T BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW he
a journal of culture Issue #12 2018
Kodac Harrison Echo Garrett Jeffery Skinner Selah Dexter Megan Volpert Kerry Neville Moses Mo Kristin Walker Roger Johns Leon Stokesbury on the Life and Work of Frank Stanford
Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| i *All rights within remain with the respective Artists.*
Issue Dedication Felino A. Soriano, poet, jazz lover, family man, and brother of the Collective, passed away October 17, 2018, in Santa Maria, CA, after a long battle with cancer. The issue that follows is dedicated to his memory and his passion for writing. Cover Notes Photo of Kodac Harrison Photograph by Jason Thrasher A Publication of The Southern Collective Experience
Logo design by Laura McCullough Behind The Scenes Poetry Editor, Interview Requests Clifford Brooks | email@example.com Prose Editor (Issue 12) John P. Midkiff | firstname.lastname@example.org Prose Editor (Future Issues) Terence Hawkins | email@example.com Design Director Holly Holt | firstname.lastname@example.org Visual Art Submissions Peter Ristuccia | email@example.com Music Editor Dusty Huggins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Thanks https://unsplash.com/ (for pictures)
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Poetry 4 5 7 9 10 11 13 14 15 16 17 19 20 22 24
Robert Pinsky T. C. Carter Cyan James Gerard Sarnat Vivian Wagner Wes Young J. Scott Price Carolyn Wilding Kelso Jim Onyemenam John Camacho Ken Allan Dronsfield Marcus Gregory Taylor Peter Ristuccia Theodore Worozbyt Bill Newby
Essays 26 28
James H. Duncan Stephen Windham
Movie Review 30
Prose 33 35 39 40 45 46 48 52
Terence Hawkins John M. Williams Effy Rose Justin Hart Crary Kimberly Owen Luke Madden Nick Roberts Sarah Canterbury
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Interviews 54 59 64 66 71 73 75 78 80 86 89 91 93 95 98 108 110 116 125 127 129 131 134
Leon Stokesbury on Frank Stanford Jeffrey Skinner Kodac Harrison Echo Garrett Connor Garrett EDR Interview Megan Volpert Renata Ciuzausk-Markley John Pence Kerry Neville Kristin Sunanta Walker Literary House Press John P. Midkiff James Johnson Pearl Cleage Roger Johns Selah Dexter Isabelle Gautier Team Abyss Moses Mo of Mother’s Finest Andrew Evans of The Stir Ides of June Faces of Faith
Tabula The Southern Collective Experience … Because Everyone is South of somewhere.
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Felino A. Soriano
will live forever.
Though his tragic loss to the literary community will linger in mine, and many lives, his immense body of work is immortal. I met Felino through Facebook in 2008, and in eleven years of knowing him I was only astounded more by his humility than the brilliance of his work. He was a husband and father, the likes of which I can only pray to touch in my days on earth. Though he would tell me my furious labors in the arts is something to respect, I could not, and cannot, begin to comprehend how he was able to produce such an impressive, and as far as I know, unmatched body of work in a tragically short period of time. Felino was a founding member of the Southern Collective Experience and he designed the first few issues of The Blue Mountain Review alongside his job helping the elderly, his own magazine, editing several other literary journals, and writing books that far outnumber what his contemporaries could barely keep up with. Talking with him on the phone was like speaking to a Zen master – always calm, compassionate, intelligent, and unshakably patient. His poetry is unlike any other I know. Perhaps it is the best compliment to say, “I don’t know anyone else you sound like.” He constantly pushed the envelope of expression without dabbling in fads, cryptic nonsense, or pandering to the lowest common denominator. Yet, let it be known you have to put a single-minded concentration to scratch the surface of the depths he plumbed to bring back its meaning. He wove his love of music, especially jazz, into much of his poetry. Just like the legends of Miles Davis and John Coltrane – or maybe most like Thelonius Monk – Felino built an ensemble of genius all from one brilliant, unique, and beloved mind. I will miss you, Felino. We all will. May you dance in heaven until the stars burn out, and then write them back into existence.
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Robert Pinsky Louie Louie I have heard of Black Irish but I never Heard of White Catholic or White Jew. I have heard of “Is Poetry Popular?” but I Never heard of Lawrence Welk Drove Sid Caesar Off Television. I have heard of Kwanzaa but I have Never heard of Bert Williams. I have never heard of Will Rogers or Roger Williams Or Buck Rogers or Pearl Buck Or Frank Buck or Frank Merriwell At Yale. I have heard of Yale but I never Heard of George W. Bush. I have heard of Harvard but I Never heard of Numerus Clausus Which sounds to me like Some kind of Pig Latin. I have heard of the Pig Boy. I have never heard of the Beastie Boys or the Scottsboro Boys but I Have heard singing Boys, what They were called I forget. I have never heard America Singing but I have heard of I Hear America Singing, I think It must have been a book We had in school, I forget.
The Want Bone The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth’s bell. Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue. The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale Gaped on nothing but sand on either side. The bone tasted of nothing and smelled of nothing, A scalded toothless harp, uncrushed, unstrung. The joined arcs made the shape of birth and craving And the welded-open shape kept mouthing O. Ossified cords held the corners together In groined spirals pleated like a summer dress. But where was the limber grin, the gash of pleasure? Infinitesimal mouths bore it away, The beach scrubbed and etched and pickled it clean. But O I love you it sings, my little my country My food my parent my child I want you my own my flower my fin my life my lightness my O.
IV. Street Music (from City Elegies) Sweet Babylon, headphones. Song bones. At a slate stairway’s base, alone and unready, Not far from the taxis and bars Around the old stone station, In the bronze, ordinary afternoon light— To find yourself back behind that real City and inside this other city Where you slept in the street. Your bare feet, gray tunic of a child, Coarse sugar of memory. Salt Nineveh of barrows and stalls, The barber with his copper bowl, Beggars and grain-sellers, The alley of writers of letters In different dialects, stands Of the ear-cleaner, tailor, Spicer. Reign of Asur-Banipal. Hemp woman, whore merchant, Hand porter, errand boy, Child sold from a doorway. Candy Memphis of exile and hungers. Honey kalends and drays, Syrup-sellers and sicknesses, Runes, donkeys, yams, tunes On the mouth-harp, shuffles And rags. Healer, dealer, drunkard. Fresh water, sewage—wherever You died in the market sometimes Your soul flows a-hunting buried Cakes here in the city. Robert Pinsky’s most recent book of poems is At the Foundling Hospital. His “Art of Poetry” videos are at http://www.bu.edu/artofpoetry. Poem Louie Louie is from “Gulf Music” | Poem The Want Bone is from “The Want Bone” | Poem Street Music is from “Childhood of Jesus.”
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T. C. Carter
This poem, “Victorville,” is the latest addition to my military themed pieces. My goal always, whatever the time period, is to honor those who have served our great country. I have known and loved men and women who served in every branch of service and in every conflict since World War One, and revere them for their willingness to stand in defense of liberty. “Victorville” is a story that could be true of many Vietnam veterans and was recently awarded first place in the Johnston County Annual Poetry Contest. VICTORVILLE Charlie asked if I would come to see him Where he lived in Victorville That was long ago in nineteen sixty-eight If I make it back, I said to him, I will And I did come back alive and well But the flow of life quickly filled my days And it was sixteen hundred miles to Victorville It seemed so very far away I fell in love and took a wife We raised two good boys to be good men But often on the road of life I thought of Victorville again Now with life almost full circle The thought again comes to my mind That it’s still sixteen hundred miles to Victorville And I’m running out of time So I set out on my journey To see a brother forged in jungle heat That never left my heart or mind A promise made I had to keep And now I’m finally here before him His life span chiseled in the stone His name written in the book of life Kept by God upon His throne Charlie had come home under colors Red, white and blue, stars and stripes Taps sang his loss to the heavens And to a world no longer right I fell asleep on grass beside him And dreamed a soldier’s dream Not of battles that we fought But of life shared in between The earth trembled in its bosom As I awoke to the song of a bird on the stone It was sixteen hundred miles to Victorville And it’s sixteen hundred miles back home
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BY THE BITTERROOT He was a mongrel dog His blood as mixed And uncertain as my own Perhaps that was what Drew him to me And I to him He appeared One twilight evening In a tree line Near my night camp Where he watched As I dressed out a wild turkey For my supper He came in slowly Not afraid But with the caution Inbred in wild creatures Came close enough To feel the heat Far enough away To insure his safety He watched me Through the eyes Of a survivor A creature who knew Both the beauty And the savagery Of this untamed country We shared the turkey The warmth of the campfire And a night of sleep Made pleasant By the music Of the Bitterroot River Washing over rocks Worn smooth As the water itself When I awoke He was not there But appeared again As I stepped up Into the saddle
He followed Throughout the day And kept easy pace With my horse And thus began Our companionship Our friendship And our journey If asked I would not Have claimed ownership Of this mongrel dog We were two creatures Of uncertain blood Few expectations And no fixed destination We shared the road And the campfire And life He was born a hunter And often brought game To the fire The rivers ran thick With fish And we dined on the bounty Of nature I traded skins For shells and coffee And other staples He would never Come into a town But was always waiting When I rode out Sometimes he went away For several days at a time Having caught the scent Of a female In need of a mate To insure the blood of life Was not staunched But he knew my scent As well as he knew his own And that remarkable gift Always put him by my side Once more
In all our years together He never became A dog to be petted He set boundaries And I respected them We saw the wonders Of God’s great western Creation Together But time was winding down Our adventure After all of time and travels We found ourselves In the same Montana valley Of the Bitterroot Mountains And made camp In the same spot Where I first saw him Watching from the tree line We shared wild turkey Once again And it seemed as if We had never left This cradle in the earth I had settled down Into my bedroll When I felt the breath Of the mongrel dog On my face He sank down And rested his head On my shoulder I touched my hand To his head And felt his hair For the first time Stroked his head As we drifted off to sleep Warmed by the camp fire And each other A night made pleasant By the music Of the Bitterroot River Washing over rocks Worn smooth As the water itself
T. C. Carter is best known as The Cowboy Poet, but he has two other favored genres, those being military themes, and southern life as he knew it growing up in the forties and fifties. Then there is a fourth body of work he simply labels “other stuff.” He prefers live readings over any other form of expression, but his work can be seen in publications such as Hobo Camp Review and The Blue Mountain Review. His award winning short story, “Dead on Tuesday,” well soon be published in the 2019 edition of “County Lines: A Literary Journal.” He occasionally posts videos and audios online. He is a longstanding member of The Southern Collective Experience and has recently become involved with the Johnston County Writer’s Group.
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Cyan James ARE YOU MY WOLF <or my fox?> when you hear coyotes, be mournful clearly you are not at the right party when your pack peels away like a nail be sorrowful, for you are now hapless I advise familiarity with the notes of night I fight depression with fox fur round my neck Dogs have lost the art of being afraid Also, they so relish the suburban scraps GOING OUT <hands at all angles> opening the front door is like when the paprika, the salt, the hot sauce, the cardamom tumble from the cupboard all at once: such clatter you are just walking to your Corolla but inside: tear gas and flour and dread inside: the tumult of hours all tumbled Syria intermingled with baking soda Afghanistan with asafetida; the glue trap snaps on a mouse—paperclip death and all you can think about is the mouse in the maelstrom of other things, tweets doves, bullet holes in the concrete; asbestos the dust of nations that cannot be swept up after the statues were beheaded, the buns that went stale are like ivory-shorn elephants in your brain, and as the rain gutter collapses it is like how Camille pivoted—the refugees are coming ashore in orange; the oranges are crumpling in the sunniest window, the garbage disposal broke: electric stench the day cannot be untangled, should the flag, the umbrella be up or down, and how do you even sit in an office chair?! OCTOBER WITH MY TEETH BARED <index finger cocked> He could have been bitter-like that I was never born a boy but my 10th birthday was rifle time just the same, and a tag He said ‘you can wear this,’ but he didn’t say ‘as a bracelet,’ and I still feel gratitude for that We unfolded my first buck I pulled skin off like I’d peel glue off my fingers a few years later but then I filled my arms with liver that steamed in gentle early light ‘Have a piece,’ Dad said—it was a mouth explosion of knowing iron ?
The foxes scatter, each leaping over weeds The wolves flow together, a furred stream A war veteran gave me a silver statue then burned up in a van fire in a field the statue is a canine holding another nights I listen for whatever peal it’ll make REACH OUT <hard stop> first lesson of childhood i was convinced of this: you must not be afraid of Death; it is only death you see it in every mess possum guts on country roads you have a problem if you think you are greater than a possum i readied myself to meet death by going barefoot on hot sharp things by saying the name Irina Rutishinskaya every time some fear crawled on my spine whatever it was had to be better than a Russian prison in the Siberian wastelands: the body can withstand anything if it keeps on holding hands with the lump of mind i ran out at night; there was a place the horses magnetized to carrots through my soles i felt heaviness and manes orbiting slow but gathering mass, perhaps Death is only a grassy breath on your cheek we all have to return our skins at some point there is no pain in a dark that takes your mind from your skull gently as a woman peels a grape the thing you forget is that you control Death its trajectory; it has to follow you everywhere why not see what kind of chase you can lead it on
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AIR <craft> in Alaska, not uncommon for runways to be made entirely of ice not uncommon for pilots to have no notion of the landscapes below ‘Please,’ he’ll say, Alabama voice, ‘what river are we flyin’ ovah?’ with all this heat added in now, the runways melt, get unusable all that wilderness and nowhere to go—the landmarks change too airports these days—we all look the same, don’t we? I watch travelers file by; I like them all—but always fear who’ll sit next to me went to Arizona on the last trip—red cliffs, sunsets of pastel aches went with one of the friends who’s managed to tolerate me the longest had noticed little cracks, flashes of heat in the stress-bearing friendship we’d developed—perhaps no more runway to land on with her, I thought breakfast; she’s telling me how my life feels and how it is like one of the men —many men—she has in her life, and the tiny growl of enmity starts in me i say something I know will shut her up; one of those little murders that happen in friendships when you know you can get away with it, and the silence Is so worth it in that moment as I look to mountains to find a measure of composition: I wonder if things will really ever settle, wonder at how good it feels to peel yourself away from other people sometimes; how it feels dangerous and necessary, like going into an ice thicket with a hatchet because you have to generate heat somehow; because what’s life without a sharp edge? I get why we’re all trying to avoid each other now that we have the choice—the loneliness is a true horror, but even more so the crush of all those other people, including the ones who claim to love you
DESTRIERRE <mount up> violence is an over obvious romantic only ever brings showy red blooms everyone pins in their buttonholes war is a good horse that charges wild-eyed in its own hoof-laden panic frightful in its own immense momentum the impulse to hurt is always just under the fingernails—cut too close you’ll smell it plunge and rear to escape a violin bow of horsehair; Rome burns violence forgets birthdays not funerals glides by slow to hand out its flowers war smells like a stable: dirty comfort violence slowly rolls each of us in the hay we’ll pull stems from our collars for days
she keeps assuming I am vegan; I keep ordering things with cheese to prove my point; once in a while I skirt the issues of guns and violence and wars— terrible things that could in some way she will not recognize be necessary she pretends not to notice my loneliness; walks gingerly as though it will shatter and she’ll fall back into the frigid grasp of singleness and will somehow die while I mock her silent: it’s not so bad—you just move fast, you just get numb
Cyan James holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was awarded three Hopwoods. Her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and has been published in the Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Arkansas Review, New Mexico Review, Harvard Review, The Account, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Salon, among others. She works in health policy and is currently revising a novel about B-52 bombardier-navigators and the Mojave Desert. She loves fiddles, falconry, long road trips, old front porches, and Laphroig.
