "putting it out there”. I would often encourage poets that joined us to read whatever they felt most like not reading. I used to say, “Take my advice, I'm not using it.” I no longer say that. I realized that any advice I was giving was actually me giving advice to myself. So why would I not use it? It was an "inner speak" coming through, intuition doesn't need me in the way. I awakened to this energetic passion of my universal heart the same way that poems come through me: A graceful, non-existence on my part to be part of all existence. It's a state of grace that I go into where understanding is overrated. It is a deep "inner standing" that then pours out through poetry. I share now in a way I never used to before. The vulnerability, the inner chaos, the hurt, the pain, the joy, the glory, the laughter, and the tears - they are all meant to be shared. One of the publishers who has been quite kind to me throughout my career told me, “Some of the poems you write, Michael, are not meant for you. They are meant for others. Do not judge your own work. Put it out there. While others may be criticizing, you just keep creating.” She said the only sin is to not use the gifts you are given. So, now-a-days I use my gifts without fear. I believe poetry has opened me to heal - to be complete. I believe poetry can open all to heal. 5) Who is Michael Burke the poet in contrast to the man who wears other masks? Michael Burke the poet is now Michael Murphy Burke the poet. No more masks in my life. I only use my full name now because that is the way the wonderful lady who helped me with my website was able to set it up. We could get that site name so now I am known by my full name Michael Murphy Burke.
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My website michaelmurphyburke.com will be up and running in May of 2017 in time for the release of Dancing with the Divine on May 28, 2017. Growing up in a city with a festival once a year where everyone wore masks was quite a remarkable adventure. I found that that was the one day out of the year when people were themselves. The rest of the year everyone seemed to wear the mask of bankers, lawyers, blue collar workers, waitresses, strippers, mothers, or fathers. It was all some kind of mask they were wearing and then they would let loose on Mardi Gras. It taught me to behave quite openly and honestly, it took me many years to come to that. I'm open and honest now and doing my best to be a better listener. Silence is a great gift, and I believe it is why I have gotten into the sound therapy that I do. It is an hour where there are no Illusions, no masks - just sound, and the silence that occurs between the sounds is an audible inspiration every time. Plus, silence can never be misquoted. I have found that keeping my mouth shut is a great gift. A friend of mine said, “it is quite remarkable to be able to speak several languages, but it is even more remarkable to be able to keep your mouth shut in any language.” I can always write about my feelings or things as they unfold in my poetry, and that's why I love being a poet. Oftentimes nothing need be said in the moment (let it be) and it always seems to come back to the Beatles when I'm speaking of things like this. It always comes back to “Let It Be”. I adore The Beatles. My philosophy is rooted in the fact that there is no reason to wear any mask. To be silent, to be open, to be honest, to give your full presence to someone, is most beautiful gift we can present to anyone or anything. Be still. Be kind. Listen. 6) You have a book coming out! Tell us some stuff about that process and what the volume is about. How does it feel to get swept up in the publication process? Yes, my first book of poetry entitled Dancing with the Divine which I referred to in the last question just for a moment. It is scheduled for release on May 28th 2017. There will be the initial release at Unity North in Marietta Georgia for the 9:15 and 11:15 services on that Sunday. I will be there speaking about the book. The poetry I share is the poetry that has shaped my life. I will be available to sign books after both services. This has been a remarkable adventure. I have so many that helped me and have been instrumental in the outcome of this project. There will be much on my website speaking about those who have helped me and assisted me through this. It is definitely a team effort. So many have stepped up and done amazing work in helping this piece of art come to life. I look forward to being able to share these poems with many and with the audiobook being available as well, I look forward to sharing my recitation of these poems throughout lands and with people that I never even imagined I would be able to. At this stage in my life I realize that even imagination is a limitation. A long time ago I read a poem called Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. It touched me so incredibly deep that I thought to myself, at that moment, and I was very young at the time, if I could ever write something that touched someone like the way that touched me, then what could be better than being a writer (a poet) I seem to be able to do that with some of my poems and it is such an amazing pleasure. The energy that comes through when I am reciting the poem is the same energy that came through when I wrote it. So often I am not really present during those moments, so when I read the poem, that 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 7
energy flows through me with a phoenix-like passion and I can read with the energy that flowed through me that created it. This is beyond words to describe but it is palpable to the audiences that I share with. I look forward to sharing these poems, which are a collection, mostly of a spiritual nature. Some deep, soul-searching, some very LIGHT filled with the Divine energy they came with and some questioning into my patterned behaviors and the shaping of the DNA that forms me. One is about genetic voice printing. An amazing therapy that I do which has helped me to go in and witness learned behaviors and patterned ways that were handed down to me through ancestors and all that they went through.. I am blessed to be chosen in this life to be able to work through and release a lot of those conditions. Not only for myself, but for their influence upon my family.. To free my children and my children's children so they can sing their song uncluttered, so they can blossom into the Divine Being they truly are. So they can Dance with the Divine, uncluttered by anything I may have passed down to them, except the freedom to find their own way, upon their own paths and in their own time.. I wish this for not only my children, but for all beings... I love you.
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Acclimation ( Dancing With Mr. DNA ) It is powerful to fall apart What is even more powerful Is when the pieces you fall apart into Begin to fall apart There is a physical reward For a mental breakdown Your being becomes more alive You become stronger on a cellular level Millions of muscles that lay dormant in denial Are now activated by acclimation They recognize their strength In a universal connection To universal perfection They release any attachment to seperation They bond with particles of Grace That have orbited them since Birth Awaiting their ascension Their re-establishment in Truth Which in truth Was in their establishment There never was a seperation for to re-unite into Only an awakening to live not only in light But in the majesty of darkness as well I am not seperate from the demons That dance in my DNA But the demons that dance in my DNA Appear to seperate me from myself I accept this no more I choose now a new partner One who has been dancing in my shoes All along.
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I Fly in Pieces You gave strength to reason That lay dormant in despair Brought about eruptions Whose spill could fill the air A question with no answer Danced along the dotted line And in between each heartbeat Lay the victim of a rhyme For to give all that is wanted Is what I hope to one day do But for now I fly in pieces Towards a sky that looks like you Comfort sets so easy In the bones that make us weak I sense strength in daring I can hear it when we speak Of wants and cares and futures That lay perched upon our brow We all think we know We're just not quite sure how We can get to where we're going Without losing what we've found Yet every end is a beginning That gives birth to fertile ground I speak now of new Thoughts and acts I've never dreamed I speak now of you Who so carelessly careened Across my field of vision Into chasms I had closed And what I thought I knew Was only just what I supposed You taught me more about the truth Than all the books I've ever read You cleared the lies that lay like cobwebs From the spiders in my head I now believe I'm honest And I am love for love to be For in the spirit of your presence I have found a sense of me.
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Arise Do you languish in the morning Like the lilies in the pond Basking in the waking Till your senses all respond Do you linger in the dreams That sweep release across your night And bathe inside the warmth That washes you as Light Can you feel my thoughts from miles As they touch you deep as breath Can you sense me in your cells Strong as life, brave as death We have risen to the moment Through our desire just to be And the stars aligned to find us Amongst this vast infinity For desire frees our freedom Through the love we love to make It is the waking of our being To our being wide awake.
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Fresh Talent Spotlight â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Samantha Eubanks Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks
Samantha Eubanks is a young face on the poetry scene with enormous talent and an old soul. Her book Creatures has not been published yet, but it should be. Her work and devotion to the craft came to my attention a few years ago, and after she told me about her collection of work, I jumped at the chance to not only feature a few poems from Creatures, but complete an interview with her before she becomes far too busy and famous to give the Blue Mountain review the time of day. Below is a Q&A to kick-off a new segment in this journal of culture called Fresh Talent Spotlight. If you are an artist of any genre with the heart of a lion but not the respect or due press, please submit a query to our editors with the title of this feature in the subject line. It is our goal to not only promote those who have made tremendous strides in the business of art, but those who deserve to be as well. Samantha Eubanks is one of those artists. 1) What do you consider your roots? What is the chemical makeup of Samantha Eubanks that created the poet sitting here today? My chemical makeup is made up of mud puddles, cotton, smiley face stickers, dog hair and a stubborn pursuit of gladness. My roots are planted in Southeast Missouri where I would watch the rain on the porch with my dad and break eggs in the kitchen with my mom. This is where I go when I am writing. I go to simpler and slower times, because childhood is a peaceful, interesting, confusing, and a sometimes very funny place to be. When writing, it helps to channel the thoughts I had as a kid. Like, I used to believe we dreamed our whole lives before we lived them. I love looking at life through childlike eyes because nothing is as hard as we make it out to be (except politics). 2) What defines a poet in your mind? I think what defines a poet is the ability to take it slow and magnify the little things. It is being able to find the beauty in the mundane. The wallpaper. The buggy stove. The dog paw. The ceiling fan. The bra strap. The broken thing. I think a poet takes the boring, the ugly, the frowned-upon and elevates it to absolute magic. 3) What rituals do you go through in order to get your mind right to compose? Do the Muses strike you at the whim of their schedule, or can you channel that energy to speak when you're ready? Do you listen to music to either fit or create the mood/poem that you're in? I have made a habit of writing every day for the past five years, so I am writing even when the muses are out of town. With that being said, I have written a lot of horrible poetry, stories and journal entries. Though, I truly believe in getting the bad out so the good can surface. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all about trying. 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 7
muses do often strike when I watch films, if I’m out in nature, if I’m learning about someone’s biography or reading animal facts. I find the most natural way to attract inspiration is by just listening to yourself. “Yourself” always has something beautiful to say, even if it doesn’t sound lovely at the time. It is our job to interpret our feelings, our uglies, our sillies and make them into something beautiful to share. Meditation helps, too. You know - just in general - it helps to tell the logical/worried part of our brains “Thank you, but also shut up for a minute, will ya?” I learned this from listening to and reading Elizabeth Gilbert. She believes that fear is what stops us from doing anything - even writing. She says that our fear is only trying to protect us from X-Y-Z, so say thank you, but no thank you, I’m fine. 4) Who are the top 5 poets, artists, or authors you think should get far more attention than they do? For the last year, I have been on a children’s lit kick. So, I would have to say Anthony Browne. I drool over his work. Emily Hughes is another wonderful children’s book author/illustrator. I listen to quite a bit of spoken word and Andrea Gibson is incredible. Andrea’s work is dreamy, nostalgic, passionate, moving and in-your-face when it needs to be. I saw Andrea live a few years ago and the show was amazing - goosebumps for days. Music wise - I often listen to a band called Mountain Man. They are an indie-folk band with an Appalachian sound. I listen to them when I am writing because they know how to pluck the emotional heart strings. Finally, I feel like a lot of people know Elizabeth Gilbert for Eat, Pray, Love, but I’m not so sure people know her for the total badass that she is. Listening to her podcast Magic Lessons changed me creatively, adjusted my attitude towards myself as an artist (and what it means to be an artist) and gave me a sunnier disposition about life in general. She is intelligent, witty and so incredibly inspiring. Artists of all sorts should definitely check out her podcast, and read her book Big Magic. 5) What is the book you're working on? What are some of its secrets? I am working on a children’s book right now. The idea was inspired by a line that came into my head when I was thinking about a relationship of mine from childhood. Which was someone who kept telling me to go away, even though I was already far from them. I thought, “If I went any further away, I might disappear.” This was the backbone that got my book started. It has since gone in a few different directions, but one thing has remained the same: I am so deeply in love with my main character. She is just everything. Before this book, I was working on my now completed book of poems titled, Creatures. This book was developed over the duration of a few years and then suddenly it came together all at once. There are pieces from this book that definitely reflect my childhood, and my love of nature. Though, it is about one central character named Lilith. It is her coming of age story. When I think of this book I think of two things; the color yellow and my great-grandmother Stella Spain Eubanks. She was a poet who once wrote a lengthy book of poetry titled Soul of Nature. Her poetry is the first poetry I ever read. Her poems are sacred to me. I remember being very young and trying to understand what the poems meant. I couldn’t really do it until I was older, but I always liked having them with me. Though, I only met her once as an infant, I feel very connected to her. I think of her a lot when I write because I feel like it is my job as a woman of this generation to make my voice heard. I have that amazing privilege. I can speak up, I can write truthfully, write wildly and be unafraid. Creatures is for Stella. 6) What has made you brave enough to stand at this point to scream, "I am ready! Publish this at your peril!"?
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Because there is nothing to fear! I heard once that nothing real can be threatened, and my writing is my absolute truth and soul, so hey universe, take it away! I am a woman with a voice and a story and because of that I deserve to be heard BECAUSE everyone deserves to be heard! I believe in sharing our absolute truths, so we can all see how connected we really are. Whether that is through memoir, poetry, fiction, music, theater - it is all the work of our big hearts trying to reach out and connect to one another and I believe that kind of truth deserves to be elevated because it is bonding. 7) Tell the BMR readers some quirky things about yourself. So often we are seen as brooding, dour, and incapable of laughter. I know that isn't the truth. What are a few of the hold-overs from childhood you keep alive to prolong essential innocence? I still move worms back to the dirt after they have been washed up on the sidewalk from the rain, like I did as a kid. I don’t know if this is quirky or stupid, but I feel a deep connection to every animal I come in contact with, though I have learned to respect their space (because I know the feeling IS NOT MUTUAL) and I will never try to hold a kangaroo’s hand at the zoo ever again, or pick up a snapping turtle. Most proud quirk: I can rap the entirety of, “My Shot” from Hamilton: the Musical. In our home, I go by “One Sip Sam,” a title given to me by my boyfriend because I waste his beer. Oh, and I kiss animals sloppily on the mouth. Mostly dogs, but I’m open. Links: samanthaeubankspoetry.tumblr.com
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Creatures Tell me of the gardens where vultures consume only flowers. Their breath like potpourri, forgetting they ever craved the taste of death
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Birth We are born of nature, water birth, from our mother who gives and takes away, beautiful and cruel. fair, full of grace though she is shamed. Moving in waves that are smooth, unexplainable. Thrashing through gardens, turning blue, the grey puddle, as she mirrors the"" sky on itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s surface. We are safe here in the chaos of her nature.
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Lilith Lilith dreams of grace. The kind of grace that would attract butterflies to perch on the tip of her nose.
