THE BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Feature Interview with Dan Veach Creative Chats with: William Wright, Michelle Roberts, & Tyler Lee Frush Poetry Essays Prose Photography
The Blue Mountain Review All rights to the works within this issue remain with the respective artists and writers. Cover art courtesy of Sandra Smith
Masthead: Poetry Editor - Asha Gowan Prose Editor - Jennifer Avery Interviews Conducted & Collected by - Peter Ristuccia & Clifford Brooks The Southern Collective Experience The Blue Mountain Review email@example.com
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Table of Contents Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………3 Nancy Davenport……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….6 Tobi Alfier………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..11 Michael Enevoldsen………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….14 Outside Author Interview with William Wright……………………………………………………………………………15 Mechelle Ballew………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..19 Scott Thomas Outlar…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………26 Brandon Marlon………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………29 Jim D. Deuchars………………………………………………………………………………………………………….……………35 Outside Author Interview with Michelle Roberts………………………………………………………………………...40 Featured Photographer: Sandra Smith……………………………………………………………………………………….47 T.C. Carter……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….58 Meagan Honea…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………66 Musician Interview with Tyler Lee Frush…………………………………………………………………………………….70 Clifford Brooks…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………74 Genesis the Greykid………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….78 Brent Ellis………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..81 James Murdock……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….82 Interview with Featured Artist: Dan Veach…………………………………………………………………………………90 Robert L. Penick………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………97 Dee Thompson……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….103 J.D. Cagle……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….117 Outside Author Interview with Ben Smith…………………………………………………………………………………122 Felino A. Soriano…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….128 Outro…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….129
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Introduction A family is not always about bonds of blood. A group of people working together with shared passion can be a family. Recent discoveries prove trees have a social network. The organisms appear to be separate entities, but they communicate in ways we are only beginning to understand. Generations of interconnected root systems send messages to each other. The collective is that forest. The collective are those people. Some of us have never met in person, but we are working towards the same goals and we all believe in the power and necessity of the arts. In this issue we reveal desperate prayers, powerful invocations, and moonlit incantations. Art is a path to the spiritual. We praise nature, value meditation, and say no to the noise of 21st century. We walk out of the old house to the backyard and the woods beyond it. We are going out there to find time for the imagination, and to acknowledge the Muse and the Crone. We are going out there to stand under the moon, even in the wind and snow, to worship. The paths will take you to the old barn in the field to reveal its after-storm secrets, filling your senses with unnamed scents of the wild and the exquisite beauty of dew on a spider web or sunlight through leaves. These dirt trails will guide you down through Appalachia, to the South and to the West. They speak of life on the road, hinting at the life of the bluesman in the bar, or the cowboy on the range, but they always come home to rest. They decry demands of a modern world, the ugliness of courtroom and hospital. Over and over they relate how the natural world eases the discord of the one encased in technology and plastic. Like the forest, artists bring healing to the world. As walking in a forest reduces stress and brings about feelings of peace, so too do artists enrich others. The work we do is like the quiet voice of the trees. It is a language that need not be outlined in bold letters to be understood. It inspires simply by existing. It draws the eye and the mind to something both beautiful and primal deep within our psyche. We need trees for oxygen and aesthetic, the same way we need art. Without them we will not be able to breathe, and we will go mad with the soul-crushing ugliness of too many vistas of concrete and steel. We need the slow shapes of the forest, the hushed rhythms of poetry. Dusk is falling. Leave your cellphone behind, and walk into the lush forest with us. ---Chani Zwibel February 2016
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Nancy Davenport Birthday Mindfulness Poem mistakes are the portals to discovery ~~James Joyce /// I have
have never really minded getting older wisdom
I have finally accepted the powerlessness
of it all
is it possible to age backwards while watching bloom petal
a lily a pink lily by petal? I think so
is lined with experience foresight
a few mistakes
itâ€™s turned up to the sun during meditation for gratitude in love to the warm
for some peace
I like my
up and down
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I never before the steam rising simply
really noticed or is
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August Monday Morning Examination Some come to laugh their past away Some come to make it just one more day Whichever way your pleasure tends if you plant ice you're gonna harvest wind ~~Robert Hunter /// SO I begin my search
listening to Jerry what and
what is my personality made up of? inborn traits handed down throughout time
making me my psyche
timeless a child a woman
making peace with the decisions and choices that I make that I have made by my examination of what I am now place my feet my own personal
who I am baggage
where I choose to heavy and light
my choices these all scar me but color me make me bright like a parrot that has gained
from and through
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June 2 Retrograde Mindfulness Sing my songs to me Sing them to me softly Sing me sunlight and shadows Orange groves and meadows Let your voice ring back my memories Sing my songs to me ~~Jackson Browne /// HOW grateful I am this morning for
(the distraction of) my earphones
my thoughts my life
the people knocking on the door trying to
those half-packed boxes in my kitchen but
the sun is
milk for my coffee rather
a full strawberry
glorious today moon
appeared in the night
there are high tides
running in my
but in the end
I will be bigger
a hot strawberry moon a
more beautiful more female a
blowing dust out of momâ€™s old Dansk coffee cups as I pack them up in the box
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Nancy Davenport is a single mother who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay. She has had poems published in Burning Grape, Bicycle Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Lilliput Review, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry Quarterly, Red Fez, Yellow Chair Review, Street Voice and has recently been accepted for publication by Pacific Poetry. She has had her work translated into German and Spanish, and has been published in three anthologies, UNDER COVER, SPARRING WITH BEATNIK GHOSTS, and ARCANA: THE TAROT POETRY ANTHOLOGY. Nancy’s chapbook, La Brizna, was published in May, 2014 and she is currently working on her second book, Smoked Glass. She is the mother of an amazing son, a student at the University of Puget Sound. Nancy’s favorite quotation is is Beckett’s: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
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Marie Laveau and Me The woman beckoned through a window that could have been air. She was compelling, so I walked up the stairs and went inside. Her blue eyes and bright colors everywhere spoke to me—I heard only those eyes, those colors, not the hordes swarming Bourbon Street, their go-cups and Pall Malls in both hands, yelling from one to another let’s go eat here. She called me “child”. Mixed up some potions she swore I wanted, some tiny stones in a leather sack to wear around my neck, to make bullies kind, she said, and yes, that I do need. We hugged. She slipped the pouch over my head, told me to get on home. These wicked nights and drunks were not for me. A comfort she was, like oncoming tides, even and slow. Her name? I could not say.
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Odd Little Family Uncle Lucius and Aunt Betts had a cabin two hours west of us in non-rush hour, even with dad hungover and anxious, even on storm-slick roads, you could set your watch by that time. Betts was mom’s younger sister. She gave the best hugs, and could listen to our laments even while peeling potatoes, having a smoke and talking to her 70-year-old alone friend Joan on the phone. We loved to eavesdrop on Betts as she consoled Joan, her ash dropping into a cooling cup of coffee. What we learned from Betts seared us precocious about the thorny nuances of friendship. We also learned how to read cookbooks, forty ways to make wicked mashed potatoes, and the differences in avocados— from her avocado man at the Farmer’s market. If we had homework, we’d bring it, Betts watching sideways as we drooped from boredom, Otherwise we’d be family. We never knew most people had TV and didn’t tell stories or chat until bedtime. Sometimes we’d help Uncle Lucius in the garden until “skunk hour”, when the brilliant sky turned gray with dusk, when skunks slunk from the gaining dark to plunder his green beans and lettuce. They paid us no mind as long as they weren’t startled. We’d go back into the cabin and played no tricks. Yes, people thought we were odd. No school dances, no trick-or-treating— we missed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, probably the only ones I knew who did. 12 | 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 2
Come Sunday Aunt Betts would hang our shirts on the line to smell like sun, pack some snacks, and wait with us for dad, the lightest twilight drizzle a silence near immaculate.
Tobi Alfier is a five-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. Her most current chapbooks are “The Coincidence of Castles” from Glass Lyre Press, and “Romance and Rust” from Blue Horse Press. Her collaborative full-length collection, “The Color of Forgiveness”, is available from Mojave River Press. She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
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Michael Enevoldsen IN THE WAKE OF AUTUMN NIGHTS In seas of solitude seashells sang songs of light moments in the sun Each song an echo of summer breeze. In seas of solitude seashells sang lullabies of green, to light up the dark depths. That shrouded dreams of spring in the wake of autumn nightsâ€Ś
Michael Enevoldsen is a poet and photographer, who lives in Denmark, just outside the capital of Copenhagen. He has education as both a gardener and preschool teacher. The latter he finished at the University College of the city of Roskilde in 2015. His interests include literature, metaphysics, philosophy, meditation and nature â€“ particularly bird watching and hiking. His poems have appeared in some international magazines, including Lummox Poetry Anthology 4 (USA), Calliope: Literary and Visual Arts Magazine (USA) Yellow Chair Review (USA), The Commonline Journal (USA), Time of Singing, (USA), Aquillrelle Anthology (Belgium), Section 8 Magazine (one micropoem combined with two of his photos) (USA), Indiana Voice Journal (USA), Writing Raw (USA), Under the Fable (UK), A Divine Madness: an Anthology of Modern Love Poetry - Volume 1 and 4, Dead Snake (CANADA), A New Ulster (UK) ,Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine (UK), Harbinger Asylum (USA), Poetry Scotland (UK) and VerbalArt (India).
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Outside Author Interview with William Wright Interview collected and composed by Clifford Brooks William Wright is nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2016, and is the author or editor of twenty volumes. His most recent book is Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press, 2015). He is the series editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press) and assistant editor for Shenandoah. I crossed paths with William Wright in early 2015 after I read his featured poems within the San Pedro River Review. I had one poem in there, and I found honor in being on paper with Wright. I wrote him an email, and—after greetings were shared, and work compared—we set up to trade books. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that not only are we sons of the American South, we live in the same state—and about an hour from the other’s front door. Since contacting Wright, there have been numerous ideas, frustrations, and successes shared over the weird tributaries of a year. William Wright is a furiously busy man wearing a dozen hats. He is working on an anthology, another collection of poetry, well over five “side projects” for various outlets, and has just started a writer-inresidence position at the University of Tennessee. Although he is no stranger to the poetry scene springing up to put the Tired School of Cryptic to bed, Wright is extremely private. He is a combination of whirlwind activity and gentle grizzly that I am lucky enough to snag for an interview. 1) Many writers I've talked to often say they listen to music while they write. Do you? If so, who are the top 5 bands you dig while using your laptop? Are there any rituals you go through before writing if music isn't your bag? I don’t ever write with music playing in the background, but I do have some go-to pieces that help me prepare. And while I know this will reek of snobbery and elitism, it’s the truth—and it’s not because of the “high-mindedness” associated with the work: I listen to Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations when I’m about to work. I also listen to other contrapuntal music from the Baroque era: the structures and the explosions of ideas in the time-signatures help me figure out how to use language in ways that I hope are surprising. I also listen to Bach’s sonatas on guitar, and my favorite—the one that always transfixes me—is the Chaconne (BWV 1004), especially an interpretation by a guy named Sanel Radzic. 2) When you do readings, do you become theatrically drawn into your work, pausing and emphasizing to let the listener hear how you felt in the piece, or do you prefer a more flat delivery that keeps the reader guessing? 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 2
I’m somewhere in the middle. I find extreme theatricality during readings extraordinarily annoying and often embarrassing, unless the poet is a performance artist and is synthesizing two modes of presentation—it is not always obvious if the latter is the case. Writers who pause for far too long, sway, and dance around their words subdue for me any textures their language might have had. They draw attention more to their identities as performers than to their poetry. When this happens, I close my eyes during readings, but the playfulness or lugubriousness in their delivery usually displaces and bombards me enough that I can’t get much from the reading. Ninety percent of the time it seems unnecessary and like acting. Let the words “perform” for you—don’t feel you need to come out doing capoeira or wushu while you recite your villanelle. As for me: I just read my work, and I try to read it with care. There is a little bit of melodic structure to my delivery, but just a little. I’ve been told that my “entrances” and “exits” into poems are well delivered. My biggest hope is to focus verbally on the language and to have that language move someone in the audience. I have an issue with stage fright, even as I’ve done a fair share of readings. So at first my voice shakes a bit, and within seconds my mind tells itself, “Hey, you’re here for them, and (some) of them are here for you. Don’t worry.” Then the fear, the vulnerability, goes away. 3) How much do you explain your poetry, and its meaning, to the listeners? Do you give background upfront, or wait for one of the listeners to ask a direct question? I do offer context—my poems are often dark, but their catalysts are often circumstances that are darkly comical, so I try to ease the audience into my work by letting them know why I’m reading a particular poem and how the piece came to be. They typically appreciate it, I think, though in front of relatively large audiences I’ve been known to blather due to nervousness. I think I’ve hit a good balance. Since some of poems are quite literally inspired by events—often parasomnias—I know that most in the audience appreciate a bit of scaffolding. 4) Can you speak a bit more to the identity of the poet? You seem to have some strong views about what a poet should be. For me, the word “poet” is a fantastic and aspirational term, almost like “warlock” or “angel.” I am literally a poet when I am writing poetry, but otherwise I call myself a “writer.” This has to do with my own neuroses about my work, but it also has to do with perceiving others in the field. And I also write scholarly essays, literary journalism, creative nonfiction, and am working on a novel, so “writer” is simply a more accurate catch-all term. 5) What do you mean by “perceiving others”? As an editor, I tend to encounter a lot of poets and writers. (I’ve only encountered one warlock.) Many, many writers—including me—have idiosyncratic personalities, very particular notions of how things ought to be, and all of us are delusional to some degree; that’s the fun of it all. But as with any age, there are groups of people who are clearly far more concerned with maintaining the idea of being a poet rather than writing poetry. Similarly, there are far many self-proclaimed poets who, for whatever reason, do not read poetry. To become a poet of any consequence, one must of 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 2
course understand to some degree (while maintaining humility and Socratic ignorance) the sea of voices that exist out there—and I’m not merely talking about the amorphous bee-swarm of contemporary poets, but the Romantics, the Victorians, the modernists—as well as international poetries. 6) Then what are the most important personality traits a poet should have? Number one would be kindness. Even as I’m afraid that my answers thus far paint me as a curmudgeon, my hope is to maintain kindness to folks who fall into all categories: beginners, emerging poets, great poets, the humble, the hyper-deluded, etc. Being kind to someone and showing empathy (or at least sympathy) to them is key. Being genuinely willing to reach out to them without condescension—and being genuinely willing to learn from them and their distinct joys and sorrows. Second would be a sense of humor. Many writers take themselves far, far too seriously. Just because you might write “serious” literature shouldn’t preclude you from laughing at yourself sometimes—or dwelling in the absurd for a bit. Third would be something I mentioned before: Socratic ignorance. Admit what you don’t know, even if such admissions are at a slant. And as you learn, nod knowingly (and with a smile) at the vast and growing abyss of what you don’t—and might never—know. 7) You write strong poetry—poetry that’s been termed as “sinewy” and “muscular.” Let’s keep with this theme of Socratic ignorance: given that you’re writing poetry many readers find satisfying, what do you think could make it even stronger? On the surface, I think I need to dedicate more time to my writing. As an editor and a freelance writer, lots of time gets sucked into those activities, as I need to make a living, but my hope is that I can find time to allow my imagination to run through its tributaries more often. In terms of style and technique: I am a sound-drunk poet: Hopkinsian sometimes, and I find upon reading my work after leaving it in the drawer cold for a bit that sound sometimes overwhelms the sense. I have a really strange form of synesthesia: I actually see words as three dimensional objects. I often fantasize about plucking them from the air and eating them—or at least chewing them, savoring their texture and flavor. As a consequence, certain word combinations send me into an almost lexical narcosis. I’ve been known to walk around the house and say certain words over and over to the point that they lose context and meaning. I think the term is called verbigeration. But back to the question: I have more reading to do, more stylistic chances to take, more imaginative leaps to make, and certainly more tweaking of the equilibrium between sound and sense. 8) What bits of advice would you give to writers? Number 1: Understand that if you become serious about this that you will (most likely) become freighted with a sense of dissatisfaction about your work. You will be laden with doubt—perhaps even neuroses. Take these “bad” things and know that they are good. They are the didactic conscience: They ensure that you will read and learn as much as you can to become the best you can. Number 2: Be kind to others. Seriously: Especially in this social media-driven world, envy crops up from time to time, but you need to remember that people curate their lives: they usually only tell us about the good stuff. Even if they are publishing everywhere and you’re not, understand that they too 17 | 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 2
have their own sorrows, their own darknesses. Be kind to them. Reach out to them. Conversely, if a poet reaches out to you for help, be kind to them.
