a journal of culture
Poetry ANGEL C. DYE JAMES JOYCE KELVIN KELLMAN NATALIE SAFIR
H.W. BRANDS CHRISTINE TAYLOR MORGAN KOCH SUSAN HARRIS WILLIAM J. HARRIS AND MORE
Fiction KATE ERICKSON CAL SETAR ROBERT GWALTNEY
CYNTHIA PRAY-CLINTON TERENCE HAWKINS STETSON UNIVERSITY MFA MELLOW MUSHROOM ROSWELL HALF HOT
FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY ISSUE *all rights within remain with the respective artists
As far back as memory takes me, it has always been the end of a thing I dread most, an affliction
coloring all my beginnings. A malady fevering me with a sense of awful—that all the wonderful will fade too swiftly, leaving me alone and maudlin beneath colorless sunsets; the bittersweet scent of others lingering long after good-byes and last-time embraces.
Now, in this middle place of life, the years between the beginning and the end, I sort through my
memories, laying them before me, tidying them like scattered cards from a deck. This is the triumph of living: memories and surviving them.
And these cards—their edges are almost always touching. Sometimes, they tumble from the house
I have stacked, collapsing and colliding into another. That snowman we built upon the hood of Daddy’s old Studebaker—it knocks dog-eared against my long-gone, dead baby sister. And there, just beneath the Queen of Hearts—the fair skinned, green-eyed boy I first loved. Diffused are the times I thought I might shatter and all the times I did not. Hateful words—all the sweet ones too. And peppermint tasting, goodnight kisses.
With uncanny vividness, it is a magic of sorts that helps me remember these things. Even now, run-
ning my fingers across slippery, well-played edges, I remember the first time I spoke the incantation, cast a childhood memory into a forever-thing:
Seven years old—arms wide and reaching, I spin. Dizzy-headed, I topple upon the crunch of dry Au-
gust grass. I lay, blinking into the swirling, South Georgia sky. A breeze stirs. Pine needles turn loose. The sharp ends pierce the ground like arrows.
From the other side of an open window, Papa Edgar beckons from his CB radio to other people in far
off places. Breaker One-niner. 10-4. Good buddy.
Beneath his window, I marvel at the ease with which he speaks to invisible people. In the drift of
him—Old Spice, cigarette smoke, and beer; I long for other lonely, spinning boys. Ache for other drunken skies and distant places. 2
I’ll remember this moment forever and ever . . . Three times I say it, speaking this invocation aloud,
charming the thing—the moment—the feeling. Marking my cards.
And still, all the years later it does not fail me, this childhood hoodoo of mine. Even now, in my
grown-up mind, I imagine myself spinning and twirling—sprawled upon late summer grass. Here I cast spells. Enchanting memories. Electrifying the deck.
Perhaps you have grown weary dear reader, but please hold tight. You should know like memories,
even my ramblings possess borders—beginnings and ends. My confession remains true: it is the start of a thing I can hardly bear for there is always an ending.
So let us enter into an agreement, you and I, that we shall move on from this difficult place. Togeth-
er, let us turn the page and then the next. For there is clarity in the middle—memory-laced and splendid. Art and music and beauty and redemption flourish here—stacked in this deck. Breathtaking moments to be remembered forever and ever . . . in the hallelujah-glory of the sweet in-between.
ABOUT JON TRIBBLE By his wife, Allison Joseph This October, the October of Jon Tribble’s untimely death, is the 31th anniversary of Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble becoming “Jon and Allison”--or Team Jallison, as I liked to call us. Our lives were intertwined--lives of poetry and music, lines and signs, beauty and laughter. I miss him so much I physically ache. Jon was born in Little Rock in 1962--a fact I didn’t take too well when we first met--me being a black girl from the Bronx with Caribbean parents who married in London. But Jon never shied away from both the beauty and the ugliness of the history of his particular South--writing about the dividing lines of black and white with humor, pathos, and skill. He taught me so much about the South--its music, its food, its folkways and back roads. I sometimes felt uneasy in some locales we visited--we were an interracial couple for decades--but no one ever stepped to Jon when I was with him. He had his father’s pastor charm combined with his mother’s social savvy about who to trust and who to fear. Jon’s poems didn’t come easy to him--he didn’t think of himself as naturally gifted, and often recalled how, upon entering graduate school at Indiana University, our mutual professor David Wojahn told him that as a poet, he had “no form and no music.” Instead of sulking, Jon took that to heart, and crafted his poems through multiple revisions, working the language in his head, hearing the stories of the South in his brain. He would work on a poem until it was just right--no showing early drafts for input--and then show me work that I could barely find fault or flaw in. He worked steadily and silently, content to edit the work of others (which he did in a big way with both Crab Orchard Review and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry). I pushed him to let those myriad stories of Arkansas days and nights come to fruition in his work. I’m so glad I did, because he’s left us the legacy of a great mind at work. His vision is of a world made sane and kind, despite the brutalities of racism and sexism. His poems are “Gifts Inside and Out”--to quote the title of one of Jon’s own poems. I am stuck in my grief right now--it is raging and enormous. But I am so glad that I had thirty-one years of Jon’s love, his friendship, his wisdom. I am ready to be the one who reads Jon’s poems and carries his tales and songs to audiences I know will appreciate them.
THE BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW
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POETRY | FICTION | MIRCO-FICTION | ESSAYS | VISUAL ART | CHAPBOOK CONTEST
Poetry ANGEL C. DYE ANTHONY RINGUETTE ASHLEY REYNOLDS BILL GILES BENJAMIN GOLUBOFF & MARK LUEBBERS CARL BOON CLAIRE SCOTT DAVID VAN DEN BERG EVA H.D. HESTER FUREY JAMES B. NICOLA JAMES JOYCE JAY GOLDIN JOHN C. KRIEG KEITH KENNEDY KELVIN KELLMAN NATALIE SAFIR MIMI WHITTAKER RHIANNON GRANT RONALD OKUAKI LIEBER SANDRA KOLANKIEWICZ STUART JAMES FORREST WILLIAM BLACKBURN
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 24 26 30 31 34 35 36 38 39 40 41
Fiction & Essays KATE ERICKSON LISA DIANE KASTNER CAL SETAR ROBERT GWALTNEY JAMES H. DUNCAN
44 50 57 61 68
Book Reviews 71 75
JACK B. BEDELL A.S. COOMER
Visual Artists 80 84 87
MORGAN KOCH DANA JOHNS THORTON DELANEY
Literary Interviews CASSANDRA KING ALX JOHNS KISSING DYNAMITE PAPER NAUTILUS GOAT’S MILK PORRIDGE MAGAZINE REMINGTON REVIEW WILLIAM J. HARRIS SUSAN HARRIS
94 97 101 104 108 110 114 116 119
135 137 141 145 148 156
H.W. BRANDS LOIS P. JONES STETSTON UNIVERSITY TERENCE HAWKINS MELLOW MUSHROOM HEMINGWAY’S DOG
Music & Entertainment BLEACH GARDEN HALF HOT BRYAN G. MALONE JOSE MANUEL GARCIA
126 128 130 132
Faces of Faith 151
Movie Reviews 153
Angel C. Dye
Dating in the Age of Buzzwords Romance is Instagramming each other memes about trauma and taking turns having panic attacks like we pick a Netflix movie. Long distance means “Good morning” texts with heart emojis and tulips or hydrangeas delivered to my front door. We don’t party much, but when we do, we run into our rapists still trying to #metoo us on the dancefloor after we’ve said stop. It’s not like haha funny when I say I’m triggered by some tweet or post about growing up black; more like light humor pressing against a dark existence. I have to laugh. Predicative text finishes my Google searches: “dating with depress…” so I don’t feel so bad for asking. I clear my browser history anyway. My love says not to worry, says kissing is always a good solution. I say I am sick of diversity, inclusion, mental health, self-care marketed toward anxious, black, woman, millennial me re: marginalized minority and I love her, but I am waiting for the day when the living and loving is easy.
Angel C. Dye is a poet and scholar of African American Literature from Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas/Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A graduate of Howard University, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Kentucky, where she was a Nikky Finney fellow, and is currently a Ph.D. in English student at Rutgers University. Angel’s work has appeared in About Place Journal, The Pierian Journal, and African Voices Magazine among other places. She writes in the tradition of Lucille Clifton, Amiri Baraka, and Sterling A. Brown, striving to carry on their legacies of unapologetic blackness in the face of oppression, radical self-love, and artistic activism. She aims to discover, as Audre Lorde explains, “the words [she does] not yet have.” Artwork on previous page by Octavio Quintanilla
Dreaming in Hemingway I cheated on you. I was at work. It was the end of the day because the orange light from the sunset flooded the room from behind, only not so blindingly as that sounds. Ashley was there. She kissed me on the forehead. Once, twice, again. The third time she kissed me she lingered and I wanted her to linger. Through the windows to my left came a neon blue light from what I suppose was a nightclub. The two lights filled the room and transformed it into something more than it had been. And then Ash, now Brooke, looked me in the eye and said it was beautiful. I felt in that moment the impulse to abandon you. It was sad, but then there was Brooke. I kissed her. She moved her face away showing me her exquisite neck. I kissed her neck in the way I know you like your neck to be kissed. We kissed again. It was passionate and hungry and it continued a little while. We both had to leave and I spent the rest of my dream looking for Ash or Brooke and not you. I only found her again after I found you and that was too late.
Anthony Ringuette began writing poetry two years ago and will be attending Sarah Lawrence College in the fall for his MFA.
Heritage I am from bootleggers in Appalachia where kids grow up like wild weeds and fat grannies stir up big pot meals for hungry broods. Where men drink too much and say too little, and Mama will take a hickory switch and give you what for. I am from cattle fields in Texas. Where old men are stern bullsHard, and tough, and dry. From Baptist revivals with tight-lipped elders who spoke little of dancing, and drinking, and screwingThe realities of life. I am from a mother who grew up perfect. Sang in the choir, was always beautiful, and never knew who she really was. I am from watching my Dad preach on Sundays, knowing that the pulpit would always stand in our way. I am from parents who loved their daughter more than words can speak, but from two people who came from a place that was always out of my reach.
Ashley is a former English teacher with a love for writing, especially poetry. Her work has been published in Life As Ceremony, a bi-annual print journal. She also has an upcoming article to be featured online at Her View From Home. She is now a stay-at-home mom, living in Georgia with her husband and toddler son. When she is not chasing after her son or finding opportunities to write, she enjoys crafting, decorating, and being outside.
Ode of a Bully
You never leave the orphanage, only your safe place under the evergreen where you hid to cry and practice cuss words no bully would ever hearâ€” Â until he was you.
Bill Giles served for twenty-three years in the Columbia Fire Department retiring at the rank of battalion chief. Afterwards, he consulted with various Federal agencies and the Department of Defense training emergency response ministries in former Soviet-bloc countries on emergency response techniques. He writes poetry in cursive and creates art by recycling found sticks. He resides in Columbia, South Carolina.
Benjamin Goluboff & Mark Luebbers
POETRY General Longstreet Responds in Print to the Passage of the First Military Reconstruction Act, 1867 “The striking feature, the one that people should keep in view, is that we are a conquered people…. Recognizing this fact, fairly and squarely, there is but one course left for wise men to pursue, and that is to accept the terms that are now offered by the conquerors…. Let us accept the terms as we are in duty bound to do, and if there is a lack of good faith, let it be upon others.” 1 1
New Orleans Times, March 18 1867.
Mark Luebbers teaches English at the Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Benjamin Goluboff at Lake Forest College. Sometimes they write poems together. Mark and Ben’s collaborative biographical poems have appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Eastern Iowa Review, Unbroken, The Penn Review, The Nasiona, and They Said: A Multigenre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing from Black Lawrence Press.
In Memoriam: Chuck Berry
In a bedroom in Wentzville, Missouri, the walls painted purple and pearl and the sun from Memphis leaking through the drapes, he lifted his elbows, a little sick of the splendor, a little sick of the world, and hummed a spiritual. The wild dancing of the past impossible, the women who scraped mussels from the Mississippi dead or drifting, unable to hear. So what he sang he sang for himself— his servant sleeping, his favorite Gibson stuck against some faraway wall. You live to 90, the past’s a museum, a place that tries the mind with why’s and how’s of mint-colored shoes and white men with pistols barring the doors of the better Atlanta hotels. Even legends get turned away, lose themselves on Peachtree Street among the slim brown whores and slim white whores who beg for a dollar and refuse to listen, who listened once but forgot all that they’d heard, the technical pounding, the mathematics of it all. He sang quietly—he sang of rivers and angels, ghosts among the willows, Mother’s hymnbook collecting dust on a stranger’s mantle in East St. Louis. He sang, and no one heard, and that was better.
Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Posit and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.
Is This What It Comes To At The End Love unsteady on its feet lurching leftward lingering for balance one hand on the scarred oak table where four kids scratched their names SARA, STEVE, MATT, NICOLE the other hand on a wall with hatch marks tracking grandkid’s growth some cheated, stood on tiptoes wanting to be tallest and here we are two perfectly civilized old people screaming like banshees I yell you can barely see the garage need to surrender your keys sell the Prius before you kill someone you shout I am too controlling only two minor accidents, fender benders that could happen to anyone claws of anger rake through our marriage blood low-lying for years bursts through geysers of resentment, of bitterness, of betrayal blood no smudge of sage or Clorox can cleanse only the two of us focused on the future of a dented Prius unsure why we are arguing as though our lives depend on it
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
David van den Berg
Salt River Blues cattails rattle on slick grass banks while them bass holes fill with rusty beer cans and long lost hooks and mudcats sing ‘bout mermaids what grow whiskers and choose tobacco over princes salt river runs backwards all the way north you knew it in your bones but lied through your teeth ‘cause a man made of mud can’t fly too high before the sun dries him out and he shatters like clay catch me waist deep in that black water alligators don’t bother me none they know their kin and besides they like the music i make with a bullfrog on vocals and two mosquitos on fiddle so i’m doin’ fine i got it on good authority that lungs don’t count cigarettes smoked while drunk i learned the back of a woman is the loneliest thing to see and her leavin’ don’t mean nothin’ unless you think she was right to do it so i’m doin’ fine i just keep singing those salt river blues
David van den Berg grew up hunting and fishing in the swamps of Florida. He studied anthropology and religion before moving to LA, where he works as an actor and writer. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prometheus Dreaming (@prometheusdreamingmag), an online culture magazine. He was recently published in From Whispers to Roars and his short film ‘5th Dimension’ recently won ‘Best Short Film’ at the 2018 FrightFest.
Little Green If you serve someone whisky and beer until his liver ruptures what do you do with his keys on his little green keychain and how did you find the driftwood voice to tell the doctor DNR and then home, a shower, work â€“ which is the job of serving beer and whisky to living men.
We believe in the freedom of artistic expression, the realization of creative potential, & the transcendental power of stories. - II:II PRESS MISSION STATEMENT -
A Doctor Visit Having wished once for time travel, laying a board across her chair to write like Woolf, Skeleton Woman reads with interest now stories of the moderns and their bug-wars. A once handsome doctor-poet, he of the red wheelbarrow, the giant number 5, the stolen plums, arrests her with tales of interning at the French hospital, New York, where “as at all hospitals the battle against vermin went on endlessly.” The German lab chief, aka “the Wrath of God,” rages: roaches lick the slides clean every night, the diseased blood a delicious snack. The intern, a college pal of Ezra Pound, joins him in a night raid. “Hundreds” cover every surface, revealed by flashlights. In an orgy of ether deaths, the chief’s delight “savage,” but “the job,” the older poet says, “was hopeless.” At the Nursery and Child’s Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen, his patients mostly abandoned children, or tenement dwellers, who suffer the epidemics Malthus considered “natural” population control for the poor. The delivery room manager, a gal with a grill, wise-cracks that the building needs a 3-foot banner wrap around:
BABIES FRESH EVERY HOUR, ANY COLOR DESIRED, 100 % ILLEGITIMATE.
A rich patron offers her apartment on Riverside, a convalescent home for those guaranteed not to die. A bug stealthier than roaches, infectious gastro-enteritis. All are dead within five days. The doctor confesses to taping a crying toddler’s mouth. Once. Then knowing somehow in that moment why the babies wouldn’t settle, removing the adhesive: bedbugs. Confirming the theory with a test, he buys half a barrel of sulfur chunks, builds fires throughout the wards, sealing windows and doors, excepting only the exit, where he receives every child naked, wrapping each in sterile cloth. Used bedding left inside. When all, stripped, have been removed, he goes back, lights alcohol fires, diving out 19
just ahead of the flash, seals the door behind him. The next day nurses sweep out “pyramids” of bugs. The doctor as exterminator, a multi-valent trope.
Back home in New Jersey, obstetrician to Guinea Hill, after night births among the friendly Italians, the young doctor-poet can neither sleep nor type poems until he has removed his clothes in the tub. Even then, once inside his straw hat’s sweat band he finds a bed bug a day later, the size of a lentil, fat with blood.
Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian, the author of Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and Little Fish: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010). She is the editor of Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 345, American Radical and Reform Writers, Second Series. Furey teaches English at the Art Institute of Atlanta and Georgia State University.
James B. Nicola
A Matter of Moving or, Screen Saver I have moved up and down and out moved in along and away. I’ve left old digs clean, moved in to have to scrub and scour, and vice versa, had to wipe and been wiped, in turn; painted and been painted over. I’ve moved through cities, towns, countries, and countrysides I’ve missed and forgotten. Sometimes when I’m moving by an office or at a home and pixels coalesce on a screen into a field or a lake in a wood or a crescent-moon-edged sky or some other such image to stir into motion some passion, I stop and look like an idiot. Sometimes I’ll stare till the screen-saving picture dissolves and moves on to something else. Re-covering, I remember to do the same. James B. Nicola’s poems and nonfiction have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest, Green Mountains, and Atlanta Reviews; Rattle; Tar River; and Poetry East. He has been the featured poet in Westward Quarterly and New Formalist. A Yale graduate, he has earned a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, a People’s Choice award (from Storyteller), and six Pushcart nominations—from Shot Glass Journal, Parody, Ovunque Siamo, Lowestoft Chronicle, and twice from Trinacria—for which he feels both stunned and grateful. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. His poetry collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). 21
Hands at the Line of Rock & Roll
Beyond the restive herd our wary eyes alighted Where thrumming with menace and threat The piñon-fretted, humbucked strands of a boundary fence Snarled sultry promises of glistening sweat A laid finger hurled me hard to ground Leg twitched, work glove singed Taught reminder that through my most grievous fault I’d committed the most grievous of sins But in the flash that seared the brooding plasma I spanned tower and spire of The Greek’s Toledo Flinging arcing streamers like a raging Tesla Then soaring as a Yaqui brujo crow I rode from Soho with Mods on Vespas To play that silver ball Then kicked half a dozen Rocker arses In a bloody Brighton beachside brawl I set the controls for the heart of the sun And put my question to Alice I danced among mud-daubed men And Kilroy’d the edge of madness
POETRY I strummed that machine that kills fascists
Carried a torch with the Molly Maguires I cinched velvet gloves in Wenceslas Pointed away from the man crouched in the briars I slipped deadly righteous from a Warsaw manhole To kiss Valkyries hard on the lips I manned my pump on the Edmund Fitzgerald I glimpsed what was glimpsed by those Fatima kids And I left a thumb in a Statesboro gin Grimaced a disk each loading-dock shift Lost soft words to the foundryâ€™s thudding din And each bed-rise hawked up black, viscous spit I tossed aside the Company buckskins And lay hold with double fists
Jim is a retired litigating attorney who, finding that his enjoyment of writing found insufficient expression in the scores of legal briefs and affidavits he had authored across decades of practicing law, ventured outside that rather narrow genre. His play, Dark Windows, was selected for and performed at the Boo! Short Play and Musical Festival at the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City and, long an admirer of Yeats, Frost, Edward Hirsch, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Waits, he also found an outlet in writing poetry. His work has appeared in Kestrel, a Journal of Literature and Art, and The Westchester Review.
you close your eyes and put down roots — the deep detritus of the day nutritious for the grim-leaved trees that grow, bear fruit in cosmic shapes whose slivered whispers each to each, congealing in rich drippings, pulse through your blood and bones and breath: a feast for viperous dreams of green for dead freeze blue and for the red of stars in their last agonies . . . until dawn’s light decaying touch, morning knowing nothing save for the midnight fears that still faintly clutch at you like thin brittle branches that battle in a blighted forest
Late Summer as spring’s wild headlong onrush of bright green reconsiders, settles down to a darker, brooding maturity and then to retirement 24
Jay Goldin teaches history at the college level and likes to think of himself as a writer.
American Neolithic Terence Hawkins “This is a one-of-a-kind novel…Terry Hawkins is a bold and fearless writer.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher
It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Release Date: November 4. Pre-order at thecalliopegroup.com
the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018
Quraysh Ali Lansana “Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio
the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see. Available now at thecalliopegroup.com
John C. Krieg
Dick Dick was a huge Clydesdale Broke down from work and age Somewhere over 25 years old Nobody knew for sure But to us kids he was legendary and The most magnificent creature on earth Living out the twilight of his days Pressed into farm duty Grandpa Rounds was probably The only one left haying the old way He was so old-school that it seemed That we were living in a time warp He had all the old-school haying equipment In late June he had Dick scythe The tall grass off at the ground Then the loose hay was bucked up into rows Drying to straw colored waves Backed by an eternal sea of swaying green grass Soon we kids followed along behind the old Stroehmann’s Bread truck huffing and puffing And rickety with age Cocking up the rows into individual stacks Stabbing them with our pitch forks And hoisting them up onto the bed of the truck Our uncles barked out the orders That we kids followed with grim determination Great shame awaited any hoister of hay Who lost his payload, with the added humiliation Of financial ruin, for surely such a loser would have to, “Buy the beer.” Grandpa Rounds and Dick were frequently Off in another field staying ahead of Our human stampede We would do this three times each summer And attendance at school couldn’t save us now It was haying season - God help us all
John C. Krieg
POETRY We all knew that a long hot summer lie ahead And there wasn’t much to look forward to, except At the end of many days after Dick had Cooled down and lathered off us smaller kids Would get hoisted up onto his gentle back Dick seemed to enjoy giving us a lift At times there would be six of us laughing and Pitching side-to-side high on Dick’s rocking-horse back His hooves clicking rhythmically against the ground as he Carried us to his stall and a well-deserved rest But a genuine sadness always came over him When we were lifted off his back and set down I was sad too, for even at age ten I knew That Dick wouldn’t live forever That these days wouldn’t last forever That we two would go our separate ways Due to life and other circumstances Patting his massive head I wanted Dick to know: That he was a huge part Of all that was good about this place The backdrop that defined our simple lives An icon of a disappearing way of life A larger-than-life legend to me A force that made me contented with my youth Dick is buried on that farmstead Under the shading canopy Of a twisted old apple tree He hasn’t worked for over half-a-century And yet in my memory He still walks with nobility upon that land
John C. Krieg
1966 In 1966 the Motown sound still ruled in my hometown The Beatles and the Rolling Stones made some waves As they washed ashore with the British Invasion But, nothing held more sway than The Four Tops’ Reach Out I’ll be There In 1966 I was entering high school Wanting to be a football star, but instead Sat in the back of the bumping bus eagerly waiting To join with the seniors in signing the chorus of Brown Eyed Girl In 1966, even cloistered away in Olean, New York The world opened up to me I actually enjoyed the thought of going to school And embraced the task of learning, mostly from Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye In 1966 life held immense promise And I was sure I’d get mine simply by living it There were no thoughts of failure then, and Nothing seemed impossible, yet Barry McGuire sang Eve of Destruction In 1966 anything seemed possible My academic deficiencies were yet to be Visited upon me, and I felt that I was Just as good as anyone else, at least before reading The Lord Of the Flies After 1966 ended, the very first Super Bowl was played and Our Buffalo Bills supporting AFL town was much chagrined At the drubbing the Kansas City Chiefs endured No worry, Joe Namath would be in the league next year Black Is Black finally stopped playing on the air waves When 1966 ended so too did my naivety; good-bye Sounds of Silence Summer In the City 96 Tears Land of 1000 Dances
John C. Krieg
POETRY 1966 was a magical time Vietnam wasnâ€™t even on my mind College seemed a million years off My job was going to school Life was in perfect balance and harmony After 1966 the age of innocence ended I learned that I was not just as good as anyone else Avoiding the war in Vietnam came to dominate my life My collegiate choices considerably narrowed I became lost in life rather than living it Oh how I wish that I could go back to 1966
John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect and land planner who formerly practiced in Arizona, California, and Nevada. He is also retired as an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and currently holds seven active categories of California state contracting licenses, including the highest category of Class A General Engineering. He has written a college textbook entitled Desert Landscape Architecture (1999, CRC Press). John has had pieces published in A Gathering of the Tribes, Clark Street Review, Conceit, Palm Springs Life, and Pegasus.
This movie is defying no convention Thereâ€™s a fifth wall Projected in 3d Between my eyes and the fourth These actors are far too real The rules are bent over Exposing the depths of their sex
Keith Kennedy used to be little and now heâ€™s big. He lives with his wife, who hates pants. Third sentence available upon request.
POETRY Greying Kelvin Kellman
It worked a certain strangeness, a curious disturbance even, when mother would scream at her mother, and I’d wonder if she were simply mean for sport. A flourish of accusations abounded: childish, picky, nagging. Then gran passed and I witnessed mother distil a bursting spring of tears. As the days bled into years, she was hardly the same, as though a portion of her went with the lowering of gran. From time to time amid dialogue she’d add: ‘My beloved mother of blessed memory…’ as preface to her claims. But it never escaped me, the hanging languor in her tone; her voice in wistful bend, as though memory was a function of gloom. Long after I left the house and had my share of till and toil—and broke even—I brought me a woman just like mother and truly, I thank my stars because with them it was love at first sight, because no one wishes upon his women the destiny of cat and mouse. And by and by we hit nuptial. When we began to shout ourselves hoarse on account of kids who spun the house upside-down after school, I sold the thought (and wife immediately bought—since they were best of friends) that perhaps mother should come. ‘To help us with these things’ I said. Besides, in my fiscal head, it seemed a fair arrangement against two rents. Meanwhile I’d been blithe to the change in mother’s hair, the wisp to her frame and her unhurried steps. When mine began: forgetful, difficult, nagger, in that crisp and fickle moment, childhood memories assailed me, revelation dawned: my mother has become an old woman.
Piling Trophies I supposed it all southern propaganda, in the custom of my country’s north-south divide; how each group’s devotion to cruel fictions at the expense of the other, seems a necessary creed for being. Until my habitual restlessness compelled me north, and I saw to my awe, children deprived the expedient ritual of the classroom. On the eve I paid my rent, I ambled through my new street to gain a feel of the clime. The spread was calm, cheers to the trees lining the edges, but for the sun, whose rage nothing can appease, except to wait until November, when it tenders baton to another season of equal but contrasting rage, working in full zealotry. By morning I knew it to be true. Because the previous evening was as far as my giddiness could stretch. I had seen them that evening. Boys herding goats, sheep and cattle, and girls picking up plastic litter to sell to recyclers. Down south it was the same, children helping out with other ventures after school to pad parents’ meagre wages. But this was a morning of a school year, and it was sure jarring to see a girl no more than eight delving through the rubbish opposite my lodging for things to salvage. By her side was a sack stacked with maimed plastics of divers sorts she’d collected: coolers without handles, lunch boxes short of lids, and bottles marred from dealings with fire. Yao ba makaranta? I asked in my halting, mutilated Hausa, earning bursts of laughter from observing neighbours. A laughter that I could not reconcile what inspired. My crooked Hausa, or the idea of asking a little child, No school today? A neighbour came to my rescue. That Proceeds from sales of her trophies will be probably saved till she’s ready for marriage.