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doppelgängers waking before four but staying in bed till Mr. Coffee
which of us is which – just like trying
& wife of 49 years today start to percolate
to tell exactly what the hell is going on
I put aside two New Yorkers scanned by
sorting through both mags that turn
headlamp soas not to disturb my spouse
out to be “Queen Of Soul” R.I.P. Aretha covers
whose beauty sleep makes me happy
for some reason here confusing, compounding
in a single room above our first kid’s garage.
septuagenarian’s capacity to look in dumb mirror
Looking at her face, I cannot discriminate
tell if ol’ Gerry’s still sane or now compos/t mentis.
Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, has been nominated for Pushcarts and authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) which included work published by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and in Gargoyle, American Journal of Poetry (Margie), Main Street Rag, MiPOesias, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Voices Israel, Tishman Review, Suisun Valley Review, Burningwood Review, Fiction Southeast, Junto, Tiferet, Foliate Oak, Parhelion, Bonsai plus featured in New Verse News, Eretz, Avocet, LEVELER, tNY, StepAway, Bywords, Floor Plan, Good-Man-Project, Anti-Heroin-Chic, Poetry Circle, Fiction Southeast, Walt Whitman Tribute Anthology and Tipton Review. “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for my 50th college reunion symposium on Bob Dylan. Mount Analogue selected Sarnat’s sequence, KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY, for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day 2017 as part of the Washington DC and nationwide Women’s Marches. For Huffington Post/other reviews, readings, publications, interviews; visit GerardSarnat.com. Harvard/Stanford educated, Gerry’s worked in jails, built/staffed clinics for the marginalized, been a CEO and Stanford Med professor. Married for a half century, Gerry has three kids/ four grandkids so far.
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Chinitna Bay We climbed out of his plane into a world of bears: bears munching on sedges, bears ambling along the shore, bears running in icy water, bears throwing sockeye salmon into the air, catching them on the way down, ripping joyously into skin and bone. The bears saw the plane, saw us, but stayed focused on their own particular flight of fur and fin. We could only watch and wish to be so large.
Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she's an associate professor of English at Muskingum University. She's the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsey Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press).
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Wes Young Lowly Lights Lasting—A Sonnet Listen Here:
Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/the-sce/lowly-lights-by-wes-young
https://soundcloud.com/the-sce/lasting-by-wes-young What then of memories, sweet, shall I make? Or hearken ne’er again to past’s passing? Forlorn, and fleeting, in time’s ebbed river’s wake, I needs must cling to something sure and lasting. A flower, perhaps, to blossom in the grove, Or tree in mighty stature all unshaking, Or crystal glint in some still pond-lake cove: If temporal shall set my poor heart to breaking. “Man’s glory,” is but a falling, fading flower, Our pride and wealth one fate all sure must share. Hold dear, or try, but only then an hour. All’s passing from this world of woe and care. Alas! At last! I found one constant strain, And from Thy Word may I ne’er depart again.
Embarking on a quiet walk one night To escape the day’s worrisome plight, To the road I took to make my flight. Fall-time. The day had been cloudless, in sky, at least, The blue—deepest blue—an ocular feast, Leaving nothing to block, not in the least, Star-shine. And so over county lane I moved, Gazing at constellations above, When to the lower horizon’s cove, Discovered. Three stars, all bright, beyond the rest, One high, one mid, one low—the best, Did form a curving and vertical crest, Heavenward. I saw that the lowest, closest to Earth, Was radiant beauty, gold of great worth, Scorning the others with arrogant mirth, And value. The gold of this star, I could not look away, Bore holes in my mind and my cares from the day, Until vision and focus and eyes did betray, The truth. The two pure and white, that stood all the higher, Were true brothers, both, in the celestial choir, Were visions of light breathing heavenly fire, Substantial. But the lowest and brightest, that glittered in gold, To my star-struck eyes had told, A lie as painful as it is old. Deception. For not of heavenly power that fueled The other two stars in casements all jeweled, But then did I see that I had been fooled: Streetlight. In true size the lamp held no compare To immense burning stars that coupled the air, ‘Twas just a small light on a neighbor’s house there, But closer. And then did I think as I strode on alone, The depth of the mystery I had been shown, How small worldly lights that all here have known, Trick us. Pilgrim, then, on your weary way, Be ne’er fooled by Earth-light’s that say: “Focus on me,” for what really holds sway, Is Heaven.
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When I Heard the Learn’d Explorer Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/the-sce/when-i-heard-the-learnd “Trust me folks, I’ve found the riches, And fairest treasures lost of old, Past the hills and valley ditches, Eldorado’s streets of gold.” The crowd in pressed and pierced amazement Held to each and every word Of sails and ships and compass casements, Greatest plans they’d ever heard. So when I up and walked off quiet, Adding naught to the applause, They asked, “Were you not impressed by it? Tell us, truly, what’s the cause? “Did you not like the facts and figures Lined and laid upon the board? Did you in truth not sense the triggers In reverent awe, in sweet accord?” “It’s not of figures that I’m worried.” “I should think not!” they all replied. “And Eldorado’s there, I’m certain.” “So we agree?” The crowd descried. “We do not, not in the least, We part in fundamental ways, We disagree on west and east, On what is making nights and days. “For that explorer you are touting Has an irrecoverable flaw, And of his premise I am doubting If I agree with him at all. “He said go far to world’s sharp end, And there to find the city’s gold, But going far brings back again To where you started from of old. “I like his mind I like his passion, But the blind are stumbling blind, For chasing down the Earth’s horizon Forms a sphere, returns in time. “So I cannot be all-allowing, Cannot accept every thought, And if it’s flatness you’re avowing,
Wes Young currently lives with his wife and two adopted daughters in Cochran, GA. He is a high school English teacher at Bleckley County High School and has been in the classroom for eight years. Wes is a supply preacher in the middle GA area, filling pulpits for pastors as needed. He is currently pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing at Reinhardt University in Waleksa, GA. His writing ambitions are 1) to leave written works behind for his kids and grand-kids, and 2) perhaps provide some God honoring fiction to the reading public.
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J. Scott Price
Loch Tomorrow Some folks just plain know they’re about to die. Some folks simply suspect. I can’t quite wrap my brain around it, but so many are on-the-mark-correct. For some folks, love can be just like that— doomed from the start by statistics alone. Hell, tack on their track record, and, well… Why even begin? they wonder. There’s only suffering in the end. Predictions, have their place, I suppose, and may be prudent in preventin’ certain pain, and I reckon even ol’ Eeyore thought himself a top-notch prognosticator. But I hear statistics can account for the improbable, but possible, and if it’s possible, there’s hope– this darlin’ cuddlesome creature that lurks in the depths of remote Loch Tomorrow.
Some folks swear by her existence, others hold firm to their Missouri roots. There’s mention of her in out of print books, and shadowy images from what some claim to be kooks. She’s past this craggy, crumbling path, I hear, scary as hell to follow at times. Turning back is easy; to keep safe, the norm. Turning your un-whispered desires into real roaring fires, now, that takes work. Believe, though, if so inclined, ‘cause persistence on that path might let you catch a glimpse, or get scooped up to cling nestled to the warmth of her neck as she plunges you into realms undreamed.
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Carolyn Wilding Kelso
The Permanence of Love: Realized A jagged red clay bank shores itself against the turbulence Pisces and Virgo bring. Tears smooth its jagged surface like a potter shaping a piece of art, exposing the permanence of their love beneath a September waning crescent moon. In the first light of a new day, water gently laps the shore.
The Beggar Seated in a surface filth he held his hand turned to the sky. Faith danced where he sat― eyes, breath, lips unseen speaking loudly to those he saw who didn’t see him.
A Prisoner Defenseless within thin skin, arousal marches from arch-of-feet to chest-of-bare, nape-of-neck to chin while fire consumes oxygen within and a prisoner to seduction I become.
Canadian born, Carolyn Wilding Kelso is a mother and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose poetic voice was pressed into the open by debris traveling the currents of life. Carolyn aims to memorialize human conditions and experiences often overlooked, dismissed, or simply too difficult to express. An art enthusiast, she enjoys capturing the “live” poetry waiting paitiently to be released from paintings, photographs and more.
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♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Tumble and Fall Before you moved in I never tripped on a single shoe left in the middle of the floor I never thought the wind caressing my face could bring the prospect of fear Or that loss of control would be so sudden As my arm darts forward, palm spread, hard, in instinct and with care And all the will in my body siezes my heart and pulls it into itself And my jaw drops long and my eyes glare wide And the world slows to a standstill and I see new details unknown Coarse bumps, little imperfections, the occasional roughness, the mark on the side My stomach seems to soar like eagles are held within The air through my ear roars heavy and blood rushes to my head And my lips clash against teeth against tongue against spit and all Oh the stars, cracks, booms, and fireworks of innumerable colour, mostly red Of violent passion, though my tears and cries tint it blue. I slowly rise up, regain control despite the odd shake of a sob, From where I fell, because of the slightest semblance of you. Ode to Steak I feel no guilt That I forget the faces of my friends When I sit down with my sharp serrated blade That my mind is so consumed by this steak I am set to consume And you want me to feel shame? Look at this charred luscious glory Red fibrous strength and that caramelised edge That fades in my mouth as my consciousness melts... Oh la petite mort, rester un peu plus And let me enjoy these tranquil juices Let me rest well so when I wake With the virile ferocity of the Greek bull I will storm cities and wave flags and take over the world And do great things that great men will gape at. I can see why so much has been lost over grazing land Oh the atrocities I will enlist to for another sirloin I will pollute and pirate and pillage and plunder For you, all for you, my one true love In the name of steak.
Jim Onyemenam is a twenty two years old nomad who was born in Nigeria, grew up in Taunton, studied Law at the Surrey, and is now finding his feet in Southampton. He is captivated by the works of the Beat Generation, particularly Ginsberg and Kerouac, which is reflected in his most of his work. When he is not writing poetry or screenplays, he will most likely be found at the nearest cinema.
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●●●●●●●●●●●● ●●●●● Davenport What I think about when I think about you. Love. The green needles on the limbs’ intersections. Julie’s mane of yellow and grey. Beneath the roof, the chimes calling the hours against the heart’s rhythm. Rowing this line, wall, this egg. A tree born for an orange cleansing. Chablis spilling onto a beach, into a bath. The cool, June breeze. Cooking on the stove, steam from the white teapot.
Watauga Nocturne In a sulfur-colored trailer with a burnt-orange stripe along the side my brother and I dined on our mom’s Swanson turkey dinners with the carrots and the cranberry tarts our first night together in Zionville, North Carolina. We’d fled from ghosts: half-sister and father, back-to-back deaths, from city to small town, to rally around microwave dinners, and thank the mountain’s density, which blocked out satellite reception. After dinner, she pulled out a dusty hardcover: The Complete William Shakespeare’s Plays, Poems and Sonnets. We took turns reading. The music ricocheted around the inside of the trailer, and we toasted our future, raising blue plastic cups of apple juice to the moon.
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Ken Allan Dronsfield
Mettle We tie to who we are and our successes, to our family, loves and friends. We tie to ideals, our homelands our beliefs and our flags. In the blink of an eye, life moves on. A life we cannot tie, as it fades away. A life where reality grasps tight upon dreams. A life, while we dream, we know all is ending. If there is something that echos all these feelings, it is the ocean. The ocean can never be tied to, it's always moving with the tides. Where there was the sea, now there is the land. And tomorrow, the land begone, and the sea shall return. The shores are at the mercy of the ocean, the rivers, the tempests, all are an immense mirror where we look into the depth of ourselves. No, we cannot tie to the ocean, with each full moon, she rises high and as the tide retreats, so with it goes part of us. Showing the mettle; with ties that bind.
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Sunrise How happy is the minds reveille! Does this upset you by how alert it is? Does it tear you apart to see the sunshine so alive? All that is late is not morn but after. Morning, by all account is early. Never forget the archaean and new sunrise.. Dawn is, in its way, the broken time of day. Never forget a double-chinned dawning. Moonlight is in it's way, after twilights smile. When here, does the moonlight make you shiver? Like a cold February wind? Does it? I saw the red orb radiating as generations dance; how I mourn the sun. Does the death make you shiver? Does it? I stop and look at the graying dusk. It always steals away with the warmth. Return to the moon. Left dark and forlorn.
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Marcus Gregory Taylor This poem is brought to you by: Listen Here: https://soundcloud.com/the-sce/this-poem-is-brought-to-you-by Gregory Taylor, Terri S. Taylor, Tamra Spurling Antonio, Christina, Isaiah, Maya, Laura, Taylor, Kayla Joshua Hall, DeMarcus Outlaw, RJ, Thad Willis, Meadowview Drive, Yulonda Pride, John Swift, Kendria Swift, Alisha Tatum, Herb Lance Jr., James Miller Carvy Ross, Chino Ross, All of the Browns, Tetchjan Simpson Uncle Byron, Gary Mitchell, Mr. Weary, Elder Weary, Faye Mac Scott Stevens, Reggie Brewer, Taloni Stuart, Preach, Son of man, Mrs. Upchurch, Mrs. Broughton, Mrs. Boswell, Ms. Cook, Mr. Hagan Mr. Odom, Ms. Wilder, Gresham Park, my Clifton Cougars, my Tilson Tigers, My McNair Mustangs, Ms. Brown, Mr. Schultz, Mrs. Lacoss, Mrs. Scott Mrs. Keith, Dr. Perkins, Mr. Boyd, Dr. Blackman, Dr. Zeid Nakita next door, Eva Biggood, Kiera Wright, Laura Langford, Valeria Lemons, Tiff Lowe, Angel Andrews, Caisha Clark, Jasmine, Shekema, Rosemary, another Jasmine, Gabby U, Teyonah Paris, Symone Sanders, P!nk, Pinky, Venus Will, Rudy Hux, Queen Latifah, Sonya Richards-Ross, that gazelle in every gym, that woman across the room Kim, Crystal, Sylvia, Cara, Jasmine, Ingrid, another Jasmine, the server at the coffee shop Monique, Mario, Jon Paul, Momma, Big Momma, Elijuan, Uncle Charles Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Macho Man, Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, Stinger Splash, Stone Cold, The Rock, Harlem Heat, Vinnie Mac, Ron Simmons wins the belt, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, 6:05, Wrestlemania, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Camp Lo, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Kirk Franklin, and each every Winans member Friends, family, crushes, heartbreaks, joys Details left out, details still hidden For them, because of them, this poem is still being written Every poet, every poem, every pen in every hand, every verse on a sheet Every person I come across, every person I have yet to meet This poem is brought to you by all of them, all of me, all of you By us, by you, for us, for you
Marcus Gregory Taylor. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA. Author of The Wait is Over and Being Single is Cool. Written three stage plays: Search Light, Measure of a Man, and Being Single is Cool: One Man Show. Appeared in other stage plays such as Power of Prayer, Except a Man Die, and Gift of Love. Appeared regularly on BET Gospel's reality show Spiritual Para-Medics from 2005 -2006. In 2015, feature in the dvd, Brown-Eyed Soul Man. College graduate from Georgia State University.