Elegy with Dissonance between Earth and the Self Some nights I jolted awake from nightmares about the world ending, the fear in me well past panic, writhing in the chest like a snake gouged with a spade, left to shake loose the last throbs of its life. I’d leave the house and walk the peach orchards for miles, the winter making each limb runic against the stars— the radio tower pulsing every sixth beat of my heart—numbed in that searing cold, smells on the wind wet stone and burning pine. And still leaves came back again as they always do, a language nearly legible, lost in the cracks— written in wind, rain, sod, and seed—words spoken for everything at once: the cliff swallows living under highway bridges over Clarks Hill Lake, the tritium leaking from the Savannah River Plant, the neighbor boy with mangled ears who shotgunned turtles in my father’s pond, the only joy he had in his poverty. It has taken me thirty-six years to understand suffering— it has taken the death of my kin for me to know that fall is rekindling, and that the vast, rippling tides of starlings swelling out of the northwest is the most beautiful way to evade death.
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My first photo I remember taking was when I was an early teenager. I think it is by far the favorite of all I have taken. It was a sunrise the morning after a horrific storm that sent my family fleeing from the untrustworthy home in which we lived to a more sturdy motel in the quaint city of Ellijay, Georgia, where I was raised. I went on a stroll with my camera upon returning home to survey the damage. In the picture, the fingers of the sun were meandering through the rough pine needles on the trees still hanging heavy with raindrops, as was the tall grass in the meadow before me. The spring air was crisp and seemed to have been cleansed by the storm. That’s when I realized how much I loved photographing nature’s tender, but sometimes violent, beauty. Photography takes me to a place that I can’t explain, my “zone”. I lose communication with this world as I enter my own, and sometimes the transition back isn’t necessarily an easy one. I am a Southern girl who loves my North Georgia Mountains, but am in awe of any new places I have an opportunity to explore. The images I capture while in my zone are little pieces of my soul, and it has been difficult to share them in the past, to open them to scrutiny. But I have realized they are indeed not my soul, but things my soul enjoys, and generally there is no one around to see the fleeting moments I capture with my camera, so I now share the images I have been blessed to capture. I have two daughters that share in my love of photography, unlike my son, whose sole passion is classic cars.
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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 journal. Submission windows run January 1st to 31st, and July 1st to 31st, 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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Scott Thomas Outlar Screaming with the Tide The truth arrives in waves, and as we flow and flux with the ever-changing currents of the Eternal Tao River, it is our duty to fulfill our destiny by catching the high tide of revelation as it whispers across the water with electric shocks from the screaming sirens that herald the path toward the futureâ€™s shore.
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Just Add Water Death lingers in the air, whispering in our ears, promising its time will come, assuring us that it always has its day. Yeah, so what? It’s no surprise, it’s no new trick, it’s the same old game of cradle to the grave. Here’s a little secret for the reaper: I can’t be shaken from my path; I can’t be thrown off track. I’ve been laughing in death’s face since I was spit out of the womb. This little dance I do daily is an affirmation of life. Whatever time I have left will not be spent in fear, but dedicated to getting the most out of every moment. If death is a lemon then I am the sugar, and so I’ll keep sipping on this sweet drink that helps it all go down easy.
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry and fiction can be found. His chapbook “Songs of a Dissident” was released in 2015 through Transcendent Zero Press and is available via Amazon and other online outlets. Scott’s words have appeared in more than 150 publications, including Yellow Chair Review, Words Surfacing, Harbinger Asylum, Section 8 Magazine, and The Mind[less] Muse.
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Brandon Marlon Under the Caldera We enter nature, refugees from societyâ€™s whirl, to aerate our hopes and fears in the shadow of a mount set to erupt at a moment's notice, if we're lucky. Blithe peons with palms caked in humus moil in a cento of greens and browns below while we spiral up scree and lava volutes, the air redolent of roasted shoat and manure.
As questers we attain altitude steadily en route to the lofty crest of success, with every step leaving far behind niggling concerns and gnawing doubts, the narrowed world making ogres of trifles; instead we attune to gentle wind melodies, a lambent scherzo easing our limbs and encouraging our aims.
The incline tapers towards the summit and soon we peer into the cuplike vent of steam and ashes, effluent orifice of the good earth. Gaining the peak, we crown ourselves with weed chaplets 29 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
and chuckle, footsore and sweating, subject to light and distant vistas of ocean, grateful for intimacy even amid wide open spaces, knowing that love, like light, is its own dividend.
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An Estuary in Time Puling whelps harangue silence's onset, hailing moonrise on a sultry eve by the rickety cantina whose barman fills tumblers with mescal in slapdash fashion while I, otiose and weary, eye a leaf-shaped tray of lime wedges from my creaking hammock under spiny palms bending in the breeze. From this vantage point I oversee it all, the quince and cactus farmers sweating past twilight yonder in the field, the gaggle of arguing locals, the lady of the night whose active loins beckon paramours strange or familiar, the prurient letch short of coins, even the menacing thief who perils wayfarers' fortunes in search of illicit meed. As the wind soughs through the boughs I catch a whiff of coconut and avocado, and listen to the staccato call of gulls gliding in accord with the retiring tide. I cannot account for the droll grin shaping my face; I yawn as I outstretch limbs, lithe and blithe, sensing the moment's impressive presence and subdued glory, thankful for the splendor of a fitting setting.
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Jim D. Deuchars Angels Rumoured When blizzard’s winds in swirls stain lands with undefined, relentless sands of frozen tears wept sullen out ungodly eyes, vivid as sprawling landscape’s alleged angels; when from out the sundrenched shade of autumn leavings birdsongs pirouette from branch to branch until the crow’s about the only meat that’s left in canopies of murderous trees, no sound grows more than that winded laugh; my air-cooled rant, and it cracks like ice or textbook covers. As snow reigns in the winter (and doesn’t the snow rage against the terror of the city!) lurid days give way to unexpected, anxious sunsets and the glaze on trembling highway (chill on trembling hands) quakes salt’s errant ablution: of the vague sense of acceptance, of the patient grey of road beneath. Where the hard cold that chills me chills the shrill skin of sky for months of days until (once the thousand-hearted signs of spring (shoes stymied up to ankles soaked in mud) are sprung) the storied, silent winter’s bite on earlobe’s frozen golden ring gives way to cobwebbed ice on lakes and man (of water) bides his fear for unchained waves press on to shun the wrinkled toes of mortal feet. These hopeful waves lap laughingly against the toes of shoreline rocks. These crests reflect the dark of mourning’s nightly robe 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 2
until the stars in constellation loom like fast-winged serpents come to taste the heart of mind with speed while winds beyond the breath of gods do rend the cross of mythic love a cordwood stash for April’s dreadful march toward spring. When blinds out of sequence shudder in the gale forced through cracks in window frames, the bonecrunch of an angry plow breaks pockmarked skin of potholed street. The smokes of nearby chimneys mingle briefly in the heat that spreads and slowly cools above the shingled roofs of steadfast homes: the bricks that clothe the hidden lives of neighbors, while midnight’s slowly passing clouds frown by (relentless eyes of Venus burning still, astonished by the constance of her stare distracted as the naked trees (the way the branches twist the breeze!) distracted much like Psyche’s lack of faith in darkened rooms (though man and beast set at her tasks she still was tempted into sleep). How catholic were her petty sorrows; how epic was her doom until eventually her relic bones were gilt god-lifeless in the wind that carried her to heaven where she was condemned to weep no more. When these skeletons of trees give way to shivering walls of bastard air, when a storm of discord chanting’s stripped the skin of love’s flesh bare, when untold passages of tears are swept ‘neath spiteful rugs with lipstick-painted care, I’ll recall her shadow’s trace about my meek and tender stroll across the landscape’s cheeky stare drifting madly in the whiteout of the setting face to face. When chanting’s droll and otherworldly glint 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 2
is tamed through her embrace through grace the light of stars comes bright against the textured print of kinship’s well-timed break of day. When cackling under rays of light, ice drips slowly into pinpoint spears marked downward as poles or marking treasure chests here buried at the X motionless and vague as the typewritten page, the paint on painted walls buckles in interior heat at chill of storm: rough-hewn shapes in sodden quilts upon tall feather beds dented by the weight of a sleeping cat rolling slowly from foot to pillow, following the hope of sunlight’s lone, impervious beam. When those lips drag smoke from stolen cigarettes, or when her hand’s delayed upon my cheek, or when I know her shape against my arm… …an arctic silence fills the room and winters tend to linger. The howl of spinning tires yelps along over Himalayan snows banked at the curb like monks (on drums or lapping up the taste of breeze) freeing barren souls misguided with a desperate “Hik!” sucked out in the rush of sidewalk stumblings splitting bones and trousers. When walking in these snows that outlast any sense of warmth the sting of open-ended words bites naked skin and licks a hopeful tongue between its trembling nonspecific lips. Never did the walk seem quite so long on unlit, lidded paths of sidewalks where greyish heaps of curbside snows shroud tender feet 37 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
until the pedestrian cold of dampened socks shocks toes, delay’s the sun’s encouraged thaw still untold memories far from home (and swaying weightless, endless words were spent). Snowdrifts conquer highways much as paper does to rock. While the frostbit toes of vague unhappy adverbs sting ‘til light of morning steams her sad irradiant mist, envelopes lost, half-eaten night, and lodestar words burn wistful and miraculous in deeply emotional tongues, though sweet, hyphenated language sweats emphatic pathos icicles for hours until time finally ends, the fleet, fleeced flame of dumb, inconstant youth’s askitter in the squall of wisdom’s call: (some are attracted to the scent, others sense the song of it (a uniform to button down).); we’re in a world where verbs are nouns and not a thing is silent. Spring’s promise like a rusty blade shards snow until the great grey barren highway’s gone to mud. Reckless ribs of shopping carts caress the ground’s exhausted turf and await the coming of the dust that hangs cringing on my shoes o’er trails of salt caked on soles. Now the days have grown much longer and the emptiness of evening’s sounds tightens a derisive knot between my neck and shoulders. These indecisive seconds wrench my heart’s divisive beating, chill my lung’s incessant breathing’s cadence. By minutes every day the sun takes shape and casts its shadow’s tendrils further. Unyielding weeks approach and reach the cruelest hour of spring’s decay. Small passions that had cloistered clustered chip and flake away (much like the moon’s endearing, toothless grin endures 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 2
by minutes every day). As angels land like light upon the jawbone lantern’s glassy shards; as soon as denude daytimes talk; As vision’s stone enlightened stare leaves bare the roam of cautious eyes passed heartfelt sighs in watery dreams of brittle bitter Christs unwashed; my viewpoint’s vague and bright as stars and loathe to spy the stuff of storm. Angelic peacock’s thorny crown floats autumn’s yellowed maple leaves to dust at love’s empiric core. As I was witnessed publicly distracted by a woman’s warm and cluttered charms, this whisper’s shared: relentless as these withered means of speech may seem at times, at times the rumoured wind itself is real. These angels wing about and I’m bewildered ‘neath that toothless smile. In winds, it seems, no heart is spared. As sheepish idols all are gilt with sweat from callused human hands, for centuries words much like these (and black as wonder: clouds unsheathed!) unfurl like rain’s alleged fall to seas of unmade lovers’ beds. These angels conjured in my sleep shade random dreams. Spring’s thunderous breath shall conquer all. Relentless wind!