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Big Spring The spring where the geologists study, we walked on ledges and hid in the caves. The water was supernatural and the wolves were cozy in their coves, waiting for the gradual kiss of spring on the moss pointing north, as we walked south, listening for the howl of our forest friends. If we stayed here, maybe we could stay this age forever. People believed that this very spring had magical powers. We could see the present, past, Saturn, your dreams, mine, theirs, the natives. What do we all really want? To live forever? Or to have moments like these to live for.
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Interview with William S. Tribell Compiled and Composed by Scott Thomas Outlar William S. Tribell tends to wear many hats. A renaissance man in the true spirit of the idea. Poet. Traveler. Radio host. Longstanding member of The Southern Collective Experience. These are just a few of the titles he’s earned, among many others. It was a pleasure recently when I had the opportunity to pick his brain about some of his past work, where he sees the poetry landscape in today’s modern climate, and what he has in store for the rest of 2017 and beyond. Please find a comfortable chair, kick your shoes off, put your legs up, take a deep breath, and unwind while enjoying what he had to say… First off, William, I'd like to thank you for taking some of your time to do this interview with me for BMR. During some of your poetry performances that I watched videos of recently, you spoke about the different states and countries you've visited and lived in during your life. Has traveling always been something that you've been drawn toward? How have the different locations you've called home through the years affected your poetry and art? Yeah for sure, travel is a strong theme in my life. The short answer to the origins of that I would say, I moved often enough in my childhood. For me I don't really have that from someplace feeling, the "my home town" thing, but on the larger scale I most definitely identify as from Kentucky. Later I did take to wandering. All through my formative years I was into books and music, and my tastes leaned rebellious. But yeah, I ventured from the nest rather early, and took to it well. Really not too much has changed, I just linger longer, refined my creature. Six years in New Orleans is the longest I've lived in the same place in 20 years. I've been where I am now for over four years so it's almost time for a new window and view I guess. Places influence me, as do people of course. Inspiration for me is the constant quarry, and I tend to find it in change and exploration - chasing the muse, right? New ways and faces all along the way. Wondrous things to see and experience in the world. Culture and even conflict. I have to add in juxtaposition, staying or even stuck influences creativity just the same. Any state of being plays influence, always learning and stimulated. Growing. That is definitely the true test of an artist’s mettle, to stay inspired in whatever circumstances might arise. Speaking of which, what type of experiences are you currently using as your muse? Are you involved in any projects at the moment that have you particularly excited? I tend to stay in my own space and time. Like right now I'm finishing up a collection of Appalachian poems called "A Dukes Mixture and a Hill of Beans". A small collection with Lee Pennington writing a forward and a translation by Anna Sixkiller of the Cherokee Nation that is my expression of Appalachia, my view or thought there - an embodiment. Some of these works were written before I came back to the states and came back to Appalachia for an extended stay. I'm always in the now if you will, affected by what's going on around me; place and circumstance, but always nostalgic also. So for example as I write now in the now, in my current lifestyle etc, I find myself remembering, perhaps lamenting my last life in Budapest and Eastern Europe, and in that time I was of course inspired by that moment and place and so on, but I was also going back to a place before. Maybe I am processing 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 7
events and experiences slowly, the rear view, hindsight or in retrospect, paralleling to that work in the now if that makes any sense. It does make perfect sense. It seems sometimes that events in our past can take on new, more impactful meaning after we’ve had a chance to digest them from afar. Like an album that might not resonate when it’s first released, but then, years later, when giving it another spin, it connects on a deeper level as if it’s the greatest damn music ever recorded. On that note, who are some of the artistic influences that have inspired you (past and/or contemporary) during your life, be it through music, literature, poetry, visual art, or other mediums? I come to poetry from a musical background, I am a product of a misspent youth really. I spent a lot of time early on busking and traveling, playing in bars and such, so music has always been an influence. It's certainly a cliché, but I have to say I really do listen to all genres of music. It's all rock and roll to me when it's good, "real" music. At risk of sounding a bit like a hipster or whatever I will add, most music that goes pop, as in becomes extremely popular I usually don't relate to with today's music. I've alluded to music in many pieces over the years. "Home for the Holidays" I did as an audio piece with radio great Gary Burbank reading for example, and it is fully influenced by, and even mentions Perry Como, and a piece called "I’ll Have to Buy a New Hat to Hide the Horns" gives a nod to Curtis Mayfield and Tom Waits with a line "There is always plenty of cheese in the mousetraps. As a man once said, if there is really a hell then in the end we’ve all got to go". Those are just two but there are more, and I also reference or allude to other aspects of pop culture, history, poets past, literature or even films. As for poetry, I am a big fan of the classics, renaissance, Marlowe and Shakespeare of course and Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, William Blake, the beat generation - mostly the heathens. As far as contemporary, I have to say I don't really keep up, in fact I try and avoid contemporary influence. I feel like I don't want to inadvertently pick up a thought or an idea from someone else's work, so really the only contemporary poetry I'm ever privy to comes from friends and other writers I might work with or read with etc. I'll add that for the most part I usually still feel more comfortable in the bar with the band than I do at the common poetry reading. What have been some of the most satisfying experiences for you so far in your journey as a poet? What do you feel the role of a poet/artist is in this current day and age? I took part in a film called "Poetry Is Dead", I don't feel poetry is a dead art, but I do feel it is maybe a bit like being a thatcher today. It has become obsolete to the mass at least in America and the west. To me poetry is the great root of most all artistic expression, and social impact. Today poetry is basically represented in mass in music, and I don't just mean rap, but in songwriting in general. I felt it was important for my journey as an artist to find the root, the bedrock. I also came to poetry realizing that the level of bureaucracy, and credentialism, was hurting the art and by default, world view perception. In the same way you see a twisted piece of rebar set in front of a government building as sculpture, and you know that is sanctioned and provided by a fully credentialed artist, someone with the right paper work making them an artist, otherwise those calling that art would call it a twisted piece of rebar like the rest of us. In the end though, in all seriousness, it is art no matter who makes it right? Or it should be, and good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. In essence, the heathen always has to force his way through the door anytime a doorman is appointed. As for satisfaction, I have to be honest and say I am constantly seeking satisfaction in my life. As a poet, the greatest satisfaction is reaching people, and of course recognition is always nice. I have had 124 | 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 7
Pushcart nominations and I am currently nominated for Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2018 and I love that, but in the end it's still all about reaching people, communication - being heard. Please talk a bit about the radio program you host, Spectrum. How long have you been doing the show at this point? How do you feel you’ve grown and evolved over your time on air? I also view radio as a dying art. When I returned to America after many years abroad I was invited to be interviewed on a radio show. Doing the show in a small radio station, live without a delay interested me and by the time the show was over I had decided I wanted to do radio. On my way out of the studio at WLMU in Harrogate Tennessee I asked to speak to the program director and I made a pitch for the show that became "Spectrum with William S. Tribell". For the first year the show was done there live every week in studio. I was offered a larger market and took the show to Appalshop out of Whitesburg Kentucky at WMMT 88.7 FM, where it has been airing every Wednesday at midnight EST since. In total this is the show’s fourth year and we are now starting to syndicate around the country and of course it live streams around the world. Now the shows are pre-recorded, either in studio or out. I love doing radio though, and we spoke of inspiration earlier, well when I think about it, I get to talk to an extraordinary person every week and that does impact my life and insight. You seem to feature a wide variety of guests on the program that cut across many walks of life. Are there any folks who have appeared that tend to stick out in your memory? What are some of the most interesting topics you’ve enjoyed covering? Yeah, the show really fits its name Spectrum, it really is one and that was the idea. When I started I was thinking that many shows I hear are rather rigid. I never have a list of questions, maybe a small list of points of query, but the idea is to have a chat, like people do, with a person who has done something that interests me. I figure if something interests me, it might interest someone else out there. I have had so many great shows, but I guess to name a few that might especially stand out to me: I interviewed former Kansas City black panther party chairman, Pete O'Neal, who has been living in exile from America for almost fifty years now. He lives in Tanzania Africa, in a small village and he had traveled to the neighboring village to use their generator and telephone to talk to me. Jamie Coots, the snake handling preacher who had been featured in Nat. Geo.'s series "Snake Salvation" was on my show a week before he was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. I had also attended the service, before that fateful one, at his church and was allowed to record it in its entirety. I have a lot of musical guests of course, the legendary James Gadson, the most recorded drummer in R&B, Jerry Jemmott, one of the key architects of the Atlantic Records and Muscle Shoals sound, Louis Prima Jr., the king of film scores composer John Altman, Angie Bowie was on just a few days before David passed away. We have been very lucky to world premiere a lot of great music, too. Most recently Tony Marsico who played with Bob Dylan for many years allowed Spectrum to play a never released track recorded with Dylan. I guess the show that stands out most in my mind though was with Ron Jeremy the adult film star. The station was very nervous about it, but we actually talked very little about pornography and that aspect of his life, we spoke more about art and culture and his love of cooking and basically aspects of his life and career he never gets asked about because of the obvious. In the end the show was very PG, but the censors still hit on the word schmekel. Does the Blue Mountain Review allow the word schmekel? Thank you again, William, for taking the time to answer these questions. As 2017 continues rolling along full steam ahead, are there any events, readings, or speaking engagements coming up that you’d care to mention? Also, if there’s anything else that slipped under my radar that you’d like to cover, please feel free to mention it here. 125 | 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 7
I have a lot of irons in a lot of fires as they say. I spoke this year at the Appalachian Studies Conference, their theme was "Extreme Appalachia" and my presentation was titled "Tourism in an Reconstruction Era", since then I have been getting requests to speak along those lines, around KY, VA and TN. I have been spending a lot of time in Nashville, expanding with Spectrum and exploring the singer songwriter scene that is blossoming there, but unfortunately I've done few poetry readings, or other artistic presentations lately. With a book release looming that will change soon enough. I'm very accessible, anyone interested in what I've got going on can find me on Facebook and Spectrum has a page there also, listing guests and dates.
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Publisher Interview with Gretchen Heffernan of Backlash Press Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks In our winter issue of the Blue Mountain Review, we got to know Mrs. Gretchen Heffernan as the mother, friend, and poet anyone would be lucky enough to know. In this follow-up piece we take a broader look at her worldview as a publisher, business woman, and how she views the world of books in the present day and future. Heffernan has a rare gift for plucking the best from an ocean of mediocre talent. She has a deft skill at editing and an eagle’s eye for honing the truth from her authors’ literary abilities. Please read on and soak up the refreshing philosophy for not only why she picks the authors and poets she does, but how she holds the art of the book itself to the highest possible standard. 1) This has been asked a million times, but it is essential in this case: How did you begin your quest to build Backlash Press? Your mission statement is arresting to say the least. Please plug your mission statement in here and tell us where you vision was born? It really came from publishing my own work through The Scrutineer and falling in love with that form of creative collaboration. Also, belonging to the Arcadian Salon (started by The Scrutineer Rachael Adams) offered me a first-hand experience of how progressive group dynamic can be. I had been thinking about the importance of Collective Narration or Collective Thought for a long time before I had the idea to begin the press. I am a writer, first and foremost, which makes me an avid reader and storyteller, so I have a vested interest in narrative from all aspects of my person. Simply put, stories are the framework of our species and I want to be both speaker and facilitator of this narration because I believe it is crucially important. We are telling the story of our time, of ourselves, and adjusting our lives, our brains, accordingly. Humans have ONLY ever grown through story and our ability to imagine things otherwise. That is a massive statement, but entirely true and I dare anyone to contradict it. You can look around at the story we are telling and cower in despair or you can get involved. You don’t have to be a writer to get involved in the telling, you just should be a thinker and a doer. 2) What has been one, or several, difficulty you've faced in building a press? What are some tips you can give those who want to open a legitimate press to avoid heartache? Most of my problems have arisen from the fact that I’m registered in the USA and in Europe. It makes tax a blooming nightmare, but it is a huge advantage to my writers, as well as our audience, so I persevere (she says with a groan.) It is like anything worth doing – 10% inspiration and 90% hard graft – get the graft done first. So, download all the forms, accounting, feasibility statement, a proper business plan devised by a bank (I used Barclay’s online form) and a clear statement of purpose. Fill them in and research your product from idea to shelf. Go out and talk to people. Folks in this industry love to talk about their worries and triumphs, believe me! My mission statement above is for creative purposes! I have a boring one as well that involves percentages and incentives.