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The Player King The cadence of blue dusk, young voices foreswear the Unseen bodies interred leagues beneath the earth Fully kinless in the bad blood of modern life the most modern life You courted the world thinking yourself immortal It was all made in your image Icon on the altar painted in gold leaf You assured me God must not be judged by appearances The player king in a war of theaters that exchanged Violence for reality, a trade that seemed natural So natural no one gave it any question Life is mad as horses, cruel as swans It’s supposed to be that way we all know it Assured that you weren’t listening That no one was listening I prayed I prayed for the apothecary of rain The cures of midsummer As old as unwritten calendars dated by stars in the wilds of the night But then the sea called to its gulfs greater than death And the penniless dreams of oblivion The truth of it a need that is walked around and indicted Somewhere between fact and meaning A void in which we drift and weep The empty bottomless cosmos Young Love She occupied a large space in my life I talked about her a lot Couldn’t help myself I believed the more I talked about her The more she would be outside of me and not within Words would externalize her, make her more distant And remote, out there somewhere and not near me I didn’t think about what that really meant I was out walking around the city at night Minding my own business I looked up at the sky And found, to my surprise She was made into a constellation A timeless story that became more unreal More eternal with each telling I would be long dead and those stars would still be there Other people would see them and probably not even know I ever existed That used to bother me
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Hostel The last hostel remember time as a souvenir Experience is what built the place meant for others When, perfectly legal, chance met fortune before repentance was too late I made a house of bricks from what I earned A fire burns inside and I am seated at the inglenook Old, barefoot and though robed, still cold in front of the fire. As the other side of crossings becomes apparent I have remained here Your shoulders carved with the scars of the world Are precisely where wings silver as the moon enfold your mysteries. Between sleep, the finals of autumn, hibernal demi-lights That candle purple shadows of evening lands And reveries passage full of yesterdayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ardent seasons Of pageants, the songs give us bonfires and wine As the white hart of the good chase Holds cruciform light in the antlers for visions And heavenly translation you walked and you were not The edicts of words that call royal adoration without the cave.
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Theodore Worozbyt Mouse Bones What forgotten words did first was order eggs couldn’t crack and I thanked them that they remembered you to me. Every house stands on its jenga of mouse mortices; my own knuckle is cabochoned from the groundup dirigible dust of passé stars. No cap fits on a kangaroo. My shame is my own moon. Mouse bones have no bones. That leftover dust of the moon, it softens onto a box turtle’s neck, it stills itself, it splashes away unnoticed through the leaves. Mouse Bones, Too One might expect a very small house to be made of them. It isn’t so. It’s time to confess, and I will. Tomato skeletons hiss with scarlet caviar, likewise delicately crisp mouse bones, especially the toes, not the teeth, as one might imagine. Incarnadine shadows play over lairs where toads have no need to pretend such bones do not occupy the fen’s sense of smell. Turtles, too, know it’s mouse bones all the way down, or until the soles of one’s golden shoes crumble into mold, and the ways to put them on is, then, forgotten and the subsequent gelatinous intricacies seem to dissolve, plangent as an afternoon wearing itself thin. So surmised itself a vacuum sucking white apple hair and the lint roller still finding black hairs I can’t see seeming to suggest what I meant wasn’t even death after all.
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Broadcast When Dad and I landed at the end of the coffee table, propped up on fake leopard skin pillows in the dark of 1969, to listen to rehearsed words, One small step...and to watch a titanium spider (like 2001) descend on a cord of voices beyond the crater's rim, I knew I would grow up to be like Walter Cronkite, my pronouncements calm and deep as outer space itself. Later it was too easy to forget, having absorbed The Story of Louis Pasteur, that I would go on to cure cancer with a calculated series of progressively more virulent injections, pilot rockets to Neptune, have the best rock and mineral collection on the planet (including malachite) and go steady with Donda McKay, whose fifth magnitude teeth and citrine hair blinded even the sixth grade boys, and who never knew a thing about my perfected science or my heavenly love. My father and I don't speak now (we didn't much then). He's getting old, I'm getting older, and hopefully I'm growing less frightened of the failures I still can't manage to talk about. O Captain! I have to surely know, can it possibly be playing somewhere near me, the full-length sci-fi feature adventure of what I, infinite once as that TV screenful of star-frosted space, could do for this blue and needful world once I'd touched down safely on a pillow of dust and beheld it from another? Theodore Worozbytâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s books are The Dauber Wings (Dream Horse Press, 2006), winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize; Letters of Transit, winner of the 2007 Juniper Prize and published by UMass Press; and Smaller Than Death, winner of the 2015 Knut House Press Award.My chapbooks include Scar Letters, online at Beard of Bees Press, Objectless Fragments, published in The Chapbook, and The City of Leaving and Forgetting, in Country Music. My work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Po&sie and The Southern Review.
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Bill Newby Writing Tools Stolen pens write best, like those lifted from a maid’s cart or not returned to a desk clerk. They feel alive, ready for risk, unafraid to shit on the page. They travel in my passenger seat, refuse to wear seat belts, dare me to ignore stop signs encourage racing from impulse to ink, no thought for crossing traffic or innocents in church or school zones. My mother used to preach, “Bad tasting medicines are better,” as if disgust has the power to unclog the arteries of a full life. I’m doing my part. If needed, please send bail.
Replacement Parts No Longer Available: Reflections Following a Vacuum Cleaner’s Demise Together for a decade, working hand in hand, in the open and hard-to-reach places, learning each other’s skills and quirks, gaining confidence and ease when coming to a rescue or just dealing with the everyday. Like working in an office and knowing who can help with this or that. The things in our lives are like old friends – people who stick around and tell familiar stories, folks we can rely on because we’ve learned what they can do. As easy as it may seem, one must experiment to discover the best way to load a dishwasher’s rack, which knife can slice a tomato, which screw driver won’t shred a head, how far the vacuum hose can reach before the canister tips. And bit by bit our lives take shape and our days become easy because we’ve done it before and we have what we need to take care of what comes. Easy, so easy, till a blade snaps or a switch stops clicking, and we need to shop for another.
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Posers At the entry steps, by the wall of a canal-spanning bridge, near the base of an overarching statue, even in the safety zone within a surrounding fountain, they stand, slightly sideways, raise a knee, arch their back, and often hug arms to deepen cleavage, as they look into the camera with a longing, wish-you-were-here, Jayne Mansfield smile. It’s an intimate moment in a public place – something practiced before a mirror and easily imagined being offered at a bedroom door leaning on the frame, unbuttoning a blouse or skirt. And passing by we wonder who will receive this pic and how well it may whet his appetite or remind him of her heat, her skin and sigh. Going to O’Hare in Fog The gauzy white covering the fence and blurring the roadway as it reaches the curb is like a skim milk scrim dampening yesterday’s squeals and bandaging last night’s swelter. On the sidewalk, away from the electric-eye doors, a “complimentary-breakfast” cook takes a long breath as the city awakens, savoring the clean air that reminds her of vacations to her Kentucky brother where mountain ridges greet her at sunrise. Then our mixed group of limber and lame, tattooed and unmarked, polished, trimmed, wild and scuffed fills every row of the hotel van, and on our way to Terminal 3 we are members of the same congregation believing in the myths of technology and trusting in the good will of taxi drivers, engineers, and especially pilots who invite us aboard, then tell us to unplug.
Bill Newby currently resides in South Carolina and considers himself an “everyday writer” – using poetry and fiction to record and explore moments of celebration, complaint, concern and comedy. He offers a “Great Poems” reading course through Hilton Head Lifelong Learning, a “Poetry Sandbox” writing course for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and produces an annual Kick-Start Poetry Reading to celebrate National Poetry Month. His work has appeared in Bluffton Breeze, Ohio Teachers Write, Palm Beach Poetry Festival’s Fish Tales Contest, Panoplyzine, Sixfold, Whiskey Island, and the Island Writers’ Network’s Time & Tide and Ebb & Flow anthologies. His initial volume of poetry, Sea Chests or a Carry-On (2018) is available from Amazon and can be previewed at www.billnewby.net.
And as our van cuts through the cloudy broth we sit in meditative silence as if collectively praying that they know how to study their instruments when they can’t see the runway or fence and that they will safely take us near the street where we’ve parked our dreams.
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James H Duncan
Stepping Back / Stepping Forward This last summer I took it upon myself to do something I should do far more often—I walked away from all social media for 30 days. A lot of us talk about cutting back, and some of us even follow through, but after forcing myself to bury my phone and log out of every single app and website I visited daily, I found myself working the words like a mean machine. I cannot recommend it enough. All the obvious benefits apply: more time for writing, better sleep, less stress about having to read about this or that politician or celebrity doing something stupid. But there were other more specific and personal positives that came along with it. For me, I was able to write about enough flash fiction to round out my upcoming book, I was able to fully revise a novel I had been working on for years and I finally got it to a place where I’m happy with it, and I was able to write up a couple of columns for magazines as well. All that extra time away from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and everything else online helped me set my writing life on fire. I needed that boost of productivity, but it wasn’t just shutting off social media that got me to that place of mass production. Here are a few other things I stepped away from that helped, and some things I stepped toward that did too. Stepping Back Ditch Netflix: Another obvious one, but in the first week of shutting off social media, I found myself clinging to Netflix and Amazon Prime like a life raft. But I made myself let that go too. Rewatching that episode of Parks & Rec for the eleventh time isn’t going to get that poetry chapbook written. Scanning for twenty minutes to see what cheap c-rate horror movie to watch while you eat will decimate your night. Shut it off for a few weeks and get writing. That Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War has been around for almost 30 years and it’ll still be there when you’re done with your novel. Stop Submissions: Wait, what? Doesn’t that make you less productive? I don’t think it does. If you have a book to write, an essay to finish, an anthology to edit, taking that afternoon or Sunday morning to step away from writing to submit things to magazines and publishers is like adding speedbumps to the interstate. If you’re trucking along, don’t stop. Don’t take a day to scour Entropy’s open call listings. Stay focused, amass your work, and when you’re ready at the end of the month, fire away with all guns blazing. But until then, stay on target. Abandon Readings: This seems even more counterproductive. Readings are where we make some of our best connections, sell a few books, hear new work, get inspired, get caffeinated, or better yet drunk! But if you have that novel to finish, you’d better cancel. Those readings are monthly, weekly, whatever, and nobody is out there crying that you missed one. Do the work, grind it out, and stay home for a few weeks so you can power through. Then go blow their minds with your piles of poems and stories. Until then, lock your door, draw the shades, and kick ass. Stepping Forward Write Letters: I know I just said to not let yourself get distracted, but damn it, you’re not a machine. And besides, you’re still writing. I found writing hand-written letters to far-away friends as an incredible way to start the day. It really got me in the flow, got me thinking about my projects as I described them to others, and it was a very personal and creative way to stay in touch after disappearing from the interwebs. Plus, the fifteen minutes you spent writing a one-page letter is far more satisfying than scrolling Facebook first thing in the morning and seeing the same crap over and over, leaving you stressed and annoyed right out of the gate. Promote Others: One thing I did to “cheat” a little was logging into Goodreads or other book review websites every few days, but when I did, I tried to go out of my way to promote someone else’s work. I’d leave a quick review of that chapbook I meant to post about. I’d give 5 stars to my friend’s new novel. I’d send out recommendations. Yes, it’s breaking my “no social media” rule, but I get in, do one good promotional thing for someone else, and then I get out. And when it comes to word of mouth, it often comes back around. When you help promote your friends and authors you really enjoy, they often help you right back. It’s a great way to stay in the game without mindlessly scrolling.
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Pick Up The Pieces: If you’ve intentionally given yourself a whole mess of time to write, take the opportunity to amend your mistakes and right your wrongs. Pick up that shattered novel you just couldn’t get right, clear the deck, and get it done once and for all. Some of the flash fiction pieces I wrote for my new book came after scouring my deepest darkest junk files on my laptop on a day I set aside just for writing. I found pieces of poems that still worked, but not in their current shape or form. Taking the time to go back, look for those fragments, and shaping them into something worthwhile gave me a lot of confidence and drive, and it inspired me to take on bigger and bigger projects as the month wore on. If you have the time, go back and see what wayward bones are rattling around in your back yard. You may be able to create a gorgeous new monster out of them But no matter what, the important part is making the time. You can do it. Kids, jobs, family, responsibilities, they all call your name, but at some point, if you’re going to actually fulfill your writing dreams, something has to go. What better thing to cut than the stream bullshit we’re constantly pouring into our eyeballs night and day? Yes, it’s a great tool for promotion and connection, and yes, it’s your addicting crack cocaine lollipop you can’t stop sucking on, but if you step away, just for 30 days, you’ll never ever ever ever regret it. I promise you. So give it a shot, and good luck!
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, co-host of the Troy Poetry Mission, and author of such books as We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, Dead City Jazz, and What Lies In Wait, among others. He currently resides in upstate New York and reviews indie bookshops at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com.
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Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” My Mother and Me In November 1967, my family moved from Axis (so named, I assume, because it was the middle around which nowhere revolved), on the edge of the Mobile-Tensaw river delta of Alabama, to Jasper, in the state’s northwest, where the last ripples of the Appalachian mountains fade. I was ten years old and this would be our fifth move since my birth. That same month, Aretha Franklin’s single “Chain of Fools” was released. My father had started a new job as the manager of a sawmill in Double Springs, 25 miles north of Jasper. Because Double Springs was a tiny town without much to offer, he decided we would live in Jasper, a larger town with a good school system and amenities like a public library and movie theater. He had gone to Jasper ahead of us to find a house to rent, and drove from there to Double Springs every day for work. After the moving truck was packed and on its way, my mother loaded me and my younger brother and sister into our Buick Wildcat and started the drive north to our new home. The interstate between Mobile and Birmingham was not yet complete, so we took U. S. Highway 43, which ran past our front yard, to Northport, where we would pick up state Highway 69 to Jasper. It was a long drive. At about the halfway point we came to the town of Demopolis, where two roadside diners competed on opposite sides of the highway. We stopped at the one on the northbound side. It was the kind of place you might see in an old Twilight Zone episode, or in a film noir in which someone on the lam stops in for a furtive cup of coffee and slice of pie. Like all diners at the time, it featured a jukebox stocked with the day’s hits and also-rans, offering one play for a dime, three for a quarter. To hear a song played on a machine of real sonic strength, as opposed to my tiny record player or our Buick’s single, dash-mounted speaker, was to feel the music in your chest. For me that was always the best thing about eating out. After finishing my lunch, which was almost certainly a grilled cheese sandwich, French fries and a Coke, I asked my mother for a quarter, and she took one from her purse, which always smelled of leather, Viceroy cigarettes and Lifesaver peppermints. I dropped the coin into the slot, punched in the numbers for my three songs, and stood there waiting impatiently for my set to begin. Mom was in no hurry — this indulgence afforded her time for a Viceroy and one more cup of coffee. I don’t know why “Chain of Fools” was one of the songs I played that day. I must have heard it on the radio at some point that November and liked it. I don’t remember either of the other two songs I chose. “Chain of Fools” was written by Don Covay, and picked for Aretha Franklin to record by Jerry Wexler, head of Atlantic Records. The musicians for the session included the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (Spencer Oldham, electric piano, Jimmy Johnson, guitar, Roger Hawkins, drums, and Tommy Cogbill, bass), as well as Joe South on guitar, Franklin on piano, and The Sweet Inspirations, which included two of Franklin’s sisters, providing backing vocals. The song is in a minor mode and uses only one chord throughout. It’s one of the few hit songs to be based on a single minor chord.