Jim D. Deuchars is an American poet born in Waukesha, WI. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA. His poetry has been described as "a special brand of doggerel, nonsense and foofaraw".
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Outsider Author Interview with Michelle Roberts Interview collective and composed by Clifford Brooks Michelle Roberts appears the rock and roll star that would open a homeless shelter, but not hesitate to get old school punk on someone with bad intentions. There are few people that can go from pleading the perfect scream in concert, to the more internalized, silent chair of a poet. Poetry and music are not distant cousins. The two are more, in fact, one soul with two faces. Roberts wears them both well and with an earnest talent that quietens most harried minds. She touches on the power of social media in this interview. This is a subject split between those who refuse to acknowledge any valid use of social media, and those who live in a multifaceted reality. The key to making this avenue of promotion gel into a representation of an artist both true and accessible is: Never forget the writing. Without the goods, the presence churned up on the Internet is a bad bill of sale. Roberts has a natural hand in this matter, and a wellspring of wisdom on how to keep the fire going; poetry relevant to the times; and keen ability to juggle family, school, job, and friends with the rippling current soon to be a typhoon. She and I have shared correspondence over the last few years, usually humorous, where many in our field are dour, painfully introverted, and incapable of sharing the same genre without pointless jabs. I have found countless friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that I never would have discovered, otherwise. What’s more serendipitous is out of the millions on these sites, the same, energetic professionals in art end up meeting. A real McCoy can be found by a poet who knows what to look for, because they hone the same skill to keep their own “personality” on fleek with their persona. Below is the discussion we shared, links to her work, and three poems currently added to a collectionin-the-making. Each discussion shared here is from an enthusiastic heart that can’t refuse the muse. Roberts is fast to laugh, and her adoration of the everyday peeks through the lines. I hope it warms you, too. 1. How does your place of birth influence your writing? Nebraska shows up quite a bit in my work, but I don’t often specifically name it. I do a lot of landscape and back road, countryside photography, and you’ll hear me reference native prairie grasses or describe the land while I’m discussing how my thoughts and emotions are connected to it. There are other times where place consciousness doesn’t show up in a poem at all. 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 2
2. What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked concerning your work that no one seems to jot down? I’m always curious what leads people to poetry. I hear people say they had no choice—the passion bully inside of them demanded they become a poet for the world. Other times, I think poets are many kinds of artists, but only recognized by the “Poet” label. So many poets I know are multi-talented, a lot of them musically inclined, able to write in multiple genres, amazing educators, editors, etc. Truthfully, we are also creative survivors because so often poetry doesn’t become our sole occupation. So, I guess to get around to answering your question: I’ve always wanted to be asked what brought me to poetry and just tell the truth of it: divine intervention, a cyclical tornado of stubbornness, and because people keep telling, well, commanding me to…WRITE! 3. What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about getting into writing and publishing poetry? Well, there is a lot of misconception, I personally feel, around an idea of inclusion when it comes to writing poetry. Over the last few years, when I started to publish, it’s always been inside an academic program. I’ve kind of become identified by who I’ve worked under in my graduate program, etc. I think that sometimes people are intimidated by the publishing world. I was…still am. The rules are always changing, but to me there’s something comforting about that because I have more choice and freedom in where I want my work to be submitted. The publishing industry may be cutthroat and competitive, but that’s only because there’s so much rich poetry, reputable presses, and amazing literary reviews out there. For me, I just had to start throwing myself to the wolves, per se, and get used to the bloodshed, the destruction of my pride, and used to rejection like I was drinking it for my morning tea. 4. How do you use social media to promote your passion? Many see social media as useless, but that appears to be far from the truth. Social media is HUGE! I’m in an academic program for poetry but I spend a lot of time talking with “street poets.” There are so many people I’ve connected with purely through Facebook, for example, and then was granted an invitation for a submission, etc. I think that creating such a vast community of poets is huge. It hosts an inclusion of writers in general or people who love the word. It’s hard out here; we need each other. Luckily, social media provides that support, as well as endless opportunities for publishing and the ability to discover an immense amount of poetic talent we have currently in our culture. 5. What topics are most difficult for you to write about? When I was working with Kwame Dawes in a workshop during my spring semester, I kept talking about the risks of writing. He gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “Well, the only way to take a risk is to take a risk. I always imagine the worst-case scenario. Then I live it fully in my body.
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“Once that is complete, I leap in. It works most of the time. I mean, how bad can it be? What are you risking that is so risky? Finally, always remember that writing is not the big risk. Showing it is. So write it. Usually after you see it written, and if you have done it honestly without the anxiety of a viewing audience to censor you, you will be puzzled at what you were so afraid of in the first place.” That advice really made me confront what I felt was so risky and just accept that, in these poems, no one is innocent. Everyone is confined to the complexity, absurdity, and above all, fallibility of their human condition and that paralyzing risk became neutralized. My writing is in a sense confessional, raw, full-of-life experiences and ideas that aren’t always comfortable. Sometimes what I feel I put in a poem could be a really hard read for someone who has to unwrap it, but the goal with the poem is always to give it away to my reader, to relinquish my ownership over it. I don’t want to play games or be gimmicky with a reader, either. I want them to trust the poem as much as possible. I hope that they get something, anything (even if they hate it, I’ve done my job, I made them feel something or examine something) out if it, even if that doesn’t immediately appear as such. I try to infuse intimacy without being melodramatic or overly sentimental. I personally believe I have a ways to go as a writer to polish that intention and execute it every time, the right way. It’s just as difficult to decide what to write about, as it is to decide what NOT to write about. 6. Do you mix a lot of autobiographical details into your poetry, or does it come to you from that ethereal place no artist seems able to pinpoint? A great deal of my poetry has an autobiographical tinge; some poems are entirely colored by my life and experiences. I functioned for a long time on the old adage “write what you know” but after a while I wanted to push that a little further. Some of my poems, like Daddy Clutches Me and Releases Me, are born of daydreams and ideas that are completely disconnected with my own experiences or ones I’ve witnessed and are more narratively driven. 7. What is one of the most random things that have inspired a poem? Some time back, I was going through a clothes selling purge of sorts, so I was visiting the post office like 3 times a week with big boxes of boots or jackets. One day walking in, I was carrying these boxes stacked on top of boxes. A man was walking out of the building, saw me as my eyes peeked over the stack of boxes they met his, and he kind of let the door slam in my face. I struggled not to drop the boxes and get a hand free to open the heavy glass door, only to wait in line for 20 minutes and ultimately be late for work. It left me reeling for hours, and I just started writing about the day and how it had gone to hell. I was also listening to a lot of hip hop. Kendrick Lamar had just put out How To Pimp A Butterfly (which was making me feel a little revolutionary in my thinking), and my little annoyance for that day inspired an entire list poem of things I was taking up issue with in my life, in American Culture, etc.—such as expressing anger as a woman, any social injustice, dealing with kids in a new therapist’s waiting rooms, all of the big things, all of the little things. So, I guess, in essence, now I’d want to thank that rude dude for giving me the idea for one of 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 2
my more favorite poems. You never know what’s going to set off the spark of inspiration—could just be a man at the post office who didn’t hold the door open for you. Artist’s Statement: I feel very strongly about creative writing, especially poetry. Some might describe it as “idealistic,” but I ardently believe a good poem can change the world. It certainly has changed my world. I believe that poetry gives us an understanding of ourselves that nothing else can. It lends to the reality of the human condition, our ability to understand others, the world, and ourselves. We need poetry because it promotes literacy, builds community, fosters emotional resilience and can cross boundaries that sometimes appear insurmountable. We need poetry more than we really even know or acknowledge, especially in a world that grows increasingly isolated and emotionally stifled.
LINKS: A Case For Ascension - http://www.amazon.com/Case-Ascension-JamesonBayles/dp/B0161B2D6A/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Cultural Weekly: http://www.culturalweekly.com/michelle-roberts-two-poems/ Redfez: https://www.redfez.net/poetry/love-room-noises-1854
Bio: Michelle Roberts is an MA candidate in English at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and an Editorial Assistant for Prairie Schooner. She also spends her free time photographing the desolate beauty of the Nebraska prairie, finding anything abandoned or otherwise forgotten to capture. Currently a tutor for Lincoln Literacy, a non-profit, she tutors inmates at the County Correctional facility once a week. Michelle resides in Lincoln with her son and a blind cat named after a famous 40’s movie star.
Warning: Soft Shoulder I’m scared of moving men Under the bright moon, caught in the curved turns of my antlers. I’ve seen women riding in the back seat, sitting still and quiet. I know how this goes. I’ll taste fingertips unbuttoning my mouth but only after he has bruised my lips for 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 2
the last time, rolling me into a highway ditch. That’s how moving men say goodbye.
Landfill Poem I don’t eat because I am the false prophet of feminism I bleed women’s bodies, I collect them, so proud of their unapologetic metallic taste But this one I am hosting is a fucking wasteland I spit out. Daddy Clutches Me and Releases Me I see empty picture frames, there are shards of mirror in my reflection, I look away knowing it’s just my face breaking. The shallow light, my open lips won’t be needed until night, until the night sun can be found grieving on me once more. I’ll remember these clicks, more silence in a month, then forget it again. A story you told me; a kid on the railway, trying so hard to balance on each track, he fell off onto the timber sleepers. I don’t remember what happened after that. ~ 44 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
On a front porch, a girl learns fathers don’t always come back, especially when she is a lunar phase standing still, night sun, waiting to be seen. ~ I’m seated next to a pair of scraped rosy legs. My unbuttoned pocket, is pregnant with quartz stone energy. It seems to attract an addict who watches me while he self lovingly pets his cheek with his palm, chewing the inside of his mouth so damn hungrily my stomach growls. I watch him with a seizure stare. A pair of teenagers fall asleep, their ear buds stretched thinly between them the little white eggs hide in their ears underneath hoodies, each of their shoulders substitute as pillows. Even underneath all that muffling cloth I can still hear the hip-hop tracks shuffle. I’m coming back because of you, and I’m sure I will only find the sharp pieces of mirror again, but no reflection, those picture frames can no longer stay empty when the train stops. I remember what happened now: you broke and bolted down.
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Featured Photographer: Sandra Smith
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Sandra Smith is the photographer behind Freedom Photographyâ€™s unique images. She is a talented artist that strives to capture the details in life that one might otherwise pass by. She loves 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 https://www.facebook.com/FreedomPhotography-1420132764868962/?fref=ts and Instagram at FreedomPhotog.