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3) This isn't poking fun at anyone, but: What is one of your pet peeves when considering manuscripts? How can those who submit better their chances at simply getting read? What are the mistakes they may make to get them tossed out of the running? Are there different tones or angles that prose and poetry submissions need to choose? I read at least ten pages of everything that comes through my submission box. This is because I understand that it takes some people a while to warm up, as it were, and ten pages gives an insight to their process. As you might imagine, it takes a while. I receive around forty manuscripts a month. Seven out of ten of those manuscripts are first drafts and really have no business coming through my inbox. I love the written word and it annoys me to see stories disrespected. The person I want to work with cares enough about their manuscript to edit it properly. Writing is rewriting! In terms of tone – no, nothing specific, just a willingness to be open to revision if the idea grabs me. 4) What are the titles you've already published and those you have coming out this year? Would you please tell us a little about each author, the release dates, and why you chose their work from the sea of others that must be swirling in your computer? Backlash started by publishing journals that wove poems into a narrative. It was a labor-intensive love affair! We still do that online through Provoke and an annually printed publication, which I think of as an archive of our time. I’m dead interested in archiving voices. 2017 has seen us grow. In January, we published Michael Tyrell’s Phantom Laundry as our first single collection. In May, we are publishing a reissue of The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics and Athena Departs by Clifford Brooks. In June, we are publishing The Life in the Sky Comes Down by Bruce Bromley. In July, Tattered Scrolls and Postulates by Joe Milford and Pale Transport and Candy by Jason Everett. In October/November, A Fist of Light at the End of History, by Andrei Guruianu and Clay Unbreakables by Natalia I Andrievskikh. I am also reading through six fiction manuscripts now and will probably sign one of these for 2017. In 2018, we begin by publishing Bombing the Thinker by Darren Demaree. I’m a busy woman! 5) You have mentioned to me that you have a personal mission to bring more women poets from the shadows to enjoy center stage. Please share this brilliant mission with the readers so that more may feel your passion and its contagious element that always help your writers cast off their doubts. Yes! We started the Mother Interviews for this very reason and I need to invest more time into that idea. I’m ashamed that we are only publishing one woman in 2017 and I obsess over it to an unhealthy degree! We publish a huge array of female voices through the journal, but I, admittedly, haven’t had the time to create the journal I’d like. Provoke and the Mother Interviews are far, far 128 | 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 7
from where I want them to be. It’s down to submissions and numbers. I tend to receive groupings of poems (3 – 5) from women and entire manuscripts mainly from men. It breaks my heart. 6) Where do you see Backlash Press in 10 years? I would like to have regional satellite gatherings of artists holding formalized conversation groups. I am dedicated to using the work we publish as an educational platform. Collaboration is the way forward for us, for creatives and for education. We need to move beyond our sense of individual selfexpression and into an alliance of ideas if we are ever to work as a society. At our Arcadian Salon in Brighton, you enter and check your ego at the door, so you can properly communicate with other artists. I leave each session a more enriched person with better ideas for my work. I want Backlash to form a group mind that focuses on tolerance and insight through communication. I wholeheartedly believe we have lost the ability to peacefully and effectively communicate with opposition or, indeed, live in communities without algorithms. This is tragic news for our species, as well as creativity. I would eventually like to publish a pack of Conversation Prose for book groups, one book of poetry, one book of essays, one book of fiction, with conversation topics and the backgrounds of the storylines. The idea is that my satellite groups of writers will facilitate these book groups (if needed or wanted) and we would offer residencies and talks in various locations around the world. I am also interested in performance and documentation through visual narration, so we will have a strong multidisciplinary presence as well. Basically, what I am describing is how I want to live my life, so I am just trying to create a community around those ideas and principles. Creating, learning, giving – that is how I’d like to spend my days here on earth. Otherwise I tend to become a moody, cynical cow. 7) You have excellent branding. You have a firm grip on your trademark, and it shows in the titles you publish. You focus on the weight of paper in each book, the elegance yet accessibility of the cover art, and cut no corners. Please tell us what drives you to keep on this path and why all these details make for a better book as well as better understanding of where Backlash Press stands. Thank you. I think of Backlash as an archival press and, like I said previously, I love the written word. Creating a beautiful book is like gift wrapping a present for the world. The ideas, the sentiment as well as the pages should last and stand as objects of art. Last summer, I was introduced to the then Curator and Archivist of Alternative Culture, Carl Williams, at Maggs Bros in London – the Queen’s book antiquarian. I went with our designer, Rachael Adams, and held a handmade pamphlet of Jewish resistance poetry that had been passed from hand to hand inside of a German ghetto during WWII. To be found with this pamphlet would have meant certain death. It was alive and an artwork of magnificence. I’ll never forget it. I think of that pamphlet every time I put together a book. I believe that words are alive and go on living and impacting new cycles of relevance. 8) Who are some of the designers you work with that create such stunning cover art? You now have distribution of your titles in the US, UK, and now throughout Europe. Do you mind speaking a bit about that networking or listing who is distributing where so readers can be sure to find your books? The ultra-talented designer Rachael Adams of The Scrutineer. We work brilliantly together and have become great friends throughout this process. At the London Book Fair, we had a meeting with SCB Distribution in Los Angeles and they signed us on shortly afterwards, which was incredible and the last four weeks have been a massive learning curve. They have reps in each state and a booksellers list that comes out twice annually. We are in the Autumn listing, so that’s exciting. If you can’t find our books in your local bookstore (chain or indie), please pop in and ask them to stock us, as we are in 129 | 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 7
their ordering catalogue from the autumn. Booksellers love to be introduced to new authors. Over the summer, my children and I are travelling around the UK and English speaking bookstores on the continent, giving readings and speaking to booksellers about the requests of their patronage. Some of those booksellers will not be interested in what Backlash is doing and that’s fine, but I would like to cultivate regularly maintained relationships with my favorite 30 UK bookstores. It is also interesting to understand the readership of the bookstores who would refuse my current titles so that I can be on the lookout for a manuscript that would fulfill an already established audience. Plus, I get to pack the car up blankets and a picnic, make a playlist, drive to a beautiful destination and drink tea and talk about books, so nothing is lost! That’s a win win if ever there was one! 9) Who would you love to publish? If you had a dream list of five author/poets to choose from (all living) who would you pick? Siri Hustvedt, Anne Carson, Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, Sarah Hall. And Grayson Perry for the joy and laughter and Sappho for the séance. 10) Is there a secret to finding fulfillment in your work that few people talk about? Yes. And it’s silliness. The willingness to appear silly or foolish in a situation when your heart is full of good intentions is a gift you need to give to yourself. Shoot your censor. Ask the questions nobody wants to ask because they don’t want to appear stupid. Go up and talk to people. Get on the dance floor. People judge you based on how they feel around you, not on precisely what you say, besides, few can hear beyond their own obnoxious and loud self-criticism, but if you can make them feel great, by feeling great yourself, that is what they will take from the exchange. I’ve just come in from a charity dinner for Motor Neuron Disease hosted by my son’s middle school. One of the teachers has been diagnosed with MND and the class wanted to raise money to buy him a special wheelchair that costs around £8,000. Eddy, my son, and seven mates got up on stage and performed “It’s Raining Men” for an audience of about 300 people. A few hours before the performance, the production collapsed because one child was afraid of looking foolish, which infected the nerves of the others and the whole class dropped out. Except Eddy and one of his mates who convinced five others to join them. They had two hours to come up with a brand-new performance, didn’t really know the words or the actions and forgot to turn all the mic’s on. Yet, they seriously rocked it, the money poured in and the wheelchair is being purchased. If you are going to do it, do it with pizazz.
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Musician Spotlight with Jessie Albright Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks When I heard Jessie Albright play at Roccoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pub in Jasper, Georgia, I was stunned by the depth of soul she brought the crowd. I cannot say who she reminds me of, and that is perhaps the highest form of praise. Albright does not preach on stage or pretend to be anyone other than herself. She is easy to laugh and returns the love to her crowd that she so obviously feels in return. Please do yourself a favor and check out her music after reading this interview. It was a true honor to hear her in person, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a thrill I hope to live again very soon. 1) Tell us a bit about your music style and how that incorporates into the band sessions. I grew up on classic rock and Christian contemporary and then a much more eclectic mix of music while studying jazz in college. As a band we try to play a really dynamic set featuring my original music, plus covers by bands like Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads and Susan Tedeschi. 2) What are you reading right now? The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer 3) If you had to pick from the musicians either living or dead to have The Best Concert Ever, who would you choose to perform alongside? Willie Nelson Freddie Mercury Grace Potter 4) Have you done any cover songs? How do you feel about that process, or is all your music original? I haven't recorded and released any cover songs, but I do perform covers. A couple of my favorites are: Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson) Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) 5) What is a dream destination for you to provide a concert? Ireland and/or France or any number of places in Europe 6) What suggestions can you give musicians and songwriters to make it to the next level? What tips do you have for them that may help them sidestep heartbreak?
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Heartbreak happens. Try to channel that energy that comes from the heartbreak back into your creativity. My advice to musicians looking to make it to the next level is to get highly involved in your local music scene. And go to and perform at as many open mic nights as you can. 7) What are the albums you have out, and where can we find them? Waiting Patiently (available on nearly all digital distribution options including iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, etc.) 8) What websites can we visit to learn more about you and your tour dates? www.jessiealbright.com 9) What's one thing you always try to share with people when you're performing? Rescue from your local humane society, and please spay/neuter your pets.
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Musician Feature with the Misty Mountain String Band Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks I met the gang from The Misty Mountain String Band by way of Michael D. Gray’s River City Sessions. Mr. Gray is the man to know in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area when it comes to both spoken word and live music. His baby, River City Session, often pairs poets and musicians up to first speak on WUTC-NPR, and then go on live that evening at The Camp House, a brilliant spot to grab a cup of coffee and a show. I have maintained a steady stream of conversation with both The Misty Mountain String Band and Michael D. Gray. It was this initial meeting that provided The Southern Collective Experience with our show through WUTC-NPR called Dante’s Old South. It has been one blessing after another with these gifted folks. In a previous issue, all Blue Mountain Reviews are located on www.issuu.com, you will find an interview with Michael D. Gray where you can learn more about him and what sparked his vision for River City Sessions. Right now, at long last, you can read all about The Misty Mountain String Band, and discover how you can hear them live. This is one of my favorite local bands that have a sound that’s popular far beyond the American South. Hopefully these guys and the SCE can come together on a project. It would be even better if it included Mr. Michael D. Gray. 1) Who are the brilliant men in the Misty Mountain String Band? (Please let each member tell a bit about themselves.) Brian Vickers: I was born in West Virginia but have lived in KY for several years. Married to my lovely wife Denise, we have a beautiful daughter, Jamie, 12, the apple of my eye. I've been playing music most of my life and play guitar in MMSB. Neal Green: I play fiddle and sing tenor harmony. The most unique thing about me is that I play violin (and guitar too) left handed because of some birth differences in my hands. This has made for some interesting stories over the years as people get used to seeing me play, but it's a blessing to have the opportunity to play at all. I grew up in Crestwood, Kentucky, playing classical music, church music, and bluegrass music. I love performing on the violin and conducting orchestras and choirs. It's satisfying to be able to use the power of music to brighten people's day. I am the music and worship pastor at Ballardsville Baptist Church. I like reading and watching movies, but I really like being with family and being outdoors, especially on the golf course. Paul Martin: I was born in Kentucky to George and Donna Martin. He was a pastor at the time and our family moved a lot, overseas and from state to state. I started playing guitar so I could play the surf tunes I loved but gradually moved towards bluegrass when we moved back to Kentucky and I heard the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will The Circle be Unbroken" album. Now I pick banjo, mandolin and live in Lousville with my wife, three daughters and two dogs.
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Derek Harris: I play the double bass and sing some lead in the band. I’ve lived my whole life in Kentucky. I grew up in Muhlenberg County, went to college at Lindsey Wilson where I met my wife Lindsey, and then we moved to Louisville for Seminary in 2008. I am a pastor at Lyndon Baptist Church. 2) Tell us how living in Kentucky has influenced your music. When I heard you play at the Camp House it was a sound I've never heard, and haven't found since. Do you think it is a mixture of the talent in the band, the earth you call sacred, or a combination of both? Brian: Living in this part of the country definitely influences our music and the way we write songs. There is both personal and collective influences that spring from the people and the land. Some you're conscious of and others, maybe the most important ones, are part of the fabric of you are in ways that go deeper than you can express. Then there is the particular talent each person brings to the band. We all have particular strengths that come together in unique ways in MMSB. Together we are able to write and play music that we couldn't achieve individually. Paul: Bluegrass is still pretty popular around Kentucky so it wasn't that hard to get into. Our sound is a mix of influences. We each had different expectations for the band and quickly realized none of them were going to be met. We were also afraid to butcher the traditional styles so we chose to just write songs we wanted to write and play them the way we wanted to play. We're more confident now and are starting to play some more traditional styles but it's all coming through this filter we've created for ourselves. Derek: Kentucky is basically all I have known outside of some vacations and tours, so I would say the landscape, the people, and the experiences that I’ve had here are inseperable from the music I write. What we have ended up with as “our sound” is our take on, and contribution to, Kentucky music as a continued living tradition. 3) I understand that you all have a firm faith in God and His son, Jesus Christ. There is at least one of you who is an ordained minister. How does the Spirit play into your music? How do you feel God is portrayed in today’s music? Brian: It's a matter of how we view our musical gifts. We believe life, including music, is a gift from God. As such, it is not simply about "our" gifts and talents, but honing and developing the desires and abilities God gives us. The pressure is off in terms of trying to compete or be better than some other musician or band - all we have to do is make the most and the best with the time, talents, and opportunities given to us. Grasping this, and you have to grasp it continually and keep it in sight, brings a freedom to create the music we want and hopefully reach people with it. In the traditions we're in musically, it's common to play old hymns and Christian songs. For us, however, it's not just about upholding and carrying on a musical tradition. The old, sacred songs are real for us and speak of things in which we deeply believe. 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 7
Paul: We don't tend to write blatantly Gospel songs. We prefer to write about the experiences we go through and what they mean. We ask lots of questions in the songs but don't always try to give any answers. We'd prefer to get people thinking and then have a deep conversation after the show. People don't seem too afraid to sing about God these days, for good or bad. A lot of folks seem to be borrowing Christian imagery to suit their own ends and that bothers me. There have also been a couple of artists who have released some albums dedicated to criticizing the faith and that doesn't sit too well either. I'm not afraid of criticism but Christianity seems to be a big target for many in the arts community and I think many of those critics are forgetting that Christians do a whole lot of good in the world. Derek: The spirit plays a role in our music in that we try to live our lives for Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s glory and not our own. We try to be positive and keep the hope that we have as Christians as an undercurrent of all our music and shows. We also have a bond as brothers in Christ that makes everything about being in the band better and more exciting. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m always glad to see folks writing music about spiritual things, for better or for worse, because it shows that it is an important part of our lives together as people here on Earth. It also affords me the opportunity to have a conversation with folks and struggle with the ideas that the artists present. 4) What is the wackiest place you've ever performed? Brian: On a palate, outside, at night, in 42 degree temperature, while everyone else was inside out of the cold. Paul: A whale tour in St. John's, Newfoundland. But that was with a different band. Derek: A Scottish Rite Masonic Temple that had been constructed from actual cedars of Lebanon. 5) What is the venue you've played that by far was the most fun? Brian: John Hartford Festival Paul: My favorite place to play is still a hometown show at Zanzabar. Derek: It really is hard to beat Zanzabar. 6) What do you hope to accomplish with this band? What do you hope you music leaves for for future generations to hold on to? Brian: It's hard to say what our songs will mean to future generations. The more immediate goal is to try and reach people today and connect with them emotionally and personally. There's a line in a Norman Blake song that says, "try to make me a little change and give them folks a smile." The idea of giving another person something to smile about, to tap their foot to, and sing along with driving down the road is a great privilege. Paul: I'm on a quest to make a perfect album. I don't think it will ever happen but I enjoy the process and the search for that ideal keeps pushing me to keep getting better at my songwriting, on my instruments and at playing in a group.