POETRY The child stared at me with an ambivalent silence. On the one hand, like someone who could tell that I liked to fix things, but her not-in-school was not in my sway, but the other I could only decipher as she lifted the piled trophies to her head and walked away. As she walked, that empty stare remained with me, and then I understoodâ€”that this is life as she has come to know.
Kelvin Kellman has had works featured or forthcoming in The Stockholm Review, Leveler, Cabildo Quarterly, Green Briar Review, and elsewhere.
Disclosed I attribute my fast mouth to my father who could sell anybody anything in the 1920s. The trophy they awarded him, as the Record Breaker from the Royal Typewriter Company in 1924 sits on a shelf near the window tarnished, a little dented but the letters on its side deeply engraved are readable ninety five years later -and for reasons I don’t understand today I begin to clean it-a loving cup -- one of the few mementoes I keep of his role in my upbringing Editors for stories I have written asked for more details about the father than I am willing to divulge He billed himself as a loving father of two. It was not true. As a devout Jew, a loving husband. It was not true. There’s satisfaction after all these years in calling his bluff, in blowing his cover. Am I as mean as he was, or is the work of my pen only the meager revenge of the wounded? My hands tremble as I apply a scouring pad to remove the sludge - - it is resistant. What I could not touch before I scour to remove the patina uncover the raw sides of the cup. The veneer gives way to expose base metal. No, it is not silver but some sort of nickel amalgam. Tainted. I place it back on the shelf, an encounter I might continue another day.
Natalie Safir is the author of five published books of poetry, the latest being Eyew itness in 6 /201 6 by DosMadres Press. Poems in magazines and ezines such as Rhino, Mid-America Review, Slant, Same, Connecticut River Review, Natural Bridge, Ginosko, and more. Anthologies include Art & Artists, Penguin; A Slant of Light, Codhill Press; My Line, Token. Sh ort f ic t i o n i n Persimmon Tree, Child of My Child, Rituals Anthology, Gelles-Cole Literary Enterprises, The Fairy Godmentor’s Advice, an essay and Jungian fairytale: The Woman with Midnight Hair. She has been an editor, lecturer, and workshop leader in local institutions.
Free His words a sheer cliff of black onyx splintered into ravens that flew into a white sky She watched from beach below as the landscape shifted shapes What was left measured vast and rich it settled in her chest breathed like a thing a kite that had broken free
Mimi Whittaker lives in Northern California on the shore of a lake. Raised in upstate New York, she often finds her writing travels back to the Hudson River and the Adirondack Mountains as often as it does the beautiful coast of California. Her work appears in California Quarterly, Digging Our Poetic Roots (anthology), Fish Magazine (Ireland), Peregrine Journal and various publications. She placed second in the Robert Frost Poetry competition in 2011. She has authored 3 books of poetry and short prose and one novel and is currently working on a new collection of poetry and short fiction.
many bobbins weave a life I focus on each in turn hands flying as the lace forms here a cloth stitch there a half the Quaker strand pinned firm (now tightly wound with work) twisting past the Druids towards the edge trying to keep the Spirit as the worker
I am a writer and adult learning facilitator living and working in Birmingham, UK. Much of my writing is non-fiction, often about Quakers and theology, although I also have a novel due out soon and have published poetry in Poethead and A New Ulster. My poetry explores the ways in which family life, faith, and political issues are inextricable from one another.
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WOMENâ€™S ONLY Wo m en of Resi l i en c e ch apbook c on test P R I Z E S AWA R D E D : 1st Place: $200 & 100 copies of their SCE published chapbook 2nd Place: $100 3rd Place: $50
H o s t e d by t h e S o u t h e r n Collective Experience and Judged by Melissa Studdard!
W i n n e r w i l l b e a n n o u n c e d o n A p r i l 1 5 th, 2 0 2 0 Submission Fee is $25. Please submit 25 total PAGES of poetry that highlight the resilience of women while overcoming obstacles along their journey to seek joy & fulfillment.*
Window for submissions runs from November 5th, 2019, until March 31st, 2020.
For additional contest rules & conditions, please go to
*This contest is open to women only. Contest is not open to SCE members.
Ronald Okuaki Lieber
Father Stationed at Fort Dix, NJ
When mother lived in post-war Brooklyn there were few, if any, Japanese, but she chose not to live with her Jewish in-laws but instead lived near the water and warehouses in a one-room six-story walk-up. Her English consisted of textbook phrases such as “where bathroom please,” “how I get to ...” or “how much” and she would draw out from among gum wrappers and bobby pins coins, counting them slowly, her eyes steadied, penny by dime by nickel the sum. I was just a baby then, strapped in broadcloth to her chest, where together we would stroll the neighborhood, awash in this new world of milk and fruit stands and vendors hawking shiny wares. We explored streets, up one, down another, curious about the smells and what was said behind windows. She studied signs and eavesdropped on conversations, snatching words for her vocabulary, never asking. On special days we would stop in at the afternoon matinee, a black and white flick at cheap prices and in the dark while munching popcorn and jujubes she would imagine the sense of things without embarrassment if she got it all wrong. And when we lost our direction, she would find the nearest man in blue, a “poriceman,” and hand him a note, bowing her thank you. Eventually our world widened to include verbs and things like ladle and lipstick, which so fascinated her until we no longer needed help at the food counter or in finding our way back where she practiced all that she had learned on father, home on weekends from active military duty.
Ronald Okuaki Lieber, LP, MFA, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, returned to earn a graduate degree from Columbia University’s Writing Program, worked as a waiter, cook, laborer, editor, and adjunct instructor before becoming a tenured professor at SUNY Nassau, while simultaneously undertaking psychoanalytic training and opening a private practice in NYC.
Stars in the Mouth If you had done nothing, you would have made no mistakes, what you try to remember when you’re down in the hole, looking around for someone else to save, metaphor, of course, for you haven’t adventured since you decided you failed the tree you were trying to help, or the wrong person got elected. In spite of your efforts. I know too much about you to ignore your multiple sources of water, the stream, the river, the lake, all the places you tried to wash yourself clean as if some one would hold you under, stand on fingers at the edge of a dock to punish you for dropping something on land. No place smells like a hemlock grove, but you don’t live there, can merely visit, occupy in thought or imagination, turning the pin pricks of lights on the other side of the lake into stars in the mouth of your well.
Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have appeared widely, most recently in Otis Nebulae, Trampset, Concho River Review, London Magazine, New World Writing, and Appalachian Heritage. Turning Inside Out was published by Black Lawrence. Finishing Line has released The Way You Will Go and Lost in Transition.
Stuart James Forrest
Dying In A Dead Dog A dead dog in the road; more precious than gold to a lonely black boy that was eight years old. Even more precious alive was my only friend; petted, cherished, hugged and hoarded, away from all of you. We would never die. We would never be killed, but he gamboled into a street of cracked, cruel, unclean, concrete; a snare for a pair of white boys in a car that leered, laughed and ran him down, then circled and ran us down again, again, again, again. five times just for fun five times just for me Almighty God, how I screamed. All my fatherâ€™s beatings, could not match such shrieking. I screamed my lifeâ€™s blood through my eyes. I screamed waves of my soul crashing against the gates of heaven; screams that ripped angels from their sleep, screams that chased down God and died at his feet. The boys left us; my dog, killed in the street, and me, dead in my dog. Something empty went to my home, wearing my clothes. It pretended to be me for ten thousand years.
Stuart James Forrest was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1951. He is a retired p u blic serva n t l iving in Oceanside, California. In the summer of 2014, He developed a passion for creative writing while attending Stanford University Continuing Studies. He continues writing poetry, short stories, screenplays and hopes to develop enough skill to be a strong, creative voice of his generation of Black Americans who lived through a very tumultuous period in American history.
Autumn Fading Red Cavorting flame upon the canopy Fiery spriggan leaping across chilled winds Pamphlets scattered over cobbles Story of the forest Within these leaves Orange Ember glow at sunset Drawing down of growing season Harvest bounty: blessed apples, squash, and beans Citrine post-it clings to heel Worm-worn one-sheet from the bower Yellow Golden halo reflecting in the lake Final blush of high summer sun Damp, rainy days along muddy paths Aging newsprint pages gust Announcement of winter snow Brown Battered by rain, knocked from lofty heights Infusion of tannin, little tea puddles Moldering and curled with age Crumpled, torn brown paper wrappers Littering our sidewalks in autumn
Currently based in OH (USA), W Blackburn still struggles to find his car keys. His work appears in SCRAWL, Emerald Press, Route 7 Review, and Edify Fiction. He is a contributor to Adirondack Center for Writingâ€™s PoemVillage 2019.
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FICTION & ESSAYS
LILAC COTTAGE AT MIDNIGHT
We didn’t want to move. Mom had just seeded basil, precursor to birthday pesto. Dad had just finished building the lilac trellis, an homage to his childhood garden. Fifteen years of pets were buried under the apple tree. But one day Uncle Tim fired Dad. Or maybe Dad quit. No one would say for sure — or why, or whether we would ever celebrate holidays together again. Regardless, Dad couldn’t pay the mortgage. The next day the house was for sale. Two months later we were moving. Mom barricaded us from the emerging feud with packing boxes and detailed instructions for bubble wrapping the china.
Dad found a place for us to rent at the edge of town. Chris, the middle child, and I
were already bussing 45 minutes to high school in Louisville, but Jon, the youngest, could stay in his school district until the summer. The rental was fully furnished, so we could also dump everything in a storage room. In six months, I would leave for college, and they would downsize to a two-bedroom. My departure would help finances.
During the weekdays, my mom hauled sports equipment and extra toiletries to
donation sites, because she couldn’t see nice things thrown away. The piano, the one I’d taken lessons on for seven years, went to a music consignment store. (The consignment store turned out to be a scam, and the piano disappeared along with any cash Mom hoped to make from the sale.) The red upholstered rocker, the one my mom had nursed us all in, went to Goodwill. As the house emptied, my brothers and I met in the room above the garage.
“At least they’re not getting a divorce,” Jon said.
When Mom and Dad had come home from dinner — the dinner we now recognized
as When Everything Started — her eyes were so bloodshot that we had braced ourselves for the worst, the thing we had also always expected. 44
Artwork on previous page by Octavio Quintanilla
FICTION & ESSAYS
“They shouldn’t have to worry about us right now,” Jon said. Jon was twelve.
Chris and I agreed. Taking turns spinning in the office chair, we decided not to cre-
ate new problems. We’d let our parents act like they were handling things, but we’d pay for our field trips and ace all our tests and search for the burned-out light bulbs, replacing them before Dad flicked a switch and was stuck in the dark, losing his shit. We agreed to grow up but not show it, because our growing up too fast would break their hearts.
On moving day Dad, my brothers, and I made a dozen runs to the storage room in
the rented U-Haul. We staggered under the couch. We wished we hadn’t decided to keep so many books.
“When is Mom going to be finished cleaning?” I walked the U-Haul ramp with a
rattan chair above my head. We could use another set of hands.
“When she’s finished,” Dad said.
The realtor had told us that the new owners hated the pine floors which Mom and
Dad had refinished, the original windows whose mullions Mom had meticulously repainted. The new owners wanted an updated house — carpets, air conditioning, splash lighting, granite countertops and mirrors under the kitchen cabinets. They were going to tear our place up, but out had come the Murphy’s oil soap, the lint-free rags, the Bon Ami. As we kids had made a pact, Mom and Dad seemed to have made one, too.
Dad let Mom wipe the blades of the ceiling fans which almost kept us cool in sum-
mer, rinse the kitchen counter where she’d made bread every morning, oil the wainscoting which, as a kid, I’d practically pried off, hoping to find a secret room. The more she traced her old paths through the house, the closer she came to being able to say goodbye. When we used to go on camping trips, Mom would always be the last to leave, vacuuming backward to the door. She did the same that night.
“Done,” she said softly, as the vacuum’s motor died. 45
We looked at our dark house, our dark yard. Night swallowed the swampy part of
the woods where we’d laid pallets, a bridge to our best neighbor’s house. Mimi and Pop had a library of photography books and barn with a magnificent wooden sailboat. Moonlight outlined the fence Dad and the boys had built around the back half of the property, the winding brick patio Dad had laid, the hundreds of rare daylilies Grandma’s eccentric friend had given to Mom when I was born. The new owners wouldn’t let Mom split the bulbs to take one of each. They hadn’t decided if they liked the landscaping, but they knew that they didn’t want it disrupted. I’d convinced her to split a few anyway, even though we didn’t have a place to plant them yet.
“The contract says we have to be off the property by midnight. We gotta leave,”
Dad said, looking at his watch. I remembered the treehouse, a multi-floored palace which Dad had built around two maples. It was still stacked with clay pots I’d made at art camp. “This place isn’t ours anymore,” Dad said, reading my mind. “You can’t come back.” I forgave his cruelty, because he was close to tears.
We crammed the last of our things into the Subaru and wedged in — Mom and Dad
in front, kids in the back, last boxes on our laps.
“What’s the rental like?” I asked, as we turned off Glenbrook Road and onto the
long two-lane which led through town, out of it, and into the countryside.
“We’re about to find out,” my dad said.
“You’ve never been inside?”
“Someone else was living there,” my mom said.
The backseat knew about open houses and home showings and riding your bike for
an hour while someone else decided if they wanted to live in your bedroom. We waited for the full explanation. 46
“Cats were living there. A bunch of cats,” my dad said.
FICTION & ESSAYS
“That’s how we got a deal. Board of Health or whoever found out.”
“The owner paid for cable, just to let the cats watch Animal Planet all day.” My
mom tipped toward laughter but swallowed the mirth, because this was the saddest day of our lives.
“The cats aren’t there anymore, okay?”
The backseat chimed a series of okays and cools and sounds goods.
“The fun thing is, and you’ll never believe this,” my mom started. We steeled our-
selves, because two months earlier, she had introduced Dad’s job loss and our impending move the same way. “The house has a name. Lilac Cottage, because it’s purple. Apparently everything inside is.”
She craned forward for validation, because the car’s headlights were swinging off
Evergreen Road and onto Lilac Cottage’s gravel drive. At the beams’ ends, indeed, the clapboard was purple.
“Lilac Cottage!” She verged on giddiness again.
“Okay, Melinda,” my dad said, reeling her back.
We parked behind the house, dumped the boxes from our laps to the deck. Dad
entered the house first, through the backdoor, and flicked on the lights. Through the windows, we saw a purple kitchen. Silent, we followed. Silent we remained, because the stench of cat piss was suffocating.
“You can keep your shoes on,” my mom murmured, stepping forward to look into
the living room. We pretended not to hear the tile pulling at her soles. The place was caked. Mom turned on a floor lamp. Purple couch, purple rug, purple wallpaper. An interior design borne of a demonic Willy Wonka.
“I’m tired,” I said, leading the way to the bedrooms. Tchock, tchock, tchock. At the 47
one I chose for myself, I dumped my backpack and pulled back the purple bedspread, ready to fall in. But the bedspread only folded halfway. I yanked. The blanket wouldn’t move further. I ran my fingers between blanket and sheets, found where the two were joined. The seam was sharp, crusty. I leaned and sniffed. Cat pee. So much that it had petrified the bedding.
“Hey, Mom?” She appeared. “They’re stuck,” I whined, breaking the promise I’d
made to Chris and Jon.
Mom took three breaths and surrendered.
“What the fuck.” she shouted. The boys stumbled into the doorway. “Get out,” she
shouted. “Get out, get out of here, get out.” She was already ripping the bedding off.
“Melinda—” my dad started.
“Who lets fucking cats take over a house? What kind of person?” She was furious.
“Get out,” she told us again, and my brothers and I jumbo-leaped our way through the stickiness to the backdoor. We waited on the deck.
We heard her locate bleach and a bucket. Shout orders to my dad. Storm out of the
house toward the car. She yanked a Tupperware out of the trunk and stormed back inside.
“People make fun of me for being prepared,” she muttered as she passed us. We
saw her pop the Tupperware’s top off, pull out our own lovely sheets. She moved out of sight, toward the bedrooms.
A few minutes later, we entered scoured quarters and sank into the smell of famil-
“Goodnight,” she said, pulling the doors closed. I heard my dad’s scrub brush hit
the living room floor, heard my mom filling up a new bucket in the kitchen sink. I’m a hard sleeper, but I woke once in the middle of the night. They were moving furniture, and the sink was still running. 48
FICTION & ESSAYS
In the morning, the place was silent. I nudged open my door and slipped into the
hallway. I realized that I’d forgotten to put on shoes, then realized the floor was smooth. My trachea burned again, this time from bleach. I found the living room, where my parents were sleeping on the couch. The place was immaculate. I heard a noise behind me — my brothers waking up. Mom heard it too. She squinted at me.
“There was afterbirth on the wall behind the TV,” she said.
“Go back to sleep,” I said.
My brothers joined me in the doorway.
“Just a few more minutes,” Mom mumbled, sinking back into the cushion.
“They did a good job,” I whispered to my brothers.
“Let’s get ready for school,” Jon whispered back.
Originally from Kentucky, [Kate Erickson is] now based in LA, where [Erickson has] written for BBC America’s Copper, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, USA Network’s Mr. Robot (Golden Globe - Best TV Series Drama, Writers Guild Award - New Series, Peabody Award, Emmy Nomination - Outstanding Drama), TNT’s Snowpiercer, and Fox’s The Passage. Prior to working in TV, [Erickson] produced live storytelling for The Moth, served coffee, crewed a Beneteau sloop, nannied, drove a produce delivery truck, ran a community center’s after school program, and volunteered extensively for 826NYC. Throughout both chapters, [Erickson has] written personal essays and fiction, which appear in various publications including The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Wellesley Magazine, Narrative Magazine, Santa Fe Literary Review, and New York Press. My fiction has been recognized by Glimmer Train. [Erickson] graduated from Wellesley in 2005 with a degree in English and [is] a member of the Writers Guild of America, East.
Lisa Diane Kastner
Life Lessons This world wasn’t made for me. I’ve known this since mom first took me out. Outside our home. Outside my safe place. That’s when I knew I wasn’t like others. The first time my mom took me among the living, those without limits, I was five. Yes, you read that right. I was five. She carried me out our front door to old faithful, pop’s favorite car, and down the road. Along the way she told me to mind myself. To not be rude to others. Make friends. “And if someone has something rude to say, you be good. No fits.”
I stared out of the window, nodded like I was paying attention. I was good at
that, even at the age of five.
We stopped at a corner store. She told me to sit still while she bought something.
Folks stared in at me, like they never saw a child before. Mom came back hollering. Told them to leave me alone. I stayed good though. No fits. Mom got back in the car, all teared up. I didn’t ask what was wrong. I knew what.
We pulled up next to a cottage with overgrown trees and bushes like something
from a storybook, a Grimms storybook. A wooden sign that must have been a hundred years old read “Happy Hanna’s Kindergarten. All welcomed.” The smiley faces were worn so the mouths were missing. The yellow faded to almost nothing. Only the eyes seemed bright.
Mom picked me up and out of the car and then put me right inside the door. She
kissed the top of my head and left like someone was chasing her. She didn’t bother to look up and see where she was putting me. This was the start of my first trip.
“Last call for boarding. Train number 333. Gate 6. Track 8.”
I’ve been traveling ever since.
FICTION & ESSAYS
I stand here for what feels like an eternity. The walk from the bus to this gate takes
me a solid 45 minutes. Just to board a train that’ll last another hour to get where I’m going. Can’t imagine how long it’d take me if I walked it.
I had looked around to see who I could play with. Find out who would take care
of me. Mom never left me like this before. She never left me alone and I had never been outside our home, even if pop had said he wanted me out sooner than later. I didn’t know what that meant back then.
“Ma’am, you need to go down there to board.” The trainmaster points down six
car lengths, which feels like six football fields away. I sigh. I stood at this entry for the last 15 minutes wishing there was some place to sit. Hoping someone would open the damn door. And now I have to walk six football fields to wait again. I do all I can so I don’t give her the stink eye and instead start forward. Others pass me with ease. Piled on with their luggage, my backpack miniscule in comparison. The straps worn. The zipper’s teeth hungry. My cane propels me forward.
From the dusk of the darkened room, a room that stunk of cigarettes and sadness,
came a woman with wrinkles like folds, her back hunched, her stride short, her bamboo cane kept her upright. She reached out to me with a sinewy arm that stretched halfway across the room. She helped me sit up proper on that stained rug. Said she’d show me something. Something that’d make me all better.
I don’t bother looking at my watch to see how long it took me to get to the new
entry. The new way of things. I simply stand and wait for someone to open this one. After letting in the other passengers, the conductor comes over and flicks a switch to let me in.
The old woman pointed to me and told me to get up. I did my best. Lifting my-
self up by my arms. Do it, she said. I almost cried. My arms used like legs, no one had 51
ever told me to stand up all the way. Not even pop. That’s what I thought, she said. She motioned for me to follow her. I drug my cramped legs behind me, the way I’d always done. She looked behind her, eyes black like night, face stern. Don’t know why I wasn’t afraid. I should have been. She made her way to a doorway. The beaten white door had been closed. Locks lined the outside doorjam. She clicked and clacked each one open. She motioned for me to follow her. Down the stairs to the basement.
“You’re gonna hafta sit upstairs. If you can’t make it then go to the other car.”
Oh no. I can make it. Make no doubt about that. I slide my cane into the side loop of my backpack and make my way up the steps. When I was younger I’d rush. Embarrassed that I’d make someone else need to wait. Fuck that. They can wait. I can feel the people behind me as they shift. Their anxiety elevated. Their breathes audible. I turn and smile. Wave. One of those shy, “Oh I’m so sorry you have to wait. I’m such an asshole,” kind of waves. I give them what they expect and continue forward. I slow down a little. Their bitching gets louder. I gave them what they wanted so now I do what I want.
I had thumped my way down each step. Doing as I was told. Made it all the way
down to the dirt floor. The old woman told me to hush and stay there. My eyes didn’t need to adjust much since the basement was about the same light as the rest of the house. I dug my hands into the loose earth and noted its odd dampness. The scent of metal and iced sweat. Scent of fear and power. In the corner I heard a murmur. Like someone trying to talk. As a kid, I thought she had the TV on. And then I looked where the sounds came from.
I pick the closest seat to the stairwell. The thought of going farther exhausts me. I
take my time shifting off my backpack, unlooping my cane, I put them on the seat closest to me. My backpack ruffles, shifts, needs. I pat it, caress it, let it know it’s okay then shuf52
fle to my seat. I smile, apologetically wave at the others as they hurriedly plop down into
FICTION & ESSAYS their seats.
In the farthest corner from me had been a cage. I hadn’t thought I saw right.
Inside, it looked like a big old lump. But then it moved. Moved the way pop moved when it was night and he came in all late and he stunk of dollar store whisky. Mom tried to get him to bed so there’d be no fuss. That slow, staggered, lost move. As it unfurled, I could see its arms, its legs. His clothes ragged. His hair matte against his head. Covered in dirt. The dirt from that floor. I gasped. Started to cry. I wanted to get up and run. I wanted to cry out for my mom. Something inside me told me she wasn’t there. Wasn’t going to come back. The old woman looked at me with those black eyes, raised a long finger, and told me to shush.
The drunks downstairs in the café car order their gin and tonics, their starter
beers. The workaholics get out their laptops. The lovers call their others, tell them they’ll be home soon. I smirk. The train car fills. I wonder if this’ll be another train so full that folks are standing. I hope it’s true.
The old woman came over to me. I thought she’d hit me. Her eyes deep, endless.
She had moved with thought, intention. She reached over me to a shelf. Pulled down a worn oversized tan leather bag. Like one mom asked dad for. He called it a hippie traveler’s bag.
I picked this train because I knew it’d be full. I knew it’d help me feed the hunger.
These people, they have too much anyway. Time to share. The conductor checks my ticket and leaves me alone. Folks look at me like they’re going to sit next to me then don’t. One guy comes over and insists I move my bag. I shrug and put it on my lap. It whines at first then calms, realizing it’s closer to me. Feeling my warmth.
The old woman mumbled something under her breath. The man coming to. Like 53
whatever had him messed up was wearing off. Like he remembered the meaning of life. She lifted the bag over her head, kept on mumbling. I tried my best not to cry, not to scream, not to yell. I couldn’t stop shaking though. I couldn’t stop shaking.
“What you got in there.” He must be one of the drunkards. His breath reeks of stale
booze. He’s been hitting it since early. Probably started at lunch. “Nothing of significance,” I say.
The man banged against the bars. The old woman chanted louder. The words
from some other tongue. The man started yelling at her. Called her names. I could see his strength. He wasn’t a small man. He was bigger than daddy. She kept going like she’s not with us. Like she was a spirit. He looked up at her and started to scream. I wanted to scream with him.
“It better not be a pet. They don’t allow pets on these trains.” He feels up his pock-
ets like he’s looking for something. Probably cash or a cigarette. Yup, cash. I pet it to stay calm. It’ll be fed soon.
“No, sir. Not a pet. Just one of those new electronic games.”
The old woman opened the mouth of her bag. Right at the man. He shook like he
was seizing. Like I did when mom forgot my meds. Like pop when he’d been drinking for days. Mom called it a bender. I covered my mouth. I couldn’t help but scream, but I had to do what the lady said. Mom said to be good and not have a fit. I needed to make mom happy.
“Can I see it?” He asks. He pulls out a few bills, leans into me. I want him to go
back down to the café car and get his drink on.
“Oh. Nah. It’s nothing special.”
He insists. I tap my backpack readying it. I put my fingers on the zipper tab. “The
FICTION & ESSAYS café car is now open and serving. Welcome aboard,” the announcer says.
Then the man dropped. The woman stopped chanting. The room filled with my
muffled cries. She turned to me, wild like. I stopped screaming. She stood up straighter. Her stance filled with power. The kind on those TV shows with superheroes but this was real.
He’s distracted by the announcement and taps my shoulder. I cringe. I didn’t invite
him to touch me. He’ll be the first. It knows. Yes, he’ll be the first. “I’ll be right back,” he says and stumbles his way over to the café car. The train’s motion makes him nearly fall over. I look at my watch. We should hit the tunnel any minute now. My backpack shakes as if it knows. I comfort it, shush it, let it know it’s coming.
She turned to me and there’s something more. Something different. Her back was
straighter, her eyes glistened with life, her gnarled hands youthful. Her face smoother. Her cane, lonely in a corner. Her need for it gone. Stand! she commanded.
The whine of the train heightens as we are swallowed into the tunnels void. Lap-
tops, phones, everything flickers. Connections lost. I pull the zipper’s tab and let it free. The hunger audible. The cravings deep. The screams tangible. I taste the passengers confusion just like it tastes them. When I was younger, I didn’t think it’d finish in time. But as the light of day breaks through the tunnel, I can feel it cuddle onto my lap. It curls up and purrs. Its renewal is mine.
My legs unfurled. I found my way to a new height, a new strength. I looked
down, amazed. I stepped forward and then again. I laughed. A laugh from deep inside. A laugh of joy, of freedom. She smiled and motioned up the stairs. Go, she said. I’ll show you more tomorrow. For now, go.
Light floods the car. The smells of fresh sweat and fear tinge the air. My favorite 55
flavors to end the day. I get up and rehook my cane to my backpack. I jog the aisle to see the remains. All thatâ€™s left are husks of travelers. Their eyes milky, void of comprehension. Their mouths agape, unable to sustain life. In the corner is the drunkard. Fresh bottle in hand. Didnâ€™t even get the cap off. I hop off the train and run down the tracks.
Lisa Diane Kastner is the founder and executive editor of Running Wild Press, www. runningwildpress.com. A former journalist, her prose has been published in numerous publications.