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T.C. Carter WHERE THE OLEANDERS GREW Well, I don't recall jest how it come to be That Paddy St.John was riding fer the XIT He was a tenderfoot and a slim little man Who had a big heart and a lot 'a sand But the little fiddler had come out west Fer his health we heard him say Consumption was abiding in his chest Doc thought outdoor life might keep it at bay He had been a glassblower by occupation And was a fiddler of the first degree He could play any tune you called for He was a bonified one man symphony Well, every cowboy took right to him He made every man seem his dearest friend He was one of them special fellers That makes yer heartstrings comprehend That the Lord has got some high grade clay He uses every now and then To place a saint amongst us sinners To teach some lessons that come from Him We'd saddle the gentlest horses Fer him to ride around the spread We tried to smooth out humps in his life But he smoothed 'em out fer us instead He always had a cherry smile And a kind word fer every man We knew if he had the strength left He would 'a made a real top hand We thought fer awhile he was gittin' better But then early one autumn day We had saddled up old Dixie Belle Fer a ride down Cheyenne Valley way Dixie Belle stood meek as a lamb And though he gave it his very best try He couldn't get a boot to the stirrup We saw tears well up in his eyes He went back down to the bunkhouse 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 2
And lay there on his cot He said, Boys, I think I'm all done up And I'd just as soon t' go as not He asked two big cowpokes to sit down by his side So they held his hands and tried to cheer him up They stroked his hair and wiped his brow And petted him like a favorite pup Then he asked the boys to prop him up And said, Who's that there in the Oleanders Why...it's my long departed, dear old Ma And my baby sister Sue Then he closed his eyes and bowed his head And joined his kin over yonder Where the Oleanders grew A dry eye was not to be found amongst us Hard men cried like babies wanting mother's milk Fer we knew a bright light had flickered out And we'd never, ever see ag'in that little fiddler's ilk Since then, it's a subject that I've studied on But I guess I'll never know Why some bad men live so long And some good men so quickly go Maybe..it's because their goodness Is too pure fer this wicked world Or maybe their purpose is done with Or heaven needs another pearl We had learned that the ties that bind us Reach from earth to heaven's shores And sometimes as we jaw around the campfire Telling trail stories and listening to cowboy lore A breeze drifts in, a little whiff of Oleander And our thoughts trail back to days of yore And our hearts break, and our ears ache To hear the tunes of the little fiddler Being played down here once more
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WE WERE BOYS TOGETHER We were boys together Wallace Smith and I And we liked each other...mostly Although I couldn't tell you why It seems that friends just appear With no summons and no search I met Wallace Smith playing sandlot baseball Behind the Ebenezer Baptist Church The meeting wasn't friendly It started with a short-lived fight Over what..I can't..now recall But as boys are apt to do, we quickly made it right We had some things in common Wallace Smith and I Both poor boys in the south Born with a hungry eye We wanted something better We knew that life could offer more We'd break the yoke of poverty That's an oath we swore Wallace Smith never came to my house And I was never in his home For all we knew of families We might have both lived all alone I lost track of Wallace Smith The day that we left home Still in our teens and Levi jeans Just boys in many ways, but acting fully grown Ours was the kind of friendship That has roots, but not too deep Just enough to form some memories That we tend to want to keep I found out late in sixty-eight That Wallace Smith had returned In a flag draped casket It was bitter news to learn But he was one of many Who made that final, mournful trip His bread cast upon the waters 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 2
Never found a friendly ship Yes, we were boys together Wallace Smith and I Who never had a passing thought That one would live and one would die How it happened that a black boy, and a white In the summer south of nineteen fifty-two Crossed a line that made them friends I don't have the answer, I'll leave that up to you I just know that we were boys together Wallace Smith and I And that we liked each other...mostly Although I couldn't tell you why
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HIS LAST RODEO Little story 'bout Wade Pendleton Born July twenty-seventh, nineteen twenty-nine Deceased New Year's Day, nineteen hunnerd and seventy-five Cause of death....unknown And it's called "HIS LAST RODEO" At forty-five and countin' He could feel the years a'mountin' He'd had collarbones and legs and arms Broken, bruised and brought to harm Too many times he had been hurt When he was bucked onto the dirt Too many times not in the money Riding's fun, but it ain't funny The stock seemed bigger, faster, meaner And the grass was looking greener Up there in the stands Where they seat the paying fans His cousin offered him some work Some kind of store, some kind of clerk But to him a job don't hardly count Unless it's done from a saddled mount He married once, married well To a young, west Texas,southern belle She stuck like glue while he was winning But later on stopped laughing-loving-grinning One day just up and tossed it in Said she was moving on - leaving him Packed up her stuff and out the door ...He never saw her anymore Just another mile on the downhill ride When strength and talent start to slide But ya have t' stick with the thing ya know And what he knew best was the rodeo He recalled back in his twenties Young and strong and winning plenty Meals of steak and eggs and hash Always paid in cold hard cash Now his meals were not so grand 62 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
Most times he had no cash in hand Or just enough for an entry fee He needed the ride, but it wasn't free Funny..how a wild eight second ride Can fill a man with so much pride And keep him coming back for more Flush one day, the next one poor But thirty came and forty went And he was feeling almost spent The wins came now in short supply But still he rode, still he tried Some days were good, but most were bad But, hell, no use in feeling sad This life is what he chose to do He was man enough to see it through But he was drinking too much likker Was concerned about his ticker Had no cash fer doctor bills Was living life on hurtin' pills He'd left his pick-up down at Donner Pass Had no money left fer food or gas Caught a ride with a trucking man Who shared his meal of cheese and ham He got entered in at Bakersfield With little left but guts and will Hoping fer a lucky draw He'd need to get a rough outlaw If he had a hope to make a show And maybe win a little dough He was due to earn some pay Maybe this would be the day Now someday soon he'll see the end When no longer he can ride ag'in And I would be the first to say He was good back in his day But now he's played out his string And, boys, it's just an awful thing But I guess most of ya' know This is prob'ly....his last rodeo
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About T.C. Carter: My name’s T.C. Carter and I’m a writer of poetry, but I’ve been many other things before I hung up my writer’s shingle. Grew up on the poor side of the tracks in Danville, Va. and left that behind me when I joined the military at age seventeen. Served four years as a photographer and when I got out I headed for Fort Worth, Texas with my wife and new born son where I worked for an oil exploration outfit and did some acting at the Casa Mañana Playhouse, a still functioning professional theater in the round. Next stop, five years in and around Hollywood, Ca., where my second son was born and where I proved myself to be a pretty good actor who was never going to get past comparisons to James Dean and Jack Palance. Yeah, I know, pretty crazy. Wound up moving to northwesten Kansas where among other things I was a lawman, cowboy and postmaster. At seventy-two years of age I had been continually working at something since I was ten years old and that’s when I picked up the pen and paper. I write everything in longhand in a spiral notebook or whatever’s handy. I don’t have any professional training and nothing to recommend me except my work which I love to read to anybody who wants to listen. I love the power of the written word and the beauty of truth, so I reckon’ I’ll keep on writing as long as the good Lord grants me breath. Listen to T.C read some of his poetry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4a4R9lYR_I
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Meagan Honea Dimorphism The female house spider of the South, of my grandfatherâ€™s house, seldom moves except to secure her prey, hiding within the crooks and obstructed by near blindness but producing something fine and tangled, a netting like cobwebs. While she is seen once in a blue moon, her husband wanders about constantly seeking female companionship and the world is his domain. Sometimes he is confused as the acclaimed and bloodthirsty brown recluse, his confidence and lack of any particular territory, yet display of true cowardice when threatenedâ€” playing dead. But she does not analyze him from afar. She only tends to her mesh labyrinth, masking crevices with silken spindles.
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You will be a papa too Sitting in an old brown chair, his legs are crossed like my papaâ€™s and if he were wearing brown trousers they would cuff above his socks in that positionâ€” surely signs of his old soul. His words expel slowly, a long embrace of each thought before it rolls thickly off his tongue, sticky with a drawl of southern elegance on topics like evolution and Kant. He is like an acquaintance of the gods, and I am consorting with divinity.
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A Reuben’s Bell This afternoon, a grown boy speaks to me in his bed more like a friend following what lovers do two pillows between us one lightbulb blown his room like a dungeon and we had slept until 2. The backdrop a distressed wooden board painted black violet with white stars slung across it. Neither of us fully trusts the other and there is something in the air. He asks me if it’s musty but I think it is chemistry teeming viscid, brackish. He presumes that I read Virginia Woolf, observing me causing realizations that all men before have never observed me at all. I respond yes and I start to explain how in the way she intended, she took part in doing all of this to me. And so he calls her violent and a negative influence on the female, but I tell him he wouldn’t understand, remind him that he is in fact a man, to which he replies, the men in your life (the important ones thus far) have molded you, have really fucked with you and while you are mad the universe has also perceived this and it has given you—what? A son to mold into the type of man you think doesn’t exist— natural birth breastfeeding orgasms all of these were given to you, empowering you to create from disdain a delicate and strong man who is loving and kind.
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You are like one of those men who says things so calmly, assured, that women give themselves to him. Meagan Ruth Honea attended the University of North Georgia (UNG) where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing & Publication in 2012. She was born and raised in North Georgia, where she developed her opinions and voice. Images teeming with stifling humidity, dogwood trees, Baptist guilt, and gender roles depict her style, which was shaped and molded by her grandmothers, many men, and her southern roots. She knows a South that is dirty, sticky, and sweet—a South new in the sense that it allows one to transcend traditional ideals concerning gender, race, and spirituality, while also retaining what is good, such as drawn out inflections and makeshift compound words, ripe peaches, dirt roads, collard greens, and corn bread—a South dripping with otherworldliness, yet stifled by tradition. Her writing is sometimes inspired by Faulkner and the holy trinity of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Flannery O’Connor. Meagan currently works diligently as a professional legal proofreader and a freelance writer and editor. She also raises her four year old son Forrest, a handsome, young feminist and progressive in the making who enjoys Dr. Seuss, the farm, girls, cupcake frosting, and deer hunting.
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Musician Interview with Tyler Lee Frush Interview collected and composed by Clifford Brooks
Image by ADAM DAVENPORT
I met Tyler Lee Frush in downtown Canton, Georgia in the fall of 2014. Frush was playing solo at The Painted Pig. I walked in and heard, what I thought, was a road-hardened man that had at least 10 years and/or 2 addictions on me. What I found ripping notes out of the night was a young man who knew the road better than he realized, but luckily possessed few demons.
His songwriting is clean and meticulously kept while his melody is sparse in the way it should be. I heard him lay down 3 more songs, and they all kept the rowdy room’s attention. You see, Frush creates a floor from sound to dance in your mind. Under his spell, you have time, and elbow room, to take in the whole story without tripping over metaphors. When he stepped off stage, I met him outside to smoke a cigarette. The two of us spoke about his style and influences. Frush has an earnest way of talking and a brawler’s intensity to him. He obviously loved what he creates, but he treats it with the respect of a vocation earning six figures. He isn’t pretentious, but he knows he’s good. Over the last year-and-a-half we’ve kept contact. During one of our phone calls, we agreed that with strong, lyric-driven songs, it is about the silence between notes that keep people nailed down. I am sure the idea isn’t new, but it was the sentiment that we built a solid brotherhood. Below is the interview that focuses on Tyler Lee Frush. Please give a read, and then check out his links for songs and tour dates. This is a man who has his soul, and avoids every crossroad. Frush fleshes some of sounds new skin out, and continues to graft together its Southern charm. 1) What is holding back new sounds and overall energy in music's evolution? Truthfully, I wouldn’t say it’s being held back, it’s hard to find. The radio and media only play the songs that other companies tell them to, which makes discovering new and interesting music almost a chore. But I believe new and unique music is being created every day. 2) Who are some of your influences that don't get enough credit and/or exposure to a wider audience? I love listening to folk artists like A. A. Bondy; his style is quite unique compared to any other folk artists around. Also guys like Silver Mt Zion, and Shakey Graves are pretty good. 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 2
3) How do your maintain your inner peace as your career leaps one hurdle after another? I don’t. The mask of control I wear to give that impression is provided by God. I try to stay grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ. As with everyone, keeping that light burning can be a struggle. 4) What is the single biggest mistake musicians make that potentially ruin their chances of making a vocation from music? Letting others decide what they should sing/play. When I listen to music, I want to hear the performer’s soul. I need to hear their passion. Musicians shouldn’t try to pick what they play around what they think will sell. Focus more on songwriting, and what’s true to the heart. Stop putting so much emphasis on “getting signed”. If the songs do not ring from a real place, you’ll never have the chance to get signed. 5) How do you think sacrifice plays into the genuine honesty of your work? I think it’s extremely important. If you are constructing something fundamentally “artistic”, you must be brutally honest with yourself, and others. Sacrifice shapes your most inner, private being. By writing, playing, and singing from sacrifice, you are letting others hear you. That kind of creation gives the audience an authentic product to judge. It’s what you say, and the emotions you convey. 6) What genres of music do you draw from to create your own sound? I make it a point to stay deep in the whole of sound. I’d say that my biggest musical genres are old delta blues, folk, and rock. However, I don’t listen to music based on a genre. I listen to the melodies that catch my ear. 7) What is the most overrated band being played today? I have a healthy squirm over saying someone is overrated. It smacks too much of a power I don’t possess. It isn’t my place. I am sure there are people who listen to my music and think I’m overrated. It’s all about personal taste. Now, one might say Van Halen is the best band to walk this earth, while someone else won’t agree. I will have my own opinions, and give folks the room to create their own. 8) Is songwriting and performance from a sterile, cerebral birthplace, or is it more akin to a release of your soul's burden? I can’t put a finger on that one. Ask me again in another 20 years. I feel God put me here to create music. Doing anything else, or less, would feel wrong. Tyler Lee Frush www.tylerleefrush.com Www.facebook.com/tylerleefrush
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www.PACAGeorgia.org https://www.facebook.com/PACAGeorgia What is the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance? PACA was established to give support and assistance to existing arts and historic preservation organizations in Pickens County. With the encouragement and support of county government the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance was formed in the summer of 2007 through a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts. Pickens County has a rich and diverse array of new and older organizations that provide outstanding programming. The organizationâ€™s vision, mission and core values are stated below. Vision Statement Supporting the Arts and Culture of Pickens County Mission Statement Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for residents, preserve culture, increase educational opportunities in the arts, and promote cultural activities by developing a strong arts and historic preservation environment in Pickens County. Core Values 1. Arts & Culture enrich the lives of Pickens County residents. 2. The arts significantly contribute to the development of children. 3. Planning will be responsive to the voice of arts and cultural organizations and individuals. 4. Preservation of historic resources will retain our cultural heritage and character.