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Derek: I want to push it as far as we can go. I love all the interesting people we get to meet and the places we get to visit, so I want to keep on making those friendships and those connections. If we have a legacy it should be something more than just the music. We remember great artists and performers as much for who they were behind the scenes as we do for their masterpieces. I can’t much control how our art and style will be viewed in the future, but I hope the people we have connected with can look back on us and see that we tried to live our lives honestly loving and serving other people. 7) Besides music, what other vocations do each of you hold down? Brian: I teach Bible and NT Greek at a seminary. From time to time, I writes books. Paul: I teach lessons and make coffee. Derek: I am a pastor at Lyndon Baptist Church and I teach music lessons. 8) If you could perform with 5 legends of music (dead of alive) who would they be? Brian: Norman Blake, John Hartford, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings Neal: Mozart, Paganini, Leonard Bernstein, Simon and Garfunkel, Hendrix Paul: Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Johnny Cash, Gillian Welch and Dick Dale. Derek: Maybelle Carter, Rayna Gellert, Nick Drake, Jubal, Stephen Foster. 9) What advice do you have for those who are trying to make it into the music scene? What small things could make the trip easier, and big things they can sidestep to avoid misery? Brian: Above everything else, spend all the time you can honing your craft, listening to all kinds of music, playing with other musicians, and figure out your own musical voice. Strive to be authentic. Ola Bella Reed said just trying to be yourself when you get out to play sing in front of people is the most difficult and important thing, and that if you're phony, people will know. That's about the best advice I've heard. Paul: They always say work hard and that's true but there's a lot to that. Manage your money well and always push yourself. If somethings not working, let go and try something else. Practice. Write a lot. Study the folks you admire, find the corners they missed and go there. There's always something you can be doing. Do it. Never be afraid to ask for something. The worst answer you'll get is no. Derek: #1 You should be practicing. Other than that I like the way Norman Blake says “just to go out in a general manner to entertain people”. It is really easy to see a microphone and a captive audience and lose sight of that. 10) What causes to you support? Brian: Crusade for Children Paul: Foster care and adoption. My wife and I have been involved for a few years now and we feel like it's something more people can and should participate in. 136 | 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 7
Derek: We recently have been getting more involved with groups that support refugee folks in our area. You can find out more about this band, how to purchase their music, and how to see them live at: http://www.themistymountainstringband.com/ On Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/themistymountainstringband/ Other sites: https://themistymountainstringband.bandcamp.com/ https://www.youtube.com/user/mmstringband
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Author Touch-Back with William Wright Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks Every now and again the Blue Mountain Review gets the chance to reach back to a previous issue and speak with a familiar face from our publishing past. William Wright is a man who stands as tall as any peak of the Appalachian Mountains. After he was interviewed a year ago for the winter issue of the BMR, his book Tree Heresies won Georgia Author of the Year. Over the last twelve months he has helped several members of the Southern Collective Experience with editing their craft. That includes me with the final tweaks to Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart coming out in May 2017 through Backlash Press. In this brief glimpse in with Wright, we want to flesh out more of his innate genius and depth of humility. This young man is an editor on more magazines than I can keep up with, and she is a professor with the Reinhardt University MFA program. Please feel free to send any queries to the BMR on how he may help you with your craft, and we will happily send them along. 1) Tell us about how writing Tree Heresies changed you. What major revelation did it lead you to notice? That I could strengthen my poetry more. While Tree Heresies is a book of which I'm proud, I am still trying to find a linguistic pathway to a vision that I hope equally touches the mind and heart. 2) What inspired the title, "Tree Heresies"? I really don't know--other than the poem within the book entitled the same: that meaning--to you, to me, to someone else--often means little. It's all in the way things are conveyed. A tree can be beautiful, scary, deadly, life-giving, etc. To speak of that truth was, I thought (tongue-in-cheek), heretical to the way we typically sanctify the natural world as a romanticized world. 3) Was there a particular song or soundtrack you created while writing this book? I don't listen to music while writing. And the only music I listen to at the moment is Bach. That sounds like the most pretentious and snobby answer, I know, but I'm simply moved my Bach and the Baroque period of music for its complexities. I have little interest in sound (at the moment) unless it deals with words. But I've been through a large gamut of music-lovin' over the years--lots of great 60s and 70s stuff. I go in odd phases. For a month, every day, about ten years ago, I only listened to Van Morrison. Right now it's Bach--and especially Glenn Gould's 1981 (or '82? Can't remember) recording of The Goldberg Variations. 4) What is a project whether prose or poetry that you have dreamed of doing, but fear most you will never accomplish? 138 | 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 7
A huge, fictional "codex" like Codex Seraphinanus. I think about it every day. Where to find his books: https://www.amazon.com/Tree-Heresies-Poems-WilliamWright/dp/0881465208
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How Our Home Hones Us Momma’s Boy I came into this world May 28th of the year of 1985—cockeyed, as white as the winter snow, and with the electricity of all of North Georgia’s wild rivers running through my bones. I would call the woman who first held me my closest confidant until her final moments on this earth. I was her heaven, her hell, and her lifelong project for the next 27 years she dwelled on this earth. My brother, Cole, and I lived a life that was as up and down as the bipolar disorder that plagued her beautiful soul. At the age of three my mother and father would reach the point of divorce, a seemingly newfound commonplace for American families. A combination of a struggling alcoholic and a manic and muddled-minded woman were too much for any two young parents to overcome. I was not old enough to remember the three years of life I survived with the dysfunctional duo, but it was the next twenty-five that will forever be unforgettable. Early years are filled with memories of grand holidays and birthday celebrations at our grandmother’s, being the beloved step children of many family members who reached out their hands to help, and battles between parents that I would not be able to understand until much later in life. Although we were not always impoverished, it would seem we were always fighting for survival. The confusion and disillusion from a decade of divorce battles between parents would be so incremental in our lives that this will be the only mention of such throughout this story that I call life. By the time I was eighteen, my brother and I had already called over 30 houses home, 6 schools our place of attendance, and viewed many men and women in our family as Moms and Dads. Our mom’s mental disability was easily showcased through her unstable real estate career. At her highest point, our family owned multiple homes, new cars, and everything we needed materially. When she was down, our family would see the foreclosure of our house and would soon call our new car our new home - at least for a few days until the bank came calling for it also. Luckily, as she always did, Mom found a solution at the last minute in the form of a one-room studio apartment below a local pizzeria. Our childhood would be filled with her constant attempts of suicide, admittance into psyche wards, and the most gleeful and loving woman a son could ever know. I vividly remember her first suicide attempt like it was yesterday. Our dear Aunt Amy had us in her arms and tearfully told us that this would be the last time we would lay eyes upon her beauty. She would soon prove the doctors at the local hospital distinctively wrong as she made a full recovery and soon came back into our lives. Life was back to normal, or what we called normal. We would soon be off on to trips of the beach where we would spend all of our money and later pawn her jewelry to make it home. She was an epic and endlessly- loving woman. It was the ride of a lifetime. On the other hand, our dad would spend Friday nights entertaining us with action movies, sparring between my brother and me to make us tougher while also providing a record player filled with every rock and roll album known to man. That is where I would originally find my passion for Rock. He would spend the rest of the weekend in bed recovering, while Cole and I would roam the mountains of the local wildlife areas looking for adventure. We would test the waters each weekend by venturing into new and unknown wildernesses. That is until Dad would wake up in search for us with a wild temper and a fuzzy mindset. Needless to say, we would put a halt to our adventures long enough for him to drink himself back into the drapes of his shade-filled master bedroom. The only likeness in our two parents was that they had as many aspirations for fun as they had unwanted commitments to a day in bed. Both would, for the most part, leave Cole and me to raise ourselves as we saw fit. The two were filled with immense amounts of love known only to parents, but with the battles they were enduring with their inner selves, they were unable to convey this love that I am sure they had always intended.
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The only stable form of family that we knew as children was that of my Father’s parents, Tom and Sue Huggins. A simple, yet strong, Southern Baptist couple with a love for us that I will never be able to fathom. From the beginning, our Grandma and Granddad took us in as their own and did the best they could to shield us from as much pain and destruction as possible; I cannot imagine what life would have been without them. January 27th of the year 2000 stole this stable family unit I had come to know. I would get off of the school bus, as usual, to come home and find my Granddad sleeping in his chair, but on this day I discovered that Tom had left this world abruptly while watching the evening news. The lights and sirens were soon followed by the likes of my still struggling father. I remember him saying “Why not me”? A few years later I would see what he had meant as he attempted a suicide of his own. He awoke in the hospital surrounded by his mother, sisters, and brothers, unknowing of the events that had transpired. The family easily persuaded him to pursue a life of sobriety and he would, once again, be nonexistent in our lives for the next few years. Mom was left with an eldest who was bitter at the world and his younger sibling who was rebelliously desperate to prove to the realm of men that he was good enough to contend. For the next and only five years of our lives, Cole and I would separate ourselves from one another. I am still unsure if it was due to our overwhelming dependence on one another for the past fifteen years or simply a bitterness of our childhood that we both wanted to escape. Cole would give up collegiate scholarship opportunities in golf to spite our father, while I experimented in drug use to prove that I was different from the run of the muck “cool crowd.” My insubordinate behavior would lead to a suspension from high school two months before my graduation. My desperate youth would leave me to believe that it was fashionable to drink moonshine on a school field trip. Life was very confusing to say the least. That same year, Mom would endure her final blow from an emotional standpoint. Her youngest and closest brother would take his own life by noose at the age of thirty-two. She was in shambles. Her side of the family had always been riddled with trials, drug addiction, and penitentiaries; they were Mountain Outlaws to a T. She withstood her treacherous upbringing, but this epic event sent her into a frenzy of despair that she would battle for the next decade. Although she was in a massive haze of hopelessness, she would put me through real estate school in order to become her apprentice in the field. I persevered though school, though I despised it, and came home from Atlanta a licensed realtor. Soon after, I would meet the love of my life. I was twenty while she was seventeen years old and still in high school. Against her family’s wishes and, in spite of my local reputation, she accepted my wild ways and, and we fell in love in true teenage fashion. I would spend the next couple of years working in real estate surveying land, and partying with my closest friends. I had a nice car, my brother had recently built a new home on our father’s land, and I was in love. To say life was the best it had ever been would be an illimitable understatement. In 2008, the Great Recession hit the North Georgia Mountains like a money sucking whirlwind. The real estate market tanked, homes went up for sale, and the foreclosure signs were soon to follow. I was out of a job in Real Estate and leaned on my background in land surveying to pay the bills. Soon enough there was a call to the back office of the surveying company owners and, I knew what was to follow: I was out of a job and a true failure in my own eyes. I began my trek home only to find myself too overwhelmed with tears to see the road. I finally found the gumption to call my brother, who, as he always had, reassured my ambitions to try my hand at a degree in higher education. My girlfriend had recently enrolled at Young Harris College and, I figured it was time for me to give it the ole college try. I would have the financial stability of a home through my brother’s highly successful landscaping company and created spending money through unemployment and a highly successful entrepreneurship as the local cannabis dealer. This came to an abrupt halt the day before my college orientation when the ATF decided they would make their move on my marijuana operation. After a mere weekend in jail, I knew that the outlaw lives my mother’s family had led was not for me. I then decided I would struggle through my college career, as most young students did, and gave up my extra curricula’s in weed sales for an associate’s degree in biology. In January of 2010 I graduated with Honors from Young Harris College and pointed my aim towards The University of Georgia (UGA) and a career in Optometry. The future seemed so very bright. As I moved to UGA I left it all, too much, behind. My mother was in shambles that I was moving away, my love of five years and I decided to part ways, and the mountains I had called home for twenty-seven years were in my rearview. But, once again, there was one individual I could never part ways with—my brother Cole. He soon decided to rent a room at our new home in Athens and commuted back and forth on the weekends to visit. Soon enough he sold his business and chased his own dreams of a college degree. I was still in despair from my
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recent broken heart when I had the first soul wrenching loss of my life. We received a phone call that my grandmother had less than a week to live. To say that I took this badly would be a gross understatement. After all, she was 82 and had lived a remarkable life. Maybe that is why I took it so harshly. How could I lose the most remarkable, loving, and, stable individual I had ever known? I battled the loss of my grandmother like a gladiator of 300; I knew I had lost, yet I was unwilling to accept it. It was the darkest of times that I had endured to that point. I would reassume my drug-ridden ways, but this time I did not dip my toes; I threw myself into the deepest of ends headfirst and without a life jacket. The next year is a flickering film of late nights, missing morning classes and a blur of psychedelic visions that I can still not assure myself of their validity. I was awakened from my nightmare with the paralysis of a night terror. I recall my Uncle’s voice saying, “Your Mom is in the hospital again. It doesn’t look good son”. My brother and I had survived in excess of ten suicide attempts by our mother and routinely assumed she would pull through, as she always had. We would be grossly surprised by what we found the next day in the hospital. Brain dead from insulin injection. Mom was gone. As the oldest and strongest child, Mom willed Cole to make the decision if, and when, it had to be made. Against her family’s will, we made the choice to take her off of life support. Cole made the announcement. On the Ides of June in 2012, my mother would make her final exit. Life was over. Although I was our mother’s baby, my brother took the loss with more despair than I could afford. As I attempted to make plans for her cremation and memorial, he fell into the abyss of mourning. I would come home one night to find Cole in tears. He would bare his soul to me that had done the unthinkable. After all of the death and desolation that suicide had cost us, he had made an attempt of his own. He had masterminded a plan and attempted it as well. He slit his wrists and began to run to the woods behind our apartment so I would not be able to find him myself. As he did, so he came to his senses and wrapped his wrists vigorously. As he told the story, we sobbed together. We sat silently for a time and soon found a watch and bracelets to conceal his wounds from the public’s eye. To this day, this is my first accounting of this event. In the coming days I would confront Cole with my anger over his decision and how much his absence would affect my life for eternity. He conveyed that he did not know what his life meant to mine, and we came to the mutual agreement that this would never occur again as long as we both shall live. I would spend the next few nights opening his bedroom door as quietly as possible to assure he was safe in his bed. We would both grow from this event as brothers, but we still had many mountains to overcome. This is the part of the tale when champions of old make their epic reentrance back into the storyline. Our father, 6 years sober, came to save the day, as we were incapable of doing so ourselves. In all of our lives there are occasions when we must release the reigns and let another lead for a time; this was one of them. With no financial means of our own to cremate Mom, our Dad helped me make arrangements that I was not capable of doing alone. He helped us put our mom to rest and began building ideals of a family reunion. He would work into the wee hours of the morning in search of a home to buy so he and his two boys could make another stab at a family. Months later, he would succeed in this endeavors and Cole and I would run from UGA to be with him and our new home in Atlanta, Georgia. My newest and greatest friend Clay McConnell would join us, as he was also looking to move to the area. I began a mediocre job at a local distribution center and drank my sorrow away at night with my new best friend. We shared in our love for music and also in our desperate need for completion. Clay bought a guitar and I borrowed my uncle’s bass and we were ready to roll; we would start a rock band! Little did we know, playing rock and roll took work, work, and more work. We did not concern ourselves too much with the work as we were keeping our minds occupied with something that we loved dearly. We had the passion of the night to drive us, plus the distractions from the light to hide us. Looking back, I am thankful that there was no one around, besides my brother and dad. Those nights held off notes, chords that would make a cat cry, and brotherly fights rooted in our incapable hands and musical knowledge. Unfortunately, the distractions of music and alcohol could only hold my attention for a short time. My restless nights were spent wondering how God could do such a thing to a human being that he called his child. I despised life beyond music and my closest friends. I buried myself in a bottle and contemplated my own exit of this world on numerous occasions. If not for my promise to my brother, I just may have. Life seemed impossible, unfair, and not worth living. Clay soon moved back to our hometown of Blairsville, Georgia as he had found a new love of his own. A young girl with a pretty smile could tempt him to the mountains, but could not draw his attention from our musical aspirations. We would sharpen our musical abilities while we were apart. When given the chance we would