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The song opens with a tremulous riff played by Joe South, reminiscent of the sound of Pop Staples’s guitar on the classic Staples Singers records. Maybe it’s the sound of a shaking chain that South is trying to evoke as the Sweet Inspirations come in with Chain, chain, chain. The full band launches in on the third “chain,” already driving, propelling the beat. Then that voice: For five long years, I thought you were my man. We’re in blues territory here — You treated me mean, oh-oh, you treated me cruel. She claims to be weak, with a weakness that gives her lover and tormentor strength. But the voice’s power belies her claim. Her father, her doctor, and even her lover tell her to leave him alone, but she rejects their advice; his lovin’ is much too strong, and she chooses to be added to his chain of fools. After the bridge, which is carried by the voices accompanied only by hand claps, Franklin sings, One of these mornings, the blues trope for coming to oneself and moving on with a new day. Roger Hawkins’s cymbal shimmers. Though the chain will break someday, it will be on her terms, when she is ready — But up until then, I’m gonna take all I can take. That’s what I hear fifty years later. What the child standing enraptured before the jukebox understood I can’t say. My guess is that all I grasped was the pure sensation of the pulsing beat, the unmodulated drive of the melody, and the force of the singing. But that was enough. When the song ended, I returned to our table. I expected that my mother would announce that it was time to get back on the road. Our unknowable future in a new place awaited. Instead she asked me the title of the last song and who sang it. This was unusual for my mother, who had never displayed much interest in music, especially not the music I listened to. I told her and she dug into her purse again, fishing out a dime. “That’s a good song,” she said, pressing the coin into the palm of my outstretched hand, like a priest offering the host to a communicant. “You can play it again if you want.” And I did.
Stephen Windham grew up in Alabama, but has now lived the majority of his life in Georgia, where he works in the IT department of a company that manufactures plastic bottles. He has published poetry in The Snake Nation Review, Poetry East, The Atlanta Review, among others. This is his first prose publication.
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5 Often Overlooked Horror Movie Gems For the most part, horror movies are the red headed stepchildren of cinema. You’ll rarely see one at the Oscars and if you admit to being a fan, people tend to hide the sharp objects and small children. Luckily, we have an entire month to let our freak flags fly and enjoy a few bloody good movies. If you’re looking for some Halloween fun but you’ve gotten tired of the current crop of bland PG-13 jump scare extravaganzas then it’s time to reach back a bit for these tasty treats. They may not be the scariest movies you will see this year but each one is a frightfully good time. Night of the Creeps (1986) R This movie is a little hard to pin down because it’s constantly changing. It starts out innocently enough with two friends trying to impress the popular kids by stealing a dead body. Luckily, they find a nearby secret military base with an extra frozen cadaver but unfortunately for them, it’s on ice for a reason. In the 50’s alien brain slugs invaded the town and this body was the last host. Once the body starts to thaw, the movie switches gears from alien invasion to zombie apocalypse. At this point, Tom Atkins is introduced as one of the best slug stomping, catch phrase spewing, suicidal cops ever seen. And if you don’t know what a gift Tom Atkins is to 80’s horror then head over to IMDB and checkout his filmography. The finale of the movie takes place on prom night with your heroes mounting a valiant defense of a sorority house as waves of brain slug infested zombie teens try their best to pick up their dates. By the end of the movie, you will be trying to work “Thrill me!” into everyday conversations but you’ll have to watch to see why. Waxwork 2 (1992) R If you are a fan of cult horror then this film will have a few familiar faces in Zach Galligan, Sarah Brightman and a cameo from the king himself, Bruce Campbell. In the first movie, the owner of a wax museum has built his displays to showcase the most evil beings in the world and each display is a trap. When an unwary visitor walks into a display, they are transported to a pocket world where the display is real and when they are killed, their soul is trapped. Once each display is full, it kickstarts the end of the world via voodoo spell. Our heroes end the first movie by burning down the museum and escaping. Waxwork 2 begins shortly after and progresses into a court case where the heroine must defend her actions. Because it’s obvious the arson was necessary to stave off the voodoo apocalypse, right? The trial doesn’t go very well so our hero has to go looking for a way to prove that resurrection and the walking dead are a thing or his girlfriend goes to jail. His journey takes him through many pocket worlds including recreations of the Frankenstein story, The Haunting, Aliens, Invasion of the body snatchers and Dawn of the Dead, just to name a few. Oh and did I mention that an evil wizard is also trying to kill him? There may be more cheese than a deep dish pizza but these movies are a must see. Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 30
The Stuff (1985) R Many people believe that George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead movie is one of the most intelligent commentaries on consumerism because of the obvious symbolism. The walking dead stumbling through a shopping mall unable to fulfill their cravings, but for me, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Stuff. The Stuff starts out with a man finding a bubbling puddle of goo or “Stuff” in the woods and of course, tastes it. Instead of a healthy dose of salmonella, the man discovers that the goo is delicious! It’s creamy, sweet, has no calories and is extremely addictive. A massive corporation develops almost overnight to package and sell Stuff. The ice cream industry quickly realizes they can’t compete and join together to get rid of their new competition. They hire Michael Moriarty, who plays a former FBI agent and current saboteur to see if he can put a stop to the company that “manufactures” Stuff. At the same time, a boy discovers that Stuff isn’t just a snack, it’s alive! Stuff is an alien life form that controls human bodies while it devours them from the inside out, leaving them as hollow husks that constantly search for more Stuff. When it comes to rampant consumerism the company’s slogan says it all “Enough is never enough”.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) PG-13 At its base this movie is similar to hundreds of other alien invasion movies. Aliens come down to earth in a small town, capture a bunch of people and take them back to their ship to eat or probe at their leisure. The local heroes saddle up and go rescue the townspeople while killing the alien horde. Sounds familiar right? Now, what if I tell you the aliens look like circus clowns and their ship is a giant big top tent? That alone is probably enough to trigger everyone’s clown phobias but there is so much more! The Klowns capture humans with acidic cotton candy ray guns...you heard me! They also produce carnivorous shadow puppets, killer popcorn that can evolve into mini Klowns and a giant Klownzilla monster that would make the cloverfield creature cry for momma. Luckily a few friends in their trusty ice-cream truck take the fight to the big top and bring the house down. If the preceding paragraph doesn’t already have you reaching for your Netflix account then I despair for this generation.
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Army of Darkness (1992) R Now we have come to the pinnacle of our list. This movie so perfectly encapsulates my sense of humor that I can use it as a profiling tool. I once knew that a relationship wouldn’t last because the girl I was dating hated this movie. Army of Darkness stars Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams, the hero from Evil Dead 1 and 2. In those movies he fought off an evil force that could create “Deadites” by raising the dead with Kandarian demons inside. At the end of part 2, Ash is sucked through a portal to the home dimension of the evil power and the resting place of the Necronomicon Ex Mortis. A book that’s the cause of and answer to all of Ash’s problems. Once through the portal, Ash is immediately captured and enslaved. He is brought before King Arthur and his knights but they are blind to his obvious greatness so they dump him into a watery pit for death by Deadite. He is saved when Merlin recognizes Ash as the Great One foretold in prophecy and throws in Ash’s weapon of choice, a trusty S-Mart chainsaw. Awesomeness ensues, Arthur is humbled and a hero is born. To keep the army of darkness from returning, Ash must retrieve the Necronomicon and recite a few magical words that Merlin gives him to remember. The first stop on his journey is a dilapidated windmill where he takes refuge but he is immediately attacked by pint sized versions of himself in a scene that is more slapstick than slasher. One of the little guys survives and quickly grows up to be an identical copy of Ash, just slightly more evil than the original. After a short discussion, Evil Ash is promptly put down. From there Ash travels to the cemetery where he finds the Necronomicon. He takes the book, forgets the words and thus unleashes the army of darkness… our hero. After fighting off a few three stooges inspired skeletons, he makes his way back to the castle to prepare for the coming siege and a reunion with his evil undead self. This film is one of the most quotable movies you will ever watch. Just get a bunch of likeminded friends together, sit back and watch Ashley Williams evolve into the cult classic god that he is. If you want to get the full effect, you might want to watch Part 2 to see a little back-story but it isn’t mandatory. Have a Happy Halloween! Tom Johnson Tom Johnson has been a freelance copywriter since starting Content Creations in 2009. He mostly writes marketing materials for a wide array of industries including law firms, tech companies and marketing agencies. Recently Tom has taken an interest in more creative projects like writing articles for magazines and fiction writing. Visit his website at www.abusinesswriter.com
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An Episode Before Lookout Mountain His friends told him how lucky he was, that he had the lucky wound, just a bullet in the wrist and his war was over with a pension and a medal and stories to tell in the tavern and maybe a fuck with the landlord’s daughter for free. But that lucky wound was inflicted by a ball of lead weighing an ounce, flying just under the supersonic, its soft metal flattening in its course almost to a disc at impact, blasting apart skeletal and nervous and vascular anatomy, fragments spreading like high-speed shrapnel, cracks fissuring up the bone like backwards tributaries. The ball carried with it fragments of his heavy woolen coat and filthy linen shirt, crawling with e.coli from months in the field in which hygiene had consisted of wiping his fingers on the grass after he'd dragged them through his anus, so that hours after his friends had clapped him on the shoulder on the unwounded side and cursed him good-naturedly for his good fortune, the lucky wound turned green and stinking and his arm blew up almost to burst his sleeve. He cursed and gibbered and sang and the surgeon came over and said here boy bite on this and stuck a dowel between his teeth and two orderlies sat on his chest and a third held his legs and the saw bit through his elbow and off came his rotting forearm. It was his left, no loss they said, you're right handed anyway Shortly the surgeon and the orderlies moved on to the next man, leaving him to live or die as God intended or nature allowed. The battalion moved on to join the column. For the balance of the afternoon he slept and sweated and when he awoke raved and wept. But sometimes he fell silent and stared at the stump wrapped in bloody rags. Later that day the fever broke for a moment, whether to come again anybody’s guess, and he raised the stump in its scarlet bandage and looked at it for a long time. He knew something was wrong. Not in the way of other men in the tent who didn’t yet understand why they couldn’t jig on legs that ended at the knee. It was something different. He got off his cot. He didn’t fall though if he had nobody would’ve noticed or had time to care. He’d been in the army long enough to know where he had to go. There were two paths from the surgeons’ tents. One for corpses, carried on stretchers towards the war graves with some attempt at decorum. The other for amputated limbs, piled in carts, arms whose fingers still twitched as though playing castanets, the morning’s legs going green, the afternoon’s still tense and springy as though for a race. The amputations were dumped into a pit where two darkie freedmen stood, bandanas across their faces against the stench, now and again sprinkling quicklime and waiting for day’s end to bury the surgeon’s successes. That’s where they found him. The darkies knew that white men could do whatever they wanted most of the time but when something like this happened they also knew saying nothing would be a lot worse than saying something. The surgeons had left with the battalion. But the army had decided that a pharmacist from Galena was worth a medical corps commission so that was who came spilling down the sides of the pit with an orderly behind him. In the center of the pit was a one-armed man digging through stiffened ownerless limbs. He was on his knees. The process was awkward. Not only did he have only one arm to work with, but he frequently lost balance and had to twist as he fell to protect his stump. Yet he always pushed himself up and kept going.
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Legs had no interest at all for him, the pharmacist saw. Nor did many arms. Some he disregarded entirely. Others he lifted and examined briefly before tossing them aside. He was obviously looking for one in particular. He was just a Galena pharmacist but he had been in the war from its beginning two years ago. He had seen this before. The limb pit wasn’t deep-dug so it had to be broad. The pharmacist knew it would do no good to shout to the man in its middle as though to a drowning swimmer from the shore. So gingerly the pharmacist walked out to meet the one armed man. He hadn’t been squeamish in his Illinois dispensary in peacetime and his years with a saw in the wounded tents certainly hadn’t made him so. His only concern about pitching face forward into flesh in the early stages of decomposition was breaking his spectacles. He had only the one spare pair and who knew when his wife in Galena could send him another so he trod carefully, one foot ahead of the other, arms outstretched like a tightrope walker at the circus he and his wife had seen on their trip to Springfield in the last year before the war. The severed limbs shifted and twisted whenever he put weight on them. Several times he swayed dramatically. One time he almost fell when he stepped on an arm lost at the shoulder just the wrong way and it flipped up as though it wanted to drag him down. But it didn’t. The one-armed man in his hospital tent nightshirt picked through body parts as diligently as a housewife comparing smelts. The nightshirt was filthy now. His stump rags were sodden and leaking bright red. As he worked the pharmacist could hear his breath was labored and included a rattle that meant his lungs were filling. He tapped the soldier on the good shoulder. He stopped and looked up with fever-bright eyes. “Sorry, son,” said the pharmacist from Galena. “We’re pretty good. But we’re not that good. We can’t sew it back on, even if you find it.” The one-armed man nodded. “I know. I’m just looking for my wedding ring. I don’t want to die without it.” The older man took off the spectacles clipped to the bridge of his nose. He didn’t wear a coat when he worked in the wounded tents so he had to keep his handkerchief up a shirtcuff that was usually bloodsodden by noon but today was barely speckled. He polished his glasses longer than he needed to and wedged them back into place. He hadn’t worn them when he was courting his wife, ashamed of his weakness, but after they were married she told him the dents on his nose gave him away, and she hadn’t cared at all. He adjusted them a couple of times and told himself that it was just coincidence that he was using his left hand. The pharmacist waved to his orderly and the darkies at the edge of the amputation pit. One of the darkies had an old musket and lifted it awkwardly. The orderly had taken out his flask and was rubbing it, empty, against his forehead for comfort. “We’re fine!” said the pharmacist. “We’re just fine! This may take a while so you just settle.” The one armed man was still looking at him. “All right, son,” said the pharmacist. “Let’s get started.”
Terence Hawkins was born in a coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania noted as a setting for both Night of the Living Dead and American Rust. Through an horrendous and never-to-be-repeated series of administrative errors, he was permitted not only to attend, but graduate from, Yale University. After having been seen locked in mortal struggle with his sworn foe, Professor Moriarity, on the Reichenbach Fell, his trail went cold for many years. He suddenly reappeared in New Haven as the Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, which caromed from success to success under his wise tutelage until 2015. He is the author of The Rage of Achilles, a novelization of the Iliad in modern prose based on Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, and American Neolithic, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014. He has also published many short stories, essays, and opinion pieces. He is now the Director of the Company of Writers, supporting authors and poets at every stage in their careers. He lives in Connecticut with his muse and keeper, the pithy and enigmatic Mrs. H.
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John M. Williams
Early Times I’ve got a little drinking problem. I drink a little too much. Of course it’s not really that simple. The real problem is God knows what and may I never face it. It is more economical to call it a drinking problem, plus it gives me something to do. It also gives the people who know me something to do. People are more comfortable when their friends have problems, and even happier when there’s a phrase for them. “He has a little drinking problem,” they like to say. It saves time. And of course it allows them to imagine that things are equally simple with themselves. So everybody benefits. In service to these delusions, I guess, not long ago a couple of guys at work advised me to seek counseling. The main reason I agreed was that one of them was the boss. Of course they meant well, which basically means the best way to avoid your own problems is to point out somebody else’s. I will not deny that drinking a little too much has its disadvantages, but I don’t think my cohorts ever guessed the truth, which is that I don’t really want to quit. Like I said, it’s something to do, and that’s important. You can’t defeat your demons; anybody with a brain knows they only get stronger with the years. All you can do is find a way to keep from thinking about them all the time—in other words, indulge them. I used to tell myself it could have been something else, but that was before I realized drinking was something else, and was as good as anything. But there was no way around it, so I let them make an appointment for me. Needless to say, it was my first visit to such a place, but I wasn’t really nervous. I only wanted to get it over with. The guy was highly recommended, but it was his name that impressed me. Javan Behringha, PhD. Sounded like the right sort of fruitcake. The office was less frightening than a dentist’s but more intimidating than a lawyer’s. I entered hoping for obvious reasons that I would encounter no one, but some guy was on his way out, so naturally we had to catch each other’s eye and recognize in that fleeting glance far more than either of us wanted to. But that was all. He left and then I had a short wait before being shown into the inner sanctum. When the doctor rose from behind his cluttered desk to greet me, the shock was delayed for approximately four seconds, partially from his baldness and an additional fifty pounds or so, but also no doubt through the saving mechanism of denial. But unless, unknown to me, that denial prevented a cardiac arrest, it was wasted, since there was no escaping the truth standing before me. It was Jack Behring, all right. “Well hello,” he said, and a warm smile spread over his face. “Hal. It’s good to see you. It’s been a long time.” “Yeah,” I replied as we shook hands. And along with resisting the urge to smell my hand, that’s all I could think of. “How have you been?” How had I been? Jesus. I just said I had been okay and asked about himself. “Oh, there’ve been ups and downs,” he laughed. I nodded. We stood there, the desk between us, and then he gestured and we sat down, the desk between us. I’ll give him his due, he was tactful. And my furtive glances detected nothing in his eyes except what looked like a gleam of reminiscence. He was comfortable in his life, that was easy to see, and to my turning up from the buried past his reaction of gentle surprise was like that of a man looking up from some pleasant hobby on a card table. Behind him on a cabinet was a portrait of his wife (no beauty) and two kids. He had prosperously loose jowls and the general air of a man held in the embrace of a thousand fond tethers. As he leaned back in his chair he made a little steeple of his chalky white fingers. “Boy, time flies, doesn’t it?” he said nostalgically. “Let’s see, what’s it been? Eighteen years?” He laughed. “Boy, it doesn’t seem possible.” Eighteen years was correct. I can’t say I hadn’t thought of him during that time, because I had, but I certainly hadn’t seen or heard about him. Nor in my darkest ravings had expected to. This wasn’t just another town than the one where we’d been in school together, but another state. “Time doesn’t waste any time,” I observed.