The first time, it’d taken almost forty-five minutes and a full bundle of rags to get
the grease off the mirror, the twine from the bundle wrapped loosely around his wrist, hand working in ever-widening circles as the grease smeared and smudged, turning the once-clear glass into a chaos of ragged reds and bright scars of pink, his mind wandering as his arm tired, the bathroom seeming to shrink as he toiled away.
The second time, he’d thought maybe someone was playing a prank on him.
He’d asked the guy he was working with that day if it was a joke, maybe some sort
of hazing or mess-around-with-the-newbie kind of thing, but it turned out the guy, the old guy, was even newer than he was, didn’t know anything other than that they were already out of ice and the morning rush looked like it was about to kick in and his audition the day before hadn’t gone the way he’d hoped but the casting director was a friend of a friend from college, well more like a friend of a friend of a friend, but still it was pretty much a shoo-in, a gimme, at least that’s what it was supposed to be, and his boyfriend hadn’t been calling quite so often since he’d moved to the city and what did he think that meant?, did it mean something bad?, maybe something serious?, and really, he had a lot on his mind, a lot a lot, too much probably to think about some stupid mirror or some stupid message written in colored wax so could he maybe worry about that later, ya know, when they weren’t about to get slammed and the casting director called back and Jared had finally taken time out of his busy schedule of waking up late and getting high with his friends to call or text or send a goddamn email? The third time, he considered asking if anyone had ever been murdered in the basement or the backroom, if maybe the café were haunted by some kind of ill-tempered ghost or spirit, a former employee who’d worked themselves to death or a homeless person just looking for a clean, safe place to take a rest but who got a lethal dose instead,
maybe an unsatisfied customer who decided to off themselves in the bathroom as one last fuck you for the less-than-satisfactory customer service.
But it turned out he was too terrified of the answer to go through with the asking.
“That’s her.” Heather motions with her eyes, tossing them toward the line of customers, something about it a reminder of that guy, the not-new guy, the old new guy, the new guy that was no longer a new guy because he wasn’t new or, more importantly, an employee, anymore. I wonder if he ever got that gig, if the casting director ever called back. Or if Jared ever got his shit together. Leaning back to peer along the file of faces, he’s surprised to find she’s prettier than he would have thought. Not that he expected her to be ugly—it’s just that there was a certain kind of look when it came to stuff like this, wasn’t there? He says as much to Heather.
She laughs so loudly she has to step back from the counter, so loudly, in fact, that
the girl stops rummaging in her bag, maybe even peering over the perfectly proportioned shoulder of the suit ahead of her in line at the two of them.
“That’s silly. Strange comes in all shapes and sizes.” Heather checks the time and sighs, cutting a quick and entirely insincere curtsy
before angling toward the basement and the morning tip-out. “She’s late today.” The suit orders—a green tea with lemon and four sugars—and as he fills a double-stacked paper cup from the hot water dispenser, he risks another peek beyond the perfectly proportioned and probably padded shoulder at the girl and her oversized bag 58
FICTION & ESSAYS and sunglasses. She’s not too tall, not too short, and with the glasses and her puffy, downy coat, he realizes, it’s difficult to actually make out much about her body or face. He slides the cup across the counter, realizing that he can’t really tell much about her appearance at all, wondering just what it was that had made her decide she was pretty in the first place. For all I know, there really is a ghost under all that. Watching out of the corner of his eye as she sips her macchiato and nibbles at her muffin, he can’t quite shake the feeling like he’d missed something. Like something important had passed between them as she’d ordered and dug through her bag again, producing a leather wallet run through with cracks at the spine and a heavy black AmEx, the kind only the Wall Street types seemed to carry, the same card the suit had used, the kind seemingly made out of slate or steel or the souls of the damned, but he’d missed it somehow. He’d rung her up with a sly smile, thinking I know, I know, I know who you are, feeling some kind of satisfied by the whole thing, but if she’d noticed it, noticed him, she hadn’t given any indication. And when he’d called her name – Lucinda – she’d slid off the stool and swiped her drink off the counter without a word. He watches her nibble, wondering when she’ll make her move. Lucinda with the lipstick.
And later, when Heather reappears to press money into his hand and he checks
the bathroom, his final duty before leaving, he doesn’t wipe the message away, thinking how, how, how in the world, thinking he’d only looked away for a second, just one second, thinking maybe he hadn’t even looked away at all, but then how?, how?, and maybe there was more than he could see, maybe not ghosts or ghouls but more than he could see or feel or even understand, thinking sometimes words aren’t just words and a mirror isn’t just a mirror, thinking life is for the living and knowledge is for the sharing and maybe, 59
just maybe, some other poor soul might need the wisdom as much as he did. ‘Strange comes in all shapes and sizes.’
Cal Setar is a writer living in Philadelphia. Previously, his work has appeared in The Woven Tale Press, Solstice Literary Magazine and elsewhere. His writing has also earned Honorable Mention as part of Glimmer Train Press’ March/April 2018 Very Short Fiction contest.
Meanness and secrets were plentiful at 2160 Mayfield Trail. Together, they con-
spired, creeping like runner vines, finagling behind the clapboard, curling the paint to ribbons. Daddy’s whiskey and my deep down, good kind of hurt—all of it knocked at the mortar and twisted in the soffits, sending silent vibrations through the ramshackle.
The soil was rich for trouble then, plowed and harrowed. Fertile for blame and re-
gret. Fallow of apologies. Not a smidge of acre fit for sweet onions, watermelon, or even a turnip seed to grow.
And flowers from Daddy? Never had there been those, not even daisy petals
pulled from a stem. At least, until then, the afternoon they mysteriously appeared, as if summoned by enchantment to rest upon the rickety, back porch steps. A commotion of fine-smelling blooms peacocking in a Brunswick star, cut-glass vase.
I was the one to find them. But it was Miss Wessie, the woman who looked after
her granddaughter, Etta Mae and me, who took them out of the heat and into the kitchen. “You two get on out of here and away from these here flowers,” she said, her joints shooting off like pop guns when she walked across the room.
“Away from here,” Miss Wessie said. “Lucinda ain’t done drying yet.” Etta Mae
and I watched her granny scoot the vase across the table to rest next to Lucinda, Miss Wessie’s favorite, church-going wig. I held my breath until she finished her chore, straightening and centering her hair on two stacked jars of freshly canned peaches. “We wanna stay here with the flowers,” I said. “Keep watch over them for Mama. We won’t worry Miss Lucinda none. We promise.”
“Miss Lady, they’ll be here for her to see when she gets home from down at that
Pickle Factory.” She shook her head, her everyday kerchief slipping back a bit. “If these flowers got a mind to wander off or die before then . . . well that’ll be that.”
“Who they for?” Etta Mae said, raising herself up onto her tippy-toes, those tiny,
pecan-colored hands clasped beneath her chin.
Who they for? Had Etta Mae’s cork come loose? Of course, they were for Mama,
a long-time coming gift from Daddy. Sometimes, as it happened, acrimony took a hold of me, uncontrollable and shocking as a sneeze.
“That’s a dodo bird kind of a question to ask,” I said, wrapping my arms about my-
self, searching for a body to choke. Digging my nails right to the edge of that nice-feeling place. “Daddy sent them for Mama.”
Etta Mae deflated, lowering back to the floor with the sorrowful speed of a give-out
party balloon. Immediately, I felt remorse. Etta Mae was a friend, like a sister to me. She was filled all the way to the top and brimming with goodness. Not half-spilled out like me.
But mostly, I was scared. Scared of Miss Wessie and the look kneading in those
tricky, butterscotch eyes. She scratched her kerchief and bent over, pressing her palms into her black, glossy knees, lingering for a moment before standing back up straight again. “Miss Lady, I reckon what Etta Mae says ain’t such a silly thing,” She spoke slowly and measured. “How you know who sent them with any certainty is beyond me.” Again, she bothered her head, the threat of her pulling off the kerchief growing greater. The very act: a declaration of war.
Etta Mae and I stepped backwards. “Granny?” Etta Mae said. Panic and consola-
tion swirling in her voice. “Analeise, she didn’t mean anything by it. Did you?”
I gave my head a shake.
“There ain’t no card. Not so much as a scrap of note,” Miss Wessie said, step-
ping forward. “Not even a sorry ole’ heart-shaped something drawn out yonder in the quick-drying mud to say who sent them. And you think you know it was your sorry daddy 62
FICTION & ESSAYS that done it.”
I took another step backwards, bumping into Etta Mae. “Miss Wessie, I . . .”
“Mr. Claxton,” Miss Wessie said. “Some years done passed by since I knew him to
show your Mama a sweetness. And now suddenly you think a change come over him?” She tugged at the back of her headwrap, a thatch of white hair sneaking out. “So, you tell me? Who is the dodo bird in this here room?”
Dodo bird? A case of those devilish sneezes threatened the room, “You. You . . .
You hush your mouth!”
Etta Mae wheezed, grabbing hold of my waist, a reflex intended most likely to keep
her from toppling to the floor.
In a breath, Miss Wessie reached up and snatched off her kerchief. Her hair, a
thick crop of silvery-white, shone like sparklers, a dazzling, living thing in the room. She sucked in all the air from the place. “Gonna count to three,’ she said. I regarded her temples, the throbbing spot where the hair wound tight and angry, darkening to the color of thunderstorms. “And then you’ll know!”
Before Miss Wessie could even set out to count, Etta Mae and I took off out of the
house. Across the porch we ran, fresh fallen curls of paint crunching beneath our naked feet. I took in the sound, the delight of sharp edges sticking and slicing at the tender spots. That flirty tingle of pain.
Halfway to the garden, the angry tears came. I regarded my running feet, desper-
ate for the sharp edge of a rock or the glory of a cocklebur, anything to comfort. A merciful something to thrill and sop up tears. Etta Mae and I collapsed at the base of the old oak in a ramble of sword fern and cast-iron leaves, the two of us leaning on our knees collecting our breath.
“Mean, mean, mean” I said, wrapping my hand into a frond, snatching the stem 63
loose from the root. “Why does your Granny have to be so mean?” I wrapped the long leaf about my pale wrist, tightening it best I could, imagining it cutting all the way down to the bone where the good hurt lives. I pulled harder, courting the feeling, enticing the shameful thing I needed. “She knows them flowers are from Daddy.” My breath caught in my throat, the clench that comes before a spill of sorrow. I yanked harder, urging it along. That sneaking, snaking thing, caressing and feeling its way to my hide-away places.
Etta Mae took hold of my hand, unwound the frond, and tossed it to the side. “You
made her mad is all.” She tangled her little fingers through mine. “Of course your daddy sent them,” she said, leaning into me. Her voice, a lullaby. “You’re right,” she said softly. Sometimes, I am a big ole’ dodo bird.”
I squeezed my Etta Mae’s itty-bitty hand and whispered, “I’m sorry.” Mercifully,
like all the times before, she squeezed back.
We stayed that way for a spell, quiet in our exile, leaking like faulty spigots, our
underthings soaked through with perspiration.
Etta Mae broke the silence. “Got something to tell you,” she said.
“Okay. What is it?”
She turned loose my hand, hurrying over behind the old wooden bench. She
pulled something out from beneath the azaleas and shot back over to me, looking over her shoulder, pressing something to her chest. Kneeling in front of me, she whispered. “Found it two days ago in a old rusty watering can underneath the house.” She pressed a half-full bottle of Old Crow whiskey into my lap.
“What you doing with this?” I said, whispering back, lifting it up to get a closer
“I hid it out here so Mr. Claxton couldn’t get after it.” She pulled at my hands, low-
FICTION & ESSAYS ering the bottle back to my lap.
On occasion, I had seen a whiskey bottle or two, but never close up. Daddy was
good at hiding things, a skill for which I held great admiration.
A slant of sun cut through the oak’s branches, catching light in the bottle, sparking
in the hooch. “It’s pretty,” I said. “Like your granny’s eyes.” Butterscotch: the color of trouble. I gave the bottle a shake and screwed off the top.
Etta Mae squeezed my knee. “What you fixin’ to do?”
“Never you mind,” I said, lifting the bottle to my nose.
“I’m just smelling it,” I said. The scent was not near about as unpleasant as expect-
ed, a different kind of smell coming straight out of the bottle than from Daddy’s breath. From the recipe of whiskey and aftershave leaking from his skin. “You wanna sniff?”
Etta Mae leaned away from me, swatting at the bottle. “You’re gonna get us
killed,” she said, looking over her shoulder to the house. “If Granny catches us with that, we won’t be sitting down til’ the sweet Lord calls us back to glory.”
“I’m not scared of her,” I said, passing the bottle beneath my nose.
“That’s mighty big talk,” Etta Mae said, knocking and grabbing for the bottle.
The cicada chorus ascended, tauting me. Prodding me along. “I wonder what all
the hullabaloo’s about,” I said, holding that Old Crow just out of Etta Mae’s reach. Perhaps it was the color of butterscotch that made me do it, hypnotizing me like a carnival gypsy. Or the hysterical screech of that cicada song. Or maybe it was both, tricking and taunting me to tip back that bottle and take a greedy gulp.
“Analeise Newell!” Etta Mae yelled.
“Hush up,” I said, shutting my eyes, taking in the slow burn trailing down my
throat, the scorch spreading across my insides. Like the smell, the taste was not as trou65
blesome as I imagined. Better than castor oil or a swallowed-down scoop of Mentholatum.
Etta Mae squeezed my wrist, agitating the place the fern stem choked. “Are you
“Might be,” I said, opening my eyes. “Hard to know.”
“You drunk yet?” she whispered, leaning into me, scrutinizing me from one end to
“Don’t be silly. It takes more than a little ole’ sip to get drunk.” Truth be told, I did
feel woozy, like the end of a good spin on a tire swing.
“Feel any different?”
I took another swig. “A little,” I whispered. “You want some?”
“The devil’s done grabbed hold of you, Analeise Newell.” She slapped at my hand.
“Don’t send him chasing after me.”
I screwed the top back on the bottle and motioned for Etta Mae to sit down on the
ground next to me. I lay my head in her lap, the whiskey bottle rising and falling on my belly. Up into the big oak’s branches I blinked, the sun weaving through, crocheting lace doilies all around. “Fiddle with my hair, sweet-like. And sing me something nice,” I said, in a sleepy-time voice.
“Okay, but not another sip. Promise?”
Etta Mae curled long strands of my hair around her fingers, turning it loose to
tickle my cheeks. The Old Crow fanned its fire-lit wings, heating my insides, smoking and clouding my mind. A sweet, slow sort of burn. Could this be how it felt to be Daddy? Floating and bobbing. And when was it that the meanness would come? Might it be quick like a hiccup? 66
FICTION & ESSAYS
I imagined Daddy laying there beside me, both of us with fire in our chests. With-
out a word, we share secrets, the whiskey bottle tipping to Daddy’s lips and to mine. There on the dandelion bed, the smutgrass poking up all around, understanding takes root. That a bad thing can be good. That salvation is the tricky color of butterscotch. That rapture is pain.
Etta Mae started singing, her angel voice and the whiskey casting a spell upon me,
nudging big shimmery tears to swell and spill from the corners of my eyes. Above us, the sun turned lazy, slouching in the sky. Three shadows fade into the weeds deep down beneath the earthworms, to dark, cool places. Far from the caw and burn and scratch of that Old garden Crow.
Robert Gwaltney, a graduate of Florida State University, resides in Atlanta Georgia where he is active in the local literary community, and an associate member of the Southern Collective Experience. His short story, “The Deep Down”, was recently published in The Signal Mountain Review. A recipient of an Atlanta Writers Club award for flash fiction, he was also selected as a top ten finalist for publication by First Page, an international literary magazine. Robert just completed writing his first novel THE CICADA TREE. An excerpt from this novel will be published in the December 2019 issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Alongside his writing, Robert also serves as Vice President with Easterseals North Georgia, Children Services Inc., a non-profit supporting children and families during the most critical time in a child’s development.
James H. Duncan
Three Writing Tips My TBR Pile Taught Me Over the last year I’ve made an adventure of going around to different indie bookshops across the country and reviewing them for my blog, The Bookshop Hunter. Being in so many shops has dramatically increased my To Be Read pile on my nightstand, so it’s been a pretty great year for reading. But when I read, it’s rarely just for pleasure. Each book, be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, has some tip or lesson for writers and I’m always keeping an eye out for those. Here are a few of the ones I picked up along the way in 2019.
Enchanted Night by Steven Millhauser – Millhauser is a worthy Pulitzer winner and the premise of this one is too hard to pass up: a series of short stories told a couple of pages at a time that interconnect to create the story of one magical evening in a suburban neighborhood. There are both nuggets of wisdom and cautionary tales here for writers looking for advice, and they both involve the same literary tool—tonal consistency. This, believe it or not, can be a double-edged sword. The tone throughout all the entwined pieces is very similar, giving each tale that somnolent, subdued magical feeling that binds the stories into one midnight-tinged adventure. But the tone of each character was also similar—too similar, in my opinion. It’s the same minor gripe I sometimes have with Stephen King (who I adore), in that 90% of his characters sound as if they grew up in Maine in the 1960s, whether they’re men, women, children, or otherwise. The characters in Enchanted Night all kind of fall into that trap. They feel same, or at least they feel like they’re from the same stock, despite the author taking pains to diversify their stories and backgrounds. It’s the same tone, voice, feel…it’s all too similar. I’m not saying that makes this a bad book, but it’s something that stuck out as a little awkward, and it reminded me that when I write, I need to do the best possible job of stepping back and asking myself, “Are these characters far enough away from me? Or are they just slight variations of me.” Some characters will always be reflections of ourselves, that’s natural, but when they all seem that way, well, it’s something to keep in mind.
Work by Bud Smith – I mentioned this book in a previous column for The Blue Moun-
tain Review, and I can’t emphasize enough how much I recommend it, especially for writers looking to mine their own seemingly mundane, humdrum workaday lives for absolute gold. The book is a memoir of sorts, and balances stories about the blue-collar jobs from his early life, how he met his wife, and how he began writing stories. It’s a modern-day Post Office or Factotum, but more engaging and earnest. But why do I bring it up? What’s the hot tip Bud can teach us? Delivery. Sometimes Bud uses this great staccato delivery that feels like he’s landing punchline after punchline, yet what he’s saying is so simple, so common, so…mundane. We’ve all been there, in shitty situations when we’re on the run trying to get to work and then—BAM—life piles more bullshit on us. The kind of stories you gripe about when you get home later. But if you deliver it right, it can become comedic. It can build. It can set you up with a sudden glimmer of redemption. And then it can drop you right back down in the mud. For example, one chapter opens with: 68
FICTION & ESSAYS I locked the keys in the car with the car running. First day I had it. Right in front of a 7-11. I was on my way to work, stopped to get some beef jerky and a coffee. Was cold out. Maybe I was selling Christmas trees in the parking lot of a bowling alley then. I tried to break into the car but I couldn’t get in without smashing a window. A guy with gray hair walked over. “You locked your keys in? Used to have the same car.” I got hopeful. Like he knew some trick. He said, “It’s a bitch. You’ll never get in there.” He walked into the store. Then he came out. Waved goodbye. Left. Like…sonofabitch. It’s a nothing story, but it becomes increasingly humorous as each detail falls into place with the staggered delivery. Hope is dangled. Hope is dashed. Hope waves as it leaves you stranded in a 7-11 parking lot. Sometimes changing how you deliver information can create a new way to impact the reader, maximizing surprise and creating stories worth telling out of nothing.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – This nonfiction book is about the horrific crimes of the Golden State Killer, but the thing that stuck with me after reading it was the pure dedication it took to write it, even though she never did finish. Michelle died before the book came together, before she knew who committed these horrible crimes, but she spent her life working the case and building the pieces she needed. She had so many notes, chapters, and essays about the killer already completed that when her researcher and a fellow writer took up the task of putting her book together for her, they were able to create a masterful book of true crime. Even though she was gone, her hard work paid off. But inspiration and dedication aren’t necessarily tips, and so here’s the other thing I would share with you: know your ending. Did she know the killer? No, but she had an idea about how she wanted to end the book (or at least we think this is how she envisioned it). It ends with her letter to him, wherever he is, letting the now elderly murderer know that she and the rest of the good people working cold cases would never quit until they brought him out of the darkness and into the light. It was inspiring, and it was written before the book was finished. She had her ending, even for a story that had no ending at the time. I take inspiration from that with my fiction, too. Know where you want to begin, know where you want to end, and then start your journey. It’s no good wandering into the darkness with nothing to guide you. There are dangerous things lurking that way, literal and figurative. So my advice? Know your ending, even if it changes. That way, even if you aren’t able to finish the book, the book may be able to finish itself.
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and the author of Feral Kingdom, Nights Without Rain, and We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, among other books of poetry and fiction. He also reviews indie bookshops at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com.
JACK B. BEDELL’S NO BROTHER, THIS STORM By Clifford Brooks No Brother, This Storm is written through the bayou in a language you feel in French. The poetry of Jack B. Bedell, Poet Laurette of Louisiana, earns his crown and spells out the storm, “Stranded in our yard/by backwash of river/and a foot of rain,/a snapping turtle rolls/on its shell, perpetual/as if fallen in a dream.” His writing is never out of reach, esoteric as it can be. It is the quality of prayers, hymns, and songs sung by the working class. The three-part arrangement of this book moves from the bare existence in “Parabolic,” marriage to place in “Just a Beginning,” to a man’s personal mythology through “El Tajin.” The piece, “Morning Vigi,” haunts me: “My uncle knew nothing still/wants to be moved.” Stillness is required to Step foot in No Brother, This Storm. No part of the collection smacks of melodrama or insists a point across. The point of this book is that nature and family are irreplaceable. “Elliptic” weds the idea in: “Lines of reeds where land/releases to the Gulf, back wash/into salt and wave-/if we were to lay our dead/here to guard this shore/against new storms.” Bedell finds inspiration in the Gulf, his mother’s lasting fire, and in moments like “Pere Papineau:” “The old man should not be met/at water’s edge./He will come inland,/ follow you back home/hungry./ Always leave him to his thoughts,/the heron’s cry” No Brother, This Storm is a read of environmental and individual protection. The jewel of Bedell’s crown is his accessibility. Every poem is a stand-alone, but in its order a seamless shift from one thought to another. The language leaps in places, but none of the content is out of reach. This book is created from a humble man’s awareness. We all walk away from his writing on: “Stones cover the shoreline, underfoot,/ becoming something other/than what they are,/smaller, more part of the place,/making the sea grass green.” After reviewing No Brother, This Storm, I had a few questions for the author:
1) What does the title of your book mean? Were there other titles you considered before etching No Brother, This Storm? The original, working title of the collection was the closing line from the poem “Breakwater.” The more the book took shape, though, I felt Against the Water’s Need carried the wrong tone for what I wanted the poems to do in concert. I really hoped these poems would make a case for damage and loss being something we could live/work with—not any kind of ally, but something we could roll out of into a better state. This idea is what drives the first poem in section II of the collection, “Dark Current.” In that poem, there’s a snapping turtle turned over on its back in the middle of my backyard during the aftermath of a storm. As the turtle struggles to turn itself over, it’s surrounded by all the mess the storm has kicked up. It can’t use any of that stuff to help itself, but none of that stuff hurts it either. And none of that stuff is the reason the turtle’s in trouble. The close of the poem recognizes all that without stopping the turtle from doing what it has to do to move on: Its claws cannot find river bottom for purchase, and nothing in the sea foam of leaves gathering around its body can satisfy its chomping jaws. No wind to carry it where it must go, no light bright enough to dry this mess, no brother, this storm. I made No Brother, This Storm the title of the book hoping it would carry with it some of the message of “Dark Current,” maybe even spread some of that over the whole book. 2) Which poems are secret hidden gems for you? Not sure they’re hidden at all, but the smallish poems in the book, like “Les Ris” and “Just a Beginning,” carry the heavy load of offering some beauty in the middle of strings of poems about loss and erosion. These poems were really necessary to the collection in my mind since they hold some pure, uncompromised hope. 3) Why did you decide to break the poetry into three chapters? What is the metaphor behind the titles of the three chapters? At the outset of writing the poems for this collection, my intent was to focus on wetland loss caused by coastal erosion and storm damage. The first poems written are those in Section II of the book. About 10 poems in, my mother passed away suddenly without any real warning. Man, I have no way of telling you how profound that loss was to me, and memories of her, the things she loved, and the stories she told hijacked my writing. I tried my best to sequester those poems affected by my mom, to keep them out of this collection, but in doing that I came to realize my heart felt the same way about losing her, and the erosion of family, as I felt about the issue of wetland loss. Instead of separating the two strands of poems, I started focusing on restoration and on living past these major events, personal and environmental, to find some sense of beauty and hope, of moving forward. 72
BOOK REVIEWS To weave these personal stories in with the environmental poems, I began writing narratives based on family stories and regional folklore to serve as ligature. I had a sense I could make all that mesh, but the more I wrote, the more I realized the character of the poems, the form, and the movement of the poems lent themselves to three sections. Section I of the book holds family poems, Section II holds the environmental pieces, and Section III holds the poems that hover around morals and lessons meant to tie the first two sections together somehow. For the titles of the sections, I tried to find lines from each section that communicated the overarching theme of each part, if that makes any sense. 4) Which poems did you labor over most intensely? There are a handful of poems in the book—“Elliptic,” “Tabulation,” “Remnant,” “Barometric,” “Frissons”— where I’ve intentionally left out, or taken out, parts of the narrative to see if I could find the point where I’m about to become uncomfortable with what’s left on the page. My goal was to create on the page the same struggle I was living through with the loss of family and the erosion of the coast where I was raised. As a storyteller by nature, it was really difficult for me to leave parts of these stories off the page. I’ve always done my best to honor memories in my work, and it was unbelievably tough to get those poems down to what’s left on the page and still be willing to let them stand on their own. 5) Which poems surprised you to be fan favorites? I have to admit, I’ve been a little surprised at the requests I’ve gotten at readings to do the poems from the third section of the book, “Fables.” Like I said before, those poems are out of character for me since they lean so heavily toward lessons and messages. I’ve spent the better part of three decades trying to stay out of the way of the stories I tell in my poems. My teacher Jim Whitehead always told me to let my poems play like a record, to drop the needle down and step back letting the details say everything that needs to be said, without editorials or morals. It definitely shocks me a bit that the response to those poems has been so positive. 6) What thoughts or ideas do you want people to walk away with after reading No Brother, This Storm? I really hope these poems carry my hope that restoration is possible. Even in the poems that deal with storm damage, or flooding, or wetland loss, I hope readers know how much faith I have in looking forward, in putting out the effort to breathe, in taking steps toward repairing what’s been lost or damaged so we can all move forward with gratitude and appreciation for what’s left. All that’s even more true of the poems about my mother and my family living in her absence. 7) What do you think goes into a truly good poem? It’s always great to get surprised by a poem, whether I’m reading it or writing it. I love it when the language of a poem, or the turn it takes, or the poem’s closure sucker punches me. Whenever a poem shocks me like that, I know there’s something in it worth my time, something I was fixing to miss. I also think it’s important that a good poem show me something about being human. For me to put a poem into the category of “truly good,” I really want it to leave the world a better place than it was before the poem got written.
8) What is your philosophy on writing and reading poetry? I’m always looking for the same things whenever I engage a poem—intent, accuracy, and integrity. For a poem to get my respect, I have to know it’s not an arbitrary thing, or an accident. I need to see a poem’s the result of the poet’s choices, even if they are choices I wouldn’t make. I also really value accuracy. It’s phenomenal when I’m reading a poem and it’s obvious the writer cared enough about the details to get them right. And it’s really important to me that the poet means the poem, that it’s not just an exercise in wit or form or vocabulary. I do my best to stick to all those principles when I’m writing, too. I probably feel even more responsible to those standards as a writer than I do as a reader.