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spend our sleepless hours discussing our newest discoveries in music theory, the next moves in our, so called, band, and our dream of playing live. Clay worked nights at a local retirement home, and I despised being in the darkness alone, so we would reform our bond and strengthen our musical vocabulary. For the first time, we enjoyed every moment we were to share in our musical kinship; it was my saving grace. During Clay’s ventures back to the mountains I found a life of weekly sobriety that did not need alcohol to find a good night’s rest. My brother was now a positive advocate of weekday sobriety, and I would fall into suit, as nothing else was working. I would soon find that I was constantly being promoted at work, on the verge of gaining a Bachelor’s in business management, and finally becoming happy with myself. My brother was in school, my father and I were working, and I felt secure for the first time in my life. It was time to get down to business. With my newfound clarity, I would begin to spend more and more time picking, writing, and honing my newly found addiction as much as possible. As Clay’s newly found love weakened, he would make his way back to Atlanta, and we renewed our endeavors for a Rock and Roll band together. Before, we did not even understand the language of music. But now, we were, at least, Neanderthals that could pass interpretative grunts back and forth to convey our musical meanings. Months later we would meet a friend, and soon brother in music, Justin Nelson. He and a local studio owner with immense talent, Mike Rosenfeld, would begin a musical journey together. We began building songs and ideas of what music we would like to make. Within a year “The Ides of June” would make their first attempt at live music. I remember a brief moment of being content after our first show. The feeling of playing in front of a crowd was blurry, electrifying, and soon, over, as was our original goal of playing a live gig. We were as amateur as they came, but to have climbed that mountain, three years after picking up an instrument, was epic. After that fleeting moment, I realized many things. Of the most important recognitions, I realized that it is not the goal or event we always look forward to that matters so very much, but it is the journey we travel to reach that mountain. After this premonition I reveled in the moment for a brief second, then set new goals. The stages of life, at least my life, move in this manner. As long as I can remember there have been older, and wiser, individuals giving me pieces of advice that I would readily brush off, as I knew it all. As I made my own mistakes and had my own realizations, I grew. Instead of stages in life being framed in my mind as, becoming a teenager, getting a license, graduating college, I look back on these grand epiphanies I had. Much of my childhood anguish was built around not being cognizant of my surroundings and how the world was unfolding around me. I was in a hurry from the onset and refused, for the most part, to take advice from the majority individuals. I remember being 20 years old and not being able to take any criticism, constructive or otherwise, from anyone close to me without bursting into tears and lashing back out with negative comments of my own. This was until my brother calmly said, “Dusty, what is wrong man? Why can’t we have a discussion about something that bothers me without you being in defense mode?” At that moment I realized I was being unstable and unfair. This is when I opened my mind and started looking at life more as a philosopher and a giver, rather than the fashion of woe is me. He pushed me into this, but I HAD to realize it myself. During my expulsion from school I did not realize its significance or, for that matter, care that I had until I arrived home to hear my mother crying to my grandmother on the telephone that she had failed as a parent. Her doubt in her achievements as a parent affected me and conveyed that I was responsible for more than myself. My actions took a toll on all of those around me. My mother’s constant suicide attempts always seemed to me like cries for help and attention. After she achieved her goal I realized how truly in agony she had been for so long. I wished so dearly that she could see how much we missed her, as I still feel she wanted us to know. I wish she could have the realization that she was truly loved and is still extremely missed by numerous souls. Her actions will ripple through my existence forever. I realized she was truly gone. After years of lying in the bed filled with tears and missing her, I finally had the epiphany that this was something that must be done. I could never have moved on with my life without a mourning period in which to do so. This was not an epiphany that came to me while I was lying in bed crying. It came to me as I sat on my porch in the sunlight with my acoustic guitar. I looked down at the guitar my best of friends had all chipped in to buy for my birthday and smiled. I was loved. The sun was shining. I was playing music. Life was okay. The realization that life is not a fairy tale written in books was of the most importance. To have the consciousness that the sun shedding its light on my skin sent a wave of dopamine and endorphins through my body unlike any drug I had ever done. I realized this moment of awareness was what life was all about. There will always be highs and lows, but without the night, we unintentionally discount the beauty of the light. I truly believe that we lose ourselves in the darkest of times, but in these dark times is when we truly find ourselves. We must allow ourselves to revel in these dark times, but not forever. We are doing our lives a great disservice if we do not put massive efforts into not letting the darkness eclipse our light. Beauty is right in front of us, but it is easily overseen without a conscious eye.
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I would like to assert that I am a firm believer in therapy of many sorts. I found mine in the power of music and in the love of all those around me. The power of words, love, and compassion cannot be overlooked or overstated. I strongly encourage each and every individual to find his or her hunger in life. It is never too late to stop and take a step back. I was 27 years old and had to endure my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death before I found mine. Please do not make the same mistake. Life without desire can be tolerable, but life with aspiration is beyond extravagance. It may be a family. It may be art. It may be a career. Maybe it is all of the above. Find yourself and chase it as you deem fit. This life is yours to live. Go. Live. It! All of my love, Dusty Huggins
Dusty Huggins, a 6th generation native of Appalachia, was born in the mid 80's in Blairsville, Georgia. With very little guidance as a youth, Dusty dropped out of high school and began his journey as a blue-collared rebel, rivaling the public school system and all of which it demanded. After the recession of 2008, Mr. Huggins looked to further his education and found his passion and skill for writing in his mid-twenties at Young Harris College. While pursuing a degree in Biology at the University of Georgia, tragedy sprang once and againâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;this time in the form of his mother's suicide. Dusty abruptly left Athens for Atlanta and the support of his father. As he picked up the pieces of his life, he also picked up a six string and a pencil and paper. Dusty eventually gained a degree in Business Management to appease society, his employer, as well as himself, but his greatest endeavors and aspirations are spent after the work day is over as he writes, plays, and sings with his band of misfits known as "The Ides of June." The band has completed their first year of playing live, along with a debut album "Exist" that fuses Blues Rock, 90's Grunge, Psychedelia, and is, overall, just another take of good ole fashioned Rock n Roll.
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Finding the Divine at the Vortex By Clifford Brooks When I approached the Southern Collective Experience Board of Directors about beginning interviews of various restaurants around the South, The Vortex was the first victim to cross my mind. I don’t throw the word “divine” around, nor do I use the words “awesome”, “epic”, and/or “boss” lightly. The Vortex, whether at their Moreland Avenue location or the one on Peachtree Street NE (my favorite), you will find the bliss of only 21-years-old and up, smoking allowed indoors, and food so good you’ll slap someone for fussing over the lack of an “extensive vegan menu”. Yet, the Vortex is not a pompous, grand-standing enterprise. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The owners and staff simply want folks to act like they have sense, relax, be respectful, but realize if they aren’t they will be removed from the premises. I smile like the Cheshire Cat as I write this and feel even more confident I want my ashes spread in this joint. If I don’t get into heaven, at least my remains will be as close to it as possible. Not one detail has been missed by these fine folks. At the Moreland Avenue location you’ll find more outdoor seating, where at the Peachtree Street NE hotspot there’s the Laughing Skull Lounge where you’ll see the best comedy acts in the city. Please read on to find out more about The Vortex, and why you should visit it as much as possible. Michael Benoit is one of the three sibling partners that own and operate The Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta, Georgia. SCE: Where did the idea for The Vortex come from? Michael Benoit: I moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles in 1991. I didn’t know anyone here. I didn’t have a job lined up, but I definitely knew it was time to get out of L.A. For the first six months I survived by doing freelance design work. Then my brother, Hank, came to visit. He suggested we rent a house, and he’d move here too. So we rented a house, he went back to California, tied up his loose ends, and moved back. After we got settled, we realized that neither one of us wanted to get a “real” job. The nightlife scene was booming in Atlanta at the time, so we thought opening a bar seemed like a lot more fun than looking for work. SCE: We understand that The Vortex is a family venture. Is that how it started? MB: Yes it is. Once my brother and I had made our decision, we invited our sister, Suzanne, to visit and see what she thought of Atlanta. If she liked it, we suggested that she join us in our ridiculous scheme. But instead of visiting, she said, “If you both like Atlanta, I’m sure I will too.” So she just loaded up her truck and drove across the country. When we opened the original location, we all lived together in the little brick ranch house that my brother and I had rented. SCE: You currently have two locations in Atlanta. One is in Midtown while the other is in Little Five Points. Which one is the original? 146 | 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 7
MB: People often think the Little 5 Points (L5P) location is the original because it has the giant “Laughing Skull” facade. But the first Vortex was actually a tiny corner space in the bottom of a hotel in Midtown. It was literally the size of a studio apartment. But that was perfect, because we were going to be the service staff, and we had absolutely no practical experience in the bar business. Five years later we opened the Little 5 Points location, only because our landlord couldn’t commit to renewing our lease. About a year after that, we were approached by a local developer asking us to relocate our original bar to a new spot he owned in Midtown, which we did. So technically, the original space doesn’t even exist anymore. SCE: Are there any distinct differences in the vibe between the two current locations? Do you have one that you'd call your favorite? MB: It’s interesting, while the two locations are only 3.5 miles apart, they each have their own unique clientele and personality. L5P is much smaller and has a “neighborhood pub” vibe, while Midtown is larger and has more of a “restaurant” or “club” feel. And Midtown also features the worlds smallest full-time comedy club, the Laughing Skull Lounge, in the rear of the space. Since I live two blocks from the Midtown Vortex, that’s the one where you’re most likely to find me drinking at the bar. SCE: It’s been said that The Vortex is the “Godfather” of Atlanta burger joints. How did that happen? MB: Our original intent was solely to open a bar, but we thought we needed to offer something good to eat so our patrons wouldn’t get too drunk, or leave us when they got hungry. A simple, high-quality burger seemed like the solution, especially since it was hard to find a good burger in Atlanta at the time. And we loved good burgers. Subsequently, we won every “Best Burger” award in the city for many years. The popularity of “Vortex Burgers” eventually spawned the plentitude of burgers that Atlanta enjoys today. Now you can find unique and tasty burgers all over our city. We like to think we had a little something to do with that. So, you’re welcome. SCE: You’ve also become famous for the company policies you list on your menu. Where did the idea for those come from? MB: Yeah. We call them, “Stuff You Really Need To Know.” I guess since we were raised by decent parents, we always understood how to behave in public. Naturally, we assumed everyone else did too. We were wrong. Apparently, some people are just fucking idiots. Since the sole purpose of opening a bar was to have fun, we weren’t about to tolerate people acting like jerks in our place. So we quickly declared The Vortex an official “Idiot-Free Zone.” Every time we found ourselves shocked by someone’s stupidity, we’d add another “rule” to our list. So the creation of our “house rules” was purely organic. It literally grew over time, based on our personal experiences working as the service 147 | 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 7
staff. We’ve seen them “borrowed” by a few other bars over the years. Our loyal clientele, and anyone that has ever worked in the service industry, really loves them. SCE: Tell us about the future of the Vortex. Are there any new stores opening? MB: We get a never-ending number of requests from people begging us to open a Vortex in their town. We’ve also had numerous inquiries about franchising the concept. I guess the only reason we haven’t pursued any of these options is because we’re not money-driven. And since we’ll be celebrating our 25th Anniversary on April 20th of this year, it’s obvious that we’re not the spring chickens we were when we first opened... even though I’m the baby of the family (laughs). I have no doubt that The Vortex would be successful in many other locations, but the bar business is a lot of work. And besides, diluting the brand would certainly impact our authenticity. And we really like being unique and authentic. SCE: So if opening more bars seems like too much work, what else are you doing for fun? MB: Well, a couple of years ago we started a podcast called Vortex Radio. It’s an Atlanta-centric show where we talk about all kinds of stuff that makes our city awesome. Our guests include local bar owners, chefs, brewers, distillers, artists, writers, thinkers, movers and shakers. So while there’s absolutely no money in it for us, I really enjoy meeting so many interesting people. And did I mention cocktails are encouraged during our recordings? Yeah, it’s fun. Colin Murphy has been working as the Marketing and Social Media Manager for The Vortex for the past two years. SCE: How did you get involved with The Vortex, and what roles do you fill to hold it all together? Colin Murphy: I serve as the Media & Marketing Manager for The Vortex. It’s actually my first job after graduating from college, well this and a short stint as a barista. I was trolling job posting web sites and The Vortex obviously stood out. It was a perfect fit for me. I went to school for Photography and New Media and I’m able to use all of those skills here. Whether it’s taking photos for the social media accounts or producing our podcast, Vortex Radio, no day is the same at The Vortex. SCE: What is your single favorite attribute about The Vortex? CM: The atmosphere for sure. I actually used to visit The Vortex a good amount before I started working here. It was a place for my brother, my dad and me to meet up and get a burger and beers. The Vortex vibe is very no-nonsense, it was easy to feel comfortable here. I think a lot of people feel that way, and that’s why they keep coming back. It’s just a great place to chill. Oh and the juicy burgers and huge beer menu doesn’t hurt either in my book. 148 | 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 7
Marshall Chiles has been operating the Laughing Skull Lounge in the back the Midtown Vortex since 2009. SCE: How is the usual turn out for shows at the Laughing Skull Lounge? Marshall Chiles: The club is sold out most of the time. With only 80 seats, that may not be saying too much, but nothing sells out a club like a sold out club. SCE: At certain times you feature open mic nights for new comedians. What kind of success have those who started on your stage found in the entertainment business? MC: Atlanta is the new “hot bed” for comedy. In all humility, I like to think the Laughing Skull Lounge has had something to do with that. We not only start great comedians, but many people have actually moved to Atlanta to hone their craft before moving on to bigger ponds. Tons of our comedians have moved on to Los Angeles and New York City after scoring agents and managers. And almost all of those comedians have been on several TV shows, like Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central's Roast Battle and a bunch of late night talk shows. Not to mention that the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival is in its 8th year, and will be happening this May 1st through 8th. It’s actually more of a competition than a festival because the comedians compete... and then festival. Many finalists of this festival have also gone on to numerous television gigs and appearances. SCE: What are a few tips you can provide those who are thinking about being a comedian to make the trek less painful? MC: Don't start (laughs). Just kidding. First I’d say, always write. Write 10 jokes a day every day. After a week, that’s 70 jokes. Only one or two of them will be any good, but after 52 weeks, you’ll have 100-150 great new jokes. Secondly, always perform. There is absolutely no substitute for stage time. And also, always record. Getting a good tape on video is hard because people “get in their heads” when they’re being filmed. But if you only record on the “big shows” then you might get messed up mentally, because now you know there’s a camera on you. You need to get used to it. In skateboarding they call the video camera the flail gun, because you can be killing it, then someone busts out a video camera and you start goofing every trick. So if you always record, you won't be in your head as much for the big show. And you also just never know when you are going to catch lightning in a bottle.