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He laughed. “Yes, and you know, it’s really all we have to work with. We are time, in a sense.” Perfect—he was a philosopher now. I nodded. “Boy, the old band days were really something, weren’t they? You know, it’s funny. I was just telling some friends the other night how I find myself thinking back sometimes and realizing that was one of the great experiences of my life: the band, Mr. Haines, all the trips, all the awards. It’s really important to participate in something like that in your formative years, I feel. It makes such a lasting impression.” “Yeah, I guess it does.” “And it’s funny how you don’t fully appreciate it at the time.” “It wouldn’t be fun then.” He laughed. “You’re absolutely right.” He reflected. “Not to mention some of the other things.” An eyebrow arched a bit. Oh shit, I thought. “I don’t suppose you’ve forgotten the Great Hotel Drowning?” I shrugged. “I remember it.” “Oh was Mr. Haines mad! He turned completely red! I can still picture him.” “I guess we got a little out of control.” “It seems funny now,” he chuckled. “But boy, it didn’t seem so funny then, did it?” Actually, for me, it was pretty much the reverse. Funny then, something that made me feel like an idiot now. It had been your basic water balloon fight gone bad, developing into trash cans full of water and that kind of thing. “Now what did he do to you?” Behring asked, like a kid pushing Dad for a war story one more time. “I’ve forgotten the details.” “We had to write a letter to the hotel, and we each got five demerits, I think. Something like that.” All I wanted was to change the subject. “You remember the time you fell through the ceiling?” “Yeah, I remember.” I had been a drummer, and whenever the band was working without us, we would wander off and get into something. We used to climb into the attic over the band room and make faces and shoot spitballs through a hole at the other band members. Then one day I lost my balance and fell between two rafters and came crashing down in a magnificent explosion of dust and splinters and landed right behind Mr. Haines’ podium, scaring the hell out of him and everybody else, mainly me. It was one of my grander moments—in my life, I guess. One of those things you remember hearing about so many times it seems like somebody else. It just seemed pathetic now. “I’ll never forget that look on Mr. Haines’ face! Boy! What a shock!” This was becoming bizarre. I wondered how long we could postpone reality. My energy now was focused on getting the hell out of there. “Ever see any of the old crowd?” he asked. “Not really.” out.
A brief silence. “So,” he said, “what are you doing now?” At last he leant forward to consult the form I had filled “I’m with Tri-State.” He gave me an uncertain glance. “Auto parts.” “Oh. Well now. Let’s see—for nine years?” “More or less.” “Okay.” He looked down through his glasses at the form. “You attended college for a while?” “Yeah, I got sidetracked.”
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He nodded, looking as though he wanted to say something, then something else, but didn’t. Instead he set the form down and exhaled. “Have you ever been involved with therapy before?” “No.” “Ever participated in any kind of support group or that type of thing?” Somehow I didn’t think the guys at Sam’s qualified. “No.” He looked at me with that weird smile. All I was thinking was, get the hell out of here, get the hell out of here, get the hell out of here. “What led to your decision to come now?” “Somebody suggested it.” “Your employer?” “Sort of.” “Would you say your—well, problem—is the kind of thing that would be noticeable to others?” “Probably.” “Would you say you have a clear idea of what you hope to gain from therapy?” “Probably not.” Silence. “Look,” I blurted—I couldn’t stand another second—“I’ve got this feeling this isn’t going to work out. Not because of you. I know you’re good and everybody recommends you. But because . . . just because.” I shrugged. “It’s just one of those things.” He looked sympathetic. “Well, I will say it’s not always a good idea when people—know each other. I tell you what: why don’t I give you the names of some other highly qualified professionals and let you find a situation you’d be more comfortable with?” “Yeah, that’d be good.” I stood up. He quickly stood up too, and offered his hand. “It’s been great to see you again. I wish you luck.” All I had to do was make it to the door. Our eyes met. Yes, there was something in there. I think. It was hard to say. I had started to shake, so I didn’t waste any time with politeness. I had a cool sweat on my face when at last I got outside. All I wanted was two things: to get as far away from there as I could get, and a bourbon about the size of a Colonel Sanders chicken bucket. *** Jack Behring made the terrible mistake of stinking in high school. I knew him only from ninth grade; his family had moved to town when he was a kid but he had attended another grade school across town. Everyone knew he was some kind of immigrant, and we might simply have ignored him, like crazy Stanley Kozolowski, if only he hadn’t stunk. It was that sweet, putrid odor of protracted non-bathing that struck our middle class adolescent noses so wrongly. It seems like a minor issue to me now. Obviously that’s how people were meant to smell, and if someone wants to go a few weeks or months without a bath, what’s the big deal? What do you think Jesus smelled like? Or George Washington? Or you great-great-great grandmother, the immigrant? The big deal then was that he was different. You were supposed to smell like Right Guard or Hai Karate or some other acceptably neurotic American scent, or at least like nothing; you were not supposed to smell like an unwashed human being. I knew his parents: slovenly but merry people who often volunteered as chaperones and were very active in groups and all that; only they wore Sears clothes, had greasy hair, and stank too. Just like all his brothers and sisters (there was a whole nest of them). I used to wonder what went on in that house. Obviously not a lot of competition for the bathroom. Maybe, I used to speculate, it was a little-used room where people only did their business and got the hell out, where there was no clutter of spray cans and bottles and jars, no sloppy mess, no sister permanently camped there—only cobwebs and an atmosphere like a spooky cellar room. But didn’t he ever go home crying after a bad day and tell his mother how the other kids were treating him? Maybe he never did. Maybe he kept it to himself. Maybe his mother was opposed to the idea and said things like, “I won’t have any more of this bathing nonsense talked about in this house! Is that clear?” Anyway, he stank. What makes children so cruel? The same thing that makes adults so cruel, clinging to their vain little stingy worlds—only a less inhibited version of it. There’s only so much power to go around, and the strong bleed the weak. When has it ever been any different?
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Jack Behring played trombone in the band, and we once investigated his instrument and verified that it stank too. So we left a bar of soap in the case. We often left soap and toothpaste and deodorant in his locker or on his desk, or mailed such things to him with of course anonymous little notes. In P.E., which must have been, shall we say, no fun for him, he never (voluntarily) showered or showed himself, but only exchanged his gym uniform for his street clothes in a corner and slithered out. Maybe I did feel sorry for him once or twice, when I took a break from being glad I was in the herd long enough to see what life must have been like for him; and I can honestly say I had no part in the worst atrocities of the locker room: the strippings and encirclings in the showers, the Right Guardathons, the Jade East drenchings. The football types would rough him up sometimes—nothing serious, just shove him around, give him a few licks. I used to hit him too, we all did: sock him hard on the upper arm. I recall well the feeling. He was the kind of kid who wouldn’t do anything, just flinch and look terrified. “How come you stink, Behring?” Whap! “Why don’t you bathe?” Whap! Such power. Only it’s funny how it changes, strong and weak, and how tricky it gets telling which is which anymore. You see people like Behring in the world, you see people like me, and people like crazy Stanley Kozolowski, whom nobody paid attention to, still riding his bicycle round town collecting bottles and going through everybody’s curb-piles, and you wonder. Maybe some people just have it tougher than others, and that’s just the way it is. I remember a kid named Charles Arthur. He was the kind of person who didn’t really fit in any classification, like redneck or freak or nerd or whatever. But he wasn’t really a loner either. He had buds, the other kids liked him. I liked him; I just didn’t know him very well. He wasn’t a full-fledged troublemaker, but he did get into his little scrapes sometimes. Nobody messed with him and he more or less went his own way. Two things stand out in my memory about him: once, when we had Jack Behring surrounded one day after school behind the gym, Charles Arthur came to his defense and said if we felt like picking on somebody, how about picking on him? And the other: the day we took Behring’s smelly little immigrant satchel and stuck it up in the highest tree behind the school, knowing Behring was afraid to climb, it was Charles Arthur who went up and got it down for him. I was watching from a distance; he handed it to him without saying anything or even looking at him. He never had anything to do with him otherwise, as far as I knew. I think about Charles Arthur sometimes. I would have been him.
John M. Williams retired from LaGrange College, where he taught for twenty-six years, in 2015. He was named Georgia Author of the Year for First Novel in 2002 for Lake Moon (Mercer UP). He has written and co-written numerous plays, with several local productions, and published a variety of stories, essays, and reviews through the years. His most recent book is Village People: Sketches of Auburn (Solomon and George 2016). His book Atlanta Pop in the 50s, 60s, and 70s: The Magic of Bill Lowery, co-authored with Andy Lee White, is due in early 2019 from The History Press. He lives in LaGrange, Georgia. When not writing he can often be found in the park feeding pigeons or playing chess.
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●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●● After Emily (438)
As he sat sweating through his shirt in the Georgia humidity, he thought about their old porch in New Hampshire where he once enjoyed Sunday papers in the brisk air. She would walk over crunching leaves, bringing warm coffee and kisses, and squeeze next to him in the old wicker loveseat—a wedding gift. After he ended things with Emily, she only threatened to sit beside him. Something always needed tending to inside: an un-fluffed pillow, a centerpiece off-center. The move down south was meant to change things. She hoped to return to pre-Emily times. He longed for something different, that elusive happiness others talked about. She came out to sweep a bit of dirt that had fallen from her potted palm, the one she had watered twice within the hour. She always loved things to death. “It’s beautiful out here. Don’t you think?” She stood with one hand on her hip and the other clutching the broom. He nodded. She faced him, but her eyes wouldn’t agree to it. They searched the nearest tree until they settled on a lizard running wildly toward the crick of a branch. “Just need some lemonade or something. Don’t you think?” He followed her eyes to the small tree which nearly touched the edge of the porch. The lizard was swallowing the last bit of spider leg. “And an exterminator.” She laughed kindly. A few days ago he had caught one and let it wiggle between his fingers, squeezing it slightly then letting it go. He was unaware she had been watching. “Alright then. I’ll make some lemonade.” She stopped in the bathroom to reapply lipstick and decided on another pair of shoes in the bedroom. Ones that were less comfortable but went well with lemonade. She stood at the kitchen sink laboring over a glass juicer, ignoring the stinging sensation in her hangnail. As she stirred sugar into the pitcher she hummed a melody, inventing it note by note. “Here we are!” She found him in the same spot and felt foolish when her heels clicked along the porch—a stranger’s porch—closing space between them, but not distance. He smiled at his crossed legs, then looked up to locate the outstretched glass, sweating almost as much as himself. She sat beside him along the loveseat’s edge, and stiffened as it creaked under her small frame. He took a drink and jolted when an ice cube shifted positions, splashing him with the sugary, sour drink. “It’s hot out here.” “Yes, yes. It’s very hot. Very hot!” She fanned herself with her free hand. “So uncomfortable you’d rather die!” He agreed.
Effy Rose holds an MFA from Lindenwood University. Her love of reading drives her love of writing. In an alternate reality where motion sickness doesn’t exist, she might have studied to become an astronaut, but probably not. She lives in Florida with her husband, who is also a writer, and her dog, who is over it.
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Justin Hart Crary
Corduroy Recovery I had to leave. I was suffocating, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Like someone had trapped me in a stale white room with a rapidly deteriorating supply of oxygen and told me to survive. But I wasn’t surviving. I was barely even breathing. I knew I wasn’t because, every once in a while, I would take a deep breath and become aware of all the little breaths I had missed before that one big one. It was alarming like I imagine dying would be. But in hindsight somehow peaceful… like I imagine dying should be. Some people in my situation go to therapy. Some go on antidepressants. Some just trudge through the suffocation until they gain some semblance of breath… But me? I had to leave. The state. The literal state. Not the state of mind or my emotional state. West Virginia. It was the only answer I had left for getting out of the blank space she had somehow managed to trap me in. Heartbreak is a terrible thing. Teenage heartbreak is the only thing worse. To adults, and as an adult now, it seems melodramatic to describe losing your “first love” as suffocation. But nineteen-year-old me thought that was exactly what it was like. Actually, he probably would have said nothing could accurately describe the pain he was going through. That probably wasn’t true, but it was for him. And that was good enough. Over the years, I’ve noticed that not a lot of people like to talk about their first real heartbreak. Or if they do talk about it, they always sugarcoat the post-breakup details. To their now adult brains, it somehow seems embarrassing to remember how they actually acted upon losing the one they loved, or “thought” they loved as they always tell it later. I’m sure it’s some kind of psychological self-defense mechanism, but it’s almost sad to think we as human beings are so prideful that we have to minimalize our past to avoid confronting the pain caused by it today. Everyone acts a little crazy after their first real broken heart. Mine just made me a little more than crazy. The words “I don’t love you anymore” kept ringing in my ears on a constant loop and with such infinite volume that insanity felt like an admirable state to get to. Those words pierced through the music I used to drown them out. They penetrated the sleep I used to try and forget them. What I once considered to be peaceful dreams quickly turned into torturous nightmares, because in them we were still together, still happy, and still in love. Realizing they were only dreams made being awake the only real nightmare. So, leaving West Virginia… “I can’t get over her until I do this,” my nineteen-year-old self would say. Looking back, he was probably right. He probably wouldn’t have been able to get through it without leaving. Twenty-eight-year-old me is a little tougher. A little older. A little more experienced. And a little more used to it. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving except for my mom and my sister and they only let me go after I promised to come back. I had worked at this tennis club all summer and saved up enough money to pay my car payment and insurance for nine months in advance. However, that was the only real money I had left. By the grace of God, though, gas suddenly dropped at the end of that summer from $3.95/gallon to $1.75. Honestly, I wouldn’t have made it anywhere without that gigantic miracle. And so, with the couple hundred extra dollars I had left to my name, a suitcase full of clothes, and my favorite corduroy jacket, I set out for New York City in my 2000 Ford Mustang. I have no idea why I chose New York, other than it seemed like the best place to get lost in. And I desperately wanted to get lost. Go where no one new knew who I was and no one old could find me until I wanted to be found. I wanted to sink into oblivion until the concrete jungle transformed me into a version of myself I liked better than the person staring back at me in the mirror. I wanted the world to burn my already charred existence into ashes so that I could return to West Virginia a phoenix and show the girl who crushed my heart just what she’d given up on. I wanted the sewer-soaked winds of the big city to cast off the parts of me I didn’t like seeing anymore, taken out with the rest of the trash until the better version of myself shined through. In being lost, I wanted to be found. In being found, I wanted to be made new. But first—ultimately first—I needed to be lost. And then I was. And then I decided I wanted to be lost somewhere else. Even entering New York was a stressful experience. Trying to stay there for more than a couple days with only a little more than a hundred dollars to my name was next to impossible. Leaving the city, even after seeing only just a couple of its sights, brought on the greatest relief I’d experienced since before the break up. With no destination in mind, I just started driving. The pragmatic side of me was trying to calculate how far I could get with the money I had left (as well as how to make more money). However, the carefree spirit I was trying to cultivate kept telling me not to worry about it. The more logical side of my brain always won these kinds of battles.