A.S. COOMER’S MEMORABILIA By Clifford Brooks Memorabilia is a book about a man’s fragmented humanity. The author, AS Coomer, has been compared to Kerouac and Kafka in his sprawling narrative and mastery of the absurd. I can see the kinship, but Coomer tells his own story, his own way, and creates a unique brand of gothic surrealism. The reader is not allowed to get comfortable within the novel. The mental and emotional turmoil of its lead character, Adjunct Professor Stephen Paul, is crystalized in Coomer’s bare perspective, and it seeps into your nerves. A line from Ralph Ellison’s book, Invisible Man, echoed in my head, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Stephen Paul splinters under the weight of his friend’s, a colleague and literary genius, suicide. Further muddied by alcohol and drug abuse, exacerbated by an unfeeling English department who only aims to bury the tragedy, backhands the protagonist into a downward spiral. The reader watches his internal struggle dismantle reality. Who is Stephen Paul? Memorabilia doesn’t remain in the unconscious. The often unforgiving livelihood of an adjunct professor, the harsh realities of loneliness, incarceration, and America’s mental health system all make their presence known throughout the novel. The elastic nature of time and memory leave you questioning how much is the ranting of a madman, and what is the stark, sad truth. But there is a strange redemption. Stephen Paul finds his way out of the Kafka-esque confines of heartbreak and terror. As he followed the golden thread out of a dark time in a deep maze, we bite, claw, and fight on alongside him. As odd as the story’s turns may seem, there is universal appeal. That delicate line between a social disconnect in a time of ruling social media, and tangible link to the battles that rage in all of us to find out identity is meticulously walked by Coomer. After reviewing Memorabilia, I had a few questions for the author:
1) How much of this book is autobiographical? There’s a bit of me in everything I write and Memorabilia is no exception. The fear of artistic indifference and failure through crippled inaction are two pervasive pools of anxiety in the book and in my life. I’m afraid of moving on too soon; I’m afraid I’m standing still. You can’t step out into the same river twice, the man said. Each re-read of Memorabilia brought back a little snippet of me I’d forgotten. Some of those me’s I’d never fully been, praise be, but they didn’t seem to mind this on the page. 2) When writing this stunning piece of fiction, did you find it opened or closed old wounds? At times, writing Memorabilia was definitely a wounding experience for me. Inhabiting another place in time and reporting back from that when and then can put you through the wringers, despite your best precautions and naïve sense of security. Editing felt like salting the wounds more often than not, something like stoking the fire to ensure a well-rounded burn. It was something that needed doing, but it was often an astringent process. That’s nothing on 11:11 Press, they’ve been absolutely wonderful to work with, that’s just rehashing the burn. It was pulling off the scab along with the Band-Aid. Memorabilia sometimes made me question whether I was singing a love song or just putting the lines of a suicide note to music. I’m still not fully certain but I keep catching bits of it in the wind and, for better or for worse, find myself humming right along. 3) Give me your take on the primary characters. Stephen Paul is the leaf in the stream. He’s nearly paralyzed by indecision, the crushing gears of the grinding mind, and artistic entropy. He’s the onion curling, tears and bitterness, and a nearly nihilistic torpor. The book also has two imaginary characters, Stephen Paul’s protagonist Rivers Stanton and Paul’s very own bondsman: the farmer. These characters serve the story, themselves, and the Big Nothing we’re all tied to. I’d explain further but my foot already feels like it’s halfway down my throat. 4) What is your philosophy on writing? Literature is kind of like the universal adaptor for empathy, whether it’s poetry, fiction, or whatever. Literature lets people understand and process existence through other perspectives and informational hierarchies. You can fill in the confines of another’s head and really learn something, not to mention have a moving experience. Literature is also meditation. You sit and you wade out into the river, the waters that surround us all lap-lap-lapping, and you let the current jostle you. I usually have an idea of where the story is going when I sit down every morning to write my two-thousand words, I’m a religious man when it comes to my writing projects, I’m devout, baby, devout, but more often than not I run into unforeseen circumstances and unplanned scenes lead me in places that often enrich the story or aid in character development. Leaving room for spontaneity is important. 76
BOOK REVIEWS 5) What authors and/or books helped inspire Memorabilia? A lot of people find it surprising when I tell them Memorabilia was heavily influenced by jazz and ambient music. William Basinski, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Om, Bill Frisell, Monk, Bird, & Coltrane, just to start. Maybe the musical influence isn’t as overt in Memorabilia as it is in Shining the Light, but even with a distracted reading of the thing it’d be hard to miss Memorabilia’s musicality. That being said, my literary diet at the time of writing Memorabilia might tell you a lot about the book. It might not. I was reading a lot of existentialist stuff at the time. The Trouble with Being Born by E. M. Cioran was/is important, as is/was Sartre’s The Roads to Freedom trilogy, DeLillo’s Underworld, every word I’ve read of Cormac McCarthy but especially Suttree, which is discussed quite a bit in Memorabilia, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, One Hundred Years of Solitude, James Baldwin’s Just Above My Head, Patti Smith, especially M-Train & Just Kids. I could go on and on. I read a lot. That’s not a brag, just a realization and initial understanding that everything I read affects how and what I write. We become the books we read. This leads to the next logical progression, progression: if books are tools for empathy, why wouldn’t we read more? I hope Memorabilia makes readers want more literature and art in their lives. I hope Memorabilia helps steer us towards supporting living, working writers, not just the trust funds of the spoiled brats of writers long gone. 6) What do you want readers to take away after finishing the book? I hope Memorabilia teaches us to treat our art & artists with more sympathy, empathy, and respect. I hope Memorabilia moves us to keep creating in the face of the Big Nothing. It’s hard, but it’s important and it’s freeing. I hope Memorabilia makes you want to be kind enough to follow through with that impulse.
MORGAN KOCH By Alecia Vera 1) First off, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Do you believe your upbringing challenged your creativity? If so, then how? My name is Morgan I’m 25 and I grew up in Chattanooga, TN. I had a very unconventional childhood. I was homeschooled and my parents worked all through the week at a very pentecostal church. While other kids were in school I was going back and forth between Lowes for my mom’s church projects and sleeping underneath church pews. I definitely think my upbringing had a part in it. I used to get in trouble for drawing in my bibles and I spent a lot of time alone. I think art became the way I processed my loneliness and the extreme spirituality I was surrounded by. 2) How did you find your way to art? Are you self-taught or do you have any formal training? I’m self-taught, some of my first memories of art was defacing my Disney princess coloring book. I’ve always been attracted to pen drawings. I was obsessed with Shel Silverstein and used to read A Light in the attic every night before bed. 3) Your work has transformed over the years. Can you describe the evolution of your own craft and how that has landed into the digital world? I’ve always loved painting and drawing and would spend hours every day ex80
perimenting late into the late-night. As my life has gotten busier and I’ve had kids I wasn’t able to get that creative time that I feel like I need to function. Digital has added balance back to my creative life. I can take it with me and I’ve really enjoyed learning a new medium.
“I’m self-taught, some of my first memories of art was defacing my Disney princess coloring book.”
Artwork on previous page by Morgan Koch
4) What was your favorite piece or project you have ever worked on? Can you describe it in detail and discuss why you were so into it? I have two favorites. The first is an 8-foot piece I did for the Palace Theatre. It’s a milky white background with red symbolism, demons, and ghostly women. I was really
Nights with a feeding pump 2019 inspired by the frustration I feel as a woman in a male-dominated society. It was kind of my statement that just because I’m a woman and a mother doesn’t mean I can’t be vulgar or messy.
My second favorite is a painting I did while I was pregnant. Its a painting of a young girl asleep in the arms of a monster in the middle of a flower field. I painted it as the vision of what I wanted my daughter’s life to be like. Fearless and beautiful. 81
Anxiety 2019 5) Aside from being an artist, you are also a mom. Can you tell the readers a bit about your situation and how that has transformed you into being an advocate for positive changes? My daughter Vesper who is almost three now is disabled. She has cerebral palsy, Epilepsy, a tracheostomy, and a feeding tube. Through getting to be her mom I’ve realized how much people living with disabilities are left behind. I sometimes use my art to educate. There are so many families living with complex medical needs and disabilities its way past due for representation and accessibility. I also have a stepson and his relationship with my daughter also influences and encourages me to advocate for true inclusion. 6) Your work has become political and influential in all of the right ways. You have found a way to bridge cute color palettes with powerful messages. Have you always been using your art to challenge and educate others? If not, then when did that change?
I first started out less political but as I’ve gotten older I’ve had to face my own privilege more. I
really started to get involved with politics when I realized my friends and now my own daughter doesn’t have the same rights as others or access to healthcare. I realized how much politics affects my two-year-olds daily life as a child with a disability. Register to vote!
“I sometimes use my art to educate. There are so many families living with complex medical needs and disabilities [that are] way past due for representation and accessibility.” 7. If you had unlimited resources – what would you create and why? I would go even bigger with my paintings and come out with a full line of books, prints, and
clothing. Iâ€™ve always wanted to see my illustrations published and more accessible on a more broad scale. 8. Do you have any creative plans for the upcoming year? What are some goals you would like to achieve?
sonal Instagram @sage_and_roses where I do a lot of advocating and educating about our life. 10) Lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to anyone about anything â€“ what would it be? Be inclusive even if it makes you uncomfortable.
My goals are centered around getting my website up and running, along with coming out with an inclusive greeting card line. 9) Where can we find you? How can we keep up with all that you do? Right now I have my Instagram @shut_eye_ where I post updates about my artwork, shows and available work for sale. I also have my per-
DANA JOHNS By Clifford Brooks
1) What are a few things about you that most don’t know? What quiet parts of you speak up now in your creative life?
2) What other creative talents do you hide away? Have you ever married different parts of yourself to particular paintings?
Well I can’t think of anything! I’m an open book pretty much. I think my paintings really are the quiet parts of me that I want to share with people.
This might not necessarily be a talent but I really love children’s artwork. I get to see it every day because I teach preschoolers. I become very emotionally involved with my paintings in general.
Commissions are hard to do because my best paintings are very personal to me. 3) What does your creative process look like? When I paint, I usually start by smearing paint around and seeing what takes shape. Lately I’ve been working on seeing how simple I
can make it. I’ve been busy teaching preschoolers so there’s not much time or energy left over for my work right now. I give myself a few minutes with a piece of paper and a pencil and see what happens. 4) You have quite a following. I understand that others looking for an interview have shown up at your house. What about your style sparked this well-deserved recognition? I was surprised when people first
“When I paint, I usually start by smearing paint around and seeing what takes shape. Lately I’ve been working on seeing how simple I can make it.”
responded to my landscape paintings. I knew I had a strong emotional connection with them but to see others respond was one of the most gratifying things that has ever happened to me. 5) What are you listening to right now? How does music play into your paintings? I’m de-stressing with Russian choral music and some Sigor Ros. I love anything atmospheric. 85
6) What are you reading right now? What books on the craft of painting do you recommend? What books about business in art come in handy?
trying to convey a feeling, a response to the landscape. 8) If you could open a gallery showing with three other artists (living or dead) who would you pick, and why?
I am reading The Out of Sync Child which is about sensory proHonestly if I were good at business cessing disorders in small children. The Art Spirit and Art and and selling and such I’d love to open a gallery and sell some of our local art. Fear. Both are wonderful. Greg Benson, Ruth Allen, and Mike Shetterley are three of my favorites 7) What is the philosophy you but there are so many wonderful local speak every day to keep your artists. head on straight? What defines the ethics of your art? 9) What contemporary artists are you into that more people should I try to filter all the thoughts and know about? ideas of the day through love. If it’s of anything else it’s a distraction and should go. It’s really pretty simple. I’m Rebecca Crowell and Carol Pelletier and Camee Davidson 86
10) What work do you have out now, and/or, what projects do you have coming down the pipeline? How can folks keep up with you on social media? I have work at the Lyndon House gift shop.
THORTON DELANEY By Alecia Vera
1) Let’s start by discovering your background. How did you find your way into cross- stitching? I have always been into art and creatives and paintings and sculptures and all that jazz. But I never had much creative talent myself. I tried painting, tried working with clay some, tried a few mediums. I couldn’t find my niche. I was interested in embroidery work – searching the internet for certain pieces or sayings that didn’t exist. Granted, this was over six years ago when embroidery wasn’t nearly what it has turned into today. So, I just kind of picked up a kit my mom got me.. gave it a try. It took two years for me to fully commit to making pieces (completing pieces is more accurate – Ms. Work in Progress) but then I loved it. I like the counted stitch better with cross stitching as opposed to embroidery, but use both styles in my work. 2) Have you ever practiced any other forms of art? If so, what were they? If you haven’t then what would you be interested in trying? I love painting. I’m absolute shit at it, but I would say that’s a side of art that’s always been my favorite. I love ceramics. I love spinning the wheel and watching art come to life. I messed around with it at a 87
younger age, would love to try again. I also want to take my hand at larger needle work – using your arm to knit giant blankets & macramé is super intriguing also. 3) Your stitching’s truly address a modern lifestyle through humor, aesthetics, and a tad bit of foul language (in the best way). Tell us – have they always been that way or has our audience played a huge roll in that? They’ve kind of always been that way. I have always had a sailor’s mouth and crude humor. I, of course, create safe for work pieces and like that as well! Just not as fun ;-) Christmas ornaments and bridal announcements /gifts have become some of my favorites. I love when it looks like a sweet, antique cross stitch someone’s grandma made, passed down – until you read it.
Lizzo Truth Hurts
4) Speaking of audience, how has social media affected your craft? Do you think it has helped you succeed? If so, then how? I would say it’s the main pillar in my success, outside of the most supportive humans in my life. My family, friends, friends of friends that have bought pieces and spread the word for me. Having a full time job and trying to make some side money and successful from your art is hard! I know we all understand. So – social media has connected me with new buyers around the US (I even have a stitch in Germany! How rad!). I also did my first art show three months ago with a company that found me through my Instagram and hashtag usage. Pretty dope when that happens – makes the extra time spent marketing & creating an online presence worth it! I’m doing my second art show with the same company next month in Portland! 5) Who are your favorite artists right now? Natalie Sedgewick, UK @tattered_thread (embroidery), Brittny A., Portland OR @blaabad (tattoo), Annie, Nashville TN @gelhiigh (nail art), Emily McDowell, Cali @emilymcdowell_ (stationary), Alina, Latvia @afera_handmade (embroidery), Emily Charles, Nashville TN @emzgemz_co (silversmith / jewelry). 6) Your work is powerful because it is vocal. Traditional artwork more or less paints a picture for the viewer to imagine. Your work says it plainly. How do you plan to further the importance of that? I would love to dive more into controversial pieces, more so than they already are. Right now it’s sweet and cute, and with that I can introduce some harsher topics with it still being approachable. I want to make shit about clean, legal abortions to freedom of religion but keep my floral & funny spin on it. I love custom work – as others get to introduce me to topics also. I also enjoy the freedom of ever turning down something requested if it’s against my beliefs or boundaries. 89
7) What are some tips that have helped you grow as an artist – could you share those with the readers? Make things you feel passionate about & be true to yourself. I have been fed sooooo much advice that’s useless. People telling me to expand, hire employees, start making kits! So much that I wouldn’t do and have no interest in doing. Do what YOU want. That’s the beauty of running shit yourself, ma’am! As you start up, take advice from people in the industry but with a grain of salt! I’ve only received love and helpful hints from the stitch community. Which is amazing! 8) If you could collaborate with another artist – what would you choose to do and why? There are so many embroidery artists in this community- a true dream would be to have a giant piece sent around between us all that we all added our own little touch to. How sweet would that be?? But really – I would love to collab with smaller, local clothes designer / artesian who creates small batches of items. Stitch on unique pieces that will be loved by someone. 9) Can you tell the viewers where to find your stuff? Absolutely! Instagram @stitchandgiggles Etsy: StitchandgigglesCo , Facebook: @Stitchandgiggles Email: email@example.com Portland,OR area folks @ Roseland Theatre, October 23! 7 PM. $25 ---www.rawartists.com/stitchandgiggles 10) Lastly, if you had to choose one thing to stitch onto the shirt of Kanye West, what would it say? I would stitch “And I get bleach on my Tshirt” with some bleach stains. Quote from Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1
CASSANDRA KING By Clifford Brooks
1) Before we talk about your life with Pat Conroy, I want to know about the life of Cassandra King. What’s your story, morning glory? I was born and raised in LA (Lower Alabama) on a farm that’s been in the King family for generations. Growing up, I had no idea how lucky I was to be brought up that way— sort of a countrified, Bama version of Little House of the Prairie (peanut farm?) We raised all our own food, had cows, pigs, chickens, guineas, ducks on the fish ponds, horses and bird dogs. Instead of appreciating it, I of course couldn’t wait to get out of the sticks and move to New York or someplace sophisticated so I could be a writer and live an artsy-fartsy life. In my family, I was the day-dreamer, the bookworm, the wanna-be bohemian. My mother wanted me to be the perfect little Southern belle. I failed that course. As Merle sang, no one could set me right but Mama tried. 2) Please tell us what makes you happy. Chocolate. Champagne. Babies. Sunsets. Birds. 3) When did you fall in love with writing? What rituals do you perform before, during, and after writing to keep your soul in it? I started writing as soon as I could put sentences together. I wrote 94
“I don’t want to ever grow up. In the unlikely event that it happens anyway, I’ll settle for being an old floozie.”
ghost stories and read them to my classmates during recess at grammar school (what it was called in the old days). I wrote plays and performed them for my little sisters with their dolls and stuffed animals as the characters. I’ve always truly enjoyed writing—even assigned essays and stuff like that. I don’t really have rituals, though I like having bluegrass or classic country playing in the background, which drowns out the outside world. And yeah,
LITERARY INTERVIEWS I’ll often sip a glass of bubbly while working. But only at night. Wine with lunch knocks me out cold.
“I’m glad it’s behind me. It was extremely difficult to write . . . Now, I’m glad I wrote it. 4) Who do you want to be when you grow up? I wanted readers to know Pat not only as the tormented soul I don’t want to ever grow up. In the unlikely . . . but also as the warm and event that it happens anyway, I’ll settle for loving man I knew him to be.” being an old floozie. 5) Tell us about your editing process. What does that look like? I’m one of those writers who writes to discover. When I start, I know where I’m going with it, but not sure how I get there. Think it was Miss Welty who said, “How do I know what I’m going to say till I see it?” So I just let it all pour out, then do a lot of editing. In an ideal world, I’ll write something and put it aside, preferably for a good amount of time. Then I can look at it fresh, as though someone else wrote it. Which is a painful process, almost always involving thoughts like “Thank you, Jesus, that I didn’t let anyone see this.” Mostly I enjoy editing. By then, the hardest part’s over. 6) What book do you have under your belt, and please provide us with a line or two describing them. That’s an easy one, because I’ve written a cookbook, almost totally finished. I’ve written most of the stories and working on getting the recipes in the right format, which is a much bigger pain
than I could’ve ever imagined. I don’t know when I’ll get back to it, though—my agent and editor want another book of fiction instead. So I’ve gone back to a book I’d started before Pat got sick, which I call my “farm” book. I want to fictionalize the struggle of farmers these days, because their survival isn’t looking real good at this point. I haven’t decided exactly how it’ll pan out, but … playing with some ideas. 7) What inspired you to write Tell Me a Story? Actually, it was the stories of Pat and I cooking and entertaining together that I wrote for the cookbook. It was turning into more of a food memoir. I didn’t really intend to write about my marriage to Pat (especially so soon after his death), but the stories and memories kept sneaking in. My editor at Morrow convinced me that I needed to focus on a memoir, separate from the cookbook. 8) How did this book feel during its creation, and how do you feel now?
I’m glad it’s behind me. It was extremely difficult to write. I kept putting it aside because I just couldn’t relive some of the most painful times. Now, I’m glad I wrote it. I wanted readers to know Pat not only as the tormented soul who shared his troubled childhood and other difficulties, but also as the warm and loving man I knew him to be.
9) Did you laugh out loud while you wrote about your husband? Did you feel him with you as you wrote? Oh, absolutely. Pat was hilarious. One thing that makes his books so great, he could make you laugh on one page and cry on the next. He was every bit as funny and witty in person as his books are. I miss that about him more than anything. 10) What advise do you have for those thinking about writing a memoir like Tell Me a Story? How can one safely write about one loved a dearly departed? You can’t. I think you have to know that it’s going to be hard to write, and it’s going to hurt. At some point, you’ll need to determine if you’re at the right place in the grieving process to do it. It’ll probably be therapeutic. But if you’re not ready, give it some time. I always say, we don’t find the story we need to tell. It finds us. 95
The author with Pat Conroy 11) What have you always wanted to be asked, but never have? Please answer. What address should we send your chocolate to? 12) Do you support any charities or organizations youâ€™d like us to be aware of? The Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort. patconroyliterarycenter. org
13) How can your fans keep up with you and your upcoming tour schedule? https://www.facebook.com/CassandraKingConroy/ cassandrakingconroy.com Cover Photo Credit: John Wollworth Above Photo Credit: Elizabeth DeRamus
ALX JOHNS By Clifford Brooks
1) Tell us some important details about your life people miss, or forget to ask about. What makes you, you? That’s a great question and one that isn’t easy to answer briefly. The aspects of my life that seem most prominent in my aesthetic sensibilities are my having come into my own in the Atlanta hardcore scene. I suppose some punk ethos define my approach to a lot of what I do or how I respond to things. That said, I was a classical guitar major until my last year of college. I feel fortunate to have grown up in a growing city and to have had lots of different kinds of people around me that I had to learn to get along with. My parents, to their credit, encouraged curiosity and openness to new experiences and people, so I made traveling and
taking social and cultural risks a part of my young adult life. For some reason, it seemed reasonable for me to go to the Balkans during the war in the early ‘90s, so I raised some money and went. That experience, for which I was woefully unprepared, definitely changed my perspective on things. I tried to make it as a rock musician for a long time, and I survived a gruesome highway crash while on tour, an odd experience that is likely the source of some of my apprehensions. I’m still a deep lover of music. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
2) What in life motivated you to become a poet? What drew you to take charge of a classroom? I don’t know how it was for you, but I think I was always a poet. Poets, in my experience, are people who tend to interpret the world and others through a lens of empathy or wonder. They feel like they’re different from other people. They’re concerned with the aspects of the world that most others overlook, and they share some common personality traits. I certainly never aspired to be one. From an early age, I wrote to try to clarify and make some sense of the aspects of life that couldn’t be easily comprehended or defined. I haven’t decided whether the compulsion to allow poems to happen is a blessing or a curse. Poetry is a way of seeing, of knowing, and poems are written in the language poets speak. We strive to master it because to do so holds out the possibility of distilling into a containable space that which baffles, breaks, or disorients us. I wrote from an early age, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I had an aesthetic experience with poetry and understood it as art rather than as a boring assignment for school. Once I’d had that experience, I came to depend on it more and more. If I try to stop, as I have many times, it calls me back. Poets can’t help but co-suffer with the world, I suppose.
to some extent as a teaching professor, in that I’m really interested in what I teach and I want others to dig it as much as I do. I believe in what I’m selling, and I’m thankful to have landed in a job that allows me to sell it. 3) What do you bring to creative writing classes that many other professors overlook? Well, I’m not sure. I’ve never actually watched other professors teach it, and I imagine most of them do a better job than I do. Since most of my students are young adults, many of them don’t have the vocabulary of experiences to draw on for compelling writing. Personally, I don’t think I had anything meaningful to say in a meaningful way until I was almost forty. I don’t let my students write about what they think they want to write about, at least not initially. I want them to discover it through a musical process, following sound: assonance, consonance, very loose rhyme, etc. with no idea of an overarching structure or theme in mind. I’m partial to Richard Hugo’s approach, described in The Triggering Town. Having other students look at these loose sketches and search them for threads of continuity, the elements or themes that seem to bubble up from them, helps the students to discover what they’re actually writing about instead of the idea they think they want to express. They need to sever their conscious emotions from the text so that they don’t end up in the territory of bad pop song lyrics. If a poem needs a closed form, they discover that fact after the realization of what it needs to be about, not before. Maybe it needs to be open form. Basically, I want writing a poem to be an experience of discovery, not a form of self-assertion. That might make me different from other teachers, but I don’t know.
“Poets, in my experience, are people who tend to interpret the world and others through a lens of empathy or wonder.”
My students might question whether or not I’ve ever actually taken charge of a classroom. I came by teaching almost by accident. I needed a job and sent some applications in. When I first started, I was interviewed and hired with three days to prepare, so I had no idea what I was doing. I made it up as I went. I think a lot of professors have similar experiences in the sense that, unlike professional educators in K through 12, they don’t go to school to learn how to teach; they just find themselves in front of a classroom at some point. For that reason, there are a wide variety of teaching styles in universities. I might be selfish 98
LITERARY INTERVIEWS 4) What are you reading right now?
“Art is problem solving in the same way that science is. It’s a beautiful manifestation of evolution.”
I’m almost through The Long Take, by Robin Robertson, a “noir narrative written in verse.” I’m also reading the first five books of the Old Testament again. I’m eager to read Ted Chiang’s new collection. Honestly, what I’m reading the most are manuscripts other writers have entrusted to me for feedback. Laura Carter, Robin Whetstone. I wish I had more time to read for pleasure.
5) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have been? What’s the answer? What a wonderful question. I’ve always wanted to be asked it. Now, here you have asked this question, and I have no answer, or maybe I just answered it. I don’t know. 6) What’s your ritual look like when you get ready to write poetry? How do you get your head in the game? I’m weird, but I believe that poems want to be written or something wants us to write them. Writers have the choice to follow the light that flickers in the distance or to ignore it. I don’t want to come across as overly mystical, but I believe that as humans we’re able to somehow participate in the creative energy of the universe. After all, we’re part of it. Art is problem solving in the same way that science is. It’s a beautiful manifestation of evolution. I know when a poem is trying to reveal itself. Sometimes I take it on; sometimes I don’t. Brian Turner, whose work I use in my American literature class, told me that one of his poems, one of his most moving in my opinion, showed up while he was shopping on a Saturday and that he had to go out to his car to get it out. At its best, that’s similar to how I write. I’m always jotting down phrases that sound good or taking
note of images and experiences that are crying out for significance in a world that just walks by them like a homeless person on a city street. Eventually, some of these will find their place in a more-or-less coherent matrix of sound. That said, sometimes a poem flows out very quickly, usually when I’m by myself at night. Real writers have a much more structured regimen, and that’s why they’re much better writers than I’ll ever be. 7) Your PhD work dealt with creative writing in regards to PTSD with veterans from our armed forces. What drew you to that segment of the population, how did you go about gathering information, and what surprised you in the final outcome? Thanks so much for asking about this. As a professor in Georgia the early-2000s, my classes started to include more and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits. The South gives more people to the armed forces than does any other part of the country. The urban punk in me initially imagined them as “order followers,” conformists who were required to suspend critical thought and better judgment in the service of rich, egotistical men with designs on power. Once they were in the room, though, I realized very quickly that, generally speaking, the soldiers were far more intelligent and articulate than their peers were. It was amazing to me that people in their mid-20s, some who didn’t finish high school, could speak and write so eloquently, on such a deep level, about literature, could express themselves so interestingly, so colorfully. For whatever reason, I’ve always been interested in the repercussions and resonances of extreme experiences, and I chose to explore the connections between these and what gets manifested in aesthetic experiences. A group of veterans offered me their time and candor, shared experiences that they had every right to keep to themselves, and they 99
were patient with me through the process of interviews and more interviews and document analysis and data analysis and all that academic bullshit. In a way, they were donating their souls to social science. I can’t easily summarize what my research found; after all, it’s a dissertation. Simply put, though, there seems to be a correlation between extreme experiences at a young age in which loads of adrenaline and cortisol define the mind and the ability to have profound aesthetic experiences. 8) What books do you have under your belt, how are each of them special to you, and how do folks get their hands on them? As you know, getting a book of poems pub lished isn’t easy. I want to be included in the conversation of poets I admire, so I don’t self-publish anything. I have two collections in print: Robot Cosmetics on Pavement Saw Press and Darwin’s Book of Saints, available from Aurore Press. Each of these books made sense to me at the time I called them finished. 9) What creative projects are on your plate now? I have two new manuscripts that I’m trying to fine tune and find a publisher for and a huge number of other poems as well. I have a musical project called Birdsmoke that I began in 2014 and a collaborative musical project called The Overnight Low. I have a background in music production, and I’ve recently begun producing records for other people. I love sound as art, and I really enjoy exploring its possibilities. I also enjoy helping other writers with their work. I spent this past summer working as a manuscript editor. That might not seem creative in the classic sense, but it’s really edifying to read other writers’ work with an eye for how it comes across to the reader. 10) You have a robust spoken word community in Athens, Georgia. Which events are you involved with, and what makes them stand out from the others? 100
Word of Mouth is three months away from having been active for a decade. Our Cincinnati branch is in its sixth year. I suppose what makes us different is that we emphasize cultivation as a community. I began to realize that having a warm, welcoming audience with whom I could share new work helped me to sense it differently and began to inform my writing significantly. The late Aralee Strange, who founded Word, used to emphasize that if you ask an audience or a reader to spend time with your words, you should reward them for having done so. We encourage everyone to bring and share their work, regardless of style or skill level, in order to help them grow creatively. The page-to-stage-to-page-again process and having a regular and predictable time and place in which to share work really seem to help writers find and refine their voices.