We asked the waitresses and bartenders that work at The Vortex a few questions, and these are our favorite responses: 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 7
SCE: What dish, or dishes, do you suggest for those new to The Vortex? There’s a lot of crazy stuff on the menu, and of course The Vortex is known for its burgers. So I always recommend the Classic or Single Coronary Bypass Burger. They’re big and ridiculous. The Ka’Mana Wa’na Lei’ya Burger is really good too. I also like the Zombie Apocalypse. Oh hell, they’re all good. For an appetizer, I usually go with the Mac ‘N’ Cheesy Changa. It’s macaroni & cheese, and pulled pork, wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep-fried. I know, right? The Dixie Wrecked Taters are awesome too. It’s our version of poutine, made with fries or tots covered in white sausage gravy. And, it’s totally low-calorie.
SCE: What is the one thing you are often asked that really bugs you? “What beers do you have?” Since we carry over 100 brands,that would really be a difficult question to answer. That’s why we printed that lovely booze menu that’s right in front of you. Just read it. It’s even in alphabetical order. SCE: What are the most outrageous antics you’ve witnessed while working at The Vortex? There’s just too many to list. People get very comfortable here. But the really outrageous behavior usually involves having that “one drink too many.” I see lots of PDA. And due to the magical power of alcohol, you know, that makes you invisible, I’ve also seen my share of very happy nudity. Needless to say, it’s very different than the office job I used to have. SCE: Is there a drink that’s unique to The Vortex, and what is the story behind it? We have two specialty cocktails. One is The Vortex Skull Crusher. The owners told me they got the recipe from Satan, and I believe them. It’s kind of like a Long Island Iced Tea, but it wants to destroy your soul. We also have The Vortex Hip-Mo-Tizer. It comes in a really cool porcelain, skull-shaped tiki mug. It’s kind of like a Mai-Tai on steroids. Or maybe acid. It’s tasty as hell, and will sneak up on you, so be careful. Laughing Skull beer is made by a local brewery (Red Brick Brewery) and has our logo on the label, so that’s pretty cool too. SCE: What makes the bar scene at The Vortex different from the other spots in the area? The atmosphere is fun and unique. You can rub our “Dick of Destiny” for luck (in Midtown). The staff is pretty chill. And cute! The prices are really good. Better than a lot of other places. I even like drinking here. And the customers are mostly pretty cool. It’s just a fun scene. SCE: What is the best thing about being a part of the staff at The Vortex that can't be matched by any other bar or restaurant? I really like that it’s independent, and not some corporate chain. We’re encouraged to be ourselves and have fun. And we do have fun. It sure beats working. And the money’s good, especially for a burger joint. And that’s because our customers are the best. They kick ass. We’re all just one big disfunctional family. It’s pretty great.
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LINKS: The Vortex: https://thevortexatl.com/ Facebook Pages: The Vortex Midtown / The Vortex L5P Instagram and Twitter: @thevortexatl Vortex Radio: http://vortexradioatl.com/ Laughing Skull Lounge: laughingskulllounge.com
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Restaurant Interview with 61 Main Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks I have been a resident of Pickens County off-and-on since I was 12-years-old. In that wide expanse of time there have been many restaurants try to get a toehold on this quiet, artsy community. 61 Main has been an amazing addition to my home that has blessedly stood the test of time. When the Blue Mountain Review decided to take on the charge of representing the culinary arts, the one form of expression everyone needs above all others, this eatery topped my list as those who should kick off what I hope remains a pillar of every future issue. The owners, Tadd and Jenna Schreiber, and manager Rob Jarrett, selflessly give their time here to give you just a taste of why, if you’re in the area, you should drop in to get a mouthful of what they’re serving. 1) Please introduce yourselves. Give us the rundown of date you opened, how many years in operation, address, and personal philosophy that guides you along the path of good taste? The owners are Tadd and Jenna Schreiber, and we’ve been open since October of 2008 – quickly approaching nine years of operation. We are located at 49 south Main Street Jasper, GA 30143. The crux of our philosophy is to use only clean, fresh product to create a memorable dining experience while honing new flavor combinations, providing food "you would not cook at home”. 2) What was the divine spark that kicked off the concept of 61 Main? Has it changed much over the years? The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and on-point. What is the key to your training that creates such a relaxed-but-professional feel? Jenna always wanted a restaurant kitchen, Tadd always wanted a bar, where he would like to drink, and here we are! We are laid back people (no stuffiness allowed) but our product and service indicates only the highest level of professionalism. We are both perfectionists, very competitive, and passionate so each day we aim to please the masses, cook, and serve with lots of love. We keep our staff on their toes by consistently changing what we serve and how we serve it. We are built on a plan that we want to be the place that people can visit more than once a week and always find something different. 3) If you could have anything in the restaurant business, what would it be? Food? Chef? Location or multiple locations? Please let us in on the desires of your eatery. A perfect world for us includes all the product we need coming from the locals, and everyone always leaving happy! We are good with one location.
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4) What are the top 5 customer favorites on your menu? Fried green tomato blt Waldorf salad Primantis Grilled Pimento Cheese Our current dinner menu: pork dish 5) What is the most outrageous thing a customer, or customers, have done, said, or requested sine you've been open? We have never had any outrageous customers, ever. Although, if you want, you can ask me about the guy who did not like our ice â&#x20AC;&#x201C; that one is one for the books. 6) What are a few of your drink specialties? What makes your bar different from the mainstream? Just like the dinner menu, our cocktail menu changes seasonally. The current menu is very staff driven. It is probably the most popular cocktail menu we have had as far as selling a variety of drinks, rather than 1 or 2 off the menu. I think it has to do with our staff is local, so they know what our local customers like because they like the same things. Makes sense, doesn't it? The main thing that makes our bar different from other restaurant bars of similar pedigree: We are NOT mixologists. We do not wear suspenders, have handle bar mustaches and we are NOT self-important. We are real people who like to drink and so we make drinks that we like to drink if we could drink them (but we cannot because we are working). We are not trying to re-invent the wheel. We simply enjoy trying to get you a little loose to help you enjoy your time with us. 7) What music do you feature to create the ambiance so special to your location? Do you have any live events? Would you consider live music or readings at your location? We play a variety of music. Pandora is a wonderful app. Folk, 70s rock, Taj Mahal (personal favorite), Jazz, Sinatra, just trying to create a smooth easy going vibe for you while you dine. Don't play it too loud either. I like to talk to my company when I dine, so I would hope customers dining at 61 Main want to do the same. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to drown them out or make it difficult for them. We have tried live music and it just doesn't work with our space. We don't really have proper room/layout without re arranging the entire dining room, and that isn't going to happen. 8) Do you have an outside seating for the warmer or cooler months before the Southern climes become too extreme? Do you see people more inclined to sit inside or request more seating outside when the temps are right? 154 | 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 7
We have a small patio with two tables outside, and when the weather is right, they are the best seats in the house. 9) What do you bring to the Southern palate that you found no one else met? To be honest, we have not been able to dine out too much since opening 61 Main, along with the fact that we now have 3 small children, so we cannot speak for this question too much. Yet, in my opinion, I would hope/imagine that others are doing the same, similar, and potentially better than what we are doing in other parts of the South. What we want to do is the keep progressing, keep learning and keep putting out better food each and every day. Although we are competitive at heart, we are mostly competitive with ourselves. We want to beat each dish with the next, and that is what keeps us motivated. 10) If you had a motto beneath your sign, what would it read? Personally, I don’t want a motto, I would rather a person come in and make their own opinion of what we do, good or bad. I don’t feel the need to tell people what to think before they try us out. IF we are good, we are good, if not…well, that won’t happen! 11) Do you have any final thoughts for our readers? Our AMAZING and SUPER LOYAL customers make what we do worth all the hard work. We have some people who eat with us almost every meal of the week, if not, then close to it. As Jenna said in an answer to a question earlier: We strive to be able to take care of our customers so they can have something different each time they come. Our RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING staff, front and back of house, keep life smooth within 61 Main. Our kitchen crew is some of the toughest and most creative people I know. To see the dishes that they can put out is quite frankly mind blowing. Things you would NEVER EVER think would/could work, do work and more than just working together, they are crazy delicious. I cannot count how many times, I have been told by customers that they never liked “X food” and they tried it with us and now they love it. That is reason enough to do what we do. And our serving/managing staff is as good as it gets as well. We are obscenely lucky to have such a loyal server staff that, most of have been here for almost the entire time we have been open, and we have very rare turnover like most restaurants you see in the city. To be honest, I am not sure I could deal with a crazy amount of turnover like I hear about from other restaurants. We do our best to take care of them, almost as much as they do their best to take care of us and we are truly grateful for everyone who helps us be as good as we can be, day in and day out. As well, I cannot say enough about our manager Rob Jarrett. This guy came from a big- time job in Atlanta, giving up quite a bit to do so and work with us here. He has so much knowledge and skills that are well beyond what we know. He is all about what we strive to do, take care of our community. Bottom line, we love doing what we do. We certainly are not doing this for the money. We love our community and feel that they should have a place that serves good, honest, clean, creative food. Hopefully we are helping fill that.
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Atlanta Writerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Club Intro Founded in 1914, the Atlanta Writers Club is a community of 700 writers in the Atlanta area. As part of our mission to educate our members about the craft and business of writing, we hold an annual writing contest to recognize and encourage outstanding writing among our active members. We offer prizes in three categories: the Terry Kay Prize for Fiction, the Rick Bragg Prize for Nonfiction, and the Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry, each named in honor of a remarkable writer and friend of the Club. The following three pieces are the first prize winning entries in this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contest. We hope you enjoy the work of these talented writers as much as our judges did. If you are a writer in Atlanta or its environs, we would love to have you join us at a monthly meeting and perhaps even participate in the 2018 Contest. Feel free in the meantime to contact us through our website (www.atlantawritersclub.org) if you have any questions or need more information. Happy reading (and writing)!
Stan Cohen, "An Urban 7:16 AM" (Natasha Trethewey Prize for Poetry) Patricia Martin Holt, "Honoring Jesse" (Rick Bragg Prize for Nonfiction) Jill Cobb, "That Point in a Relationship" (Terry Kay Prize for Fiction) 156 | 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 7
Stan Cohen AN URBAN 7:16 AM The morning was different. Of course, all are. But the light vibrated. The sun not yet visible behind the buildings, concentrating a low cerulean, rising to grey, raising the horizon, outlining each crane, so they looked charcoal drawn. Unending opaque windows reflecting sharply, brightly, before the dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s broader wash left each tree equally important instead of just those at the standâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s front, focused clearly, the others faded, leaving me to wonder still how the Eiffel Tower would look, or New York, London, Dubai, against that wakening blue.