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Clifford Brooks The Summer of C I. Long, Quiet Weeks: When the corners of your office take over lazy days, your all-time, your patience to put up with one more word, I will quarrel with being quiet. II. The Only Weekend Away: Bees drink from a pool left by a stream that wore its way through great rocks to be here. The sun is tempered by todayâ€™s soft storm. Behind you, there is a place where a space in the forest pours out a tongue of water. The murmur of it is the only sound aside from cicadas. We play with your pooch, look for tadpoles, and decide to plant snapdragons at home. You tiptoe from one safe stone to another. III. Final Score: Ours was a fiercely flawed, final score. That terrific implosion 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 2
included out our chances. Yet, early on you admitted I might not want to expect miracles. For me to argue with you is like barking at the moon. The tempest in me is a temporary thing. I suffer a soul’s frenzy that’s frustrated by what you consider fun. My smell is honeysuckle-sweet because I’m more molten this summer than last. I am sorry you were swallowed in my abyss. There are a few evening hours left before we encounter our uncomfortable ending. So, let’s fall asleep, float face up, and hold hands. Beneath the chalky eye of Hypnos, we’ll undulate until tomorrow finds us drifting apart.
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Burning the Old Writer’s Den Tonight, I shed my ill-fit skin over threads that connect four walls that for three years only witnessed anxious pacing. Soon, this sepulcher will be abandoned. My past is now a set of tattered curtains kept only for kindling. There is no time left for talk of potential, only action without the burden of children, poorly-trained retrievers, or relationships that lack the illumination of any embraceable light. The guiltless silt that settles over my Garden of Letting Go allows me to stand within my wicked id – without apology. It sends a thicket of avarice across my chest, and massages out the malady in my medulla oblongata. Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise are contained by the fine fit of a linen suit that I, the fiend, fashioned from thorns. Any unhealed fissure that may remain (which fear forced open in my flesh) is fused closed by the virtue of viciousness. All soft, sensitive yesterdays are left on a dock where neglectful mothers leave children without a father to pick them up. Phosphorus is struck against my rough thumb, and it allows this wreck-of-a-room to have its last dance, to burn, and no longer bind me to accept death as the only exit. I spit, smoke, shove open the window, then beat my wings into a night without nostalgia; not stinking of the secret that my seasons of self-mutilation were sadistic attempts at salvation. I starve, hang, and sink all my sickness-of-self in the lake my grandfather gave his kids, off the same shore where I grew up. Submerged beneath that familial, muddied water is the sorrow I nurtured for no reason. My old writer’s den lays in wasted energy spent on asking the sky for favors. Instead of whining, work harder – leave no stone un-thrown. There’s a pistol snug in the small of my back for the beasts I left for dead. I’m certain that we’ll square off again. However, I am not then. I am now. I am this ride. I am this roll. I am the pilgrim without the lashes endured last year, or the year before, or the year before. My epidermis is now the armor I lacked before the War of Athena that reinforces the fact that society is useful, but not necessary. Blood is a wash of happenstance.
Clifford Brooks is a founder, poet, and teacher. He lives in North Georgia. His first volume, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, is on sale anywhere books can be found. Find him at The Southern Collective Experience.
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Amazon Barnes & Noble Fjords Review
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Genesis the Greykid "Hope" i struggle to find you sometimes, and in those moments when everything gets quiet..... like this..... i let my heart climb up my throats ladder, and whisper prayers toward the ear of the ceiling, hoping you will move a cup, knock over a plate, anything to let me know....your there.
"momma" everytime I think of her, and what she's done, all my worry becomes undone, melted away.... she put her whole being into raising us...into raising me, into the narrow cave of my ear, her wise whispers still live, painted on my souls walls, â€˜junior....i love youâ€™
"she" walking and tracing her steps she led me to a break through the woods and i could, in that moment, do anything.
"don't do it" he never loved anyone more than his kids.... which is why he killed them, 78 | 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 2
every night....using words he'd spent 20 plus years sharpening, only cleaning with apologies after blood was spilled, sharpening, cleaning, sharpening, one night (a night sorta like this one) his teenage daughter held a knife at his throat while he laid in a deep sleep. before she could push the jagged steak blade through his soul, her brother walked in, seeing her anger and reading the actions in her eyes, he whispered in his own head, "don't do it" while not saying a single word to her.... not one....she pushed the bad thoughts through her hand and in turn, through the handle, which pushed the thoughts into the neck of a loving chaotic father who died by the hands of a teenage girl looking for kindness.
"stumbling through" we live in our own heads, resting assured and comforted by the grey matter of our souls, the magical powder that makes us human while we are twinkles in the eyes of lovers, is the very thing that makes us unpredictable, imperfect, and at times....the most dangerous beautiful creature, that has ever lived on the face of this blue and green world.
Russell McGee Jr (better known as Genesis the Greykid) is an artist, creative, activist, philosopher, and poet. While signed to the media label Creative Control Tv, Genesis released several musical offerings, (mix-tapes, poetry, and collaborative projects) while splitting his time between New York, Virginia, and Tennessee. He later came back to his birth city (Chattanooga, Tn) to help draw attention to the many politically and socially conscious artist, creatives, and poets. He soon developed a poetic / 79 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
creative workshop people in the community started calling *Words In Grey*. In these workshops, Genesis would get artist to think differently about the creative self, their writing, and collectively explore the pathway to that "hidden wholeness" inside of us, through creative sessions and poetry. His first book, "Words In Grey" is a collection of his poetry, with exercises in the back of the book so the reader can venture off into their own brilliance. He was recently featured on the new Muhammad Ali Documentary: Peoples Champ (with Jim Brown, Nas, TI, Sway, Tyrese, J Ivy, LL Cool J, and many more) that aired on BET and opened the Urbanworld Fillm Festival.
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James Murdock Time Not Lost Never is there truly time lost. For what we see out there is always within us foremost and what we speak and do is only the fragrance rising from newborn moments â€“ it is not that substantial thing. Time is not lost because the things we lose are never us to begin with. They are lichens, growing on old wood, saturated by the forestâ€™s breath, drying up in the heat and crumbling to pieces. When they are gone, we may still look at where they grew.
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Little Birds There is a river that flows where the burnt up cigarettes wash and build up things which are seemingly pre-destined, like drain-entrance pyramids of forgotten trashbeings And I wish the little birds could eat up those butts and aid in the effort of picking up after the more or less organized filth But as of now they cannot
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Pheobe If the blush buds of March were to wither in the frigid wind and never release what is within them (and I mean what is in me) – if the pearly clouds of winter stood still and refused to break, denying the world its warmth, would you have found me if you had never gazed upon the empyreal mountain of me, would you have found other lonely mountains to gaze upon in the sunfair sky would they be as me, supple and round Would they – let the dainty springs slide down to rootbound pools and into past lives, raising ginger and gum – there are always mountains like me, and like you but what is crucial is for us to see them, as they are The maple buds of March must know something has broken; they are sliding toward a life which pools, a togetherness which binds all things, both warm and not to its momentary motion and everlasting all – if the phoebe never sang outside your kitchen window, could you hear me?
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Forgotten Fields There is no luxury which can wrap you with the feeling of a homeplace, soft as it sits at daylight and as low as the moon hangs at night â€“ for skyscrapers cannot know the earth, or something as far away as the insects at their feet. Their heads must live in a world, non-existent â€“ where red-tails cry over forgotten fields
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Pain in My Side There’s pain in my side, something. There something too, spinning around up there above us like a big wheel, made of carved stones and images of animals faces, pagan and still rolling Had quiet shrimp tacos, a fish bowl of beer. Must have been at least two dozens girls staring down Lumpkin, not a dent in their youthful dissent. The face of Nowhere Bar, a chilly bitch with a suitable name in winter. That darkly worn hostelry interior, the spirit of forgiveness, of never being truly alone. Its hard smile is for beggars and made of loss and laughter. They might shine the floors every couple years or so but she keeps all the dirty shit wrapped up in the foreign matter of that back alley way. Many strange trips have found their grounding there, but who’s to say it? It all gets picked up anyhow. No need for the fears of a bluesman’s depravity or of hard mornings, back porch cigarette smoke, knowing damn well It’s too cold to be outside doing damage. It all gets picked up though cause something’s aching from across the street. Sounds like a whining cat born by the dealing of that alley way, bent but not broken. And it’s pulling me slowly there away from this toxin and that pain In my side. And it sounds like Life to me, what’s been making its way 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 2
out of that bloodred door. It sounds like a whole revolution, like one big turning of that wheel, like a still image of what youâ€™re doing or have done or will do. Of love and whatever itâ€™s opposite really is all right there for you to pick up like the way you breathe in this appalling triumph of a town.
James Murdock is a twenty-nine year old poet, essayist, and songwriter currently residing in North Jasper County (south of Athens, Georgia). His love for self-expression has burgeoned upon an ardent kinship for the wisdom of American Transcendentalism. He is an advocate of things natural, wild, and free, and his poetry tends to revolve around themes of space, unity, and momentary glances of a surreal and cosmic perspective. Murdock is a naturalist by trade and spends much of his time in the quiet observation of nature, working in his garden, and combing through the woodlands of a farm outside of Monticello, Georgia.
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Featured Artist: Dan Veach
DAN VEACH: BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW INTERVIEW How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book? My inspiration to write poetry came originally from the Chinese, and that came from walking into the public library in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where I went to high school, and randomly pulling a book of Chinese poetry off the shelf. It was The White Pony, edited by Robert Payne, and it changed my life forever. The Beowulf novel I’m working on came out of my translation of Beowulf and all the major Anglo-Saxon poetry. This has been a life-long love ever since I decided to take a “completely useless” course in A-S in college. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? Having always been a poet, I swore I would never attempt a novel. Poets concentrate experience, while novelists stretch and expand on it. However, I’ve enjoyed every minute of my Beowulf story— even though it will no doubt be the world’s shortest novel! Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from? From childhood, of course. My family moved around a lot, so books were dependable friends. How long have you been writing? More than 40 years. I started after college, at a time when I had absolutely no idea what to do. Poetry began coming to me out of “nowhere,” and at some point I realized that was my calling. What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.? I won’t attempt to add to the vast literature on this subject. But like any art, it makes us more deeply human, and makes us aware of possibilities that we did not know existed. How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path? Creativity is a spiritual path in itself. You can’t do it without being open to something deeper than your superficial self. What do you think most characterizes your writing? Humor and sympathy, I hope. And an interesting thought now and then. 90 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
What was the hardest part of writing this book? The hardest part about poetry is waiting for ideas—and recognizing them when they come. As Keats said about “negative capability,” you need a very high tolerance for uncertainty. Of course, this is something no one really has. Once you have the idea, it’s like protein assembly inside a cell—you have to let things float and find their proper place. Forcing them doesn’t work. What did you enjoy most about writing this book? For me, writing fiction is practically pure enjoyment. (Of course, I’m not writing for money, and am therefore, in Samuel Johnson’s view, a blockhead.) Every day something makes me laugh—or come close to tears. The only hard part, after a certain point, is writing new stuff rather than revising. As with poetry, the thing we dread is what rewards us most—venturing forward into the emptiness. What inspires you? In poetry, the idea of creating life. Each poem is a little miracle the logical mind can only wonder at. How did you get to be where you are in your life today? See intros to Elephant Water. By insisting on the truth, whatever discomfort might be involved, and doing what I loved, whether society rewarded it or not. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing? My poetry has some oddly mixed ancestors: the Chinese poets, Wang Wei and Tao Yuan-ming, their diametric opposite, Beowulf, Keats, Langston Hughes, Garcia Lorca, the Spanish mystic San Juan de la Cruz, Robert Frost, The Odyssey and The Cid. Sometimes an attitude to life, sometimes rhythm or pure sound, they all gave me something I was longing for, but didn’t know it. What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive? Reading and falling in love with something. Then the time and patience to experiment. Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing? Full-time, but that’s just a few hours a day for anyone. What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example. When I was being a starving poet, something Harvard grads are not supposed to be, I would memorize poems on my temporary typing and filing jobs. How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
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I prefer print for anything I truly care about, but I know to many it doesn’t matter. Print and online both have great advantages, and it’s not an either/or, at least at this point. As a publisher, I like the fact that Atlanta Review will still be around a thousand years from now, barring a very large comet. What do you think is the future of reading/writing? Digital culture places a huge emphasis on the immediate, the visual, and the superficial. Its rhythms are fast, percussive, disjointed. Hopefully literature will always be a haven for the slower, deeper currents of human life, and for the longer view. What process did you go through to get your book published? As if it wasn’t hard enough to publish a poetry book, I had to add Chinese ink painting to the mix. Still, four publishers agreed to do Elephant Water. A university press lost their funding after shaking hands on a three-book deal. Another press insisted on a cover I didn’t like, a third asked me to cut out my poem about underwear. Finally Leah Maines at Finishing Line agreed to do the book, though they normally only do chapbooks. As her reward, it won the Georgia Author of the Year award in poetry. How do you find or make time to write? I’m retired now, but I’ve always done my writing in the morning. Initially, I found time to write (or rather, to be in a way that resulted in poetry) by only taking part-time, temporary jobs. What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time? I don’t do a lot of promotion. Facebook, some ads in print journals for the book, a web site (danveach.com). What is your role in the writing community? I’m the founder of Poetry Atlanta, the city’s literary organization for the past 30 years, and the founder and editor of Atlanta Review, now in its 22nd year. I edited and helped translate the first book of poetry from inside wartime Iraq, Flowers of Flame (Michigan State U. Press, 2008), which remains a unique historical resource. In general, I hope my role is to encourage poetry that people can honestly enjoy and be touched by. What do you like to read in your free time? Everything: history, science, poetry, adventure, anthropology, historical fiction, fantasy, etc. What projects are you working on at the present? A novel that picks up where Beowulf ends, and a translation of The Cid, the Spanish epic poem. What do your plans for future projects include? Perhaps a novel about the Cid. Getting Beowulf and my other translations published. 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 2
Dan Veach www.danveach.com Editor, Atlanta Review firstname.lastname@example.org www.atlantareview.com
My Long Thigh Bone I'm dancing to the Supremes while making dinner And happen to look at my "dolphin bone"-I found it down on the beach's rocks A long curved bone It reminds me of the long curved backs of dolphins As they roll up out of the sea. I look down at my long thigh bone And wonder if anyone will think of me When I dance my way into archeology And all the music left is in my bones-I wonder, will anyone see this bone and dream Of the way I used to dance to the Supremes?