CHRISTINE TAYLOR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF KISSING DYNAMITE By Clifford Brooks
Left to Right: Christine Taylor, Hailey Sage (Circle), Tim Lear, Khalisa Rae, Jason Bates (Circle), David Stolarz 1) Please tell us how your journal came into being? What was the spark that lit the fire that now burns in reality? Who came together to get the hard work done? Actually, a poet-friend of mine asked me during a conversation whether I would ever open my own journal, and I immediately said, “No!” At the time, I imagined myself saddled under a heap of submissions trying to figure out what to do with them all. But I was a reader and assistant editor at another journal at the time, and I had some philosophical differences with the masthead at that publication, so I started to think more seriously about starting my own journal. A couple months later, Kissing Dynamite grew legs. I first asked my colleague Tim Lear, with whom I co-facilitate a poetry research group, if he would be interested in helping me out, and he—ever enthusiastic!—agreed. I had other poet-friends like Kristin Garth help spread the word about the opening of the journal, and our first issue took off in January 2019. Since then, the rest of our masthead has come together to put in the hard work of realizing each month’s issue and special feature projects. 2) What is the significance of your journal’s title? How did it come to you? How has its meaning changed as the magazine develops? This is an awful, absurd story, but it’s totally true. Some years ago, I tried online dating via Match.com, and one of the guys with whom I ended up messaging had the username “Kissin’ Dynamite.” At the time, 101
I didn’t know this is the name of a rock band in the U. K., so I just thought the name was really cool (you know, much more interesting than FlyGuy8811). I never ended up meeting “Kissin’ Dynamite” in person, but I guess the username stuck with me. When I was kicking around titles for the journal, this name came back up—I don’t even know why or how! But as I started to think more about it, I felt that it fit my philosophy for the journal: risk-taking, breaking boundaries, blowing up the canon. The name seemed to represent the notion of courting danger that I wanted to curate. As Kissing Dynamite continues, we seem to grow more and more into this moniker, and it’s charting our course as we push forward. 3) What sets your journal apart from others? Who do you focus on? What genre do you showcase that many others seem to overlook? I don’t know that our journal is so different from others that we love whose editors are doing the hard work of showcasing writers and poetry that are underrepresented. However, one of the hallmarks of our journal is the organic nature of issue-building that happens each month. Rather than put out themes ahead of time, we wait until we get the bulk of submissions to see what common threads appear in the work. Then we match that up with the artwork for the month, and each issue is published with a “surprise” theme for our readers. Because we only publish a baker’s dozen each month, we try to have a variety of forms in the issue and we are mindful of showcasing a diverse pool of contributors. 4) What philosophy drives your journal? I’ve tried to be explicit about the philosophy of the journal in our mission and editorial statements so that readers and potential contributors are clear about where we stand. We believe that literature and art, and poetry specifically, should be accessible, inclusive, and representative of diverse perspectives. We do not condone and actively seek to de-platform voices that are offensive, bigoted, and otherwise hateful and discriminatory. We believe in literature and art as the voice of a community and therefore seek to celebrate past and present contributors. 5) What are a few pieces of advice you can offer to those thinking of starting their own literary journal to help them avoid drama? What unexpected joy has your magazine dropped on your doorstep? If you’re thinking of starting your own literary journal, definitely serve as at least a reader or an editor for another journal first! Having a “behind the scenes” role at a literary journal that is ultimately someone else’s responsibility allows you to see how journals operate, and you can observe the ins and outs of operation. That way, you can figure out what operational structure will work well for you before you open up a journal to the public. Also, think long and hard about the mission of your journal and the reading and contributing audience that you hope 102
LITERARY INTERVIEWS to attract so that you can cater to that audience and their needs and avoid ending up with egg on your face. When I started Kissing Dynamite, I didn’t think that there would ever be a print component, and I was unexpectedly surprised when some writers not only requested it, but ended up writing pieces specifically for the anthology that we now have coming out. I’m amazed by (and grateful for!) the trust that writers have put into both the journal and now the micropress.
“Our definitions of “good” writing are riddled with prejudice . . . it gives me some hope that developments in technology will continue to allow people ways to dismantle these barriers.”
6) What are some of the shortcomings you see in the publishing world? What are some high points you see in creative writing? I think it goes without saying that the publishing world overall continues to cater to white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, educated men who don’t live in poverty. We have silenced the voices of others for so long that our definitions of “good” writing are riddled with prejudice. I’ve been a student and teacher of literature for most of my life, so I’m well acquainted with literary gatekeepers, and it gives me some hope that developments in technology will continue to allow people ways to dismantle these barriers. There are lots of indie presses out there doing the hard work of giving underrepresented voices a platform to reach their audiences. There are folks using print-on-demand services to bypass impossible, big publishers to get work into print and distribution. And there are journals housed online, like us, to allow readers access to content. I got to a point where I realized that although I’m not wealthy, I have some extra income to fund an online journal and a few print publications, and I have a hell of a lot of heart. I am not alone. My dream is that together, the indie press world can shift the literary landscape—it’s happening already. 7) What are issues, projects, contests, and/or other events you have on your calendar you’d like folks to know about - and keep up with? October sees the official opening of our poetry micropress with the publication of Lift Every Voice, an anthology featuring 28 poets from around the globe. Editing this anthology has been a joy, and we are set to open submissions for our second anthology PUNK in February 2020. We’re also going to start publishing single-author collections and will begin this with a call for microchaps from December 1-15. Then in November, we will publish our second special feature zine titled “Play It Again,” a call for poets who identify as women (cis or trans), transmen, nonbinary, or Two-Spirit to respond to songs that appear on the surface to be about love. This special feature zine is being curated by our Assistant Editor Jason Bates and guest editor Libby Cudmore. Our first special feature zine “Hand to Mouth,” curated by guest editors Rebecca Kokitus and Joaquin Fernandez, explored writers’ and artists’ responses to living in poverty and was embraced by our reading audience (and the zine is available free on our website!) so we wanted to continue offering such features to complement the regular monthly issues. Twitter: @kissingdpoetry Instagram: @kissingdpoetry Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kissingdpoetry 103
PAPER NAUTILUS By Clifford Brooks
1) What is the philosophy behind Paper Nautilus? Who’s behind the press? I founded Paper Nautilus in early 2011, with the knowledge that there is so much more good writing than can ever be published, and with the hope that this endeavor could help capture and feature some of that writing and share it with people. I’ve had some amazing editors helping along the way, and recently started hosting some internships for local college students to earn some credit while helping me, but often it’s just me (Lisa Mangini) overseeing things. 2) What does “Paper Nautilus” mean? What does the name alone say about you? I’ve had a bit of a fascination with the Golden Ratio for many years: the idea that so much of this world and beyond – seashells, pine cones, the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy – just happen to be formed in a way that aesthetically draws us to it, that we find pleasing and comforting and complete, is really interesting to me. A paper nautilus is a little squid-like creature that lives inside of these very delicate seashell-shaped structures (which also adhere to the Golden Ratio) to help protect it from the harshness of the sea. When I think of all these qualities together – beauty, strangeness, vulnerability, shelter, the unex104
“A paper nautilus is a little squid-like creature that lives inside of these very delicate seashell-shaped structures”
pected – it seemed like the perfect mascot of sorts for the kind of writing I hoped most to showcase. 3) How did you come into your branding? What and who decides on the cover art? I think the branding has evolved over the past several years in what I hope is an organic progression. As we’ve continued to publish and shifted our focus from annual literary journals to
LITERARY INTERVIEWS individual chapbooks, we’ve been able to shift our design to be more specific to and collaborative with each author. We work together to make sure it’s something that’s authentic to the content or themes of their manuscript. It’s important to me that I listen to what each author wants, because it’s their work, and we try to incorporate local artists from that author’s community whenever possible. 4) What is your edge in publishing? What sets Paper Nautilus apart from the others? What makes you shine?
As an editor, sometimes it’s tricky to know this answer with certainty! I truthfully think it’s the strength of the work we publish: our authors are just unbelievably talented and writing stuff that people want to read. I think sometimes we are also able to attract some of those writers by trying to uphold a friendly and supportive business model: our contests have relatively low fees ($5-11) which we will waive for folks with financial hardship, contest winners are given 50-100 copies of their work so there’s no upfront investment for them if they wish to do reading or events, we’re very low-pressure and don’t threaten with sales
goals of any kind, and strive to be personal and flexible with our authors. 5) What books/authors do you have under your belt? Please give us a bit on each one. The Rules of Night Migration: Pamela Gross. A poetry collection with an emphasis on loss and longing through the lens of birds/ birdwatching From the New World: Oriana Ivy. A poetry collection exploring family history, trauma, grief, and healing through experiences of the Holocaust and immigration. Mother, Less Child: Jason McCall. A poetry collection exploring the death of Trayvon Martin, the loss and fears of Black mothers in America; some recurring metaphors borrowing from Greek Mythology, and rap music, as well. Pictures from the Center of the Universe: Allie Batts. A lyrical memoir with experimental elements confronting the loss of a friend from drug addiction. The Monster on the Mountain: Johnathan Harper. A poetry collection formed into a narrative exploring the role and influence of a monster on a place; themes of otherness, queerness, influence, and cruelty. Sterling: Stephanie McCarley Dugger. An elegiac poetry collection exploring loss with a backdrop often rooted in the rural, the natural world, and adolescence. 105
Weird Science: Christina Olson. A poetry collection taking imaginative leaps and artistic explorations of surprising facts about the natural world and scientific discoveries. Diminution: Charles Rafferty. A collection of prose poems, often with an interest in exploring the stark and unsettling. Puzzle Pieces: Bernard Grant. A lyrical personal essay collection exploring the experiences of being Black, disabled, a twin, and the punk rock scene of his adolescence. Macerated: Emily Webber. A short story collection of compact narratives with vivid characters in ordinary situations. Shuffle: Emily Moore. A poetry collection exploring youth, romance, and queerness with a narrative shaped like a playlist or a mix tape with many poems utilizing a contemporary take on formal verse. Girls on Film: Kathryn Kulpa. A short fiction collection exploring celebrity culture, the pull and violence of glamour on young girls and women, the broad ways in which women perform and are on display. Chance Operations: Jill Khory. A poetry collection leaning to a more fractured, experimental style exploring vision, disability, and memory. Clams in White Wine: Michael Cuglietta. A short fiction collec106
tion, often with characters who want to do the right thing but aren’t sure how. Loss, work, marriage, and food are some lenses in this book.
Postcards from the New World: Shankar Narayan. A sprawling, chapbook-length poem that critically explores the globalized world and its many injustices.
Symptoms of Teething: Eloisa Amezcua. A poetry collection that explores themes of love, disappointment, and growth with a fresh and modern way: at concerts, in taxis, reflecting on text messages, after the bar closes.
Humming Dirges: Geoff Anderson. A poetry collection exploring growing up multiracial, often through childhood memories and historical metaphors.
Arrow Songs: Anita Oliva Koester. A poetry collection full of inventive orchestrations of the scores that would accompany various human experiences and their reflections: heartbreak, a dead ant on the sidewalk, the awareness of one’s own objectification, dread. Lush and lyrical. Heat Lightning: John Miller. A poetry collection rooted in the South, with reflections on loss, youth, injustice. These, Our Bodies: Jessica Kim. A poetry collection exploring the loss of a brother to addiction and growing up Korean American. A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky: Melissa Fite Johnson. A poetry collection on making peace: with the loss of a father, past adolescent rebellions, the choice to remain childless, and finally embracing happiness. Like Drowning: Victoria C. Moore. A wonderful addition to the tradition of “break up” poetry; grim and honest, with powerful language and images.
Unslakable: Rage Hezekiah. A poetry collection with a desire for more -- more answers, more pleasure, more discovery, more healing – while confronting the traumas of racism, sexism, homophobia, and a fractured family. Looking for What Isn’t There: Andres Rojas. A poetry collection centered on memory, language, sensation, and surprising image. Flight: Robin Littell. A short fiction collection full of dreamy risks taken by (often female) characters demanding a life with more possibility: the ordinary world through compact magical realism. What City: Meredith Boe. A prose collection of fiction and non-fiction exploring Chicago: the real, the memory, the personal, the geography of both a city and a life. Translation: Ananda Lima. A poetry collection weaving language, place, and politics into reflections on moving across borders of countries, bodies, identities, and voices.
6) What products, events, or open submissions do you have currently, and how can we keep up with you? Our chapbook contests will reopen in January, and we have two, both open to poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction: the Debut Series Prize, which is only open to writers who do not yet have a book or chapbook, and the Vella Prize, open to all. We also have seven new titles coming out within the next six months or so, one of which is by poet Kimiko Hahn! You can find out what we’re up to on our website, Facebook, and Instagram. 7) What niche in our world of creators do you want to highlight? Are there particular voices on which you will focus? We care about showcasing the work of a wide range of writers. Diversity is becoming an important word in publishing and elsewhere – and this shift is long overdue – but it’s also important to us that Paper Nautilus consider other types of diversity in addition to race, sexuality, and gender, which tend to get the most attention. We want writing from people of different classes, ages, faiths, from different regions of the U.S. or the world; we want writers who have day jobs, without MFAs and are outside academia; we seek stylistic and aesthetic range in the work we publish, and also hope to popularize the chapbook as a form well-suited to genres beyond poetry.
Paper Nautilus will be accepting chapbook submissions in poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, and mixed- and hybrid-genre manuscripts from January 20 – April 20, 2020. Manuscripts should be 16 – 24 pages (exclusive of front matter) for poetry or hybrid genre collections, or fewer than 9,000 words for prose. Thematic works encouraged, but not required. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please withdraw your work immediately if it’s accepted elsewhere first. The Debut Series Contest is open only to writers who have yet to publish a book or chapbook. Winners receive 50 perfect-bound copies and 10% royalties. $5 to submit, or $8 with a randomly selected title from our catalogue. The Vella Series Contest is open to all. Winners receive 100 perfect-bound copies with ISBN, and 10% royalties. $11 to submit, or $15 with a randomly selected title from our catalogue. For more information, visit us at our website: https://readpapernautilus.wordpress.com/
LAUREN GARGIULO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF GOAT’S MILK By Clifford Brooks 1) Please tell us how your journal came into being? What was the spark that lit the fire that now burns in reality? Who came together to get the hard work done? Goat’s Milk was founded by three friends, Paige Leland, Danielle Johnson and Alissa Rabideau as a way for them to stay connected as they moved away from each other, started new jobs, and new chapters in their lives. In February 2019, they made the tough decision to put out a call for new staff and step away from Goat’s Milk. Goat’s Milk now has an entirely new staff, we went from three editors to five, having two poetry editors as we tend to get more poetry submissions than prose, as well as an Editor-in-Chief (EIC). So my role was completely new to Goat’s Milk. The first issue that we did together, Issue Three was an interesting one in terms of the editing process as it was an in-between issue. Most submissions were accepted during the hiring process. Before the original three shared EIC duties, which is easy to do when you’re all friends and on the same page, but all of us live in different states or countries. Colin one of our poetry editors is in Texas, Elyse our other poetry editor and Instagram Queen is in Florida, Allison our art and photography editor and Tiha our prose editor are both in Michigan, and I am in Vancouver Canada. So not only have we never met in person, we’re not going to meet in person for a while. We all have different backgrounds in terms of life and education, but we all were interested in being a part of Goat’s Milk because we love to create art. The great part of all being hired is that despite our different roles, we all chose to be part of Goat’s Milk. Goat’s Milk isn’t any of our creations, but we all want to be part of making it grow. 2) What is the significance of your journal’s title? How did it come to you? How has its meaning changed as the magazine develops? The story behind Goat’s Milk is on our website. It’s a really wonderful moment from Paige’s childhood that I think encompasses Goat’s Milk perfectly. A goat living in an apartment is a bad idea on paper. There is no way to practically make it work. But yet, Paige’s family loved the goat, it was, despite the ridiculously impractical and imperfect circumstances, a wonderful thing. Goat’s Milk now is very much like that baby goat in the sense that, five strangers are now all brought together via the internet to create something-as cliché as it is to say-bigger than themselves. It’s not an ideal or perfect situation-we were all literally putting our faith in strangers when we started, the support and passion are incredible.
“If you write, you’re a writer.” 108
LITERARY INTERVIEWS 3) What sets your journal apart from others? Who do you focus on? What genre do you showcase that many others seem to overlook? We focus on stories that may not fit anywhere else. Nonfiction especially I find is overlooked and not thought of by literary journals. Goat’s Milk publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art and photography every issue. Poetry is the genre we see the most submissions, which is why we have two poetry editors, but we love all genres! I personally want to see more nonfiction and art being sent in, as those two genres are the ones we get the least submissions in. 4) What philosophy drives your journal? Every story has a place. I’m not saying it’s with Goat’s Milk. It could be with a literary journal that you’ve been wanting to submit to for years but never have, maybe it belongs at your local open mic night, maybe it’s a play, or a podcast or a photo essay. But every story, no matter how insignificant you the writer may feel it might be (as I am a writer, I understand this feeling) people want to read what you’ve created. 5) What are a few pieces of advice you can offer to those thinking of starting their own literary journal to help them avoid drama? What unexpected joy has your magazine dropped on your doorstep? First off, do it! It’s stressful, hard, hectic, you will make mistakes, your first website may not look great, or be fancy and you will compare yourself to all of the other (clearly more professional and better) journals and magazines out there. But it is so incredibly worth it. Goat’s Milk Magazine is run by artists, we have been published in local zines, online literary journals and magazines and we know the great feeling of seeing your work part of something bigger. Being the people publishing other artists is an incredible feeling. 6) What are some of the shortcomings you see in the publishing world? What are some high points you see in creative writing? Unnecessary love interests in fiction are a pet peeve of mine and something we haven’t come across yet thankfully! I do think that there seems to be this misconception that to be a “real” writer you have to be making money. There is no such thing as a fake writer. If you write, you’re a writer. Also, artists have day jobs, your financial status has nothing to do with your artistic skill set or level. Everyone has to start somewhere, before the breakout first novel by that lucky writer who all of a sudden became a New York Times bestseller, there was probably short fiction, discarded manuscripts, bouts of self-doubt and anxiety, and tons of rejection. The diversity of both writers that are finally getting representation, and of subjects being written about, are finally starting to reflect the world. As fewer things become taboo in society, the more diverse stories I’m starting to see. Both in bookstores and in submissions and other publications. Having a unique voice no longer makes you an “other” it makes you relatable. 7) What are issues, projects, contests, and/or other events you have on your calendar you’d like folks to know about - and keep up with? We close for submissions on October 31st for our fourth issue! We open for submissions for our fifth issue on February 15th, 2020! Also, Elyse works very hard on our Instagram, which you can follow @goatsmilkmag and you can tweet us (me really as I run the twitter) @goatsmilkmag. Facebook: Goat’s Milk Mag Website: https://goatsmilkmag.myportfolio.com/
GEORGIA TINDALE & NORA SELMANI, CO-EDITORS OF PORRIDGE MAGAZINE By Clifford Brooks
1) Please tell us how your journal came into being? What was the spark that lit the fire that now burns in reality? Who came together to get the hard work done? Porridge was founded once we had reached the end of our university degrees at the University of Birmingham in England. Georgia had cleverly (read: lazily) chosen to only do modules which were assessed by essays and not through exams, so come June, she had some spare time and decided to found a magazine as a result. Realizing she needed help on the visual and social media side of the magazine, she called up her long-suffering friend Nora, who has been with her ever since. 110
In all seriousness, the inspiration behind starting Porridge came we were thinking about the afterlife of an academic university essay. What happens to it once it has been assessed and graded? Either it is eventually submitted to an academic journal for publication (in rare cases) or, more typically, it is never read again. All those hours of hard work gone to waste. We thought it would be good to create an open-access magazine where these essays could find a home and a more general audience, and the rest is history! In addition to these essays, we now publish artwork, photography, reviews, poetry, short fiction and lots more.
LITERARY INTERVIEWS The team now consists of Georgia, Nora (who also handles our social media), Kitty (who tackles our science submissions) and Chris (who takes on non-fiction). 2) What is the significance of your journal’s title? How did it come to you? How has its meaning changed as the magazine develops? It took a little while to come up with a name for our publication which was memorable, short, and, most importantly, non-pretentious. Another possible option was Junket, a word for a milk-based dessert also known as ‘curds and whey’, but it was already taken by another publication. The name Porridge says something to us about bringing together diverse elements and creating something - dare we say - nourishing out of it, and this has remained consistent throughout the magazine’s life so far. Or maybe we were just hungry at the time. 3) What sets your journal apart from others? Who do you focus on? What genre do you showcase that many others seem to overlook? The most wonderful thing about working at Porridge is the consistently high quality of work we receive from our contributors. As we never set a theme for our submissions, we are blown away by both the diversity and the talent behind the work we receive from all around the world. By keeping our output broad, this makes for a publication which is a real eclectic mix of genres and forms and thus can appeal to a wide audience (not just people who are ‘into poetry’ for example). We see no reason that a piece of artwork and a scientific essay could not appear opposite each other in the same publication and enjoy finding the dialogue between them. In particular, the relatively recent addition of our ‘Comfort Food’ section (creative responses to the relationship between food and culture, identity and exile) has been a major success, with every submission taking on the topic from a different perspective.
4) What philosophy drives your journal? In short, Porridge is all about community, creativity and interconnectedness. We showcase this best at our print magazine launch events which bring together our contributors and friends for evenings of live readings, talks, workshops and much more.
“We see no reason that a piece of artwork and a scientific essay could not appear opposite each other in the same publication and enjoy finding the dialogue between them.”
5) What are a few pieces of advice you can offer to those thinking of starting their own literary journal to help them avoid drama? What unexpected joy has your magazine dropped on your doorstep? We would advise you, first and foremost, to be patient. It will take time for you to grow organically, as it is a very crowded marketplace out there. Don’t expect to become a millionaire from your magazine (though if you do, please tell us how you did it!) and remember, although making a print publication costs a lot of money - it’s definitely worth it! Also, do not be embarrassed about asking for help from friends and family when you are first starting out. Even though it can feel awkward at first, that initial £20 investment from a supportive person could make all the difference. There have been many unexpected pleasures which have come from running Porridge which make the hours spent reading through and editing submissions worth it (all of the Porridge editors also work or study full time). Two of the best are seeing our contributors’ work in print once the magazine has come together and meeting our contributors in person at our launch events. We like to think we’ve created something of a community around our magazine, and we look forward to seeing it continue to grow in the future. 6) What are some of the shortcomings you see in the publishing world? What are some high points you see in creative writing? There have been many critiques of (mainstream) publishing as being quite clique-y and difficult to break into — particularly if you are a person of color, from a working-class background, or are differently abled. One way to remedy this is for these publishing houses and magazines to address the barriers which prevent access, however, we feel it is equally as —if not more — important for people to consciously 112
reject the hierarchical organization of literary and arts spaces by diverting their attention away from platforms which are socially categorized as ‘top tier’, and pouring their support (and money!) into projects, presses, journals, and events run by, and platforming, people who have historically been marginalized. From the UK, we’d recommend Lumin, gentle/radical, ROOT-ed, bitter melon poetry, The 87 Press, Ache, and Jacadranda Books amongst many, many others! One of the high points of creative writing at the moment is really the plurality of stories and voices we’re hearing, and it is so refreshing to see people unafraid to experiment with form, language, and subject, breaking apart and remaking the conventions of ‘good’ art. We also love seeing people integrating other media into their written work, particularly photography and collage. Multidisciplinary is what we are all about so this kind of work really speaks to us. 7) What are issues, projects, contests, and/or other events you have on your calendar you’d like folks to know about - and keep up with? We will be launching our fourth print issue next year, so keep an eye on the Porridge website (porridgemagazine.com) and social media pages for news on that. We take submissions for our online publication all-year-round, so see our website for details on what we like to see. If you’d like to support us, please head over to our Patron page (https://www.patreon.com/ porridgemagazine) and find out about the juicy rewards available! Twitter: https://twitter.com/porridgemag Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/porridgemagazine/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/porridgemagazine/
KASY LONG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF REMINGTON REVIEW By Clifford Brooks “publishing world.” I collaborated with a small team of peers to work on the journal. I was told it was going to be close to impossible to succeed, but here I am, two years later, and our journal is thriving at a rate I didn’t anticipate. 2) What is the significance of your journal’s title? How did it come to you? How has its meaning changed as the magazine develops?
1) Please tell us how your journal came into being? What was the spark that lit the fire that now burns in reality? Who came together to get the hard work done? I was the production manager of Polaris, the undergraduate journal of art and literature at Ohio Northern University. For three years, I worked one-on-one with contributors and my peers to produce a credible journal. When I graduated in May 2017, I knew I wanted to create my own digital literary journal. I loved every aspect of producing a literary journal—from observing its conception to the finished product. It was thrilling for me and I was going to miss working on a literary journal. So, in July 2017, I decided to take a big leap and jump into the 114
I’ll be honest; thinking of a title was one of the hardest parts of creating the journal. I’m a writer and dreaming up a title has always been one of the more difficult tasks of the writing process. With the journal, I knew the name had to be just right. There are so many journals in existence. How was I going to make mine stand out from others? I wanted the name to be simple yet contain a literary theme. Well, I collect typewriters. I love the nostalgia associated with them. I think every writer should own at least one typewriter. So, when I was brainstorming ideas for the journal, I saw my 1940’s Remington typewriter (my favorite of my collection) and the title came to me: Remington Review. I liked the alliteration in the name, but also the subtle way it’s connected to literature and writing. That hasn’t changed as I developed the journal. Remington
Review will always be connected to literature and writing—just like the typewriter will always serve a purpose in writing. 3) What sets your journal apart from others? Who do you focus on? What genre do you showcase that many others seem to overlook? I think what sets Remington Review apart from other journals is our commitment to both art and literature. It’s not just a literary journal; it’s a journal of art and literature. The artwork often works in correlation with the written pieces. Some journals focus heavily on either poetry or fiction. Our journal appreciates each genre (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and visual art) equally. We also organize our issues the same way a musician would organize a track list on an album. We look for how pieces interact with each other and lay out the issues according to the natural conversations occurring between these pieces. I think that’s what makes our journal so unique. We want our journal to be an interaction between literature, and we hope to present an idea that writers and artists who live thousands of miles apart from each other are reflecting on similar topics and themes. You’re not alone.