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After a couple hours driving, it was night and I was entering Rhode Island. I’d always heard you could drive across the entire state in thirty minutes and was just about to test the rumor when two cars came roaring up behind me on the interstate. One was a silver Honda Civic that’s red lights streaked across my windshield like lasers. I couldn’t make out the other one, but I didn’t have to be a genius to know it was racing the Honda. I was going 70 mph. They were clocking 100 easy. The roads didn’t look any darker than normal, but I knew they were still wet from the rainstorm an hour ago. Instantly, I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t want to know—didn’t want to be right—but I knew I was. A few hundred feet ahead of me, the silver Civic suddenly lost control and began sliding all over the wet asphalt. I never understood the term fishtailing until that moment. After it was over, I would never forget. Flipping on its side, the compact car started rolling door over door and smashing itself against Rhode Island’s eerily straight roads. My headlights lit up silver chunks of metal as piece by piece the car was systematically torn apart in its losing battle against gravity and concrete. Even though my music was blaring, everything was silent. Even though time was moving normally, everything slowed down. It was all happening right in front of me, but it all seemed so surreal. The movie-like nature of the car wreck was instantly interrupted by a crash of glittered lightning all over my car. I hit something! I thought frantically, until realizing that I was driving through a wall of broken glass. The shattered windows of the careening car in front of me slammed against my own car all at once and jolted me back to my senses. Back to reality. As the car flipped itself upright into the median and disappeared into the trees, I instantly hit the brakes and pulled over into the shoulder. No one else was on the road that night and the car that was racing the Civic had already disappeared into the cover of darkness. Flipping my hazard lights on, I ran from my car across the interstate to where I found the Civic sitting upright (thankfully) with the hood wedged between two trees. Needless to say, the car was a mangled mess. Again, I understood another term better: totaled. The windshield and windows had all been shattered, the lights completely busted out, the hood crushed in, the doors concave, and the frame a glorified metal pretzel. But I wasn’t thinking about the car so much as the person inside it. Adrenaline pumping, I flew to the side of the wrecked vehicle and immediately began pulling on the caved in passenger door. There were bushes on the driver’s side, so the passenger side was the only way to get inside. With what felt like Samsonian strength, I kept pulling at the car door until it tore enough from its hinges that it fell broken to the ground at my feet. Peering in, I saw blood staining the interior of the car. At the center of the blood was a young girl muttering “help” so weakly I could barely even hear her. I reached for her hand and asked her to grab on, but she couldn’t. She was in shock. Suddenly, I heard the voice of another man behind me asking if I needed help. I was so absorbed in the crisis that I hadn’t even heard him pull up. I explained the situation and he moved around me to try and pull her out. He was large, a six-something linebacker type with dark skin and muscle mass rivaling the actual Samson. As he was pulling her from the car, I felt truly helpless. The door wasn’t wide enough of an opening for me to help him and I didn’t want to be in his way. All I could do was watch, sniff the running gasoline, and recall all the movies where the wrecked car explodes for no reason at all. After what felt like hours of tireless effort, Samson pulled the young girl from the car and we carried her at least a hundred feet away—just in case her Civic decided to make my cinematic suspicions a reality. We laid her down softly on the grass and I reached for my phone, but realized I left it in my car. Luckily though, other people were pulling off and yelling to us that they were already calling 911. Another sigh of relief. She was bleeding badly from her head and right shoulder and began trembling violently in short gasps for air. “She’s in shock,” Samson said, reaffirming the same diagnosis I thought earlier. I took off my brown corduroy jacket and laid it around her neck, chest, and arms in a desperate attempt to warm her up and keep her calm. I had no medical experience. I had no idea how bad she was actually hurt. I didn’t even know the girl. I just knew I wanted to do something to make her feel like she wasn’t alone. At that point, the screech of ambulances filled the night air and gave us all another reason to breathe in relief. When the EMTs arrived, they took care of the driver, told us she’d be okay, and I gave my statement to the police about what I saw happen. I’m not proud of lying to them, but I denied that she was speeding (or racing) and told them that she just lost control on the wet road and ended up crashing. This girl had been through enough, I reasoned with myself. She
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didn’t need a ticket or worse waiting for her when she woke up. And I highly doubted the other car would ever be coming forth with their own testimony of the incident. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that conversation would play out if they did… “Yeah, we were racing. I cut her off, saw her wreck, and just kept driving.” After shaking Samson’s hand and sleeping in my car for the night, I spent another week in the small town of Coventry, Rhode Island. It wasn’t necessarily a special town, just the nearest one I could find after making my way from the scene of the accident. The only thing I even really remember about it is that it has a very nice laundry mat with even nicer people inside. I never visited the girl in the hospital, though I desperately wanted to make sure she was okay. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t permanently injured, maimed, or even dead—and to see that my corduroy jacket got a good home. I just had to take it on faith. Seeing death come so close to someone reconstructs your naïve preconceptions of what dying can truly feel like. It isn’t suffocation. It’s fear. Being left always seems to rewire your brain into only remembering everything good about the person who hurt you. You don’t remember the bad. The cruel. The heartlessness. Even though solidifying those aspects of the relationship in your mind would be the greatest self-defense mechanism your mind could possibly construct. Instead, you only remember the good. The happiness. The purity of the person you gave your heart to and who left it beating helplessly on the ground. You think you’ll never find someone else who’s willing to pick it up, accept it for all of its flaws, and continue its life by putting their own into it. And you’re right. You will never find someone else to pick up the pieces of what another left behind. You leave them there. It’s a part of you and you have to let it die. But what you initially believe is the whole of your heart is truly only a piece of it. Like a cancer, you cut it off, patch the hole it leaves behind, and strengthen the pieces that still remain. The same week I helped pull a girl from a mangled car, I started pulling odd jobs off the streets of the towns I visited, working them to make gas, food, and motel money. From Rhode Island to California, I worked as a painter, gutter cleaner, electrician’s assistant, plumbing assistant, martial arts instructor, as well as pulling the occasional hustle on unsuspecting bar patrons. It was the beginning of a nine-month long adventure I had no way of fulfilling without a girl first wrecking her car right in front of me and showing me the true face of what dying really looked like. What it could be. What it was. And it made me realize… I wasn’t dying. I was in recovery.
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The Hustle Traveling penniless around the country at nineteen-years-old with nothing but the radio and heartache to keep you company might seem like the romanticized fantasy of any rebellious teenager. But with no money to his name and no skill worthy of earning any, the same rebellious teenager quickly finds himself starving and sleep deprived, becoming more and more aware of the growing kinks in his neck and pain in his lower back, as hard sports car seats don’t make very good beds, and even more aware than ever of the creativity required of him to replenish the gas money needed to fund his sojourn across the great United States. With a symphonious cracking of my neck and back that alleviated themselves in a chorus of clicks and pops, I stepped out of my old Mustang and recalled once again the specifics of the old betting game my dad used to play with me when I was a kid. The game only ever worked one time on any one person, but it was enough to get my dad from California to Montana during the 1970’s and had been enough so far for me to get from West Virginia to New York to Rhode Island and then Indiana in 2008. I was just praying it would be enough to continue getting me further west so I could see my dad again. It was a dumb game—barely even a real con—but it did take some rehearsing and picking out the appropriate targets. Usually bar patrons who either laughed at the trick or felt sorry enough for me to give money out of pity. Sometimes both. I found the parking lot to a day bar that wasn’t carding yet and didn’t ask any questions upon walking through the front door. I don’t drink personally, never have, but I sat at the bar and ordered a large water with no ice. The bartender looked at me funny, maybe irritated, but rolled his eyes and poured me the glass of water. It came in a large beer glass that I sipped minimally while scoping out the other five people in the relatively empty establishment. There was an older ragged looking couple playing pool in the back and three obvious bikers with long gray beards and leather jackets gulping down beers on the longer stretch of the bar. They were silently watching t.v. on the screens above. This was always the hardest part, the one I was never very good at… Initiating the conversation. “So,” I eked out nervously. “Are you guys regulars here or…?”
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“Kid, we don’t swing that way,” one of the bikers responded without even glancing over. Immediately I understood. I was in American Eagle jeans, a polo, and had hair even Justin Bieber wouldn’t be proud of… I certainly didn’t look like I belonged in a bar that was probably filled nightly with ex-cons and soon-to-be fully committed cons. I had to change tactics. “Do you guys want to see a trick?” I asked, instantly regretting my choice of words. “Not that kind of trick. I’m not gay. I want to make a bet.” Suddenly, I had their attention. “What kind of bet?” “I’ll bet you fifty dollars that I can drink this whole glass of water before you can down one shot of any kind of liquor.” The three smiled and busted out laughing. Their skepticism was expected. Heck, it was encouraged. I wanted them to think what I was saying was impossible. “You’re on,” the one closest to me said, the one who’d been responding for his friends the entire time. “Joey, a shot of Jaeger.” His name probably wasn’t Joey, but details like that are hard to remember when you’re trying to pull a fast one. I moved down the bar closer to them and sat with my water in hand. “Alright, but there are some rules. I can’t touch your glass and you and your friends can’t touch mine. And you have to time me and let me finish my drink before you can start yours. The timer stops when I put my glass on the bar. Deal?” He was still chuckling. “Deal.” They had the bartender use his wristwatch to time me as I casually began drinking my large glass of water, making no effort to finish faster than was comfortable for me. When I finally did finish, the three were dying, as well over a minute had passed and they were cocksure this bet was in the bag. As I finished, I smiled, took the bottom of my glass, flipped it over, and laid it overtop his shot glass. “Your turn,” I said arrogantly. But as he went to go touch my glass to get to his… “Nah, remember the rules.” I was beaming now. But he and his friends stopped laughing. That’s when I heard Joey, or whatever his name was, utter the words “uh-oh.” The one I conned grabbed me by the collar and shoved me into the bar faster than I thought to react. The other two got up and surrounded me on both sides. I may have trained in martial arts since I was five, but confronted with three huge guys who looked like they murdered people for a living and I was frozen. Only my mind was racing. I might be able to surprise and take down one of them, but not all three. Not at the same time boxed in like this. However, just as I was about to try and break his hold and dart for the door, the searing anger in his eyes turned to a benevolent grin, then immediate laughter. “That’s a nice trick, kid. Show me one more time what to do.” He turned to his friends and laughed. “I’m using this on Lou later tonight, that moron!” His name probably wasn’t Lou. Fear makes remembering names a very low priority. I showed them the trick again. They got my story and each one gave me fifty dollars for the road. Harry, Ax, and Cash. They helped me get all the way to Nebraska and taught me a very valuable lesson. Fear overrides all previous training. And I still had a lot of fear to overcome.
Justin Hart Crary graduated with a Master’s Degree from Marshall University in Spring 2017. He has traveled the U.S. and uses the experience to write young adult fiction and creative nonfiction. He currently teaches English in West Virginia and has hopes to publish young adult novels and memoirs in the future.
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Ready or Not If they discover his hiding place, he doesn’t know what will happen. The fact they’ve tracked him this far and are standing a few feet away is terrifying enough, but when he realizes he’s wedged in and at their mercy, panic tightens across his chest. He has trapped himself in their web. Whatever fate awaits him, it is a fate of his own making. Inhaling as quiet as the silence allows, a difficult skill to master, he holds the breath in for as long possible before succumbing to dizziness. There isn’t room to accommodate a full exhale and he’s forced to release the breath in three separate bursts. Having room to breathe doesn’t factor into your decision when your main priority is getting out of sight. From this position, he didn’t see their entry into the room, but the crashing sound of wooden door meeting brick wall told him all he needed to know. They were here and they weren't playing around. His heart, not even close to returning to a steady rate after their entrance, began to gallop once again. Audible to his own ears, they must be able to hear it. How can they not? Betrayed by his own beating heart. Wouldn’t that be something? Poetic, almost. He hopes these crackpots don’t know his exact location. His drowning sanity clings by its fingertips to the hope of not being found at all. Of being victorious. It’s possible. During his time with them, he discovered they’re not the brightest, barely a lightbulb between them. They outnumbered him though, which could be a problem. Are his concerns valid? Does having an intellect rivalled only by a packet of biscuits matter when you have the manpower? He doesn’t know. What purpose would knowing serve anyway? Trapped in this hiding place, answers mean nothing. His backside is numb, but he doesn’t dare move. Anything might tip them off to his location. If he can’t even move half an inch how can he expect to have any influence over the outcome of this game? He can only wait. His bladder, fuller than 1 the glass of an optimist before he’d hidden, now threatened him with dire consequences if a urine worthy receptacle didn’t present itself soon. He had no reassurance to offer it. Never had the phrase, ‘I haven’t got a pot to piss in,’ been so accurate. Without moving his head, he casts his eyes up to the long, thin blade of light above him. The only light in the darkness of this figurative tomb. The enclosed space is encroaching on him and beads of sweat run from his throbbing temples, into his eyes and across the bridge of his nose. Although irritating, he resists the urge to wipe them away. It’d be his undoing. Any movement or noise from him at this point would mean discovery. What did these three have in mind once they found him? It doesn’t bear thinking about. He can’t let them win. Over the sound of blood rushing through his ears, he can hear them whispering. Straining to make out what they’re saying, the few words he can decipher baffle him. ‘Hang on’; ‘Pinching’; 'Water' and 'Elephants'. Although they hold no context, the words carry sinister undertones all the same and his stomach gives a sickening lunge. What did they have planned? He hoped it didn’t involve water, for all their sakes. The 'elephants' came from the female of the trio. A pretty thing with blonde hair and shiny blue eyes. He needs to not let her looks fool him though. Being distracted by her beauty will cost him dearly and he can’t afford it. Besides, the girl’s beauty means nothing, he knows how ruthless she can be. While his thoughts lingered on the girl, he notices the room is silent. They’ve stopped whispering. Have they finalized their plans? Do they have a strategy? He’d been thinking about the girl instead of listening. See? Ruthless. His hold his body rigid. He knows, if by some small miracle, he makes it out of this in one piece his muscles will have something to say. For now, they can join the queue behind his bladder. There are more pressing issues to deal with. The silence continues on for several eternal seconds before it is broken by a laugh more wicked than a fairytale stepmother. Goosebumps prick at the skin on his bare arms and the air freezes in his lungs. What does it mean? Had they discovered him, his fate at their hands now sealed? The feeble light vanishes, throwing him into darkness. They have blocked off the narrow opening. They know he’s here. He risks lifting his head to where the light had been and sees them, three sets of eyes peering down at him. 2 “Found you, Daddy! We knew you were behind the sofa the whole time.”