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Wear and Tear the poet to his underwear What is this, underwear? This sudden fragile, antique, ghostly air Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget.... Is this what you’ve gotten from hanging around with poets? I know, It’s no fun being sat on. But listen, You’re not that much holier than me And here I am after all these years Still clinging to the bottom of society. If I can do it, you can too— Hang in there! Please, underwear Don’t give up on this veil of tears And leave me behind all cold and bare. Don’t listen to those nightingales— I need you!
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Egret A slip of a thing as slender as thought an almost forgotten word a dream that the morning forgot. Edgewise in the thin, sunny air it shimmers and disappears long legs, long neck long beak. Stretched between heaven and earth like an angel in penance it ekes out a living stalking about in the mud. Craning its neck it listens for the call, the summons back, the tiny suitcase of its body always packed with a pair of enormous white wings.
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Robert L. Penick Decisions The Judge slipped his Mercedes into traffic and headed east on Liberty Street. Fumbling for the cigarette lighter, it dawned on him he had quit smoking six weeks before. He sighed and turned the heater on instead. His wife Corinne was spending the week at a writer’s colony, leaving the Judge to take care of their daughters, Amy and Agnes, ages seven and eight. Fifteen years his junior, Corinne had married young and now was vigorously trying to find a sense of self and purpose. This week he was dropping the kids off at school and Corinne’s mother was picking them up. When he pulled into the hospital’s parking garage, he turned off his cell phone and placed it in the car’s console. The last thing he needed was some simpering attorney wanting him to let someone out of jail or sign a miscellaneous order. He walked the hundred paces to the elevator fighting a prickly sense of dread. In room 648, Jonathan Buckner reclined in bed and awaited the Judge’s arrival. A 42 year-old alcoholic with a measured IQ of 78, Jonathan had passed out in a snow drift several weeks ago. The frostbite in his toes resulted in necrosis, yet he refused to allow amputation, which would have cured his illness. No advice from the medical staff could sway him, so he limped out of the hospital on two dying feet. After he was brought back by ambulance, doctors learned his toes had self-amputated. Now the blackened flesh was marching toward his ankles and still he refused surgery. Adult Protective Services submitted a petition to the Judge to order the amputation of Jonathan’s feet. No one could remember such a request being made. The hospital room was crowded with people. Jonathan’s physician, Dr. Anton, sat in a chair next to the bed while absently reviewing the medical chart in his lap. His colleague, a somber man named Schuler, sat in the chair opposite. The nurse who supervised the emergency room when Jonathan arrived stood against the wall, resentful of being thrown off her schedule. Next to her a physical 97 | 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 2
therapist nervously pored over her notes, all of which indicated that the hours of stretching and massage had yielded no positive effect. A man and woman waited just inside the door. The man was an orderly, perhaps 22 years old. He stood with his arms crossed, wondering why he had been summoned to such an extraordinary gathering. The woman, a mousy little figure with a large notebook in the crook of her arm, was a public defender appointed by the judge to represent Jonathan. When the Judge entered the room fifteen minutes late, everyone but the patient looked up with relief. The night ER nurse calculated her remaining sleep time. The pulse of the physical therapist accelerated. She had never been in court, never even received a traffic ticket. “Hello, people,” the Judge greeted them. “Court is now in session. Where is my clerk?” The room’s inhabitants glanced around uncertainly. “You’re the first person from the court that we’ve seen,” Dr. Anton answered. The Judge stifled an expletive and reached for his cell phone. It was still in the car. Marjorie, his clerk, should have arrived 45 minutes ago with the case files, official stamps and wearing one of the ankle-length peasant skirts she usually wore. “We’ll just wait until…” He wanted to chew someone’s ass, but had to smile and say, “We’ll have a clerk shortly, I’m sure.” Taking in the group, he saw Jonathan Buckner watching him. The Judge walked over to the bedside. “Mr. Buckner. I know this is difficult for you.” Jonathan looked at him, then nodded slightly. The Judge paused, expecting more, then said, “We’re here to make sure you get the best care possible.” Jonathan nodded again. Marjorie burst through the door, breathless. Short and slender, her arms were full. 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 2
“Sorry I’m late,” she announced, dropping the case files on the lower part of Jonathan’s bed. Everyone jumped. “Miss, those are the feet…” “Shit! Shit! Sorry!” Snatching up the case files, she pantomimed patting Jonathan’s feet. Which lay under a very white, very starched sheet. “Are you okay?” She shook with concern. “I’m alright,” the man answered in a small, compliant voice. “They don’t feel much right now, but they’re getting better.” “If the attending physician could give us his report and recommendations…” the Judge began to feel claustrophobic. Dr. Anton spent ten minutes going over the details of the case, concluding “without immediate amputation, the patient will lose his feet, then his legs then his life.” Throughout the doctor’s report the patient shook his head from side to side. He began to speak, then lost his nerve. “This is Dr. Schuler,” Anton gestured at his colleague, who then recited the same observations and prognosis. Then the physical therapist in an unsteady voice read a statement pronouncing Jonathan’s wounds beyond rehabilitation. “Doc-Doctor,” Jonathan blurted. “I mean…Judge. I been watchin’ my feet and they’re gettin’ better.” The Judge bit his upper lip. “The patient,” Dr. Anton interjected. “Is, and has been, in a state of denial about the severity of his condition. He refused initial treatment, which resulted in the self-amputation of his toes, and he is refusing meaningful treatment still." The Judge became irritated and absently clicked his pen.
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“The patient’s name is Jonathan Buckner and he is in the hospital bed to your immediate right. Have the two of you met?” The doctor sighed. “Yes we have, Your Honor. Mr. Buckner has spat on me. He has exposed himself to several female members of the staff. He is not on good terms with anyone here.” “That’s not true,” Jonathan mumbled. “Me and Opie get along just fine.” He indicated the orderly, who wearily smiled. “Opie Taylor, that’s his name.” “Jonathan, do you know how serious your situation is?” “Well.” The patient looked at his feet. “I know how bad these doctors say it is. But doctors lie. I know my feet are feeling better.” “Your toes just…basically, they just fell off, didn’t they?” “Yes, sir. But that’s what had all the poison in them. Once they came off, everything started gettin’ better.” “I need to see this for myself,” the Judge announced. It was the last thing the Judge wanted. His stomach was clenching and coiling. He thought of Corinne at her writer’s colony. If she needs material, she’s missing out. He watched as Dr. Anton pulled back the bedsheet and began unwinding the gauze around Jonathan’s left foot. The Judge nearly swallowed his tongue. Below the ankle, the foot appeared to be a mass of black gelatin. There were boils sprouting on the instep, like bubbles in a lava flow. “The other one.” “It is as bad as this one,” Dr. Anton said. He had to see the other foot. What person could order a foot amputated unseen? So he waited while the gauze was unraveled and saw a similarly ghastly sight. A stench filled the air and contorted the face of everyone but the patient. “Jonathan, in what way do you think your condition is getting better?” 100 | 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 2
“I doesn’t hurt as much as before.” “That’s because your feet are dying.” The patient said nothing. The Judge looked over at the public defender. “I’m in a moral quandary, Your Honor. Mr. Buckner has directed that I oppose any surgical procedure, yet I can see his body deteriorating in front of me.” She knitted her brow and the Judge could see she wanted to be as far away from the hospital as he did. “Argue his position.” “Mr. Buckner has the right to decide the level and extent of his treatment. He has not been judged incompetent by any court. He can make his own health care choices.” “We’re to assume Mr. Buckner is competent even as we witness the progression of this lifethreatening disease?” “Yes, Your Honor. Under the revised statutes…” “I know of nothing in the revised statute that says we are bound to stand aside while this man dies due to his incomprehension of his injuries.” Frustrated, he jabbed his pen back into his shirt pocket. I will issue a formal ruling within 24 hours. I can tell you now, Mr. Buckner, that I am not going to let you die. You are going to get well and you are going to have an opportunity to live a normal life.” “You mean you’re going to cut off my feet?” The Judge fought down the urge to say, “No, there are surgeons who do that.” Instead he said, “Amputate them or they amputate themselves. Is there any real difference?” He rose wearily. “Court’s adjourned. Mr. Buckner, I truly wish you well, sir. Good luck, and take advantage of the therapy offered.” Outside of the hospital room, he heard Jonathan begin to shout. 101 | 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 2
“Ain’t no man gonna cut my feet off! Ain’t no man gonna cripple me!” Marjorie caught up with him. "That was a pretty rapid exit.” “Your entrance should have been so punctual.” “I’m sorry. Traffic was hell and I…Why are you being a jerk?” “Because I’ve got to cut a man’s feet off and I don’t feel good about it.” “You’ve been cutting the legs off your political opponents for years.” “Ha.” As they approached the elevator, the doors opened to expel an orderly pushing an empty gurney. “So.” She resettled the case files under her arm. “Are you coming by later?” “Can’t. Picking up the kids.” Looking up at the floor numbers as they descended, he felt her eyes on him. “Fine.” The elevator opened and they walked through the lobby into the parking garage. “It’s really bothering you, isn’t it?” “Yeah,” the Judge said simply. He wanted to get away, out of this hospital and away from Marjorie, his job, and everything else. Go someplace where he would be anonymous. Quickly he devised a plan: Call his mother-in-law, have her keep the kids tonight. There was a new restaurant overlooking the river. He’d seen the review in the paper. A corner table, a light dinner, a bottle of wine. Forget today. Watch the river flow.
The writing of Robert L. Penick has appeared in over 100 different literary journals, including The Hudson Review, North American Review and The Antietam Review. He lives in Louisville, KY with his free-range box turtle, Sheldon. More of his work can be seen at www.theartofmercy.net.
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Dee Thompson At Home Among the Dead Historian Shelby Foote said “The Southern man doesn’t live in the past. The past lives in him.” For David Moore, that’s literally true. David Moore is descended from a long line of distinguished Atlantans. Moore’s Mill Road is named for his great grandfather, Thomas W. Moore. David's father, Virlyn Moore Jr., was dean of the Woodrow Wilson Law School, and an avid Georgia historian. Moore's grandfather was a prominent Atlanta lawmaker, Judge Virlyn Moore. After years of working in the increasingly impersonal corporate world of banking, David Moore decided in 2005 that he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. His father and grandfather were gone, and Moore was over 50, but there was a place that needed his expertise.
Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery holds the remains of legends like golfer Bobby Jones and author Margaret Mitchell, but more importantly it's a microcosm of Atlanta history. As soon as he got the job as the Executive Director of The Historic Oakland Foundation, David realized that working to preserve and protect Oakland honors the work of his dad and the generations before him. “People said oh your dad would be so proud, and I knew that, but I didn’t realize exactly what they meant until I started the job,” Moore explains. Keeping Oakland Cemetery vital isn’t just a job. It's his passion. Oakland is a unique place. It’s not often that one can point to a local landmark and say “that’s been there since 1850.” Oakland was started that year, so it has been around almost as long as the city of Atlanta, which started out as Marthasville in 1836.