LITERARY INTERVIEWS 4) What philosophy drives your journal?
positive feedback, and we didn’t anticipate any of these accolades.
We want our journal to be an interaction. In each issue, we ask our readers (in our editorial letter) to engage with the texts, but also with each other. If a poem impacted you, contact that poet and share with them your appreciation for their writing. Start a conversation about the poet’s inspiration for the piece. Art and literature should inspire people to engage in conversations. We hope to present an idea that writers and artists who live thousands of miles apart from each other are reflecting on similar topics and themes.
6) What are some of the shortcomings you see in the publishing world? What are some high points you see in creative writing?
5) What are a few pieces of advice you can offer to those thinking of starting their own literary journal to help them avoid drama? What unexpected joy has your magazine dropped on your doorstep? I think it helps if you have a background or previous experience in journal publication. Publishing a literary journal requires a different mindset than creative writing. You need a good eye for detail and thematic interests. You need to understand your journal’s aesthetic and mission. It’s been a thrilling adventure watching Remington Review grow in the past two years. After one year, we created a listing on Duotrope, which allows more writers and artists to learn about our journal. We’ve established a social media presence that grows every day. We frequently receive
Many literary journals feel disconnected from their contributors. At Remington Review, we want to work with our contributors and highlight them to the best of our ability (on our social media profiles, for example). After all, without their work, we wouldn’t have a journal to produce. We value our contributors and I’m sure other editors share the same sentiment, but it isn’t publicly presented.
particular icon, so it was a thrilling experience focusing on how the pieces reflected Morrison’s work and inspirational life and career. It was a project unlike any other, and we hope our readers appreciated the dedication. As far as future projects, we hope to one day add interviews to our publication. Stay tuned for more information. At Remington Review, there’s always something new in the horizon. We can’t wait to share it with you! Facebook: @Remington Review Twitter: @Remingtonlitmag Instagram: @remingtonreview
As for the high points, creative writing is evolving more and more every day. Writers (and artists, too) are reflecting on global issues and they share similar ideas. Writers are unconsciously working together. It’s an exciting global phenomenon. Literary editors hopefully understand this shift in creative writing and will choose to highlight the writing and art in their publications. 7) What are issues, projects, contests, and/or other events you have on your calendar you’d like folks to know about - and keep up with? We recently released our Fall 2019 issue (available now on our website). The issue was dedicated to Toni Morrison, a literary icon who passed away in August. We have never dedicated an issue to a
WILLIAM J. HARRIS By Clifford Brooks
1) Please give us some details about your youth. What first motivated you to live a life of letters? I grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a left liberal Village, mostly white, in South Western Ohio during the 50s and 60s; it was and is the home of Antioch College, a progressive institution. As teenager I hung out at Antioch and got an education from both the students and the professors. I was involved in the student literary life there—I wrote two reviews for the student newspaper, one on Denise Levertov and the Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was visiting at the time. I met him at a student party and met and talked to Allen Ginsberg when he came through and gave a reading. When Mark Strand visited, he read and liked my poems. In the 60s I was published in the student magazine, “Trinculo,” and was the editor of one issue of that magazine with Gabe Heilig who was an actual student. The dominate culture was Beat culture which came from the students and the student run college bookstore. In the bookstore you could pick up the latest works of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and “The Evergreen Review,” which published the international avant-garde. A student introduced me to one of the most important books in my life, a book which helped shape my idea of poetry, Donald Allen’s “New American Poetry,” an anthology of the post-World War American avant-garde poetry. The poet, professor and neighbor, Judson Jerome read, critiqued and published my poetry is the distinguished journal “Antioch Review” and Nolan Miller, professor and writer, also liked my work and published it in “Antioch Review” and in a national anthology of student writing, “New Campus Writing, 1966.” In short, the town and the college were very supportive. My values were shaped by the town’s progressive values. The great folk singer Pete Seeger came every year or two and always drew a large crowd, which would usually include me. But what I didn’t realize at the time was the culture I was taking in wasn’t the whole of culture but only White culture. I read Pound and Ginsberg and knew nothing about black poetry. Then in 1969 I met Arnold Adoff, the children book editor and writer and husband of my second (?) cousin, Virginia Hamilton, the great black young adult author. Arnold gave me a copy of his classic young person’s anthology of black poetry, “I Am the Darker Brother.” At the time I thought it was a young person’s book but in fact, it was an extraordinary introduction to black poetry, including such works as Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” and Middle Passages,” Amiri Baraka “A Poem for Blacks,” Gwendolyn Brooks’ “A Song in the Front Yard,” and Mari Evans’ “Status Symbol.” This anthology was as important to me as Donald Allen’s “New American Poetry.” 116
LITERARY INTERVIEWS 2) What are you reading right now? For relaxation I just finished a mystery “Scandal in Skibbereen” by Sheila Connolly. I read mysteries for a sense of place and she gives a wonderful sense of County Cork through place, mostly a village bar, and local language—I am not interested in murders. I just finished reading Lauri Ramey’s canon smashing, “A History of African American Poetry.” It is a radical and exciting rethinking of the African American canon—very smart and learned. I took on reviewing this book because I wanted to have a sense of the entire history of black poetry. As I read the text I realized I had to reread two major literary histories, Eugene Redmond’s 1976 “Drumvoices: The Mission of Afro-American Poetry,” the definitive and catholic text before Ramey’s and J. Saunders Redding’s 1939 groundbreaking, “To Make A Poet Black,” even though there were a few books before his, he begins the critical tradition. I realized to get a sense of the poetry I must get a sense of the genre of black poetry histories. In short, what do they tell us? On November 14th we are celebrating the poetry of Erica Hunt at Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania and I am reading her poetry now, including her chapbook, “Time Slips Right Before Your Eyes,” her edited collection, “Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing,” and am awaiting the arrival of her “New and Selected Poems.” 3) What books had the most impact on you, and why? In additional to Allen’s “New American Poetry” and Adoff’s “I Am the Darker Brother,” there are many. Kenneth Patchen’s “Selected Poems” taught me a poet could be political, plain spoken, funny and surreal. Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and other Poems” taught me a poet could grand, personal, political and surreal. The Beats taught me surrealism. Ed Field’s “Stand Up, Friend, with Me” and “Variety Photoplays” taught me a poet could be very funny, personal and sentimental and one could make movies into poems. I discovered Field in “The New American Poetry” and I responded to the humor of Patchen and Field because I was writing funny poems and needed models or at least the knowledge that other people were doing it. Amiri Baraka taught me about writing about race in poems, showed me a beautiful lyricism, jazz surrealism and being brave. Some of his important poetry books are “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note,” “Black Magic” and “Wise, Why’s, Y’s.” The stories in “Tales of the Out & The Gone” taught me the art of “The Gone,” creating poetry as beautiful and strange as the new black music of the 1960s, the music of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor. Baraka’s music books, such as “Blues People,” “Black Music” and “Digging” taught me how to listen to black music and provided a rich history of that music. 4) What role does music play in your life? Does it inspire your writing? Music is very important to me. It uplifts. A mundane example, when I am washing the dishes Chet Baker makes it a happy occasion instead of a boring one. For me it is probably the most powerful and moving art. I listen to jazz, classical music and rhythm and blues derived pop. I don’t like loud music. I have written about free jazz and will be attending a major conference at the City University of New York on the great free jazz pianist and composer Cecil Taylor at the end of the October; I am going to every session. I have tried to write music poems but few have been successful. 117
5) What moments in your career carved you into the man you are? From the above it should be clear that growing up in Yellow Springs, Ohio, a left liberal town, and hanging out at Antioch College, a progressive college, starting as a teenager, have shaped my values and taught me about art. And as the said before Arnold Adoff taught me about black culture. Something I am just recently beginning to understand is how important it was to me that the town, from Arnold to the Antioch students and professors, were so supportive. It validated me. If I had grown up in a different place, I would have been a different person. Going to Stanford for graduate school influenced me profoundly. Stanford gave me my first contact with black artists and intellectuals. Yes, a strange place for that to happen, a rich white California University; it isn’t exactly Harlem, but I met and became good friends with Al Young, the poet and novelist, Bob O’Meally, the critic, Nate Mackey, the poet, Ish Reed, the novelist (who visited from Berkeley) there. They were a brilliant crew. 6) What excites you about today’s literary scene? I like that there are so many different kinds of people writing today. You have blacks, Asians, Hispanics, et al. When I went to graduate school “great writers” were all male and white. It was a weird time, the few women who were part of the canon had disappeared—this was in in the late 60s and the early 70s. This is not totally the case: there were some professors and students who were interested in women and black writers—I guess, it was the beginning of the change in attitude but the norm was still white male writers. 7) What books and/projects do you have on your plate? To do another Baraka collection—this time a book of essays and return to writing poetry. I have been away from it too long—for the last few years I have just been writing critical essays and reviews.
SUSAN HARRIS By Clifford Brooks 1) Please fill in some of the blanks about yourself that most don’t know. Where do you call home? How does the environment around you influence your writing? I’ve moved around a lot during my life, but right now “home” is Brooklyn, NY. We (my husband, William J. Harris, and I) had lived here in the 80s, rented out our house when we went off to teach at Penn State in the early 90s, and returned to it when we retired from the University of Kansas in 2014. Brooklyn is our retirement destination! How does the environment influence me? Myriad ways, from daily routines (walking rather than driving my errands), to politics, to the incredibly vibrant literary community all around me. The Brooklyn Book Festival takes place less than a mile from my home, and to me it epitomizes Brooklyn’s incredible energy. And my neighborhood is filled with writers and editors—you can tell it from the books people put out on their stoops for passers-by to pick up. Almost all my leisure reading comes from “stoop books”! I also love the proximity to water—we live close enough to the harbor to be able to walk along the new parks that have been built on old piers, and it’s wonderful. When I listen to the waves splashing against rocks, I can feel my blood pressure go down. 2) What draws you to the life of Joan of Arc? What does she symbolize to you? Thank you for that question. I’ve asked myself the same thing. You wouldn’t think—I wouldn’t have thought—I’d be drawn to her, but I am. I think it’s her youth and clear intelligence—and her steadfastness in the face of male violence, both physical and psychological. I’ve always wanted to teach a course comparing Joan’s and Anne Hutchinson’s trials (the transcripts of both trials are publicly available); they are women who defied reigning male theocracies, bested their opponents verbally, and paid for their temerity with their lives. Joan’s
responses to her interlocutors are amazing. I truly can’t fathom how an illiterate kid from a small village could come up with those answers. 3) What is one of the most misunderstood points concerning Mark Twain’s biography of Joan of Arc? I don’t think it’s a misunderstanding as much as a very clear-cut value difference between groups of readers. Professional readers (critics and academics, mostly) have always panned Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte—they think it wooden and sentimental. A large swath of the public, on the other hand, love it. There are good arguments to be made from the critical side; I’ve made them myself. Louis de Conte, Twain’s first-person, male narrator, keeps us very distanced from Joan, so we never get to really know her on her own terms—in many ways the novel is more about him than about Joan. Second, when he does talk about Joan, de Conte keeps 119
insisting that Joan was “really” just a home-loving, innocent young girl--this despite her courage, intelligence, and martial accomplishments! Twain clearly felt that he had to convince his readers that Joan met the criteria for 19th-century femininity, but de Conte’s constant harping on it comes across to many modern readers as incredibly belittling. Finally, from a critical point of view, the narration just doesn’t work--the narrator’s own voice, as one of Twain’s naïfs, isn’t sustainable. If you think about it, Huck’s voice is about the only time the naïve stance really works in Twain’s writing, and even in Adventures of Huck Finn there are places where it collapses. It’s really, really hard to sustain that voice. And for Twain, who didn’t like or trust the Catholic Church, to create a narrator who is simultaneously a believer in the Church’s teachings and a critic of its treatment of Joan—well, from a lit-crit point of view, he—Twain--fails. But not for a lot of readers. I got into this project because one day I looked at readers’ responses to the novel on Amazon and Goodreads. I didn’t think I’d find much—after all, the novel was published in 1896. I was astounded. Page after page of glowing reports. None of them bothered by the narrator, only a few bored by the story’s many digressions. Most wildly enthusiastic. What attracts them? First and foremost, Joan. Readers, including women, find her a feminist role model. They ignore de Conte’s insistence that despite her military prowess, she was really “just a girl.” Instead they celebrate her as someone who can lead the troops and still keep her femininity. Second, faith: readers admire, as I do, Joan’s steadfast faith and ability to outsmart her opponents. And finally, the history that the novel imparts—many readers begin by summarizing the complex French history that Twain so deftly teaches. For these readers, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte, succeeds as a deeply engaging historical novel. A final word about Twain and Personal Recollections. I don’t think the critical establishment gives Twain enough credit as an historian. Sure, bona fide French historians can legitimately critique his handling of French history, but I think he ranks 120
right up there as a historical novelist. Twain read deeply in European history. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, Joan of Arc, and a clutch of short stories and sketches show how engaged he was with the past—how interested he was in how people lived, thought, reasoned. He gives us great stories, and we learn a lot of history in the process. You asked for relevant publications (mine) on Twain’s Joan. I’ve actually been writing about this novel throughout my career. The novel got a chapter of my dissertation, and another in my first book, Mark Twain’s Escape from Time: A Study of Patterns and Images (University of Missouri Press, 1982). I also published an article on it that same year (“Narrative Structure in Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc,” The Journal of Narrative Technique. Vol. 12, #1, Winter, 1982)). A decade later, I edited a volume of Twain’s historical romances for the Library of America (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, Joan of Arc, 1994), and did the scholarly afterward for the Joan volume in the Oxford UP edition of all Twain’s works (1996). After that I left Joan (I thought). Last year, when I tumbled onto the Amazon and Goodreads pages that turned all my earlier analyses upside down, I realized I had to revisit her. That’s when I wrote “’Whohoo, Joan of Arc!’: Online Readers and Mark Twain’s Recollections of Joan of Arc,” which was published in American Literary Realism, Vol. 51, #2 (Winter, 2019). So, my engagement with this novel has been a continuing, and evolving, adventure. 4) What are you working on now? I’m really excited about the book I have in press right now. It’s a new turn for me—a mixing of my scholarly interests with personal narrative, which I’ve never done before. My education as a scholar taught me that I should never speak in the first person, and for years I obeyed that dictum. But in my last few books I’ve tried to break out of the scholarly syntax, to be more open, more personal, and more informal. Mark Twain, the World, and Me is a kind of coming-out for me; it’s a collection of essays recounting my experiences and medita-
LITERARY INTERVIEWS tions while following Twain on his 1895-96 lecture tour around the world—the tour that eventuated in his last travel narrative, Following the Equator. There’s a lot of Twain in Twain, World, Me, but there’s also a lot of “me”: my own history and responses, brought into conversation with Twain’s commentary. And there’s even more of “world.”
bama Press in March, 2020. Yes, I’m setting up a book tour, so let me know if you want me to come through your town!
Most people who write about Twain’s travel narratives basically retell the story he tells, with some biographical and cultural history contextualizing it. I decided not to do that. Instead I explored the comments Twain made about what he saw in the various countries he visited. I started by exploring the personal and cultural backgrounds behind some of his most provocative commentary, a strategy that roots the book in Twain’s own historical period. Then I examine the legacies of what he was looking at—what the situation he was talking about looks like today. So, for instance he commented on the dearth of native fauna as he traveled around Australia—the tail end of the settlers’ determination to eliminate kangaroos and other inconvenient species, including indigenous humans. As a result, not only did he have trouble spotting animals in the wild, he never even met an Aborigine. I followed up that comment, first in an essay about animal conservation venues today, then in another about the resurgence of Aboriginal voices in Australian culture. Another set of essays is about India. Twain was fascinated by India—its colors, its crowds, its customs, and most of all, its religions. I have two chapters exploring how—and why—Twain responded to Hinduism the way he did, and in them I contrast his responses to my own. There’s a chapter on cremation, and another on dreams. There’s also a three-part chapter on racial ambiguity in South Africa that begins with Twain’s writings on bi-raciality and bi-sexuality and ends with Billy’s and my experiences as a racially mixed couple in South Africa in the aftermath of Apartheid. So there’s a really wide range of topics—the book was great fun to write, and it gave me a chance to explore issues I’ve never investigated before, including my own relationship with Twain.
I like writing. I like the archival research, the putting together of evidence, the mental exercise, and the insights that come to me as I work. It’s not always fun—sometimes I feel that I am just collating research findings onto the page. First drafts are painful, and second drafts often not better. The fun part starts around draft three, when I turn back and ask myself what I’ve said, whether it makes sense, and what still needs to be added in or deleted. That’s the part where readers come in handy. It’s a real gift to have a reader willing to say “that’s not working,” or, “you need to explain this passage more precisely.” Once I think I have everything in place, I start polishing. That’s the most fun—the careful honing of word choices, sentence rhythms, pacing—as well as strategies to make my prose more accessible to the audience I am imagining. I’ve thought about audience a lot recently, because I really want to reach readers outside academia.
The book is due out from the University of Ala-
5) How do you keep writing fun? What habits do you use to keep creativity flowing that could help others?
Writing habits? One thing is—I need a window to look out of when I write. Right now, my study is on the 4th floor of our house, in the back, overlooking all the Brooklyn backyards. I’m perched near the treetops, where the birds congregate. I write a paragraph or two, then stop, stare out the window, watch the birds for a bit, mind blank. Then I turn back to the computer and write a bit more. It’s a process of mental emptying and replenishment. I’ve also learned not to panic if my mind is a total blank when I’ve finished a project. That’s the time to walk away from my computer, do some reading, take care of all those domestic chores I’ve ignored while I was writing, visit with friends, go to museums, go on long walks, take a trip, whatever. It’s a necessary fallow period. Twain called it waiting for the well to fill up. 121
6) What are you reading right now? What’s next on your reading list? Because I’ve recently finished Mark Twain, the World, and Me, I’m in a fallow period. So, I’m reading. I notice that while I’m writing, my recreational reading tends to be very light—mysteries, spy novels, historical novels, memoirs. When I’m between projects I read heavier tomes: histories, biographies, religious works. Last winter I read the second, nine-hundred-page volume of Ramachandra Guha’s biography of Gandhi, along with several other fat tomes. Two of my current favorite writers are Tony Horwitz and Pankaj Mishra. Horwitz’s method of following famous people around the world and writing about them was an inspiration for Twain, World, Me. I especially loved his Blue Latitudes, which follows Captain Cook around the world. I just finished his recent Spying on the South, which traces Frederick Law Olmstead’s American journeys. It’s a heartbreaking book, for two reasons: first, for what it tells us about the violent cultural divide in our America, and second because Horwitz literally dropped dead during the book tour promoting it. He was only 60, and it’s a huge loss to all of us. Mishra is compelling for other reasons: I am attracted to his very serious quest for understanding—first, regarding religion, in An End to Suffering, and then in his exploration of the intellectual histories of China, India, and the middle east, in From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia. I found both deeply satisfying and informative. I was less happy with his more recent The Age of Anger: A History of the Present, because I thought it was too topical—he’s at his best when he has historical distance. Right now, I’m hot to read Lewis Hyde’s A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past. I heard him speak about it recently and it sounds fascinating. I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative lately, which means thinking about what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget as we construct life stories. A Primer for Forgetting sounds very relevant.
7) Please tell us about the work you’ve done in academia. How has the life of an academic changed in the last ten-to-twenty years? I’m going to fuse these two questions, even though they are very different. Academia changed enormously over my 35-odd years there, including in literary studies, my area of expertise. I recently observed a young friend teach a freshman composition course, and I realized that the difference between the first one I taught, right out of grad school, and what she was doing, is a good measure of the changes that have come about. My comp courses were really literature courses with a heavy writing component. We read books—Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, for instance, or Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises—novels, mostly by men. We spent the majority of our time talking about the books. In contrast, the class I observed was all about writing. The literature component was minimal—some very short pieces, almost all by professional writers (men and women) talking about their own writing process, or their lives as writers. The teacher talked about the students’ writing, their narrative strategies, the components of a good essay. Her examples, in addition to the short essays they had read, were song lyrics (through YouTube), tweets, and other written components of everyday life in 2019. I thought it was a smart, well-constructed class, far more appropriate for the students’ future writing lives than the “literary” class I had taught so many years ago. And I think that’s a sign of the changes academia has gone through. Administratively—structurally—most American universities have become corporatized. That means that they put productivity, however that is measured in the various fields, first, rather than “learning.” There are up sides and down sides to this. The upside is that everyone—administrators, faculty, students, parents—is forced to think hard about the ends of higher education, why they are there. Given that costs have risen exponentially over that period, some hard questioning about ends and means is not out of order. The downside is that learning just can’t be quantified. You can’t control how or when it will happen, or what any individual will make of any
LITERARY INTERVIEWS given class, or even when the understanding will kick in. Every teacher has had a former student come to them and confess that, X number of years after they took the class, they now understand what the teacher meant, and that they are grateful for the teaching. But sometimes it takes those years for learning to come to fruition. The corporate university, with its insistence on measurement, can’t deal with that human component. My own teaching changed radically over the years. By my last years, I was giving the students far more power in the classroom, foregrounding their needs, their readings, and also asking them to perform in more ways than just literary analysis. We did a lot of historical contextualizing—for instance in classes like my course on Immigrant Lit the students presented power point presentations about the writers’ countries of origin--and everyone had to learn to work in teams and to speak, articulately, in front of a group. So, I felt I was teaching life skills in addition to intellectual ones. I was happy about the path my teaching had taken. 8) Where can we find your books? Mark Twain, the World and Me will be available from Amazon, in paperback and e-book editions, and of course via your local independent bookstore. The publisher is the University of Alabama Press. The paperback ISBN is 978-0-8173-5967-6 and the e-book’s is 978-0-8173-9283-3. The list price is $29.95. The publication date is March, 2020. My other books are also available from Amazon, though I think the first, Mark Twain’s Escape from Time, is probably out of print. The older books can be a bit hard to find, unfortunately. Probably best to look both at Amazon and at the presses’ pages. Their titles/publishers are God’s Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 18981902 (Oxford, 2011), The Cultural Work of the Late 19th-Century Hostess, Annie Adams Fields and Mary Gladstone Drew (Palgrave/St. Martin’s, 2002), The Courtship of Olivia Langdon and Mark Twain (Cambridge, 1996), 19th-Cen-
tury American Women’s Novels: Interpretive Strategies (Cambridge, 1990; 992; Digital Reprint 2008), and Mark Twain’s Escape from Time: A Study of Patterns and Images (Missouri, 1982). I also edited three classic American novels for Penguin Press, an edition of Huck Finn for Houghton Mifflin’s Riverside Books, and the collection of Twain’s historical romances for the Library of America.
Mark Twain, the World, and Me Following the Equator, Then and Now
SuSan K. H arriS
FREEDOM OF SPEECH Exercise your write
Stetson University MFA of the Americas stetson.edu/mfa // firstname.lastname@example.org 800-688-0101 // 386-822-7100
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BLEACH GARDEN By Dusty Huggins
1) Tell us about each member of the group and where they got their start as a musician. Joey Bertini: Guitar/vocals/lyricist. Brandon Solan: Drums. Jamie Smith: Bass. We all started at a young age and grew up wanting to be like the musicians who were our heroes. Some of our influences include Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Melvins, NIN, White Zombie, Tool, and too many more. 2) Tell us about the band’s formation and its evolution since its onset. 126
The band itself has been around for a while as it was formed by Joey in High school through a menagerie of members and revolving doors. Joey finally formed a steady lineup with the likes of Jamie Smith and Logan Atkins and that is when the band first started to get the feel of what they wanted to be both sonically and physically. After the band released some small home recorded CDs, they knew it was time to get serious and recorded their first album “An Immodest Motive” (2017). Through some misfortunes the band was left without a drummer for a small stint in Miami and through Van
Bassman (The Buzzards of Fuzz) the band linked up with ex Broadhead Drummer Brandon Solan. Since then the band itself took new life as it evolved even further into what you see and hear today. I (Joey) would say this is easily the best and most talented lineup we’ve had. We all just click and for the first time I’d say we’re finally contenders as far as being taken seriously as a band and the pursuit of our goals. 3) What are some of the band’s largest influences? As mentioned above Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Melvins, NIN,
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT White Zombie, Tool, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Flipper, The Wipers, Fear, Helmet, the list could go on and on. Realistically though I’d say it’s a mix of 90s grunge and alternative, stoner rock, punk rock, and the rock and roll classics. 4) Tell us about your latest project. We’ve been tediously working on our latest LP “Parasite” (2019) being released on September 20th, 2019. Parasite was recorded in Miami Florida at The Bull Production Studio by Ryan Haft (Wrong and Torche). Then mastered by American Sushi Studios (Atlanta Ga) own Aaron Hendrickson (Canopy, Tokers, Day Old Man, Negredo). Unlike an Immodest Motive this album is more of an introspective look at one’s self rather than an outside world interpretation. 5) If you could play any venue what would it be? Probably the Tabernacle, or something like inside the Space needle in Seattle.
7) What would it take for you all to define your careers as a success? Honestly whether we’re the “next big thing” or not I think that if we are able to thrive and survive off of our music that would be perfect. No more 9-5 and just hitting the road often and having enough money to pay bills back home. For us it’s all about the music and the ability to reach out to people who connect to the feelings and messages of our songs. 8) Do you think there will come a time when you are satisfied with your careers? I really want to say yes, but probably not as a musician. You’re either constantly depressed and never satisfied because you’re a pseudo perfectionist or constantly trying to fill the hunger of always being better than you were before. Although I say that now, I’m sure that If we hit our goals it’ll be way easier to give a definitive answer. www.Facebook.com/bleachgarden94 www.Twitter.com/bleachgarden94 www.Instagram.com/bleachgarden94 Bleachgarden94.bandcamp.com
6) Where do you see you band in 5 years? Hopefully still kicking ass and making enough money to stop the 9-5 shitshow. It’d be nice to either be on a record label or to have gained enough traction and to continue to keep getting bigger and bigger. 127
HALF HOT By Dusty Huggins 1) Tell us about each member of the group and where they got their start as a musician. Jacob: I was always drumming on stuff growing up, but never really saw myself in a serious band, until it just kinda happened. For me, it was always something that I did, but I didn’t realize it was a thing that I could do, if that makes sense. Drumming has always been a part how I operate and how I process the world and myself. Andrew: I grew up in a musical family with grandparents that played various instruments and occasionally had their friends over to jam. After I saw Led Zeppelin’s concert footage “The Song Remains the Same,” I couldn’t imagine doing anything but performing. Tyler: As a young child I enjoyed listening to music and acting it out. I’d tell anyone that would listen that I was going to be in a rock band. I picked up the guitar at around 13 or 14 after seeing my grandfather’s old guitar in a closet in our house and haven’t looked back. Casey: I picked up an instrument at a pretty young age and began learning songs I liked to hear and as soon as that happened, a fire was lit to perform. I’ve been playing in bands ever since. 2) Tell us about the band’s formation and its evolution since its onset. Andrew, Tyler and Jacob met and started playing together in bands through college, one of which was Whiskey Tango. During the same time, Andrew was also in a band with Casey Reid and Caleb Little of Wet Jeans. As time went on, we spent several years only performing once or twice a year to a sparse turnout. We had line-up change after line-up change, fell into a musical rut and didn’t venture far outside of our comfort zone. Eventu128
ally, we each, individually, had the epiphany that no one was going to give us what we wanted. We were going to have to take it and in doing so had to get way outside of the comfortable place we had nestled into, while remaining true to ourselves. After working with several talented bassists over the past few years, we had found ourselves once again with a sudden opening for a bassist. After several discussions, one name kept coming up: Casey Reid. As if one major change wasn’t enough, we decided that with our growth and evolution over the past few years, we needed to shed the Whiskey Tango moniker in favor of a name that we felt summed up our, ‘serious about music, but not so serious about ourselves’ approach. That’s how we got to Half Hot. 3) What are some of the band’s largest influences? To Make the casserole of madness that is Half Hot, start with a hearty two scoops of Queen and The Darkness, one cup of Led Zeppelin, 2/3 cup of The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd (mixed well), a tablespoon of Prince, and a pinch of Flogging Molly. Spread into your favorite dish and bake at 425 until golden brown.