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The Mailman Chapter 1 July 16, 2017, 2:12 P.M. In front of 415 Amhurst Lane on my second ring of the doorbell, I glanced at the next house over, 421, and saw Mr. Abernathy sitting out on his front porch in a rocking chair. That wasn’t unexpected. More often than not, he was sitting out on his porch when I came by, and I’d hand deliver his mail directly to him, like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. That day, Old Man Abernathy was shirtless from what I could see. While uncommon, I wouldn’t have even said that was unexpected. It was pushing ninety-three on the thermostat and the humidity had to be close to one hundred percent. Any walking outside felt like walking through a cloud, so I couldn’t blame the guy for wanting to cool off. Then, a delightful breeze rustled the Japanese boxwood bushes that had grown to stretch up higher than the porch’s railing. I thought it felt nice, refreshing. Apparently, Abernathy did too, because he stood up and stretched out his arms to enjoy it to the fullest. That was the moment it became blatantly obvious the old man was fully nude. Totally exposed. Nothing on but his birthday suit. Stark nekkid. Not even as much as a pair of tighty-whiteys out of respect for his fellow neighbors. He turned my way, and a look of pleasant surprise came over his face. He waved at me nonchalantly. The kind of wave someone gives you when they’re fully clothed. I quickly turned back to 415’s door and rang the bell one more time, starting to sweat. I didn’t share Abernathy’s nonchalantness. In fact, I found the whole ordeal pretty goddamn chalant. It caught me offguard, and I was mortified, since his house was next on my delivery route. I wondered if Abernathy even realized he wasn’t wearing clothes. I’d heard of something called a fugue state before, but didn’t know if it could technically be applied to something like this. The fact that he did remember to wear his glasses, though, was a mystery to me. And not the kind I wanted to stick around long enough to crack. Thinking over my options, I set the package down on 415’s welcome mat and started back down the steps. I scanned the surrounding houses for another person, anyone, to pull me away from what I knew was coming, but there was no one. I could hear birds squawking in the trees and a lawnmower off in the distance. Maybe another street over. But not a neighbor in sight. It was just me and Abernathy. I turned down his driveway and made my way toward him. Delivering the mail to somebody if they were out in front of their house wasn’t part of the job description, but it was what I usually did. Especially with Abernathy. Everybody had their own style. I thought if I didn’t make the hand-delivery, he’d start running after me, thinking I’d skipped his house or something.
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So, I took long, deliberate strides walking the short path to the porch. Abernathy took a gulp from the glass of neon yellow lemonade resting on the side table next to his rocking chair. When I was within range, he stood up, lemonade in hand, hobbled across the porch, and lumbered down the creaking steps holding onto the wobbly railing for as much support as it could offer. “Sure is hot out,” he said dragging his free hand across his forehead. He’s got to be fucking with me. I forced out a laugh, trying to be polite. I didn’t know on what planet that kind of situation qualified as an opportunity for small talk, but in my opinion, Earth wasn’t it. Up until he said something, I thought I’d done a good job of taking interest in a beetle crawling across the grass, the pebbles he’d used to fill in the space around the bushes, my shoes, and anything else low to the ground. Anything that wasn’t his seventy-seven year old penis. It was already starting to haunt me from where it had been engrained into my short-term memory. He stepped off the final stair and my eyes noticed he was actually wearing two items of clothing. A sock on each foot yanked up to the middle of his calf. That baffled me even more than the glasses, and I felt the need to distance myself from the soon-to-be-repressed-memory as quick as I could. If I was going to hand him the mail, I’d have to look him in the eye. Had to. I knew that. That was common courtesy, and I didn’t want to make the situation any worse for myself than it already was. It was going to have to be as quick a transition as possible from the ground to his eyes. No screwing around. If I time a blink just right, I’ll be able to pull it off. I thrusted the envelopes toward him with an outstretched arm, blinked, and, according to plan, I was staring into Abernathy’s face before I knew it, having successfully avoided unwanted eye contact with the anything hanging below his distended gut. He took the mail from me, adjusted his glasses, and started to look it over. Again, as if he weren’t completely naked. I was paralyzed looking at him, and couldn’t tell which was sweatier, his face or the glass of lemonade. Drops of condensation streamed down the glass and fell to the concrete below. It was hard not to follow them with my eyes. Sweat similarly ran down his chest to places I knew for a fact I didn’t want to see again. He’d always been a normal guy. So, how’d I end up standing three feet in front of him, in the middle of picturesque suburbia, his three-piece-set blowing in the breeze? It was disturbing, really, when I took a second to think about it. I would’ve been tempted to say it was like a car wreck, but it was more like taking a hike and stepping into a clearing to see two animals mating. You know, it’s something you’re not supposed to see, so it’s mostly awkward but still has that comedic element to it. And it could end up being a little dangerous if things went wrong. “Haven’t you got other houses to stop by?” Abernathy said, snapping me out of my trance. He said it like I was the one making our encounter weird. The kind of tone that he used to tell the neighborhood kids to get off his damn lawn. “Yeah,” I said, still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing, “I guess I do.” He turned, starting back up the steps to his rocking chair. About three stairs up, his hairy, saggy, wrinkly ass filled my line of sight. I wanted to shield my eyes out of disgust, but it was the palest ass I think I’d ever seen, so I literally had to shield my eyes from the reflection of the sun’s rays. Naturally, or as my luck seemed to always go anyway, our interaction wouldn’t have been complete if I didn’t catch a glimpse of his glistening ball sack swinging between his legs like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. That was enough to make me want to vomit, or at least get me to finally turn away. I speed-walked back to the LLV, pulled the screeching sliding door opened then closed, and snatched up my phone to call Belinda. It was company policy to report any incidents we encountered on-route to our supervisor, and if that didn’t count as an incident, I didn’t know what would.
Luke Madden is a first-year student in Reinhardt University’s Etowah Valley MFA program. He is currently writing his first full length novel, from which this piece has been taken. He lives in Cumming, GA.
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Nick Roberts The Deal There are few things more exhilarating in this world than sitting directly across a table from a man that you know kills for a living, and yet, that is where I found myself exactly five years ago. I remember it with the vivid recall of every other significant event from my life. Hitman. The term seemed too dignified – too professional – for the murderous lunk that sat before me. Hunched over with his elbows planted on the thick, wooden table coated with streaks of sticky beer. He wore glasses…well, the glasses wore him; they magnified his eyeballs to cartoonish proportions. The heavy, Armygreen jacket he wore kept his build a secret. He was a tall man - I could see that much – with dark, black skin and a military-style faded haircut. If I were to guess, I’d say he was mid-twenties – about the same age I was at the time. I was told to call him Ronald. No last name. Just Ronald. I’d like to think that if I had the opportunity to create my own alias and operate within the criminal underbelly of society, I would come up with something cooler than Ronald. It just didn’t elicit much fear, and if you’re going to make a name for yourself as a gun-for-hire it sure as shit shouldn’t be Ronald. Listen to how judgmental I sound… How I remember Ronald from that night only shows you how craftily I avoided looking at my own shortcomings – deflection, I think they call it. Sitting across from Ronald was me, Rufus. I know, I know. A guy named Rufus poking fun of someone called Ronald. I get it. I was, however, not entirely in my right mind. Besides, on the street most people knew me as Fuss. You see, at this point in my life, I was strung out on prescription painkillers. Hillbilly heroin. West Virginia’s contribution to the drug game… I don’t remember what I was wearing on that cold, December night in that Appalachian dive bar; I only remember that I was wasted. Give me a break, I was still in mourning. My mom’s funeral was earlier that month and I couldn’t shake the image of her casket being lowered into the frozen earth, never to be seen again. It was her dying wish that I clean my act up. I may have exaggerated there. The last thing she said to me before she died was how she wished I would get my life together. She didn’t know she was going to die. No one did. She was driving to work and a drunk in a pick-up truck coming home from a long night drifted across the middle of the road and hit her head-on. They both died on impact. My mom had a small life insurance policy through her employer that I received a couple weeks after she died. Her lawyer called me up and I immediately drove to get the check. Fifty-thousand dollars. So how did I end up at that run-down little shack of a bar in St. Albans, West Virginia that night, five years ago? Well, after blowing through about ten-thousand dollars-worth of drugs and booze in a week and only overdosing once, I had what I can only assume was a revelation. Before my mom died and I inherited her house and car, I was basically homeless. I would pray for enough money to sustain my drug addiction to the point where I would never have to worry about being sick from coming off the drugs. Dopesickness. Withdrawals. As my habit progressed so did the severity and frequency of those cold sweats, aching body contortions, and the earlymorning spats of diarrhea. Now that I was financially secure for the moment and as high as I ever wanted to be, I realized that life still sucked. I had made it to the end of the rainbow only to find the pot of gold filled with shit. I would drift in and out of consciousness amid fever dreams that would shock me into opening my eyes. I would see my mom’s severed head set free from the shattered windshield fly in slow motion across the early-morning sunrise.
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Not sure if I was awake or not, I would pace her empty house at night only to stumble upon her headless body standing there in the kitchen trying desperately to drink her morning cup of coffee, but to no avail. Her work clothes covered in hot coffee, gravel, and blood stains. I got what I thought would make me happy and found that it was only misery gift-wrapped in a green bow. After a long day of drinking, snorting, shooting whatever I could, I stuffed the remaining forty-thousand dollars in a black gym bag and jumped in my car. I drove straight to Rich’s house, my dealer. I gave him a wad of cash in exchange for the phone number of his dealer. He was reluctant at first, but I assured him that I didn’t have the wherewithal to cut him out of the drug game and he would continue to have my business. Ten minutes later and I’m speeding down the highway toward Huntington – the drug port of West Virginia. Flooded by young, entrepreneurial dealers from Detroit, this is the city to meet someone on the next level of the drug game. For me, it was a suave, stout man that goes by the name J. I met him at a gas station and hopped in his car. I immediately told him I wasn’t interested in buying any drugs and he gave me a look of such offense you’d think that I just farted in his Denali. Before he could kick me out, I told him I needed someone “taken care of.” The way I delivered that euphemism would’ve made any mobster proud. J looked at me – a twenty-five-year-old white boy junkie from West Virginia – like I was playing a practical joke on him. I quickly told him that this money was for him; it was his finder’s fee. All I needed was for him to have a qualified individual call me to set up a meeting and to discuss further details. J smiled like he just made the easiest five-grand off the dumbest hillbilly and took down my phone number. Before I got out of his car he told me he needed to know a rough idea of the person who needed to “get gone” so he could call the right guy for the job. I told him it was a nobody – a piece of shit junkie that no one would miss. This brings us all the way back to Ronald. Ronald, sitting there across from me as the cigarette smoke inside the bar begins to burn my eyes, is completely unphased by it. He just stares at me with those massive, bulging bug eyes wanting me to get to the point of why the hell he just drove 350 miles from Detroit to meet up with some strung-out dopefiend. I grab my bottle of beer and ask him if he wants to go out for a smoke in my car so we can talk. Still not blinking, the big, serious bastard pushes himself up out of the booth and heads for the exit as I clumsily follow. I point out which car is mine and we both climb in our respective seats. I start the car to get the heat going while Ronald just stares straight ahead through the windshield. “So what’s the job?” Ronald asks with a voice so deep it’s hard to differentiate syllables. “Yeah, see that’s the thing,” I begin. “It’s not your average gig.” Ronald whips his gaze in my direction. “Not that I would know what your ‘average gig’ is,” I nervously clarify. “What is the job?” he repeats losing patience. I crack the window and let the chilly winter air creep in as I light up my smoke and think of how to word what I want to say. It seems like I had it so perfectly planned out earlier, but that was a few pills and many drinks ago. “I’m the target,” I blurt out. I can feel Ronald’s intense gaze like a warmth on the right side of my face. He doesn’t say anything, so I turn to look in those big eyes of his, face-to-face. “I want you to take me out,” I say, hoping this rephrasing of the same sentiment clarifies his confusion. “You want me to kill…you?” he asks with bewilderment. I nod my head and turn back to looking out the windshield and take a long drag of my cigarette. “What? Are you suicidal or some shit?” Ronald asks. “Not at all,” I respond. “I’m fucking miserable and hopeless and don’t really care if I live or die, but I’m not trying to leap off a bridge or anything like that.” I look over and still see Ronald struggling to wrap his mind around this. “Look, Ronald, it’s like this – I have no purpose in life. I’m not living. I’m just…existing.” Ronald is still looking at me like I’m a crazy white boy about to reveal that I’m strapped with explosives around my chest. “I’m a dopefiend, man” I say. “My mom would pray every day that I would get my shit together. That I would kick drugs, make friends – real friends, get a good job that I liked, and maybe settle down with a nice girl. Seriously. She would pray for those things to happen to me. She just wanted me to be happy. I see now that I’m not content with what I thought would make me happy.” “Maybe you should just go to rehab?” Ronald naively suggests with what sounds like genuine concern. “I’ve tried, man,” I say as I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “I just lack the motivation…and that’s where you come in.” I open my eyes and look over at him.