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The Legacy For Moore, the history lessons started early. “I grew up with a dad who was terribly proud of his and Mother’s family history, and the collective history that is Atlanta. He was always telling stories he heard from his grandfather. He was writing, compiling information on Atlanta in various manuscripts. As I get older I find it more important to flesh that out, because I want to leave that legacy to my children and grandchildren.” Moore’s father, Virlyn Moore, an active member of The Atlanta Historical Society for many years, could recite reams of facts and colorful stories about the history of Atlanta, and Georgia, and the families that settled the state. He often worked his stories into lectures at Woodrow Wilson Law School, or even Sunday School lessons at Collins Memorial Methodist Church, where he was a lifelong member. Family friend David Duke remembers Virlyn Moore very well. Duke and Virlyn Moore grew up in an area of Atlanta called Bolton. “He loved to talk about the history of Bolton. I’ve heard that many of his law school lectures would include stories from the history of Bolton.” Virlyn (affectionately known to his friends as “Codger”) Moore Jr. was also a renowned athlete. He played on the University of Georgia basketball and baseball teams when he went there for law school – which was allowed in those days, even though he went to undergraduate school at Emory. He was selected to play on the baseball team at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but didn’t go because he lacked the travel funds. Virlyn Moore also played basketball for a local team sponsored by the Warren Company, and according to local lore, he was asked to play for the Celtics. When the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, Codger was happy to escort athletes and visitors around his beloved city, even though he was nearly 90 years old.
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Virlyn Moore Jr.’s father, also named Virlyn Moore, was a judge in Fulton County until he was in his 90’s. In his later life, Judge Moore was a character. David Moore remembers him well. “Grandaddy’s wit and storytelling ability were renowned. He was widely recognized by his peers. His rulings, I don’t think, ever got overturned.” Judge Moore was a young law clerk during the infamous and dark days of the Leo Frank murder trial. The Leo Frank case was a nationally publicized case involving the lynching of a young Jewish man in 1915. In later years, Judge Moore was famed for continuing to try cases into his 90’s. He was a familiar figure to family friend David Duke, who knew the judge when he (Duke) was a child. Duke recalled, “There was always a stop sign at the corner of old Marietta road and Ledawn Lane, on a hill just above the Masonic Lodge. The judge failed to stop at the sign one day, and got a ticket. After that, the stop sign went away.”
Touring the Garden of Stone Before he started working at Oakland Cemetery, Moore was not familiar with it. “I’m ashamed to say that although I knew about Oakland I had only been to Oakland maybe once, because I was having lunch across the street at Six Feet Under with a friend of mine. We went over and walked around. I did not know that three years later I’d be working there.” Moore is 64 but appears younger, with bright blue eyes. His love of history wasn’t always uppermost in his mind, but he admits “At a certain age you start looking back and saying well, that stuff’s important.”
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A tour through Oakland Cemetery with David Moore in a golf cart is a unique pleasure, even on a sweltering summer day. He is animated and talkative – like a man who is showing you his favorite place on earth. “There are 55 mausoleums,” he offers, along with other bits of arcane knowledge about the plants and statuary. When he sees people walking around the acres of carefully-tended grounds, Moore will always smile and nod, and often will answer questions and direct visitors, and offer explanations for things like obelisks and cacti. The visitors have no idea they are getting expert help from the man in charge of the entire operation. Like his father, David Moore loves to talk history. “Victorian rural garden cemetery… they liked exotic things. They liked… anything from the Far East, occult, Egyptians.” He is asked about the Jewish sections by a group of visitors. “There are Jewish sections, three of them. There are two synagogues… there’s German-descended Jewish citizens who created the Hebrew Benevolent Society, which is now the Temple, and the Eastern European descended Jewish citizens from Czechoslovakia… there’s a section that shows the more traditional Orthodox burial, sort of like you see in Prague,” he explains, motioning the visitors to the appropriate path to find those areas. “There’s also a Hibernian section for the Catholics,” he explains to me as we drive away. “It’s consecrated ground, all of it.” Moore knows and understands the Victorian funerary statuary symbolism. Oakland has small humble graves as well as elaborate mausoleums and statuary. “She’s holding the book of knowledge on her lap,” he explains, pointing out a statue of a mother and daughter. 106 | 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 2
We drive on, stopping to admire the grave of Margaret Mitchell, which is surprisingly modest. Later, I spot two small stone angels atop two small graves. “The figures were modeled on the real children, the faces modeled from the actual death masks,” he explains. Children were often buried at Oakland during the days before modern medicine saved lives. “We’ve got more than 20,000 children buried here,” he says quietly. That’s a sobering thought. We keep driving. We pass the neat rows of graves of Confederate dead, many of whom died defending Atlanta during the Civil War. I ask about birds that love to perch atop headstones and obelisks. We see Bobby Jones’ grave, which is tucked away next to a wall, and often covered in golf balls and other golf memorabilia. I point out one very peaceful area, of huge shade trees and velvety grass, looking almost like a college campus. “That’s potter’s field. There are thousands of people buried there,” Moore says cheerfully. (I re-think my future picnic ideas.)
Reviving Oakland After the tour, we return to the Historic Oakland Foundation offices, which are upstairs, above the Visitor’s Center at the front of the cemetery. The tiny office building was built over 100 years ago. David Moore likes to talk about Oakland as a vital place, a place where the dead are honored but the living can relax and have fun. Once a “weedy mess,” Oakland is now a lively place. The Historic Oakland Foundation sponsors poetry readings and fun runs and many weddings happen at Oakland. Groups like the Huguenot Society like to hold events there. There are guided tours daily. Oakland Cemetery suffered massive damage from a tornado in 2008 and efforts to restore some of the crumbling stonework and elaborate mausoleums had to be re-started. There was a lot of 107 | 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 2
damage, and the cleanup and repair work were costly. Moore’s banking and financial management experience came in handy. However, after the tornado he wasn’t advising people how to manage their money, he was asking them to donate it, to invest in the city’s cultural heritage. Moore sees the tornado as actually being a good thing for Oakland. “Oakland Cemetery is no longer Atlanta’s best kept secret. The secret is out. It’s a combination of neighborhood revitalization and the 2008 tornado – which opened everyone’s eyes to the fragility of the national historic landmark. It redoubled our efforts to take a hard look at our mission, our brand, our vision. It also elevated our internal operations – we got more donations, more resources, more awareness. We were able to capitalize on the event.” There are a lot of ways Oakland is supported. Corporate donations, foundations and grants are the obvious sources, but not the only ones. Moore explains. “The best support is from individuals, often descended from folks buried at Oakland. Also, folks who are part of the neighborhood donate, those who understand the importance of Oakland.” Although there have been no new plots sold in over 100 years, Oakland is still a cemetery. Funerals are held there. So are ghost-hunting forays, although they aren’t allowed at night, after hours. Oakland is a city park and special permission has to be granted for after-hours events. Moore doesn’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but he believes in history. Schoolchildren are always heartily welcomed. They will be the ones deciding the fate of Oakland one day. David Moore knows the importance of utilizing the internet to draw visitors and supporters of Oakland. There’s a lot of activity on the Facebook page and the Twitter account is updated daily. 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 2
“Our utilization of and use of social media has changed the whole ballgame. It’s captured the imagination of young people. That has made a big difference. We’re not one-dimensional anymore.” One recent event was great fun for Moore. He wrote a poem and read it at the dedication of a headstone for Abby Howard, the 19th century madam who inspired the character of Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind. For more than 100 years Howard didn’t have a headstone, but they knew where her grave was located thanks to a mapping of the cemetery in the 1930’s by the WPA. A movement to honor her with a headstone was very successful, and it’s one of Moore’s favorite stories about Oakland. Sometimes David Moore likes to just walk around the cemetery. None of his family is buried there, but it doesn’t matter. Atlanta history is all around him, among the statues of angels, the strolling tourists, the towering mausoleums, and the serene gardens; and his efforts to preserve Oakland honor his father and grandfather and the city they loved. He likes a quote from playwright Tennessee Williams about the past. “I’m paraphrasing, but I think it’s: If we lose the past, we lose the things that connect us to who we are today,” he says quietly. For David Moore, losing the past is not an option. He’s making sure Atlanta celebrates it.
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Corners Life will be what you fashion it to be, Regardless of memories of me. You will drive a car, curse, avoid wrecks. You may dodge love and crave sex. wonder just exactly who to trust and resent doing everything you must. Mistakes will come like weeds. Cause anguish and â€“ hopefully -- learning. Do nothing simply to please -seek out corners for fearlessly turning. The wrinkles you pave as time passes Will map equally laughs and sadness. Do not let the world turn you ice cold â€“ ice shatters. Be bold but flexible like water, Always adapting to what matters.
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In the Distance The corners were supposed to be long turned by now. The final notes of a familiar song were to have been sung. When our grandmothers rested After long years of child-rearing Here we are trying to smile at the emptiness And fill it up. Will we be the last generation to love quietly without tapping out texts? Will we be the last generation to recall nights on the porch, fireflies, skinny-dipping, trick-or-treating? We roamed our neighborhoods without fear, and came home as darkness shut down the games. Now the suburban streets are deserted. These things heal my wounds as well as medication: The scent of gardenias The velvety feel of my basset’s ears Clean cotton sheets and a box fan blowing Yellow squash, onions, and butter cooking in a cast-iron skillet – The wet grass under my feet as I deadhead the roses, check the tomatoes, pick a few beans. I had to return to the living garden after I could no longer bear children. Soil soothes my shredded heart. Love is a verb that spills words in a low voice, sometimes. A full-holding hug and mama’s voice saying “Gimme some sugar” or “Hug daddy’s neck” -“wash your hands before dinner” “your laugh is just like hers” -Love words, all of them.
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Dear Young Poet Dear Young Poet, Carefully crafting each collection of words Into images, similes, and advanced vocabulary; Stop. Just stop wasting our time. stop being prolific, oft-published, yet empty stop flooding the world with recycled drivel. You can write just for practice If you like, But don’t call your self-gratification poetry. You look at me and see a wrinkled one, spent and done. I look at you and see someone trying to manufacture art from bubble gum and paper airplane parts. Call me a sad, washed-up old cynic. I don’t care. I look at you and see the façade I constructed when I was there wasting my time and my strong young body. Don’t write until there’s something to say. Write when your hands shake Write when your tears scald your eyes Write when it comes tearing out of you, bleeding, raw Write when love seems just a nasty lie, - when venom fills your veins - when hundreds of words cause flooding and only three or four staunch the flow. Poetry isn’t a minuet, All dancers precise in steps to the same tune. Poetry that needs to be born comes from unspeakable feelings, Not chosen and folded -- torn out from shuddering cries and tattered beliefs. When recalling just the touch of a hand or the smell of the neck Brings a rush of tempered confusion and thoughts heretic When wanting awakens you at night - then you’re in the vicinity of right. When you shake with longing, too overcome to talk, 115 | 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 2
When walking Becomes running, though you’re too exhausted -Then the warp and weft of that old loom Weaves a spell as light as kisses and as strong as motherlove. Then, THEN – Don’t try to mend anything, or think. Dip your broken hands in ink. Wrap yourself with your own words and lie too close to the fire Cradling your reader until truth glues you together into one.
Dee Thompson holds a degree in Drama from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. She is a published author of two books; a personal memoir Adopting Alesia: My Crusade for My Russian Daughter, and a children’s book, Jack's New Family. Her essays have appeared in a number of anthologies including Call Me Okasaan and Dee has written play reviews for The Edge [Atlanta], and articles for a number of websites. For more than ten years she has blogged at The Crab Chronicles and she also has a blog for Southern poets, The Word Ocean. Dee lives with her son Michael and her mother in Atlanta, and enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and movies.