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Patricia Martin Holt My interview Jesse’s mother. She wore a frilly white blouse, a filigreed black vest, slim-cut jeans, boots and an arm full of silver bracelets. Her smile was wide and warm, her blue-grey eyes danced with curiosity. Honoring Jesse It wasn’t on a Thursday. Nor was it on a Friday. It was on a Monday in June 1993 when Art and I received the diagnosis. Son Jesse had cancer. It couldn’t be so. It was just a little bump a friend mentioned when he flicked Jesse’s hat off. Jesse forgot about it. When he mentioned it to me weeks later, I took him to the doctor. He said it was an infected hair follicle and put him on antibiotics. He was wrong. Playing basketball at church a few nights later, Jesse noticed that his head hurt. Once again he didn’t tell me for a couple of weeks. I was so exasperated. I told him “You’re thirteen years old. You have to tell me these things and show me where it hurts.” We requested an x-ray of his skull. The results were sent to our family doctor. He read it as normal and sent us to a lump and mole specialist who told us that everyone over twelve gets lumps and bumps removed. The specialist put a five inch incision in Jesse’s head, removed blood and shot it down the sink. He said it was a hematoma. He was wrong. In fact, the cancer had already gone to the bone. Unknowing, once a week for seven weeks I drove him to the specialist, who said it was normal for the lump to fill up then slowly dissolve. The seventh time he did it Jesse announced he was never going back. “He’s going into my brain!” I assured him we would not go back. Our family doctor had ordered an MRI. Now it was June, and still no diagnosis. On a Friday at the end of June, the MRI was finally done. The dye injected made Jesse very sick. We awaited results. On Monday morning, June 29, at 7:45 a.m. I answered the phone at my office, why I don’t know. The office didn’t open until 8:00. It was the doctor’s clerk asking where Jesse was. I told her he was in bed asleep. “Has he eaten?” “No. He’s in bed.” “Wake him up and bring him to Egleston now. Is he cognitive? We need to talk. Call us when you’re on your way.” Egleston is the children’s hospital next door to Emory University in Atlanta. Art and Jesse drove to pick up the original x-rays. I picked up the MRI reading and met them at the hospital. When we walked into the ER, the neurosurgeon greeted us. I told Art, “This isn’t good. When does a doctor wait to meet you at the door?” Unable to believe that Jesse was walking and talking, the neurosurgeon ordered another MRI. When he saw the result, he showed us the tumor. We didn’t understand what we were seeing. After several more tests, we were sent to Emory to determine how the tumor was being fed. When the radiologist said “I’ve never seen anything like this,” we felt like we’d been hit with a stun gun. I couldn’t breathe. God became real to me in that moment. I realized we were in for a long haul. We’d planned to go to Kansas for Art’s family reunion. The doctor told us to go, saying it would take him a week to gather the team to decide how to handle Jesse’s case. He told us to find people who would give blood, because Jesse’s skull would be opened. I focused on getting blood from people who led a clean life and became obsessed about eating healthy. Jesse’s surgery was scheduled for July 17. The doctors said he probably wouldn’t be able to speak and that we needed to say goodbye to the relationship we’d had and prepare for anything. We 158 | 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 7
didn’t know how we went through it. I had a foundation of strong faith and believed God wouldn’t leave us in that dark time. How could our little boy have cancer? He was a tousle- headed blue-eyed likeable athlete. He’d never been sick, always ready for fun and laughter. The night before the surgery God gave me a vision of a tough orange. God would peel it back, and there would be no root, and it would release. On the morning of the surgery people from our church, people we didn’t know filled the waiting room. A hundred people prayed and sang. They kept coming all day and stayed. We’d never witnessed such kindness and compassion from strangers. We attended the church for only three months, since our move from Orlando, Florida to Lilburn, Georgia and were barely acquainted with the parents of the high school our two older children attended. Jesse had just finished sixth grade. Fifteen hours later, the doctor came out to tell us that the tumor had the consistency of an orange rind. I fell to my knees. God was listening and knew what it was going to take. The doctors didn’t know what the damage would be, that Jesse had come through the surgery all right and that the tumor looked malignant. We were sent to the recovery room. Jesse’s tongue and face were hugely swollen. He said “Mom,” and put his thumb up. I knew our son was there and thanked God. We became professional sighers – sighing deeply, frightened of the unknown. Our older children were close and didn’t argue much. They were together in loving their brother. His first chemo was on August 1, two weeks after the surgery. Finally there was an accurate diagnosis. Jesse was one of eight people in the world with Ewing Sarcoma of the skull. We learned more than we wanted to know about cancer and became spokespersons for types and treatments. Jesse had always had many friends. He was a teenager, so he invited people into his life, and our house had been full of kids and adults. Now he’d be starting over. He went to school very few times the second year. This was before Facebook and Instagram. He spent much of his time journal writing and completing school work. The first year Jesse spent 268 days in the hospital. He had a very hard medical regimen filled with tests. He couldn’t attend school because there was only a skin flap over his skull, and he had to wear a specially designed helmet. He had the most amazing patience. He wanted people to learn from his case. Of course he got frustrated. He ached. He was taking so many drugs. He’d walk the halls and talk with the night nurses while everyone else slept. Despite the pain and the regimen if even one of his friends came to see him, he’d change in an instant. He’d dig deep and say he was doing great, when in fact he wasn’t. He had real struggles warring inside his head shared only with his Creator and his best friend in Colorado. I never left him. I spent far too little time with my daughter Danielle and son Caleb. When Danielle was invited to stay with other families, I was relieved and grateful that she was getting well deserved attention. They both came regularly to the hospital to visit. Caleb was in the eleventh grade and was on the football and baseball teams at Parkview High School. He was Jesse’s hero. Jesse would beg to have his chemo appointments and drugs administered so he could get out early to watch his brother play football on Friday nights. Later, when Caleb went to college to play baseball, he’d only have one day off. He’d drive more than eight hours just to sit with Jesse for a couple of hours. Their love ran deep. They were so close. Between 1993 and 1997 Jesse relapsed three times. The first time it was the left occipital lobe in the back of his brain. He had a terrible headache that wouldn’t stop. The pain was so intense that he was hospitalized. The doctors said it wasn’t cancer. It wouldn’t metastasize in the brain. Jesse kept insisting it had indeed returned. The doctors were wrong. In 1996, two nights before Christmas, he had open heart surgery. They found a thrombosis in his left ventricle while doing a routine EKG in preparation for a bone marrow transplant The doctors had never done such a transplant so soon after open heart surgery but Jesse led the team saying “I’m still a ready warrior,’’ In January 1997 he had a bone marrow transplant at Egleston with doctors supplied by Emory University Medical School. He was able to come home. We were so thankful that he had a couple of 159 | 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 7
months of freedom from doctors and hospitals. We had a huge Off Chemo party when he finished his first year of chemo and radiation. Little by little his friends slipped away. They were involved in sports and were busy. Their parents didn’t want their children around a dying child. Jesse couldn’t understand that, and I couldn’t explain it to him. “I’m not suffering today,” he’d say. “Where are my friends?” He became angry and frustrated, and took it out on me. There was tension. There was exhaustion. There was grief. There was Dr. Vega. He was great. We spent so much on doctor bills. We thought we must be buying his plane. We figured we’d already bought his boat. When Dr. Vega called, I’d tell Jesse he was on the speaker phone and wanted to talk. He’d say ‘Jesse, remember when I started this I said that I’d be the general and you’d be the soldier. Today you’re a soldier. When we finish this round I’ll take you out on my boat, and we’ll go fishing.” They became very close. Jesse received a fish and ski boat from the Children’s Wish Foundation and was finally allowed to go into lake water. We took the boat out on Lake Hartwell for Labor Day weekend. Caleb and Danielle came to the lake from college to have their first and last time on his boat, and to enjoy Jesse waterskiing and being with his family. At the end of the weekend Jesse relapsed on his boat. His headache returned in force. I drove ninety miles an hour to Egleston. Jesse asked me to pray that God would take us safely and that he would not have any seizures. He’d relapsed on his brain stem. The surgery took six hours. They put in a shunt for fluid buildup. When Jesse came to, he sat up on his bed. He looked at Dr. Vega and said, “You’re my friend right? Okay, so I’m going to die.” “Yes, you’re going to die, Jesse.” “I just want to know if you’re going to be in heaven. Because if you’re not, I’m not going to see you again.” “Jesse, there was a young man like you a few years ago who asked me the same question. I didn’t know, and I began to search. I became a person who loves Jesus, and I know I’m going to heaven.” Jesse leaned back onto the pillow and said “All’s well.” The next morning we left the hospital that had become part of our family. It was so hard. Jennifer his primary care nurse, the other nurses, everyone who’d spent time with Jesse was crying. So were Art and Jesse and I. We hugged them all. Jesse had walked this with such tremendous faith. We asked that God let him pass quietly. It required a drug to prevent seizures. The drug had to be refrigerated and administered timely, or it would crystallize in the line. That night Jesse’s hospice nurse came to the house to hook up the IV. The few children’s hospice nurses travel a three hundred mile radius. She didn’t have time to do it herself, so she drew me a picture and left for the next patient. I hadn’t slept for three days. I tried to hook it up, but I was so tired that my brain refused to work. I got all the supplies, the timer, everything. I went to put it together, and it had two male connectors. How could this happen? I’d promised Jesse that he wouldn’t go back to the hospital. He had to have this medicine on time or it would crystalize. I was frantic and began to cry in frustration. The doorbell rings. It’s almost midnight. Who would come here at this time of night? I answer the door. The lady says “My name is Stacy. I’m a nurse and God told me to come to this address.” 160 | 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 7
Dazed, I ask her “What kind of nurse?” “I’m a pediatric angel nurse. I fly sick children all over the country. “ I fell to the floor sobbing “You heard me, God.” Then I asked Stacy how she knew where to go. “My mom knew. I’ve been going to your church for a long time. I’ve been giving platelets for three years for Jesse. I sit behind you at church and pray for Jesse, and God woke me up tonight and told me to come.” Still shaking and crying, I told her that I couldn’t hook up the IV. Stacy got her medical backpack and had Jesse hooked up in ten minutes. There are defining moments, defining seasons, and defining years. In my spiritual walk God spoke to me and said ‘I’m listening and we’re going to honor Jesse, my son.’ Stacy went home and got her beach chair. She came every night and camped in Jesse’s room so we could rest. Four days later Jesse died peacefully, without a seizure. He was with his family at home and not in a hospital. His desires were honored. Before he died, he wrote us a letter. The letter and a photo of Jesse are framed and hanging in the living room. Jesse wrote: The doctors have told me that there is nothing they can do to get rid of the cancer that is in my brain, and I will probably die in a few months. If you are reading this it is because I have already died and have gone to heaven to be with Jesus. My dad is helping me write this because the cancer and drugs are really messing with my head and it’s hard for me to write. Here are a few things I want you to know. Three years ago the doctors told me I had a rare cancer that was really hard to get rid of. I had to go through countless chemo and radiation treatments, many surgeries, and lots of pain. But that’s okay because Jesus was with me all the time, and I always had the feeling that He wouldn’t let anything happen to me unless it came through His hands of love first. I think the real reason that Jesus let me go through all this was He wants you to come to know Him. If by my example you come to know Him, I will feel that my short life was not in vain! This is how God’s word tells us we can come to know Him. It’s real simple. First, agree with God that you are a sinner and really need Him. Second, believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again from the dead. Third, commit your life to Him as your Lord and walk with Him. As my Pastor always says, it’s not a religion but a relationship that saves us. Going to church and doing good things will never save anybody. I hope my family and friends won’t miss me too much. Just remember life is very short and we will see each other again shortly if you know Jesus. If you don’t know Jesus, please trust Him today so I can see you again. Till then all my love, Jesse
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Jill Cobb That Point in a Relationship Terry Kay Prize for Fiction A man and a woman rode together in the same car, going to the same place, to see the same friends, but when he jerked his hand away after brushing against her leg as he shifted into fifth gear, instead of lingering a bit, caressing her exposed skin with the back of his fingers, the woman became aware that their feelings and thoughts were traveling on different paths, possibly to different destinations. We’ve reach that point in our relationship, she thought to herself. They had been together for eight months, which was a notable length of time to have held onto the newness of their attraction. But now their relationship had transitioned – her leg getting in the way was an annoyance instead of an invitation to touch. It was inevitable. All relationships chafed and frayed a bit over time. “I guess we’ve reached the point where things don’t seem so perfect anymore,” she said. “What’s that?” Though he wasn’t sure what her words meant, he instinctively tightened his grip on the steering wheel, as though an angry bee was buzzing around in the car and any fast move could attract a sting. He wished he could roll down the window to let her words fly away. He’d already had a no-win conversation with his boss that afternoon, he didn’t want to have another. His boss wanted to change directions because some VP had suggested it. Never mind what the data showed. He wondered how much money companies spent on analytics that were ignored. She ran her hand along the hem of her dress, just above where his hand had grazed her. “You know, yesterday when your hand bumped me, you rubbed my leg.” “Sorry. My mind is on work.” His hand went to her thigh and rested there, warm and a little sweaty, but she noticed he didn’t even bother to look at her. “Yesterday, you were distracted, but you were glad when your hand bumped my knee.” “So?” “We’ve reached the point in our relationship where we’re starting to annoy one another. Things that had been sweet before are now starting to sour.” Finally, he looked at her – she had his attention now. The look had an underlying hostility to it, something she hadn’t seen from him before, which for a moment surprised her, until she remembered their relationship was different now. “There you go. You just proved my point,” she said with a curtness to her voice to let him know she was right. His eyes bulged. “I didn’t say anything.” “Your expression said it all.” “Give me a break. You’re making this about me, but maybe you’re the one with the problem.” “So now I have a problem? Let me guess I’m also crazy just like all your exes.” “I didn’t say that! Why are you picking a fight with me?” “I’m not. I’m just commenting that we’re at that point in our relationship where everything isn’t perfect anymore, but you picked the fight by pretending everything was fine. Are you still pretending everything’s fine?” “No. Does that make you happy?” “No, but I was a few minutes ago until your grumpiness rubbed off on me. And now we’re both in a shitty mood, unless, of course, you’re happy?” His fingers flailed up from the steering wheel. “Nobody’s happy.” She crossed her arms and looked out the window. “Funny thing is that yesterday I received a notice that my rent is going up. I was sure I’d just move in with you. But that was yesterday….” He finished the unspoken end to her sentence in his head: and today we’ve reached that point 162 | 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 7
in our relationship. Was this supposed to make him want to move in together? She would have to pick the moment of their first fight to bring this up. He remained silent, so she decided to forget about the mention of moving in together. She uncrossed her arms and smoothed her dress. “Maybe we should work on things, say what’s bothering us.” He took a deep breath. This was a trap, but he had to say something, otherwise she’d get angrier. He’d say something small. “Okay, so yes, I’d like to shift without hitting your leg. That’s not a big deal, right?” “No, I guess not. And I don’t like how you rub your forearms against the dinner table. Your muscles grinding against the table sound really gross.” She scrunched up her nose and looked at him as though he were a muddy dog. “Alright, how about you let your phone go to voicemail sometimes?” “Agreed. And can you not clear your throat so much.” “What are you talking about?” “This.” She choked out an exaggerated cough, sticking her tongue out like a cat coughing up a hairball. “I don’t do that.” “Hmm, maybe you do.” “Maybe when you come over instead of tossing your jacket and purse on the couch, you could put them away.” “When I come over? So, does this mean you don’t want to move in together?” He resented her for springing this on him and then dragging it back up on a day when he was in a crappy mood, when they were having their first argument. Perhaps her timing was precisely so he’d say he didn’t want to live together, so she could be the victim. When they first met, she played the damsel in distress – misused by an awful ex-boyfriend, a horrible boss, and her neglectful parents – and he had wanted to save her, but as their relationship continued, he met these people and they didn’t seem so bad. He suspected that the world hadn’t wronged her any more than it had wronged him, the difference was she didn’t want to solve her problems because she enjoyed bitching about them too much. She watched something in his jaw flinch, not sure if it was tendon or a muscle, whatever it was he’d need crowns at some point in his life the way he clenched his teeth. This was his way, though. He wouldn’t tell her what was bothering him, he’d keep it bottled up inside and then do something passive-aggressive later. “Are you going to say anything?” she asked. “I don’t think this is a good time to talk about moving in together.” “Fine. We won’t talk about it.” Her fingers tapped on the leather seat. 1-2-3-4. 1-2…. “Thing is, we’re at that point where we need to make a decision. Either we move forward or we break up.” “We haven’t even been dating half a year.” “Eight months.” “Still, not that long.” “I thought we were on the same page. Wanted the same things.” She raised a finger as she listed each shared goal. “Dog. Kids. House. Those things don’t happen on their own.” “And right now, when we’re fighting, do we want any of those things?” They both regretted the question as soon as it came out. Though in the heat of the moment, they both wanted to hurt the other even if it meant hurting themselves, a small part of them wanted to prevent the pain, a small part could look at the past and see all the passion of their early romance and imagine a future where that passion became a love that burned to their dying days. They were on the precipice of throwing it all away and were uncertain if they could stop the momentum. In attempt to take the question back, he blurted out. “Okay, we’ll decide.” 163 | 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 7
“We will?” “Yes, you’re right. We’re at that point. You first.” “I don’t want to go first. What if we say it in unison what we want? On the count of three say either break-up or move-in.” They blurted out their answers, speaking over one another, hearing their own words and the other person’s words echo in their ears so that they became confused on who had said what. But what they were certain about was that the sound had been cacophonous, the words had conflicted with one another. One had said break-up and the other move-in. Then they rode in silence.