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4) Tell us about your latest project. We’re currently in the kitchen whipping up our next batch of songs for the next album (if you couldn’t tell we’re super hungry during this interview). 5) If you could play any venue what would it be? Tyler and Jacob: Red Rocks! Andrew: Wembley Stadium, if it still existed. But in lieu of that, Madison Square Garden. Casey: A field in Kansas with a great audience would be awesome! 6) Where do you see you band in 5 years? Hopefully at Red Rocks, Madison Square, or that field in Kansas, bringing the audience to the apex of emotion.
7) If you could put together a 10-band lineup, living or passed, for a music festival, who would it be? Led Zeppelin, Queen, Prince and the Revolution, Muse, The Darkness, The Allman Brothers (with Duane), Jason Isbell and the 400 unit, My Morning Jacket, The Alabama Shakes, and Drive-By Truckers. 8) What would it take for you all to define your careers as a success? Thriving and making a living at what we love, making music for everyone to enjoy. 9) Do you think there will come a time when you are satisfied with your careers? Never. Sharks don’t look back. They don’t have necks, and if they stop, they die. Facebook.com/halfhotmusic Twitter.com/halfhotmusic
BRYAN G. MALONE OF STAR BAR By Dusty Huggins
1) Give us some background on yourself and how you became involved with Star Bar. I became involved with the Star Bar many years ago when I was in a young band. We had played the bar several times and I loved the place. There was nothing like it in town. One day the kind people at the venue began to allow me to take out the trash or sometimes work the door. I would do whatever they needed. At that time my group was just getting started. We had just released our first record and would take any tour we could get. This sometimes meant that we’d have to go out on the road for a couple of months at a time on short notice, so keeping a fulltime job in town was tough. Part time jobs were the only way to go to stay afloat. I kept coming down to the bar so often that I guess they finally felt pity on me and put a broom in my hand. That’s how it started. 2) What is it like being in such a legendary part of Atlanta and how does your audience differ from others in the area? The Little Five Points area has a lot of history. I learned a lot of it from being around for so many years and by meeting a lot of the characters that helped shape it. People like David Heany or Marty Nolan who opened the bar and named it after what was affectionately known as the “Star Community” back in 1991. Or folks like Don Bender who helped the whole community come together in the 70s. These people were so dedicated they even sold peaches to raise money to establish the credit union for the neighborhood. It’s just 130
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT a different kind of place. The kind of place where all types of different people come together to make for quite a mix of folks that really defies any real definition. It’s a very diverse neighborhood. Any chance they get around here, they’re throwing a parade or a festival. So, having shows in the community is fun because everyone’s up for anything. There’s really never a dull moment around here. 3) When do you remember knowing that the music industry was the field in which you wanted to pursue for your professional career? I’m not sure if I made the choice or if it was made for me. More or less that’s true. But really, music was always something I wanted to be a part of in one way or another. When I was kid, my dream was to be in a band and travel around having adventures and playing music. Back then that seemed such a farfetched dream it would be impossible, and I had no idea how I would ever even begin to be able to do anything like that. I was just a kid that lived at the end of a dead-end road in a very small town in rural Tennessee. But I got a guitar, learned how to play, started writing songs and kept playing and playing and inviting others to play with me. I wouldn’t stop. After many years of effort and being in several bands I moved to Atlanta. I didn’t know what else to do. We started a group here and received a bit of recognition. We were no stadium touring act by any means, but we put out several albums and traveled the world playing our songs. My childhood dream had been realized. Eventually all good things come to an end and the band stopped going out as much and that project ended. There would be more, but after touring for so many years, it seemed sort of natural to begin to work behind the scenes setting up shows and having events. This was suggested to me by the owners of the Star Bar. I had continued to work there on and off for so many years, when I wasn’t on the road, and eventually the booking agent position opened up. They asked if I’d be interested in giving it a shot. Before that I had never really given booking shows any serious thought. 4) So, you didn’t start out as a music promoter. Was it hard to make the transition? Playing on the road with the band for so many years taught me how to treat other musicians and put together shows that made sense and to strive for it to be as much about fun as business. It is music after all, and we should be enjoying ourselves or everybody is just miserable. We’ll do the business at the end of the night, but before that’s let’s put on a show and have a good time. 5) Do you have any regrets? No regrets. 6) Many readers may believe that the booking process is a simple and short process consisting of a few simple emails and then the band plays. What advice would you give to performing artists for putting together a show? If you’re in a new local band the best thing to do is go to shows. Being part of the scene and meeting those who are out there doing it is the best way to get started. It might seem tough at first but the more people you meet and the more shows you go to, the better. 7) Do you have any other side projects other than Star Bar that you have going on? Currently I am in the band Bad Spell. We just released our debut effort on Midnight Cruiser Records from Atlanta and are doing local and national shows. http://www.starbaratlanta.com/ http://twitter.com/starbaratlanta
JOSE MANUEL GARCIA By David Peoples About 5 years ago, I met pianist Jose Garcia at a concert, performing and directing the Gwinnett Symphony Jazz Orchestra. It is always a treat to hear Jose perform - he has a vast repertory under his fingers and true sensibilities to bring out the best with whomever else is in his ensemble.
Piano Concertos no. 1 and no. 2 with Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. I also found Alexis Weissenberg’s recordings of all Chopin works for piano and orchestra very inspiring.
1) Tell us a little about yourself as a musician (ie what instruments you play, styles of music you perform, composition activity, etc.)?
I couldn’t picture myself being fulfilled personally and professionally with anything else other than music.
I am a classically trained pianist who finds authentic voice and freedom in Jazz as well as in Latin music. Besides piano performance, I also arrange and compose a variety of music for solo piano, jazz ensemble, Latin group, and symphony orchestra.
6) I know that some pianists can get picky about instruments… would you have a preference if you played a hall that had the choice of a New York Steinway, Hamburg Steinway, or Yamaha?
2) What was the very first piece you can remember performing (and let us know about the first performance)? Bach Prelude and Fugue in E minor from WTC I. I played this work at the Emil Friedman Auditorium. Emil Friedman is a nationally acclaimed conservatory of music in Caracas, Venezuela. 3) What is your favorite part about being a musician? The ability to relate to different people and their culture while transforming somebody’s life. 4) Were you influenced by old recordings? Which ones? Who wasn’t? My paternal grandfather owned a vast collection of LPs. Among the ones that stuck with me was a recording of Emil Gilels, performing Beethoven 132
5) What drew you to choosing music as a career?
It definitely would be a Steinway. Although there are differences, it is clear that New York and Hamburg Steinway pianos share a common lineage. I am honored to be a Steinway Artist and proud to represent a company which epitomizes the very best in piano craftsmanship. 7) How do you (or do you have any advice) on balancing life with engaging as an artist?
“One cannot be a true musician without having a life. Music is the vehicle that manifests our life experiences.”
One cannot be a true musician without having a life. Music is the vehicle that manifests our life experiences. 8) Ideally, if you had your choice, who would be your dream-team music ensemble (living or dead performers)? I tackle many musical styles and know many great musicians. It is impossible to be so selective and put them in just one ensemble. The magic is that each of the great musicians I have come across (living or dead) is unique. They all
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bring something to the table. 9) What advice would you give someone that wanted to pursue music performance more actively? Support your colleagues. Go to their concerts. In return, they will support you. It is about building a community of musicians in fellowship. Learn from them and share your knowledge. It is a social responsibility to contribute to building a vibrant music scene. 10) When you just need to relax or chill, whatâ€™s your favorite thing to do and/or your favorite place to visit?
11) Can you describe the best experience you have ever had as a performer? Playing a concert for Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes at Churchill Grounds. I got great feedback from him and we got to spend a long time talking. He was very kind, positive, and mentoring. 12) What is the best way to discover your upcoming concerts and performances? Check out my website, josepiano.com. Also, follow me on my Facebook page.
Spending time with my family, such as going to Brusters. 133
H.W. BRANDS By Clifford Brooks 1) What from your youth sparked a love of history? What kind of kid were you? What of your own history will you share with us to help set the stage? My grandparents had a summer house smack beside the old Oregon Trail in the Cascade Mountains. I and my brother and sisters would pretend we were kids coming in a covered wagon to Oregon. We would tear around the woods; we’d fish in the creek; we’d ride horses; we’d explore and generally play pioneer. And then at night, we’d gather around the big fireplace in the house and read histories and historical novels of the time. I was hooked. 2) What are you reading right now? What is your favorite “free time” genre, and why? Rereading Madame Bovary (for the style) and The Last Hurrah (for O’Connor’s mastery of the political personality). Reading Ridley Pearson’s Killer View (simple escape). Read nearly every word of every issue of The Economist (for the sense of humor, among other things) 3) You are a widely-respected, engaging, and intelligent educator. What motivated you to take charge of a classroom? What keeps the passion of teaching in your blood?
“We’d gather around the big fireplace in the house and read histories and historical novels of the time. I was hooked.”
Artwork on previous page by Octavio Quintanilla
I like telling stories, which is what history consists of. And I love the energy my students bring to the classroom. It keeps me from getting jaded. As it happens, the day after tomorrow is the first day of the fall semester—to me, the best day of the year. 4) To write the lives of enigmatic people, to capture the story of individuals who shaped history, the one spinning the tale must have a personal connection to their subject. Is this true? What drew you to writing biographies, and 135
what wouldn’t let you go about those you’ve put on the shelf? In fact, I do my best not to get personally involved with my subjects. I keep them at arm’s length. Otherwise I couldn’t be objective about them. I write about them because they are important and interesting. That’s enough. 5) What question have you never been asked, but quietly wished you would? What’s the answer? I’ve been asked a lot of questions. I can’t think of one not asked, that ought to have been. 6) Did you see yourself in another vocation before taking on the mantle of educator, historian, and writer? Do you have any regrets about not picking that route? I was in sales for a while. I still am. But where I used to sell cutlery (knives and scissors), now I sell the idea that history can be fascinating and useful. This is my pitch to my students and to my readers. If my book isn’t interesting, they should put it down and find another. 7) You have appeared on documentaries on The History Channel. What is it like to go from the lecture hall to staring down the barrel of a camera? How do you get into the right headspace for that? Have you ever considered a television series? In most documentaries, I’m actually having a conversation with the interviewer, who is then cut 136
out of the finished film. So that isn’t hard. Sometimes I’m interviewed from a distance and really do stare into a camera. Then I imagine I’m talking on the telephone. We’re used to doing that. 8) When you write, is there a ritual involved to get the good work done? Do you listen to music? Is there a pattern to your creativity that fends off boredom? No rituals. No schedule. I like to write, so I write whenever the opportunity presents itself. I write till I get bored, then stop and go do something else. I’ll be back before long. No music. 9) What music do you keep in the car to keep you in a positive mood? What role does music play in your life?
I don’t have a car. When I walk or ride a bike to get where I’m going, I often sing to myself—everything from Broadway musicals to blues and pop and kid songs from my childhood. I occasionally get curious looks. Then I sing more softly. 10) What projects do you have out now, or coming out soon, that we need to keep an eye on? Are there any speaking engagements on the horizon? Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West, published in October. 11) What is a question that you’ve heard so many times you’d like never hear it again? You do not have to answer it. I’m happy to answer any honest question. I don’t presume that people have read or seen my previous interviews.
LOIS P. JONES By Clifford Brooks
1) Where do you see Rilke peeking around corners in today’s poetry world? If so, where and/or within whom? You can often tell when a writer has been influenced by Rilke. It’s like a secret handshake. Not in an imitative sense but let’s say there are incandescent features which lay beneath the text like starlight below a field of grass. On each occasion whether I’ve asked the poet directly or read or watched interviews I have never been disappointed. Some examples would be award-winning educator and former poet laureate of Delaware, Fleda Brown who founded the Poets in the Schools Project. Joseph Fasano, author of four books including my favorite Fugue for Other Hands and whose work has influenced my own is a devotee of Rilke. Dorothea Lasky said of Fasano, “This is the poet I trust to see the world as it is, quietly writhing around us, like Kafka and Rilke before him.” I would bet good money on Carl Phillips. His work resounds with his own depths of lyric beauty and profound spirituality. Phillips speaks to the gesture fleshed out on the page and so much of what lives in the undertow of Rilke’s poetry embodies motion toward an idea or thing. He understood the inner signals of the sentient world and imbued the nonsentient with its élan. One must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the small flowers open in the morning. 137
Poet David Whyte, has created a broad readership throughout the world of philosophical enquiry amongst others. His influence is tremendous and his work is charged with the intertwining elements of the metaphysical world. He has recited Rilke’s works numerous times and translated them as well. But the “widening circle” of Rilke’s influence extends to the non-poetry world. I love that Lady Gaga has a tattoo from Letters to a Young Poet in German. In the deepest hour of the night,/Confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write./And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, /and ask yourself, must I write? Rilke’s cosmology extends into all the arts – films, symphonies, visual art, the list goes on. 2) Your radio show shows (reveals?) the hallmarks of a love of letters, thorough research of guests, and a natural gift for making people comfortable. How much of this were born with, and how much learned? Sometimes we are born with the gift we fear. I remember once being advised by someone in my teens to take a job as a receptionist and I thought this was the worst idea in the world. My intensely shy nature had always drawn me away from being any central point of communication. The administrator wisely suggested the thing one fears doing is often that for which we have the most faculty. Over the years I have observed this to be true. Whether or not I have any talent for interviewing it’s certainly one of my passions and I am always working to improve my game. I measure quality against some of the greats including Krista Tippett who is doing a brilliant job with American Public Radio’s ON BEING interviewing poets, religious leaders and artists who are changing our perception of the world.
“The administrator wisely suggested the thing one fears doing is often that for which we have the most faculty.”
One of my first touchstones was the book The Art of the Interview by Martin Perlich. He laid down two very basic elements: (1) be prepared and (2) be interested. This sounds fundamental but you’d be surprised how many interviewers do little preparation. It is immediately obvious to the listener and to the guest, especially guests who have been interviewed numerous times. That is one of the biggest turn-offs and a sure way to make an interview go sour. I am probably the opposite as I always over prepare for my interviews. With my early fears I felt the need to control all aspects of the interview so I would try to guide the dialogue through the known subjects I’d already prepared for. What if the guest goes off in a completely different direction and you have to rein them back to the subject? What if they jump two questions ahead and you’re suddenly trying to figure out how you’re going to fill in the latter part of the show? So, there is a missing third item which is necessary to a good interview; be present. It is an added element of true listening. Be present with the person and the subject and you may end up going off on interesting tangents and never return to the question but you will also have an organic interview rich with the aliveness of interaction and stream of consciousness. So, to your question, any skill set I have come from my natural interest in others and my ability to listen which I actually enjoy doing! I have a producer, Marlena Bond who has been the best possible technician behind the scenes but she is more than an operator of the control board, she devised the format for this show and is a gifted editor. This was not an attempt to be another academic Q & A, which could potentially alienate listeners. Her approach was inclusive by creating a “poetry show for all.” 138
SPECIAL FEATURES Poets Café embodies the notion of two poets sitting casually at a café and talking about poetry. While it does touch on subjects of literary interest such as craft, subject and voice, it also draws from life experience and universal subjects such as questions of identity, family, loss, history, justice, with every imaginable topic to hand. Also, some of our guests have included artists whose work straddles multiple genres such as actors, directors, voice over artists, scientists, police officers and the like who bring their interesting narratives to the show. When I first began interviewing, Perlich’s story about his absolute inexperience as an interviewer brought face to face with none other than the great Leonard Bernstein was a watershed of inspiration. While Perlich knew a great deal about music and about Bernstein’s accomplishments, he had no idea how to conduct a formal interview. He dove in and never looked back. I do not compare myself with Perlich except to note that my beginnings were much the same. I had only a desire to try my hand at it. I love every interview no matter how challenging because it’s always an opportunity to grow both as a poet and a listener and to honor those who come into the studio. 3) What is the best way for people to approach you, or radio shows in general, to request air time? What’s the best tone to use? How much should folks show upfront? I suggest they go to the site https://www.kpfk.org/on-air/poets-cafe/ and listen to a couple of the shows to gain familiarity with the format. They can then query the producer via email. We rarely do phone interviews. Our producer prefers the intimacy of the in-studio experience and I do too! If the poet is local or is coming into town and has advance notice, they should send their book (or they can pdf a copy of their collection) to the producer for consideration. 4) If you could have five guests on your show (alive or dead) to be your “Best of” lineup, who would they be and why? 1. Rilke of course though while he spoke many languages, he did not choose to learn English. I’ve often thought of this scenario and what I’ve come up with is that I would have a few questions to hand but I’d rather just let him read and discuss whatever interests him. So much has been written of him and by him that it would be limiting to approach the specific, e.g., what did you mean when you said Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich/Every angel is terrifying? I don’t know if Rilke would be happy to appear on a radio show. 2. Andre Tarkovsky. He was known as the poet of cinema and his films continue to haunt and influence my own writing today. His book Sculpting in Time explores not only the challenges of creativity set down in his thoughts and his memories but his unshakeable belief in the spirit of man. He would be endlessly fascinating to talk to. Sometimes I want a guest on not because of our potential dialogue but to let them loose on a given subject which can make the whole of the interview. You barely need to suggest a subject and they are off excavating the landscape in profound and eloquent ways. 3. Lady Gaga. Yes, as mentioned above, I feel a deep connection with her work in the world. She has evolved in ways that show she is always challenging her growth as a person and as an artist. I’d like to talk about her love of poetry and the poetry of performance. 4. Brad Mehldau. Another artist who is a fan of Rilke’s, Mehldau is one of the greatest living jazz artists today. His Love Sublime is based on Rilke’s Book of Hours. It was no surprise to me really after years of following Mehldau and having the great fortune to hear him in concert in Los Angeles years before he became a sensation that he loved Rilke. If you observe the dialogue between Brad and his trio you will tap into the way all art conveys the deeper metaphysical dialogues. This resonance stimulates something within you at the archetypal level. 5. For a poetry show let’s ask Rumi. He had answers for all the world’s ills. He was a bad ass poet and could slay you with his verse and make you love it. visit https://www.loispjones.com/ 139
STETSON UNIVERSITY MFA By Clifford Brooks
1) Please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you fit into the Stetson Masters of Fine Arts Program. Thanks for asking, Clifford. I’m a poet and inter-arts collaborator. Material objects include books (most recently, The Rape Kit) and collaborative work shown in galleries and museums (New York, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Chania, Crete) A big deal recently was performing with Cyriaco Lopes in the Museum of Contemporary Culture (Valencia, Spain). In Florida, I hold the Sullivan Chair in Creative Writing at Stetson. As one of the original architects of the MFA of the Americas, I helped welcome the program’s
first cohort in 2016, and Cyriaco Lopes and I have been team-teaching from the start: our class intros Poetry in the Expanded Field. It’s real, heady fun: all these writers and people who make text-based art end up in the same small group (no more than 5 students per class) and kick out the jams. Current students include a folk singer and a comics artist and a former physics major. People on the poetry side tend to be multi-multi—a recent graduate brought a degree in Fabric Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one graduating in January has a digital sound arts background. We’ve welcomed brilliant on-page poets too. Whatever your text-based art interest, we follow, show models, push. On the first day of the residencies, every student in the program has a solo meeting with that semester’s faculty. We 141
just ask what you are really interested in now. That’s the start. One of Cyriaco’s and my very first students walked in to discuss her poems and abruptly started talking about tango. These are our people. 2) Who are the other major players, and how do they play into the song your program sings? Teresa Carmody is our wonderful director. She co-founded Les Figues Press in LA, and teaches experimental prose. She also throws cards, publishes an eclectic mix of things, and is super-organized. Her new hybrid essays are amazing. We are both on the ground Stetson people –as is our terrific program coordinator, Jacklyn Gion, who also makes work in social-media poetics. Cyriaco Lopes is a Brazilian visual artist with a long cv of shows featuring his queer, political, cross-cultural work. Current colleagues include Veronica Gonzales Pena (prose and film), Sarah Gerard (prose), Patti Yumi Cottrell (prose), Urayoán Noel (poetry, translation, and performance) and Ronaldo Wilson (poetry and performance). The cast changes out some, but they are all super-interesting, distinguished, and kind. They should each have many paragraphs of their own.
4) What makes your program stand out from the others? We are low-residency, which means we meet 10 days in January (at the very beautiful Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida) and 10 days in June in cities elsewhere in the Americas: this June (2020), Mexico City, next (2021): Montreal. While the low res is a familiar model, one well- suited for people who have regular jobs and are already placed somewhere in the world, our program is particular. First, it’s the only low-res program with both an internationally American and cross-arts mandate. Second, please come here to experiment: I’ve described Poetry in the Expanded Field, but on the Prose side of the program, students can focus on fiction, creative non-fiction, and/
3) What is the philosophy of the Stetson MFA program? I’m joined by Teresa to team-answer this:
a) to experiment in what we don’t yet know how to do. And with that which we think we know… to us, experiment is a synonym for play. b) to explore in multiple languages-- including those of class, location, gender, race—in our work. c) to place work in the much larger international context of the Americas---rich, varied, long traditions of which the US is one strand. 142
SPECIAL FEATURES or hybrid work, plus film or experiential engagements. Bring all your skill sets, that is to say-- and all the things you truly love. Third, did I say never more than 5 in a class? Fourth, location also means zero dorms/cafeterias: we meet at a beautiful and prestigious artist’s residency space (ACA) then in major cities elsewhere in the Americas.
English, made photographs of military planes’ sky leavings (he called them chem trails) and ended with a beautiful artist book (already published by a Chilean press), as well as a performance in which he made his own trails of salt……all this in memory of his mother. I could go on and on, as I’ve just read the proposals for a new group of January graduates!
5) Who are some of the guest lecturers to visit over the years, and what flair did they deliver?
Program-wise we never had to gain traction— everyone thought this was an exciting idea. One with real physical manifestation: Atlantic Center for the Arts holds a sound studio, an artist’s studio, a dance studio, and a black box theater—you can wander around all night trying things.
Varied richness from many: a brainy lecture by Samuel R Delaney, magisterially seated. LaTasha Nevada Diggs’ commanding spoken and sound work, John Keene extolling the novella. Erica Baum’s incredible text-based photographs, Sergio Bessa laying out South American Neo-Concrete. Those were just a few of many great January visitors. When we are out of the US in June, WE are the visitors, gaining knowledge and models: Carlos Soto Roman on Chilean post-dictatorship trauma, Leandro Katz’s body work about Che Guevara, Fernanda Laguna’s feminist activism (a day trip!) with children, Lenora de Barros’ wittily wrenching gender/language queries including her photos of her tongue between type writer keys or pressed by scissors. 6) The Stetson MFA program is doing some remarkable things with cross-genre work. How did those gain traction, and what exactly do they entail? Very enjoyable to hear your use of traction. A few projects that show how things grab people: Nina Siso followed her interests and tried her first text and video work in Poetry in the Expanded Field. Nina then switched to Prose and learned about narrative, characterization, and the sentence. In her last semester she worked in video again as well as in short story. Her final project was a performance combining readings, videos, and an interactive section where students helped make a new video in real time. She performed this in Buenos Aires—a virtuoso turn. Pablo Vindel wrote poems in Spanish and
I’m sure each person in the program would choose different highlights, but my picks include a demo in which Cyriaco walked us through examples of Mexican muralismo, a moment passing around Eduardo Costa’s geometric paintings by hand (why were we allowed to do this?), class in a Rio botanical garden with monkeys in the trees, a lavish book launch in Rio’s Oi, Futuro museum, chatting with Leandro Katz in Buenos Aires while standing on his own lunar alphabet after a terrific artist talk. The last highlight in Buenos Aires, by the way, was unplanned: when all the lights went out in Argentina, we held our final night all-student reading in the hotel gym! It was funny, weird, unforgettable—and featured some equipment. 7) What are you looking for in potential students? People who like to be in their bodies, try things. Collaborative types with high standards for their work. Curious people. We accept all kinds of work samples—just make them something you really care about. 8) What are some of the negative stereotypes about MFA programs, and how do Stetson break them? 143
I don’t really know about negative stereotypes— sounds like you have an idea here. What is it? I can say that people seem a little astonished that everyone down to sunlit motes in the air seems willing to collaborate and help each other in our program. When a former student opened an art space in Spain, we contributed to the GoFundMe. We loved showing up for a text-art pop up show 3 alums proposed and had accepted at the Orlando Museum of Art. We tumble out of town for readings sponsored by Burrow Press, which is run by one of our current students. This to say we love our shared work as artists and we are in it for life. 9) What are some exciting things you see coming down the pipeline for future courses? Thinking of developing a third-year option so people can switch tracks and keep going (no one wants to leave for some reason). Lots of great ideas around community-based learning are emerging, too—stay tuned. 10) How do people keep up with new developments and/or inquire further about applying? You can follow us on Facebook, and reach out via the Stetson website (email@example.com). Teresa and I offer online information sessions (and some in-person ones), so please sign up: we’ll show pics while live video-streaming about the program. https://stetso.nu/Z6PXx. We are building an interesting new cohort for January admission, by the way---January 1-11 is a great time to start your MFA of the Americas at Atlantic Center for the Arts. We’ll also welcome a new class in Mexico City in June. Would be great to get some applications from the Collective!
SCE MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
TERENCE HAWKINS By Clifford Brooks 1) Who is Terence Hawkins? Someone who always wanted to be a writer—I began my first book at age seven, with a big pencil on one of those grade-school tablets with paper so crude it had splinters. It started, “during world war 2.” That’s as far as I got. I didn’t know to capitalize the initial D. When I was fourteen and fifteen, I actually finished a science fiction novel called The Peacemakers’ War, which was basically an exercise in plagiarism. Luckily it is lost. So that’s all by way of saying I’m someone who always wanted to be a writer but managed to spend half of his adult life finding excuses not to be one. One day I realized that what was holding me back was the fear that I would discover I had no talent—if you don’t play, you can’t lose. That fear persists and makes itself known whenever I sit down at a keyboard or with a pen. In that, of course, I know I’m not alone. 2) Who influences you from prose, poetry, music, and art? How do all the genres gel to help you create? In prose, Evelyn Waugh, Raymond Chandler, S.J. Perlman, J.P Dunleavy, and Gore Vidal. The latter two were alive in this century, at least. I just took a quick look at the bookshelves and the current writers most heavily represented are Lou Bayard, John Crowley, Tom Perrotta, Nicholson Baker, and William Boyd. No strolls on the wild side in poetry, either: Kipling, Tennyson, Auden. As to music, while I have the usual stick in the mud tastes for early and baroque and bebop, I also find and country-related stuff speaks to me more directly. I think that Lucinda Williams and Larry McMurtry in particular sing about an American experience to which I feel more intimately related. It just struck me as I wrote
that sentence that both are the children of writers. Bears thinking about. I find the visual arts most interesting in an historical context. I like to know what people looked like, or as importantly, wanted to be thought of as looking like. 3) How did you find the Calliope Crashes Media Group? How is their press the perfect fit for the second edition of American Neolithic? A match made in Heaven, for sure. American Neolithic was in danger of being orphaned as a result of a dispute with its original publisher. It was resolved, but as part of the deal I got the rights back. As I was trying to figure out how to publish it myself, and not doing it well, my old friend Shawn Crawford mentioned that he was starting a press. Problem solved.