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J.D. Cagle wants to live in a world where everyone is able to be creative and successful - without all the anxiety and stress. She looks forward to a world where children are encouraged to create and play without mathematics. As a stay at home mother with two boys, Cagle is an advocate for her autistic son who has been bullied from a young age. She has a few videos online now that address bullying. When she's not being Mommy, you can find her outside taking pictures of nature. On rainy days you may find her in her indoors, filling her studio with paintings. 120 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
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Outside Author Interview with Ben Smith Interview collected and composed by Clifford Brooks 1) How do you think religion plays in the contemporary southern culture? There is a moment in the evening just before dark when everything changes. It can catch you off guard if you are not careful. I am thinking of the moment when dusk turns to night. Walking through the woods in the afternoon sun is a beautiful experience. And, even after the sun sets over the horizon, there are those last rays of the sun that paint the air with beautiful tones. If you walk deep in the woods, enjoying the last moments of the day, you will find (before you are aware) something happens to change everything. In the afternoon sun, everything is clear: fences, roads, buildings, and far off things can all be seen and understood. You cannot be lost during the day because you can see where you have come from and where you are going. As dusk comes and your ability to see is diminished, you still remember well enough the details from the moments of brighter light and what you once could see puts away any fear of being lost. In the time between light and darkness, you enjoy the fuzzy hue that the fading light gives. However, before you know it, darkness comes. In the darkness, the woods become a much different place. What just moments before was clear and beautiful is now dark and mysterious. What seemed safe a moment ago now seems unsure. No longer can you see from where you came or where you need to go. In the darkness, you imagine seeing things that are not there and stumble over unseen obstacles. Nothing has physically changed, but your ability to understand the world around you has evaporated. I think southern culture and its understanding of faith have now passed from dusk to night. It is not that the truths of Christianity have changed. Like the trees in the forest that stand still both in the brightness of the noon sun and the darkness of a moonless night, Christians today believe what Christians 2000 years ago believed. It is not that the testimony of scripture has changed. Certainly the words have not changed and the interpretation of orthodoxy by the majority of Christians has remained constant since the days of the apostles. A convincing case can be made that the Christian influence on our nation has been great. Those historical influences have shaped our laws, our morals, and our lives. As our culture embraces secularism, the light of the biblical worldview dips beyond the horizon and leaves many unprepared to make sense of the world around them. Certainly the culture of the south has changed and changed dramatically. Not too long ago, it was inseparably intertwined with the culture of faith. Where you went to church was as much a part of your identity as what football team you cheered for or where you lived. When meeting a new person, one of the first questions you might have asked was, “Where do you go to church?” In those days, we understood the world around us through the lens of a biblical worldview. Evil, sacrifice, suffering, ethics, morality, sexuality, war, peace, government, family, and every other part of life were understood through a framework of faith and our relationship to God. Not all were Christians. Certainly many identified as Christian merely as a cultural distinction more than one of faith. Even so, the influence of Christianity gave a framework of understanding and meaning. Those days are gone. Like the darkness of night has a way of blurring the memory of what you knew just moments before, southern culture has lost the memory of things before. Some may lament this change and make the case that we need to return to the “good old days” of the way things once were. Others who celebrate 122 | T H E B L U E M O U N T A I N R E V I E W I S S U E 2
the progressively secular southern culture of our day will celebrate the “new south” and make the case that we no longer need to have any cultural connection to faith at all. That may sound overly gloomy to you, but I do not see it that way at all. Certainly the abandonment of the moral teachings of Christianity that safeguarded many and the present celebration of hedonism that dances with personal destruction will greatly affect our culture. But those who believe the gospel to be more than just keeping a moral code will recognize that cultural Christianity was often more about acting right than having true faith. In days past, when to be southern meant to be Christian, the distinction between people of faith and those who simply identified with the culture was blurred. Early in my pastoral ministry, I noticed with dismay that around election season those who rarely (if ever) attended church but were seeking office would include their church membership in their campaign material and would—in a very public fashion—start attending church. When the election was over, they would not be seen around the church again until the next election cycle. The sad reality is that they cared little for Jesus and were unconcerned with the gospel but saw the church as a way to advance their agenda in the community. As cultural Christianity has collapsed, so have such superficial expressions of faith. Few today feel the need to identify with the church to be successful in business or politics. No longer is there social pressure to attend church regularly. As the culture around the church has increasingly rejected the church, the distinction between the faithful and those who simply identified with the church culture grows more and more apparent. The good news is that, the more distinct followers of Jesus are from the surrounding culture, the clearer their gospel witness is. In the past, some might have assumed that being an American or being a southerner or even being a good citizen was the same thing as being a Christian. That was never true. But to make that case 30 or 50 years ago would have been difficult. It was once true that the church in the south had a tremendous influence on the culture. The difficult truth is that the church often struggled with the temptation to accommodate the culture’s demands in the hopes of keeping that influence. When it did, its prophetic witness was traded for temporary cachet. Today, the church in what used to be called the Bible-belt finds itself at odds with the leaders of business and government. Those who still attempt to pander to the secular elite in hopes of gaining a place at the political decision table or invites to socially-connected events look more and more cartoonish. Cultural religion may be dying but faith remains. The influence of the church is strongest not when she defines culture but when she is a prophetic witness in it.
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2) Do you feel like religion is being stigmatized and/or demonized by the American population as a whole? Religion, no; Jesus, yes; and there is nothing new about that. The New Testament church was not persecuted because the world they lived in was anti-religion. They were persecuted because the gospel they preached was exclusive. The Romans who so viciously mistreated the early Christians were not opposed to adding a new god to the list but would not stand for the testimony of Jesus claiming to be the one true God and the only way to heaven. That same dynamic is true today. Our culture loves religion as long as that religion makes no absolute truth claims. And that is the problem with Christianity â€“ it makes absolute truths claims. Presently, it seems that much of the hostility has been focused on issues of human sexuality. The demand of the culture is that religion must acquiesce to the desires of the present. In that demand you find the conflict. If you claim that the God of the Bible has no authority to define what is righteous among His creation, then He is not the creator, nor sovereign, nor God. For Christians living in a world that is increasingly growing hostile to a biblical worldview, we must recognize that believing the teachings of the Bible has always put us in conflict with the world I must admit that I personally have been surprised by how quickly America has abandoned its Christian heritage and vilified what once was honored. Yet, I am encouraged by remembering that the church is sustained not by the power of man but by the power of God. History is replete with attempts to silence, kill, and destroy the church and the witness of the gospel. Church history is peppered with the churchâ€™s own failing that could have brought about its own demise. Yet, the witness remains. Frankly, I believe that the vilification of Christians and the church is only going to grow more intense as the culture moves toward greater secularism. When the will of man is worshiped, then those who worship and submit to God must be silenced.
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3) What are 5 easy ways people can practice every day to feel "a closer walk with God"? (Just a few small stepping-stones people can use, gradually, to find themselves in faith) You can test the water but—at some point—you must jump in. I appreciate that many come with questions and want to investigate the gospel first, but faith comes not by proximity but by intentionality. The claims of scripture are radical. The Bible teaches that God created everything; God demands righteousness; Jesus is the eternal God who came in the flesh-born of a virgin, that He lived among us without sin, that He died as a sacrifice for our sin so that we might be saved, that Jesus physically died and was buried, and that He physically rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. You can investigate these claims. You can read the biblical witness of these claims. You can ponder and think on these things but, again—at some point—you must choose to believe or reject the testimony of scripture. It is an all or nothing proposition. That is why we use the word faith. Faith is believing God. In faith, you understand that a holy eternal God cannot be fully known, and, so, we believe His testimony of truth even while we understand that to understand the fullness of God is beyond our ability. Walking closer with God comes from growing in faith and that comes from three simple disciplines. Firstly, read and study the Bible. The Bible is God’s testimony of Himself to us. Those who believe in God desire to obey God, and they begin by knowing the word of God. Secondly, develop a regular prayer life. This is something more than a cry for help when crisis comes. This is more than a few words before a meal. And this is certainly something more than a recitation of memorized words. Prayer happens when God’s people talk to God. There is no required formula, place, or posture. Scripture is full of prayers of confession, complaints, praises, thanksgiving and pleas for help and so should our prayers be. Thirdly, do not neglect the fellowship of other believers. Our culture tends to be very individually focused. As such, many approach church with a consumer mindset and will quickly disengage if something is not to their liking. Fellowship can be messy but it is God’s design for the living out of our faith. When the New Testament speaks about the bride of Christ, it is speaking about the church. You cannot live out your faith in obedience without being in fellowship with other believers.
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4) What are some tips on how to find the right church family fit? For anyone looking for the right church to be a part of, I would make the following suggestions: 1) Pay more attention to doctrine than dressing. In recent years, a lot of attention has been placed on the marketing of churches. This emphasis is found in the music used in worship; the type of dress the leaders wear; the branding of social media, church website, and church signâ€” even the architecture of new buildings. There is nothing wrong with these things, but they are not fundamental to the character of the church. The better question to ask is: What does the church believe? Every church has core doctrinal beliefs that color everything they do. You would be wise to fully understand those beliefs before you become a part of a new congregation. If you choose a church because you like the music, or how they use technology, or even the speaking ability of the pastor (but do not agree with the doctrinal understanding of the church), you will eventually find yourself frustrated and out of sync with the fellowship. 2) Get involved in a small group. The church may call this Sunday school, life groups, small groups, or something else, but most have some form of discipleship groups that meet regularly. No matter how big or small the church is, you will generally only know about twelve people well. It is possible to attend the main worship service for years and not know anyone and not be known by anyone. This is much less likely in a small group. The small group is where you will form close relationships with others in the church. I would suggest that you join a small group before you join the church. 3) Attend a church conference. Every church is different in how they govern themselves, but most churches have some type of regular gathering where they discuss the operation of the church. Many avoid these meetings but, if there are issues of gross dysfunction in the church, they are most likely going to show up in these meetings. Watch and listen to how the church handles disagreement. Pay attention to the churchâ€™s respect/disrespect for leadership. See how the churchâ€™s mission and passion is reflected in the logistics of ministry. 4) Meet with the pastor. Most pastors would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, answer your questions, and pray with you. Ask the pastor about the character of the church. Have him share with you where the church has been and where he sees the church going. When you meet with him, ask about his understanding of doctrinal issues and discuss your own. 5) Think local. This mainly applies to those who live in a large city. In a metropolitan context, there will be those churches that are well known because of a pastor, large youth ministry, or musicians. Generally, when someone tells you they attend such a church, they will not identify it by the name of the church, but by the name of the well-known personality that attracted them to the church. I have known some who have chosen to drive over an hour to attend such a church. These well-known pastors, musicians, and ministers are well known because they are very good at what they do and thus many want to be a part of their ministry. However, when you travel outside of your community to attend church, you will find that you will function more like a guest than a part of the faith community. The travel distance will mean that your ability to attend will not include weeknight events and special occasions. The logistics of meeting other church members outside of regular church activities will be difficult. And the local ministry of the church will not be your own local community.
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5) Do you think that requiring all students at the college level to take at least one religion course is good to bring to light facts instead of rumors that rule the roost today? There is a part of me that is sad to acknowledge the dearth of biblical literacy today. Biblical literacy has historically influenced our politics, public speech, education, poetry, and music. Without a general knowledge of the Bible, much of the writings of previous generations will not be fully understood. Phrases like “let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream” in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech lose their authority and power when they are divorced from the prophet Amos and become just another line in a great speech. Without an awareness of biblical themes, the opening words of the Gettysburg address just seem like a strange way to reference time. And words like “shibboleth” that once could convey context and meaning are lost in a world that does not know the Bible. The sad truth is that no amount of education will stop this erosion of knowledge. The Bible’s words historically colored the thinking, speech, and writing of those who shared a biblical worldview. In a world that now looks only through the aperture of a secular worldview, such language will not and cannot be appreciated. Unfortunately, the college campus of today is inadequately equipped to teach even the basics of biblical literacy. Secularism has so completely saturated the halls of such institutions that faith and the people of faith are as much a mystery to them as aliens from another planet would be. This is not an issue of intelligence but of understanding. In 2013, the New York Times issued a correction for mischaracterizing Easter as the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection into heaven. No one doubts that those who write and publish the New York Times are intelligent and well educated. However, their understanding of the basic teachings of Christianity is so lacking that they cannot articulate the single most important belief of the faith. Politicians speak about terrorists as simply needing more education and economic opportunities, fully confident that such policy changes will overcome the theological worldview that controls their lives. No one doubts the intellect and education of such policymakers but their secular worldview leaves them without the necessary perspective to understand evil. It is not the duty of our educational institutions to make known the gospel. That has always been the church’s responsibility. As our culture grows more secular and moves ever further from the moorings of faith, the impetus of the church must continue to be a light in the darkness like a city set on a hill.
Ben Smith is the pastor of Central Baptist Church of Waycross, GA. He is a graduate of Shorter University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served churches in Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia. Ben and his wife Dana have four children. Video of his sermons can be found at his website www.allforthekingdom.com or at www.cbcwaycross.org.
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Felino A. Soriano Evocation The way your birth saved hands from misremembering purpose this day reminds you something sacred predetermines each hour of your movement and
these wounds will soon dry —will soon rise into heal and the Apple Blossom halo will plant onto the skin reminding you your hands should pull back these curtains find comfort in what they’ve saved
—the body is a blemished paragon. Remember.
Felino A. Soriano’s poems, books, interviews, images, and information on his editorships can be found at his website: Of the poetry this jazz portends.
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Outro What is it that we’re entitled to in this life, if life itself can be taken from us? Beauty, it can be said, is best when it is fleeting. There is not a single sunrise that ever looks the exact same. We are given our memories, but even they are changeable, because our views on them do not remain stagnant. The strongest emotions fluctuate in breadth. Some people, we learn to love, but then that love subsides; others, we start off questioning their very existence in our breathing space, only to feel mortally wounded when they aren’t near. Could it be said that we are entitled to nothing, if all we have will change or perish? Or is the fact alone that we exist; these feelings exist; and that death exists inspire us to believe we are entitled to everything, because of our cognizance? The rare role of expressive believers, who capture moments through word or photograph or some other artistic form, is that they are given the chance to live life twice: in the initial capturing; and in the recounting, through sharing with others. Because of this, the “everything” breathes through their entitlement for living. Love and light; ache and sorrow—emotions do not emerge only during the original time of their occurrence, but again when the memory is doted upon, and the artist seeks a moment’s ecstasy for accuracy. In much the same way, a photographer’s eye for beauty is tested by capturing through lens what the writer savors in suitable words. Each creative avenue allows its viewer to live life three times: through a memory; through what is placed on paper; and through a personal contemplation and, hopefully, appreciation. What is it that we’re entitled to in this life, if life itself can be taken from us? Nothing or everything. It depends upon how well you live.
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Winter 2016 A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, Art and Music