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Photography & Paintings
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Isabelle Gautier was born and grew up in Normandy, just a few miles from The Landing Beaches in north-western France. Working as a professional artist over the past fifteen years, she has paused long enough to raise her children. Isabelle Gautier moved to Milton, GA in 1999 with her husband and two sons where she lives and works today. Her early artistic development was inspired by a love of nature, color and design. Influenced by the French impressionist artists of the 19th century, Gautier has a strong passion for 20th century expressionist painters as well. Her extensive travels across all continents have left a lasting impression on her prolific oeuvre . Her work has a distinctive style that employs a rich balance of vibrant colors and neutrals, abstraction and representation, movement and calm that transitions beautifully from her landscapes and abstracts to her flower paintings. Represented by different galleries within the United States, her artwork has also been featured in the TV Show â&#x20AC;&#x153;Christy Knows Bestâ&#x20AC;?, Southern Appalachian National Show, 2013 HGTV Smart Home, Neiman Marcus Gallery, Marietta/Cobb Museum and other fine arts galleries around the Southeast. Most of Gautier's collectors are in The United States and Europe. Atlanta Fine Home Sotheby's International Realty, The City of Milton (GA) new City Hall and Kennedy-Douglas Center in Florence (AL) are just few of them. Gautier is proud to support her community donating countless paintings or time to local organizations and charities mostly aiming to help children and women causes.
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Patricia Perrier Radix
Patricia Perrier Radix is a French painter and a passion-seeker. She has learned from experience, curiosity, pleasure and suffering. She enjoys working with oil painting and a palette knifeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;as well as her fingers. www.patapom.fr https://www.facebook.com/patap om.artiste/ 167 | 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 7
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Rae Broyles Bio/ Artists Bio I was raised by a "Madman". Growing up in 1960's Chicago, I was surrounded by my fathers' freespirited lifestyle as a painter, illustrator, jazz pianist and eventually advertising exec extraordinaire. My father, Ray Raedel, was a student of Norman Rockwell and an accomplished painter. His father and 3 generations before that were also painters traced back though Danish history. Dutifully, I studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and then the preeminent Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where I learned many technical aspects of art through the help of great teachers and mentors including painter Richard Merkin. I then spent over 15 years in the commercial art world. My career culminating with the role of Creative Director. But during this time, creating with a distinct marketing purpose and numerous limitations became lackluster and unfulfilling. Now, after 16 years of painting, I find myself complete, as an artist, a creator, an author of visual poetry. There is no longer an alternative. Color, texture, tactile adventures are what move me. I can let myself freely discover new images, vexing techniques and alternative ways of presenting emotion while I fall away from this world and into a realm of physical and mental reverie. It is important to me that the energy that I feel while I create art is evident in the final piece. The result of the unexpected variations invites the viewer to experience the variable nature of my painting process. I also hope to offer the opportunity to use one's own imagination while experiencing these pieces. My process and materials are my motivation but I also succumb to the thought that I am but a vessel trough which creativity flows; putting down on the canvas the images that exist in the universe but and have yet to be physically realized." I have experimented with many techniques and have repeatedly discovered my own processes. After creating a series of cyanotypes covered with wax, I then went onto mix chemicals to create a van dyke brown sun-sensitive fabric which can be seen in my living Shroud Series. I have also created a unique process of incorporating video and 2-dimensional abstract painting. These video-graphic works incorporate dance choreography, painting and video production as well. Most recently, I am headed towards a new minimalism. It is a calming of sorts in the respect that it is not work void of emotion like traditional minimalists but more an essentialism in my work. Most recently, I have been accepted into the National Artists program at the prestigious A.I.R Gallery started by Nancy Spero in 1972. I was named Media Media Artist of the year 2016 by Art Design Consultants in Cincinnati Ohio and I am a platform artist winner with work on display this April in Art Expo New York 2017. My work has also been seen at Caelum Gallery in Chelsea at the New York Art Week Show in March of 2017.
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« The way I conceive art, especially painting, confronts me with a feeling of vulnerability, even weakness. I claim my incertitude in front of the canvas. For me, as for many other artists, it is the action of painting that creates the intention, and not the opposite. The destruction-reconstruction process will lead, not to a preconceived outcome, but rather to a desired emotion revealed at last. My work of art finished, I can’t help but think it is the result of fate. There is an unpredictable, alchemical aspect, which eludes me in the creation process. Sometimes one must draw upon ones most intimate resources as energy and enthusiasm often wither away. Disoriented, lost and discouraged, emotions continually take the upper hand. Accidents may even restart the engine. At the end of this engagement, that can sometimes be akin to a thorough struggle, I hope to succeed in a harmony, comparable to a musical composition open to all rhythms and nuances. » -----------------------------Born in 1954 in Bordeaux, Jean-Charles Millepied started painting at the prime of his life, after a path filled with diverse encounters and influences in the arts world.In his technique he makes an original use of acrylic, emphasized by collage and imprints. Gestural traces, rhythm and intensity animate spaces rich in colour that mingle fragility and vulnerability. School of Fine Arts of Bordeaux. Member of the Taylor Foundation. Exhibited regularly since 2003 in France and abroad (Paris London Morocco Israel Spain Russia Tokyo Egypt Tunisia -------------------------It’s obvious that Jean-Charles Millepied (Benjamin Millepied’s uncle, the dancer) has a unique position in the much frequented world that we call abstract expressionism. His approach, marked by a rare humility, is one that renounces the three-dimensional form to elaborate a very personal By Jean-Charles Millepied universe where painting is deliberately subordinated to the spontaneous expression of the subconscious, and yet it is still tempered by reason. His particularly refined palette reveals shades that seem to come together in what looks like effortless harmony. However virtuous, we would be wrong to see it as simple improvisation. If his lyrical art touches us, and often moves us, it’s that the artist never passes over the placement of colorings. From one work of art to another, Jean-Charles Millepied organizes the improbable but sumptuous encounter of French classicism – that th flourished with Nicolas Poussin in the 17 century – and the New York school of art – that blossomed with Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock in the fifties. The frenetic jubilation of American abstract expressionism entrusted to the Discourse on the Method! The art of ardour
Explaining the painting of our artist would be arrogant. The more we enter the pictorial universe of Jean-Charles Millepied, the more mysterious his creativity becomes… Let us simply identify a few snippets of his artistic vocabulary. The audacious harmony of the composition, the intertwining of grace and sensuality, the moving modesty which suggests a dreaming sensation or melancholy that belong only to him, the mixing of simplicity and greatness: so many elements rooted in French classism! Like the musical fugue that necessitates a mastery of the counterpoint science, the artist submits the liberating ardour of gesture and color to the necessities of harmony and the laws of painting. “It is clear, therefore, that the choice of object (i.e., of one of the elements in the harmony of form) must be decided only by a corresponding vibration in the human soul” wrote Kandinsky (Concerning the Spiritual in Art), before adding: “This basis will be defined as the principle of inner necessity”. Jean-Charles Millepied’s painting is the multicolored expression of this “inner necessity”. His art of ardour reveals to us the scenery of his soul, deployed as many sources of joy, emotion, and a delight for the eye, where one wishes to stay. Here, the pictorial space is so immense that its qualities seem infinite, as such there is always some room left. Each and everyone can lose themselves and find a contagious serenity, a true beauty where colors, music and poetry converge. Noël Coret – Writer of Art - Honorary President of the Salon d'Automne Paris WORKS : N°1 : Untitled 70X100cm Mixed media on paper N°2 : Untitled Triptych 150x150 Mixed media on canvas N°3 : Untitled 40x50 cm Mixed media on paper N°4 : Untitled 24x32 cm Mixed media on paper
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Outro The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. -Harriet Ann Jacobs Congratulations are due as we have made another glorious trip around the sun. Although January gets all of the credit for the coming of the calendar year, Spring brings us a glorious rebirth of all that our blue world has to offer. Azaleas and Dogwoods bloom with indefinable beauty as our native wildlife give birth to a new generation of offspring. As this magical time of year takes place we, as humans, also seem to be rejuvenated in our missions and ambitions. It is a wondrous time in our 365 and ¼ rotations around this globe and, quite possibly, the only time in which we as a majority stop to smell the roses. Many times in life we pass though the days in angst of what is yet to come. We battle the weekly grind simply because it is an errand we must perform in order to make our next retreat of our choosing. But, not this time of year; oh no. Spring is the time of year that demands our attention each and every time we venture out into its colorful landscape. Whether it be a blue sky that bolsters the color blue that can only be described by its own name, or a rambunctious Spring storm that whisks away the old and withered limbs from the past year. This is the season of new beginnings. A mother, of any species, has its litter and begins its raising, as nature has deemed fit for more centuries than we can be sure of. But what of the mothers that have the audacious outlook to raise progeny that was not born of their own flesh? We humans take in animals all the time, as we have a natural love for our earthly kin, but why we would we be the only ones to do so? We have all heard of children raised by wolves, but this is not that far from fable. Mothers of different species take in other species as their own throughout the animal kingdom. It may seem absurd, but there is factual evidence of peacocks raising geese, cats raising squirrels, and even dogs raising tigers. All of these examples seem unnatural, but they are of nature, therefore natural. We like to view the world’s creatures as predator and prey, but many times the paternal forces of nature push beyond genus and into the pure and prevailing power of love. We, as a species, would be ignorant not to take heed to what mother earth is conveying unto us. We, humans, are all diverse. We identify ourselves with a specific race, creed, gender, nationality, and all the way down to where we stand in society’s financial standards. The fact of the matter is that we are all infinitely unique, yet travel parallel paths and share in natural tendencies. We sometimes find ourselves very prideful in our correctness, and are therefore territorial if another individual’s views argue that of our own. This pride is something that we must wash away like the rambunctious storms of Spring do the old limbs that are no longer viable in the world we live in. Take heed to mother earth’s lessons of adopting those that may seem unlike us and view these ideas and opinions from another point of view than our own. What is there to lose? Knowledge, growth, enlightenment, and, of the most importance, modesty. There is nothing more essential in this changing world than an open mind. This does not mean one must change their ideals with each strong argument. It’s meaning is 182 | 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 7
strictly that there are resolutions that we may never conclude. Why must we fight over them? There are philosophies we believe we KNOW, but in actuality, we do not. Having an open mind lends us the courage to admittance of being erroneous, but also the option of learning a truth we have not yet stumbled upon. We have two choices. We can argue, fight, and kill until the end of time, or we can share, give, and love as Mother Nature does its foster children of numerous species. Open the blinds to your soul and embrace the glorious light of an open mind as the beauty of Spring is returning her beautiful bounties to us. There are many issues that we believe we are one hundred percent certain of, but I say unto you, brothers and sisters, the one thing that I truly know in my heart . . . is that I do not know it all. We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives. -Gary Zukav All of My Love, Dusty Huggins
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Cliff writes in “The Soma of a Fevered Condition” “…night needs no introduction as I adore everything after midnight.” It is this passion— unpredictable, rich, contagious– that will draw you into the tender poems in the Draw of Broken Eyes, poems that not only reflect his childhood and young adult years—but the lessons they have taught him. You will experience the loss of love “you are the catalyst and the razor, the haunting I can’t remember”, the pain of regret–“a road has stolen her closeness to me, the door is flung open with nothing outside but a humid afternoon” and the longing for redemption, where Brooks writes “reminding a sinner home is home, even alone.” Like Don Henley’s Desperado, Cliff’s life has been filled with many opportunities, though often times it seems he has only wanted those things he could not have.So, did this whirling-dervish of a Renaissance man finally find his redemption? You’ll have to decide for yourself—but the journey in The Draw of Broken Eyes is not to be missed. And then there is Whirling Metaphysics, the second book in this two-part collection. In what Cliff says is a sort of re-creation of his days working with the Department of Juvenile Justice in rural northwest Georgia, these poems will sting you with their honesty and shock you with their insight. —David R. Altman, author of Death in the Foyer
Clifford Brooks’s Athena Departs is tornadic, both in its dizzying whirl of settings, images, and motifs and in its sheer elemental energy. In this book, love swirls around disdain, defiance swirls around regret, the mythic swirls around the mundane. We are picked up in Athens, Georgia and set down in Athens, Greece. The speaker is one moment a content man taking in a simple pleasure and then a tortured soul incapable of finding peace. He’s a barroom denizen, then Orpheus, then Samson, then Doc Holliday. It’s been said that we can never truly judge the merit of poetry in our own time, but can only determine whether it is genuine, whether it is authentic. If that is the case, then I can be certain in my judgment: This work is purely genuine, wholly authentic. There is nothing faked here, nothing pretended to. Athena Departs is poetry fully meant by its creator, delivered with the force of a whirlwind. —Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth
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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&#x20AC;&#x2122;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&#x20AC;˘ 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
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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&#x20AC;&#x2122;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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