SCE MEMBER SPOTLIGHT But as to why it’s a perfect fit: Shawn is not only a writer himself, but is completely committed to a business model for publishing that recognizes that it is a business from which writers make money. Sadly, there are a lot of people in the present literary world who think writers should give their work away for “exposure.” Even a street musician has a tip jar. Shawn, on the other hand, appreciates the time and labor that go into a literary work and makes sure his writers get paid from the first sale. Also, and most importantly, he is just a genuinely great human being with a huge heart and love for life that make him a joy to work with. 4) Where did the inspiration for American Neolithic come from? Have you considered writing a second book for it?
My grandfathers were coal miners. My father and uncle were union shop stewards, and Uncle Percy got the crap beaten out of him by Pinkertons during a UMW organizing drive. Politics is in my blood. That said, I think most of my work is driven by ideas rather than characters. For example, my first book, The Rage of Achilles, is based on Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, positing that modern consciousness first arose at the time of the Trojan War and is evidenced in the actual language of the Iliad. So, I can’t keep my ideas about politics out of my work. But by the same token, I don’t think a work should be judged by a writer’s politics, or that the politics that show up in the work should necessarily influence its reception—I think Chekhov said writing about horse thieves doesn’t mean you approve of stealing horses.
“It occurred to me that what we were doing at Yale was too expensive . . . for most writers. So, I wanted to offer the same benefits in smaller increments”
The idea, like all my good ideas—in fact, pretty much everything good in my life—came from my wife. She casually asked one day what I thought Neanderthals would be doing if they were alive today. That was in the back of my head when I fell asleep on a train, and dreamed about something I’d read to the effect that whales were originally land animals who returned to the sea. That got me thinking—over a couple of years—about whether modern humans and Neanderthals had coexisted. (At the time there was no evidence they had.) It seemed to me that if we had, that would explain the universality of the legends of a semi-human Other—elves, kobolds, yeti, hobbits, sasquatch. And yes, I am thinking about the sequel. Like the original it will be driven in part by contemporary politics. 146
5) You are passionately politically outspoken. Do you feel that constant tear isolated potential readers? What’s your philosophy concerning social commentary and creative output?
6) Tell us about Company of Writers. What is it, and where is it going? It occurred to me that what we were doing at Yale was too expensive, in terms of both time and money, for most writers. So, I wanted to offer the same benefits in smaller increments— an intense, immersive writing workshop over two days rather than two weeks. We’ve done several in New Haven and Brooklyn with faculty like Colum McCann and Amy Bloom. What we’re working towards now is workshops in specific genres—e.g., speculative fiction, screenwriting, and so on.In addition, we offer manuscript services at several different levels of engagement—a critical reading, developmental editing, and line editing. What we hope to do ultimately is turn the workshops into a series
SCE MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
of regular retreats at different locations and the manuscript work into a comprehensive suite of author services. 7) How does the study of law seep into American Neolithic? “Study” isn’t the right word—no one would mistake Attorney Raleigh for a scholar. But the experience of law as practiced does—putting out fires, dodging bullets, trying to make a buck, and doing the right thing by a client. 8) What 5 philosophers/author/poets (dead or alive) would you like to get in one room? Why? During my tenure as Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference I actually had the experience of getting a lot of pretty prominent writers into the same room. The result was generally a terrible hangover. If I were to ignore that experience, I’d want to include more than five. From among the living, John Crowley and Louis Bayard, for the depth of their learning and the lightness with which they wear it. From among the ghosts I’d have Gore Vidal and Mark Twain, for their insight into American character and humor—the for-
mer brittle, the latter broad. I would also want to call back the very recently departed Ursula K. LeGuin, for the originality and complexity of her invention as well as the breadth of her appreciation for the human condition. Since I have the privilege of raising the dead, I would invite as well the late writer-surgeon Richard Selzer, without whose generous mentorship I would never have persisted in this project. And more for curiosity than anything else, I’d invite Voltaire, just to see what he was like. 9) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but never have been? What’s the answer? Why did you start so late? Because I wasn’t ready.
MELLOW MUSHROOM (ROSWELL) By Clifford Brooks 1) Please give us background on the founding of Mellow Mushroom. What is the philosophy that makes it stand out? Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers was founded in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia. The franchise, operated under Home-Grown Industries of Georgia, Inc., is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. For over 40 years, Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers has been serving up fresh, stone-baked pizzas to order in an eclectic, art-filled, and family-friendly environment. Each Mellow is locally owned and operated and provides a unique feel focused around great customer service and high-quality food. Mellow is a state of mind, a culture, a way of being. Our mission is to provide delicious food in a fun and creative environment. We are the originators of hand tossed, stone baked, classic southern pizza. Our spring water crust is unique and flavorful, and all our pies are made with high quality, fresh ingredients. Our philosophy is to elevate the dinning experience with a higher order of pizza. 2) How is the Roswell Mellow Mushroom unique? Mellow Mushroom Roswell stands out from the crowd and we have an edge over other local pizza restaurant locations. Customers love how easy it is to enjoy a pizza and a beer right outside 148
on the patio, while their children play. Mellow Mushroom Roswell’s pizza is a fresh product that is consistently dependable. Our pizza is fresh and never frozen. Mellow Mushroom Roswell is here to give our customers a quality experience every time they enter our store. Many of our specialty pizzas are outside the typical pizza box. Pizza is an emotional experience for many people. When you order pizza, you can almost feel the warmth of that pizza as you anticipate its delivery to your table.
3) How do you create such an artistically inviting space that appeals to all ages? Mellow Mushroom Roswell attempts to strengthen people and neighborhoods by creating connections that enrich lives, inspire discovery, foster creativity, and expand possibilities. Mellow Mushroom Roswell has been inspiring the community for 13 years in our present location. We are a place where everyone feels welcome to gather, eat, and drink. We strive to be a touchpoint
SPECIAL FEATURES in the community and Mellow Mushroom Roswell works hard to provide quality food and a place for social connections in our community. 4) What goes into the food that keeps people coming back? We source the best possible ingredients to create our signature Mellow dough. This means the finest variety of high protein, unbromated, unbleached wheat flour, Appalachian spring water, and no refined white sugar. We take pride in baking the best quality pizza dough for all our pies, pretzels, and calzones. Our sauce starts with vine-ripened, hand-selected tomatoes which are picked and processed within hours of harvest. We then add a proprietary blend of herbs and spices, and cook it all the old-fashioned way – simmered low, slow and easy – to release all the flavors. Additives and preservatives are never added to make our sauce last longer. Our mozzarella is the highest quality available premium, partskim real mozzarella. It’s been patiently aged to deliver the best creamy flavor and melt. It’s never frozen and we won’t allow the addition of any additives or preservatives used in lower cost cheeses. Our chicken and steak are 100% all-natural. No additives. No preservatives. No hormones. No steroids. No worries. We also use thick-cut, premium hickory bacon and top of the line deli meats. There really is a difference.
Mellow Mushroom offers a large variety of vegetarian options, many of which can be easily made vegan. We also offer vegan cheese, which is free of animal and soy products, and a good source of calcium. 5) Your staff is professional without losing the feeling customers are dealing with good friends. How do you keep such a happy crew? The fact is treating customers like friends means more than good marketing. Treating customers like friends is hard work, just like real friendships. Our employees care about the customer’s needs; that means they check in with the customer often during their meal experience. The point is that Mellow Mushroom Roswell doesn’t just see our customers as a means to an end and nothing more. Mellow Mushroom Roswell treats customers like friends because we live up to every word we say. When you think about it, the corner stone of keeping promises is integrity.
Mellow Mushroom Roswell keeps its promises to people we care about not because it will be good publicity, or because it’s profitable. We keep promises because it’s the right thing to do. Mellow Mushroom Roswell reads all the reviews that are posted online which in turn creates great user-generated content. Even if we receive a bad review Mellow Mushroom Roswell uses that review to problem solving issues within the restaurant. Customer feedback is a valued method for enhancing our performance. 6) What do your employees love most about working there? Respect is a fundamental right of every employee in every workplace, at Mellow Mushroom Roswell we demand it. Our people who feel they are treated with respect, respond with respect for coworkers and bosses. We try to keep our employees up to date, we attempt to share with them about the organization, this allows our employees to make good decisions based on good information
to act in the best interest of Mellow Mushroom Roswell. Mellow Mushroom Roswell staff are given a job to do and left alone to do it. It gives them the flexibility to balance their work life and home life. A day at Mellow Mushroom Roswell is never the same. Each day employees are presented with new situations, which helps them to stay focused and interested. 7) You have live music there in a gorgeous outside space. How do you choose the bands that play, and how can customers find out who and when they perform? From hip-hop and rock to Indie and everything in between, Mellow Mushroom Roswell as a live music venue that keeps the music flowing every Saturday night. And if you want a breath of fresh air while catching some great tunes, our Patio Stage is a live music lover’s paradise. Our Patio Stage is a unique music venue with great artist; our lineup is different every month. It’s almost like you are at your neighbors hanging out on the back porch listing to a band jam. Our Facebook page is the place to go to find out all the up-coming events. 8) Mellow Mushroom Roswell takes an active role in supporting the community. In what ways do you help worthy causes in your area? Mellow Mushroom Roswell is a place of community. We take pride in the enduring vision of Roswell, Georgia: “To be a vibrant riverside community connecting strong neighborhoods, preserving 150
our rich history, celebrating the arts and culture, and cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit.” Because of this vision Mellow Mushroom Roswell is a place for the locals to gather and strengthen their social connections. However, our community needs support from Mellow Mushroom Roswell, therefore, we sponsor many local sports teams, the local schools with Spirit Nights, local community runs and have two nights a week that are fun on “Family Fun” Nights. Wednesday night we bring in Xtreme Gaming 360 to provide an evening of video games at no charge to the community. http://xtremegaming360.com/ Thursday night we have Tammy, the Balloon Lady who will make balloon sculptures for the family! Both are provided free to the community. 9) You often have company and organization parties on site. What special deals do you offer groups, and how do they sign up? Mellow Mushroom Roswell has been helping people celebrate the special events in their lives and becoming part of their stories for the last 13 years. We know this is an honor and it is one only given to the very best. We treat each celebration as a unique event. Our Private Room proudly holds about 40 people and the outdoor patio holds up to 125. The look of Mellow Mushroom Roswell makes both kids and the adults fall in love with us. We hear a lot from the parents that this venue is so perfect because they really don’t have to decorate at all! At
this time there is no charge for our Private Room, we just request a full pre-order for any party booked at out restaurant. To book an event, party, or catering please contact Libbie Arnold at 404-4298909 10) What do you want most for people to know about you, your staff, and your location? Serving some of the best artisan pizza in Roswell! We have conversations with local businesses in our area letting them know about our catering, lunch menus, and meeting space at the Mellow Mushroom Roswell location. We are a great location for “Father-Daughter Dates”; Holiday parties, New Year’s Eve, Valentines, and all manner of sporting events with 13 TV’s. At Mellow Mushroom Roswell we set out to define the factors that make for a great customer experience. Mellow Mushroom Roswell delivers a human experience. Our hosts engage with our customers as soon as they walk in. Our servers give the customers sincerity and positivity; they are as excited to serve the customers as our customers are to be enjoying a meal out. The food at Mellow Mushroom Roswell is the cornerstone of our business.
FACES OF FAITH
CYNTHIA PRAY-CLINTON By Clifford Brooks Cynthia Pray-Clinton is sunshine forged from hardship into a tool of God’s love. She talks about faith like a cherished friend and considers Victory in Jesus Christ Tabernacle her home-away-from-home. Through her tumultuous early years, Cynthia faced disappointments, incarceration, addiction, and loss. However, those trials and tribulations do not define her. For her, those unfortunate events prove that God’s forgiveness is never far away. Cynthia inspires spiritual freedom, and she shares that divine spark within her community. Born, bread, and still living in Immokalee, Florida, Cynthia raised her five children while working three jobs. “I left one job to rush, often on foot, to the next. I haven’t always lived the right life, but I’ve always taken care of my children,” she said. “My life changed one night at a party when I looked around, realized I didn’t like the person I was, and immediately started to pray.” Scripture filled the emptiness created by sin. Psalm 51 filled her heart, and spreading the Word became her primary focus. Cynthia reads the work of TD Jakes and Be liever’s Voice of Victory by Kenneth Copeland to stay upbeat. She takes solace in time with her husband, Vernon Clinton. When the world grows heavy around her, she retreats to her father’s quiet home and stills her spirit. “When I have to make a decision, I put it completely in God’s hands. When I look back on my hard times, they remind me how fortunate I am today. When I get down I try to find someone I can help. I stay in constant prayer.” Losing a mother and four sisters nearly broke her. However, caring for her father the last seventeen years provided a strength and courage she didn’t know she had. She’s not worried about denomination when it comes to her ministry. When asked what unique flair she brings to the pulpit, Cynthia told me, “I bring my eye-opening experience. Folks who knew me years ago see the new me free of that old sin. I bring sweetness to a bitter life.” She’s a bulldog who won’t stop until her whole message is heard. The souls of today’s youth concern her. “We need to tell kids about God’s love, and listen to them when they speak up. Parents need to be parents first, not friends.” 151
FACES OF FAITH
“When I look back on my hard times, they remind me how fortunate I am today. When I get down I try to find someone I can help.”
“It is important to live the Word, not just speak it. Life will get hard, and people will try to put you down. Many don’t like to see you succeed, but ignore them. Keep your eyes on the Lord.” Cynthia Pray-Clinton is generous with her time and testimony. She feels that God erased her past and gave her a future. “It’s good to have people alongside you to fight life’s wars with swords of faith,” she told me as she reflected on all those who’ve helped her along the way. There is an abiding sense of purpose in Cynthia. When she speaks of herself there is a constant humility, but when the Lord comes up, a fire rises in her. Her hope is infectious, and her laugh makes you laugh. When I asked her who helps keep her smiling, she said, “Oh, I am blessed with so many good people, but my children and my sister’s daughters will always be my heroes.”
“People worry too much. The best thing to do is put your life in God’s hands.” Cynthia’s message is accepting, joyful, and simple. She walks the talk, and does so without judgement. When I asked her if she had anything to say to tie up our interview, she quoted John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
MOVIE REVIEWS By Tom Johnson A long time ago, I worked in a video rental store (Remember those kids? They were a thing before streaming) and one of the most common complaints I heard was how difficult it was to find a “Chick Flick” that would keep the guys interested. There are classic films like Grease, Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman and The Princess Bride that bridge the gap but unless you live under a rock, you have already seen those. The following movies are as good as or better than those classics but they don’t seem to get as much attention. only problem is, no one wants to be associated with the Bellas, so pickings are slim.
Pitch Perfect (2012) The story starts at the lowest point of the Barden Bellas musical career. A junior member, Aubrey, pukes all over the stage during the big competition (yes, they show it) and the Bellas quickly drop from champions to punch line. Jump to a year later. Aubrey is now one of the only Bellas left and in order to redeem herself, she has to recruit the best singers possible to win the competition this year. The
Thank god for that because the menagerie of …well, not losers but eccentric individuals could not have been better. The new group is comprised of Beca (The main character who is rebellious, funny and wants nothing to do with groups or singing competitions), Aubrey (The leader who vomits under stress) Chloe (Aubrey’s right hand women, talented but vocally damaged), Fat Amy (Not a pejorative as she is proud, confident and constantly steals the show), Stacie ( Funny, aggressive and possibly a sexual predator), Cynthia (A grounded, soul singer with a possible fixation on Stacie) and Lilly (Who doesn’t speak above a whisper but if you turn on closed captioning, her dialogue is surreal). Most of the movie follows the girls as they compete for the top spot and learn to bring out the best in each other while becoming close friends as a result. The romance between Beca and her love interest is fairly by the books until a great twist. Instead of him screwing up and having to make amends, it’s Beca, and he doesn’t
make it easy for her. Whether they get back together comes down to the success or failure of Beca’s grand gesture during the final performance.
The Proposal (2009) This movie subverts expectations right off the bat because Margaret (Sandra Bullock) is the executive editor of a prestigious New York publishing company, and Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) is the hard-working assistant. Margaret 153
is horrible to everyone at work and it is all Andrew can do to keep up with her demands. Karma catches up quick though because Margaret decided she was so important that she didn’t need to worry about her work visa and is now in danger of being fired and deported.
no self confidence. Toula decides it is time for a change and with her mother’s help, convinces her father to let her take a computer class. As she gains confidence, she updates her style and asks her parents to let her work in the family travel agency instead of the restaurant. She flourishes there until she happens to run into Ian again. They start dating but her parents are very against it because he is not Greek. The rest of the movie deals with the couple overcoming her parent’s resistance, planning a massive family wedding and getting their happily ever after.
Margaret tries to bully Anthony into marrying her so she can stay but he extracts some promises before he agrees. He wants to become an editor and he wants her to promote a book he has been recommending. It galls her because she has been holding him back intentionally to keep him under her thumb but she reluctantly agrees. They fly to Alaska, to Andrews’s home town, to announce the wedding to his family. At this point the tables officially turn. Andrew takes every opportunity to get revenge in hilarious ways but the real shock is when she discovers that Andrew’s family is enormously wealthy. Andrew is the sole heir but he wanted to peruse his dreams of becoming an editor. Margaret spends time with his Mom and Grandma who essentially adopts her as one of the family. As she becomes more comfortable with them, you slowly see that the ice queen persona was just a mask she uses because she has always been alone. Margaret and Andrew start developing real feelings for each other but can they still go through with the sham wedding and fool all those nice people? You’ll have to watch it and find out. 154
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) This movie is all about family and I think that may affect your enjoyment more than anything else. If you come from a big family, this may strike a chord with you. But if you don’t really have a family or come from a small one then it will make you envious. It shows how much your relatives add to your life while making it hell in the process. The story follows Toula (Nia Vardalos) who is not like the others in her Greek orthodox family. Her parents are strictly traditional and expect her to marry young and start making babies like her sister. Toula is in her 30’s, single and working in the family pizza restaurant when she first meets Ian Miller (John Corbitt). It doesn’t go well because she is socially awkward and has almost
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) This is one of my favorite movies and keep in mind that list also includes John Wick, Army of
SPECIAL FEATURES Darkness and the later Fast and Furious films. Diane Lanes’ character Frances has a “perfect” life. She is a successful writer with a doting husband and a fantastic house that she loves. Until, he divorces her for a younger woman, she loses her house and sinks into depression, making her unable to write. Her friend is worried for her and talks Frances into taking a trip to Tuscany. She is charmed by a dilapidated villa she finds, and on a whim, sinks all her money from the divorce into her new home. It seems like such a mistake. She just wanted to start over, find a new love, maybe make a family and become part of something new. Instead she is essentially camping in the original money pit, watching her investment go down the tubes. Frances hires a Polish construction team to work on her house that at first seem off-putting but soon become her buddies. Along the same time, she meets a daring and slightly risqué retired actress named Katherine who starts introducing her to all of the mysteries and fun found in Tuscany. Frances is still depressed because although the villa starts to recover, her love life doesn’t. The movie ends with Frances realizing that she has everything she wanted, just not how she expected. She does find love but a sense of belonging comes from her new friends and neighbors who become her new family.
rival team. Her brother blows off school to pursue music so Viola becomes Sebastian and enrolls at her new school.
She’s the Man (2006) There are tons of movies that use the plot device of the man dressing up as the woman (Tootsie) or the woman as a man (Just One of the Guys) but none do it with the pure sense of fun that She’s the Man has. Everyone in this movie is in top comedic form from Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum to Julie Hagarty and David Cross. The story starts with Viola (Bynes) being blocked from playing on her boyfriend’s soccer team because Cornwall doesn’t allow girls. Her mother (Hagerty) is thrilled because she wants her daughter to become the perfect little debutante and forget sports. Luckily for Viola, her twin brother Sebastian is supposed to go to Illyria boarding school which has an amazing soccer program and who is her now ex boyfriend’s
To her disappointment she doesn’t make the team but she does meet the top player Duke (Tatum). He agrees to help “Sebastian” improve enough to make the team in exchange for helping him overcome his shyness around girls. The movie then turns into a kind of comedy hide and seek where Viola has to avoid her brothers ex, be the perfect socialite for her mom, allay the suspicions of the principal and dodge the amorous advances of the various girls who fall for her new persona. Plus, she has to deal with the realization that she, as Viola, is falling in love with Duke but can’t tell him because it will blow her cover as Sebastian. It all culminates in a bizarre rivalry game between Illyria and Cornwall where Viola proves she can play with the big boys and win.
HEMINGWAY’S DOG By Hemingway’s Dog 1) My aunt won’t stop sharing political stuff on her Facebook. What’s my move? The last time a person was swayed by a snarky political meme on Facebook was, oh yeah, NEVER. Social media can be a rabbit hole if you obsess over it. People often share political things to either A) incense the other side or B) broadcast their ideas to an echo chamber of likeminded folks to prove they’re sufficiently dogmatic. If your aunt offends your sensibilities to the extent you cannot tolerate it, UNFOLLOW her. You can remain Facebook friends and occasionally click on her profile to click LIKE on pictures of her dogs. This will not make Thanksgiving less weird. 2) Hemingway’s Dog, I’m a relatively new writer, and I’m trying to find out where to submit my work. This a big step, so congratulations for getting to this point. I will state what is obvious first: be sure you’re ready. It’s expensive to submit pieces to multiple journals / magazines, as each typically charges a nominal fee to offset the costs of producing a quality product. Make sure you have a network of folks you can rely on to tell you when a piece is or is not ready. Once you’re sure you’re ready, here are a few suggestions: • Browse Submittable’s list of outlets for your genre. • Subscribe to CRWROPPS – the Creative Writers Opportunity List. This is a listserv that will email you information about venues to which you can submit your work. • Best bet: follow the work of writers you admire. See where they are getting work published, and research those outlets to see if your work will fit. • Consider this fine publication: The Blue Mountain Review. • Always. Always. Always read the submission guidelines before submitting. • Never submit work about cats. 3) Hemingway’s Dog, my partner wants to get a cat. What do I do? This happens. People sit on the Internets and watch videos of cats doing cute things. But the reality is, people who want a cat just haven’t thought it through. Take your partner to the park for a nice leisurely stroll. Ask your partner if they see any cats hanging out with their humans. You’ll find dogs playing frisbee with their humans, walking obediently on leashes, laying playfully in the grass, etc. If you see any cats at a park they’ll likely be feral and apt to bite small children. Keep a straight face and ask your partner: have you ever tried to play frisbee with a cat? Follow Hemingway’s Dog on Twitter @doghemingway where you can @ your questions for the world’s most sophisticated canine advice columnist. 156
Clifford Brooks (www.cliffbrooks.com) was born in Athens, Georgia. His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published in 2017. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued in August 2018. Evergreens, his second chapbook, will be released by Lucid House Publishing in 2019. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience (www.southerncollectiveexperience. com), a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application. Clifford Brooks has been published in The Crab Orchard Review, San Pedro Review, Dead Mule, Eclectica, Gloom Cupboard, Otoliths, The Smoking Poet, Red Fez, Asylum, Hobo Camp Review, Prick of the Spindle, Porridge, Contemporary American Voices, The Cartier Street Review, The Mayo Review, Prachya Review, Pit Magazine, American Microreviews & Interviews, Gobbet, The Blue Pages, Riverbabble, Tallow Eider Quarterly, Carve Magazine, The New Southern Fugitives, Deep South Magazine, Voices de la Luna, Alba, Clutching at Straws, Zygote in My Coffee, The Rye Whiskey Review, and The Local Train Magazine. 158
Canadian born, Carolyn Wilding Kelso is a mother and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served ten years on active duty as a legal administrator. She holds B.S. in Nutrition Science, and is completing a M.S. in Health & Wellness from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. Carolyn is currently the content editor for the Southern Collective Experience’s journal of coulture, The Blue Mountain Review. An emerging poet, her voice was pressed into the open by debris traveling the currents of life. Her work aims to memorialize human emotion and experiences; hylighting moments of awareness that fill one’s heart with positivity and hope. Her spare time focuses on family, friends, hiking, cycling, and riding her Harley. Follow Carolyn’s Instagram feed at KelsoPoetry.
Everybody talks about Hemingway and his cats. Hemingway did like cats, to cuddle on his lap when he was feeling sensitive or depressed. But the man also hunted, sailed, fired rifles, drank whiskey, and was constantly shirtless. Think about it, would you rather be bare-chested with a cat or a dog? I have decided to write an advice column to help people. The Blue Mountain Review is a great venue for me because there aren’t many dogs are as well read as I. The people I hope to help most are cat people.
Terence Hawkins was raised in Fayette County, PA, a former coal hub later distinguished as the setting for the original Night of the Living Dead and American Rust. He graduated from Yale, where he was Publisher of the Yale Daily News, and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. In 2012 he became the founding Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, which he developed and managed through 2015. He is now the Director of the Company of Writers and Prose Editor of Blue Mountain Review. His first novel, The Rage of Achilles, is a realistic and sometimes brutal account of the Iliad based on the theory of the bicameral mind. Tom Perrotta called it a “genuinely fresh take on a classic text.” In naming it a Year’s Best, Kirkus Reviews called his second, American Neolithic, “a towering work of speculative fiction.”
David Peoples’ music has been heard around the world; he writes for jazz bands, orchestras, soloists, and narrators. His albums have won many awards, including several Global Music Awards. He is a teacher of music composition, theory, and history at the University of North Georgia. David writes with a ginger ale in hand on a balcony surrounded by forest. It’s from here, surrounded by nature, that all of his writings begin – before being released into and around the world.
He lives in Connecticut.
Dusty Huggins Casanova Green
Casanova Green is a writer, singer/songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of The Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside. 160
Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and the author of Feral Kingdom, Nights Without Rain, and We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, among other books of poetry and fiction. He also reviews indie bookshops at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com.
Meri Wright Alecia Vera Buckles is a working artist based out of Chattanooga, TN. She graduated with a BFA from Shorter University in Rome, GA in 2014. Her work is influenced by a childlike view of the world in which she brings to life throughout her bold color palette. The backbone of Aleciaâ€™s work begins with a variation of texture and line work. She taps into her inner childlike wonder by harvesting and recycling paint chips anywhere she can. Old retired palettes, tissue paper, paper towels and even urban exploring have all provided opportunity for Alecia to create with what she finds. Her subject matter is never limited due to the constant fascination of her surroundings. Her persistent experimentaton of painting, ceramic sculpture, and mixed media has only leveraged her into a more diverse art market. Check out her work and stay tuned for more! www.aleciavera.com Alecia has served as our Visual Arts editor for the last year. This is her last issue as our editor and we would like to thank her for all of her hard work. Alecia, we wish you good luck in your future endeavors and trust that you will continue to find success!
Meri Wright earned her BFA with a concentration in painting and drawing from UTC in 2016. Since graduating, Meri has worked as a freelance designer with a focus in Non-Profits. In 2018 Meri partnered with Cempa Community Care to establish the brand for STEP TN, a harm reduction program that offers a one-for-one syringe exchange and other services. Currently, Meri is Creative Assistant at Almanac Supply Co. and Being Boss Podcast. Meri is also the graphic ddesigner for The Blue Mountain Review. When Meri is not working she is hanging out with her son, Cash and their cat, Warner at home in North Georgia. She love plants but is not very good at keeping them alive. She is an avid fan of all things True Crime. meriwright.com
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A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, and the Arts from The Southern Collective Experience.