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“Do you see that gym bag in the seat behind me?” I ask him. Ronald shifts his massive frame around to peek in the back seat. “Yes,” he responds. “In that bag, is thirty thousand dollars,” I explain. “When you get out of this car, you’re leaving with it.” Ronald starts to look confused. “Consider it a retainer for your services,” I say. “Like a lawyer?” he asks. “Exactly like a lawyer,” I confirm. “Ok?” Ronald says. I point to the neon-green time display on the dashboard that reads “10:58 PM.” “Call it 11 PM,” I begin. “At 11 PM on December 6th five years from now, if I don’t have a college degree, have a job, have friends, have a girlfriend, and have five years of continuous sobriety from drugs and alcohol – if I don’t have these five things in five years – then I want you to track me down and put a fucking bullet in my brain.” Ronald slowly started to nod his head as the method to my madness began to make sense in his head. “You need me as motivation to get your life together,” Ronald confirms. “Yes,” I say with relief. I was worried that once I said the plan out loud it would sound crazier than it felt when I thought it, but it felt right. Ronald looked like he was deep in thought, and then a sly smile crept across his face. “Why are you smiling?” I ask. “This is the first time I’ve ever been asked to save a life,” Ronald said. “My momma would be proud…so please don’t fuck it up and make me kill your ass in five years,” he pleaded as he extended his hand for a handshake. I grab his hand with my own. “You’ve got a deal,” he says with a grin. He begins to move like he’s going to get out of the vehicle but then stops. “Wait a second…what’s to stop me from taking this 30k and turning ghost?” he asks. “Nothing,” I answer. “But, as long as I believe that you’ll keep your word, then that’s all I need.” Ronald opens the car door and the overhead light glows bright. He steps out into the cold night, shuts the door, and walks around to my side of the car. Before the dome light can fully extinguish, he opens the back door behind me, grabs the bag, shuts the door, then walks to my open window. “Before I get out of here, go ahead and write down your full legal name, social security number, current address, former addresses, and your driver’s license number,” Ronald instructs. A sobering shiver of fear runs up my spine as the full reality of the situation sets in. Ronald sees it in my eyes. I pull a napkin and a pen out of the glove compartment and write down the requested information and quickly hand it over to him. He folds it neatly and places it in his pocket. “There’s no going back now, brotha’,” he says with assurance. I watch him walk to his car and drive out of the lot. I close my eyes and take a deep breath in an effort to slow the furious beating of my heart. The ambient Appalachian sounds of crickets and tree frogs seemed to come from nowhere even though I know they’ve been there this whole time. I go to reach for the gear shift and notice the nearly-full bottle of beer in the cupholder. As if on autopilot, I grab the bottle and pour its contents onto the ground outside of my window and then chuck the empty carcass into an open dumpster before I drive home. Like I said – that was five years ago. Right now, I’m standing in the living room of my house, peering through the blinds at the driveway outside. I turn and look at the neon-green time display on the cable box and it reads, “10:57 PM.” Any minute now. I’m still getting used to calling it my house. It’s been years since my mom passed, but it still feels like hers. Even after getting married and having a baby – a family of my own – I feel like we’re just guests. Speaking of my family, I arranged for a mini-vacation for them while I stayed home to “work.” My wife and son went to spend a few days with her mother down south so I could have a quiet environment to focus. Needless to say, I had an ulterior motive. “10:59 PM”
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There they are, the headlights I’ve been looking for. I see a luxury sedan park beside my car. The headlights go off but the engine continues to idle. Once my eyes adjust back to the dark, I see Ronald’s massive silhouette sitting in the driver seat. I reach down in my pants pocket and nervously rub the sobriety chip between my thumb and pointer finger. Ronald kills the engine and steps out of his car. “Let’s do this,” I say to myself out-loud. I quickly exit the living room and walk through my study, catching glimpses of my reflection in the framed college degree on the wall. Have I aged that much in five years? I wonder how different Ronald looks. The doorbell rings just as I step into the entryway. I take a deep breath, say a little prayer, and open the door. The cold, December wind that seems to follow Ronald wherever he goes hits me hard. Without getting too good a look at my old acquaintance, I motion for him to hurry up and step inside. He shuts the door behind him and then turns around to face me. Before I can even say anything, he grabs my arm with a forceful grip and leads me in the direction of the kitchen. “C’mon,” he begins. “This won’t take long.” I suddenly feel sick to my stomach as this is not the warm reception I was expecting. What does he think? What does he know? More importantly, what does he think he knows? And, how the hell does he know his way around my house (I guess it’s my house now)? We enter the kitchen and he somehow manages to release my arm while simultaneously pushing me down into my chair at the kitchen table. I quickly realize that this is the Ronald I paid for. He stands beside me, looming tall like a monolith and just as ominous. His head blocks the kitchen light, making it difficult to see his features. “I knew you would come,” I say, breaking the silence. “You struck me as a man of your word in our meeting five years ago – a true soldier.” Ronald says nothing. He slowly reaches in his heavy jacket pocket and pulls out a purple velvet bag. He unties the knot and carefully removes one item at a time from the bag, placing them in a neat row in front of me. From left to right, I see a spoon, a clean syringe, a lighter, a piece of cotton, and a tiny bag of what can only be heroin. Ronald walks over to my refrigerator, grabs a bottle of water, and slides it across the table to me as my final ingredient. “You’re right. I am a soldier,” Ronald finally says. “I’ve been keeping tabs on you over the years. I saw you go to rehab, saw you go to college, saw you get married and have kids, saw you get your dream job – I saw you check-off those four things…but you hired me for five things,” Ronald says holding up five fingers. “I did,” I confirm. “Only you know if you’re clean. ‘To thine own self be true’ – isn’t that what they say in those meetings you go to?” he asks. I nod my head. “I told you to put a bullet in my head if I didn’t live up to my end of the deal,” I say. “Well, I took you as being metaphorical in that moment. This shit will kill you just as same as a bullet. I promise,” he replies. “Plus, no one is going to be looking for the killer of someone that died from an overdose, are they?” I look down at the collection of my old friends assembled on the table before me. “So, this is my test?” I ask. “More of an opportunity, really. If you’re happy with your new life, then just bag all that shit up and hand it back to me. If you’re not, then quit wasting both of our time and get to it.” I smile. “Why are you smiling?” he asks curiously. “The way you phrased that,” I say. “You’re testing me on being happy, not being sober. Most people don’t understand the difference.” Ronald looks into my eyes and smiles like he did five years ago when I paid him to save a life. “Ronald,” I begin, “you are grossly underpaid.”
Nick Roberts teaches high school English in Charleston, West Virginia. He conducted his undergraduate studies in English and his graduate studies in the art of teaching – both at Marshall University. In addition to writing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children, reading, watching movies, and weightlifting. Currently, he resides in St. Albans, WV, and is an advocate for people in recovery from addiction.
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Sarah Canterbury Taxi Cards My dad’s side of the family doesn’t get together often, not because of long standing drama but because of poor planning and communication. We did go to the beach together once, all 16 of us, and stayed in a colossal beach house that had ugly off-white carpet. My Grandpa Canterbury had already passed away, but Grandma Jane came with us. It was the summer before I started the 5th grade, and first time I thought, that’s not Grandma. It was the trip my brother Joshua taught me the game “Taxi” or what I later learned is sometimes called 52 card pick up. “Do you know how to play Taxi with a deck of cards?” Joshua asked handing me the Joker from the deck. “No.” “You’re the taxi” he said beginning to grin, “Now pick up your riders.” He threw the cards in the air and they scattered, flipping and falling to the ground. “Joshua!” “Pick up the riders” he said laughing. I wasn’t mad, he let me in on a new trick, one I knew we could play together. We must have tried it on everyone there, my cousin Gabrielle, Rachael, Derik, my Dad, but probably not my Mom. I don’t remember though. I only remember— Grandma Jane. “Do you want to play Taxi Cards?” we asked. I can see us now, smiling, handing her a card, then throwing the rest in the air. I don’t remember how or why we thought to try it again. I think after she picked up the scattered cards Joshua and I continued to talk about the game. Then, maybe, she asked us again, how do you play Taxi Cards? She had already forgotten. And so, we played again. Joshua again handed her the Joker, and I again tossed the deck or vice versa, and I watched her pick the cards up, carefully making sure each faced the same direction and the corners lined up together. Then her wrinkled hands held them out only to be asked again, “Do you know how to play Taxi?” “How do you play,” she asked with her curious blue eyes. “Well, you’re the taxi,” I said handing her the card, “now pick up your riders!” We threw the cards. She picked them up. We laughed. I hope it wasn’t as bad as I know it was, I hope we didn’t think to do it on our own, or that any part us of knew why it was wrong and did it anyway. Eventually I remember feeling sick, realizing maybe right then, it wasn’t forgetfulness. That it wasn’t just a senile grandmother who forgot silly grandmother things. I knew whatever made her continue to pick up the cards was scary, was wrong, was getting worse. But I didn’t say anything, and I still remember asking, “Do you know how to play Taxi Cards?” And we played, Again. Again. Again.
Sarah Canterbury is a student and writer born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. She is a graduate student at her Alma Mater, Marshall University where she majored in Creative Writing and Literature. Her nonfiction essay “The Books I Never Read” was published by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and her nonfiction essay M O V I N G L E T T E R S has been accepted for publication by GNU Journal. Sarah also has an upcoming academic publication with The James Dickey Review as well as forthcoming craft publications in Fiction Southeast.
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Leon Stokesbury on Frank Stanford interview by Clifford Brooks
In August of 2018 I met Leon Stokesbury to talk about the work and life of Arkansas poet Frank Stanford. Frank Stanford was a Southern poet that a colleague brought to my attention late in 2017, and since reading his book The Light the Dead See, I became single-minded in my search for the man behind the vast mythological landscape that I felt innately kin to. I decided to write a lecture on Stanford for Georgia State University’s series on Lost Southern Voices, but found scholarship on his work lacking. Fortunately, the same man who slid Stanford’s work in front of me also put the spotlight on Stokesbury as the key figure to consult. That made sense because in addition to editing Stanford’s book that started my quest, Stokesbury also wrote its introduction. After a few phone calls, a meeting was arranged. I was told ahead of time that Leon Stokesbury neither wastes time, nor respects those who do not approach poetry seriously. This made me more than a little nervous as the poet, lecturer, professor, and contemporary of Stanford, Leon Stokesbury, sat to my right. After three hours of conversation, I became closer to, and more fascinated by, Stanford’s body of work. Leon Stokesbury has a way of telling a story; of stringing words together in order to lay out all five senses that not only enlightened me about Stanford’s complicated worldview, but it also deepened the feeling that I’d found not one, but two kindred spirits. Since our initial meeting Stokesbury and I have exchanged emails about Frank Stanford, and though I am by no means an authority, I feel safe in my summation that Stanford is a poet due resurrection. 1) Did Frank Stanford name his mythology or the landscape he wrote into his poetry? If I wanted to dig in to find my own name for it, where would I begin? I must say I do not recall any name that Stanford had or gave his landscape. Maybe you could come up with one. All I know is it is a surreal representation of the world to which he was exposed where his father worked on the levee camps up and down the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River down below Memphis. When his father retired, when Frank was twelve and they moved away to Northern Central Arkansas to a county where African-Americans were not allowed to live, it was a sort of culture shock that changed Frank the child forever. After that, he only knew that world in his imagination. It is not hard to see how a poet might make great use of such events. The place to look for such a name would be some of the early poems like “The Singing Knives” and “The Snake Doctors” or somewhere in The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. Or some of the other poems in The Light the Dead See. I am still happy with the judiciousness I used in choosing the poems in that book. Winnowing just the wheat out and holding it up is always the aim, even if it is just one poem out of a volume or chapbook. But I did want to have each book represented, even the one or two weakest ones.
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2) What external factors sculpted Frank’s need to build a myth of place in his work? Did the fact he knew he was adopted force his hand to build a “family” within his verse? All that I’ve read mentions the shock Frank felt when he moved from where all his friends were predominantly black to a neighborhood where blacks were “unofficially excluded.” I welcome the opportunity to talk about Frank and his poems. I think I am almost the only one left from the poets at Arkansas that were close to Frank that first couple of years when he started writing in earnest. For me it was 1969 to 1971, fifty years ago. That was also Frank’s last years as a student at the university, and he only took courses in creative writing and poetry. Once he made up his mind to write poetry, anything else would just slow him down. At the time, I assumed he was working on a fifty year plan for his poetry, like the rest of us. But in retrospect, his plan was for ten years. More than once I heard him say he would never make thirty. He was twenty and I really thought that was just the melodrama we were all filled with at that age. Plath and Berryman and Jarrell were recently gone, and Lowell and Sexton were just around the corner. It was a different time back then. Frank was very aware of his adoption, which he was not aware of at all until, I believe, his stepfather died when he was fifteen. Until then, he thought his mother was his real mother. That’s what he told me, although I can’t help but think that such a belief would have required many, many other falsehoods. He also told me that he thought that he had the perfect biography for a poet. He did not know who he really was, so he could create any self he desired in his poems. And that is what he did. The poems he wrote in the late sixties and early seventies, and that would include much of “The Battlefield,” created this dream world, where I suspect Frank could have things the way he wanted them and not the way they were after his stepfather’s retirement when Frank was twelve. After the early seventies you can see Frank’s poems gradually move away from the child narrator or wunderkind protagonist and toward the first person voice of Frank as he wanted the reader to perceive he was in the present day. The obsessive voice turned from the past and his imagined violent childhood to an obsessive contemplation of violence and death by a man in his twenties. I think I once read something by CD Wright where she said Frank began to address Death as a “familiar.” A good way to put it. Of course, these are generalities and tendencies. You can find good poems of each kind throughout his whole work. As well as poems that do not have to do with either. At any rate, the adoption and the move away from Memphis and the Mississippi were enormously significant to his development as a poet. 3) How did his fascination with kung-fu movies, and especially the code of the Samurai influence his poetry? First, let me say that this was all fifty years ago, and when we spent all that time together Frank was 19 and I was 23. At that age, I know now, you really don’t know much about anything. When Frank’s stepfather died, he was fifteen. His mother just could not handle him, and so he was sent to Subiaco Academy run by the monks at Subiaco Monastery to finish the last two years of high school. As far as poetry prep goes, it was an incredible stroke of good fortune. The monks there introduced him to poetry and art, and the spiritual side of so many things, including Karate and Japanese Samurai spiritualism. In the tiny apartment Frank lived in above an old closed-down movie theater just off campus, we often spent the evenings drinking beer. Frank had a one sheet movie poster of Kirasawa’s Yojimbo hanging on the wall. He supported himself by teaching karate in some rooms across the street. One night he said he had to go to Ft. Smith the next day to try to win his black belt. Which he did. Often, Frank at night would begin to scratch himself and act almost as if he was possessed and laugh and I thought he might be possessed. It was only a few years later, after I had seen Yojimbo, and Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, that I realized he was imitating the characters played in those films by Toshiro Mufune. He loved them. Another writer he admired was Mishima. He was really impressed when Mishima committed ritual suicide in 1970. So even then Frank was spending time around the ideas he would later act upon. But at the time, none of this was clear to me. He just seemed the weirdest person I had ever met, and he loved poetry almost as much as I did. That first year or so, Frank was almost subservient to me. And to James Whitehead as well. I Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 55
did not in any way ask him to be, but I was flattered. Again, only years later did I come to realize that he was installing himself as the poetry student to me as the master or sensai. After a year or two, this ended because Stanford’s development as a poet was so rapid, and the poetic path he wanted to follow was so different from mine. He went his own path, and by the time he was 21 he had found the poets he thought were his true masters. They were not in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 4) What poets influenced Frank? Was he a fan of the classics? I know in prose he leaned heavily into O’Connor and Faulkner. Yes, the Southern grotesques were where he saw he belonged. He would try to place himself with O’Connor and Faulkner, as well as Carson McCullers and others. In the beginning, James Dickey held considerable sway as well. Those were Dickey’s prime time years. Right in the middle of them, he published Deliverance, which vaulted his influence. Frank met Dickey in 1970 at a writers’ conference at Hollins College. And just as Alan Dugan would do a couple of years later, Dickey advised Stanford to pay no attention to the classics, but instead steer his own way in directions no one had gone before. Now, Jim Whitehead and I loved the classics and the main tradition. Whitehead taught a new criticism approach to poetry, and Frank had NO interest in that approach. So, arguments about poetry began to crop up. Heated arguments. And Frank finally told us all off and went his own way. He dropped out of school and broke with us. In two-and-a-half years, he had gone from considering me his Master to saying I did not know what I was talking about. He married a wonderful woman named Linda Menson, and they moved to a house up on Mount Sequoia just at the edge of town, and if anyone wanted see him, they would have to go up on that mountain. I went up there once, and he sulked in silence. In retrospect, I can see now that he really was a bit ashamed that he had ever subjugated himself to us because it made it so difficult to take a stance of superiority, which is what he wanted to do. She worked and he wrote: “The Singing Knives” and “The Snake Doctors” and the beginnings of The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, an incredible year of discovery that ended, for reasons I know nothing of, in the end of his first marriage. He began to study the French Surrealists then, Breton as well as Cocteau and Merwin. And many of the poets Merwin translated Follain for example. 5) In The Light the Dead See I notice, and you mention, how Frank was always weaving death into his poetry, but more so toward the end of his life. He was only 29. Why was this? As I read, and keep reading, sex seems to more heavily commingle with his obsession with death. Is this a correct observation? As I think I mentioned earlier, you are correct in saying that the later poems become even more obsessive than the early ones in the way they address Death. And once again, although I did not see this at the time, Frank did not plan on making it past thirty. That fact is where all the urgency comes from. He wanted to have a complete body of work done by the age of 29, and he came pretty close to doing it. And you are correct about how he blended some sort of sex in with Death as he travelled down his road. In the early work, women don’t really appear. It is a world of men and boys on the cusp of puberty. The bisexual or even homosexual hints in the early poems were no accident. This type of union that we find in the blood brother motif in “The Singing Knives” and in “The Snake Doctors” was never talked about by Frank, at least not to me. But like Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick and many other works of American literature, Stanford’s early poems were about a boy or man alone, very alone, confronting the cosmos and the meaning, or lack of meaning, there. I think this was more than a literary device however. It was for Frank a real part of his early life. His desire to belong to something or someone comes through in characters like Jimmy and Baby Gauge and Born in the Camp with Six Toes Lewis. These were real people, although greatly embellished, in his past. At Frank’s funeral, I briefly met Jimmy. He seemed a man about forty-five years old, unremarkable. Certainly nothing like the invention in “The Snake Doctors.” But then why would he be? In the poems, and seemingly in life as well, as Frank got older this homo-bisexual aspect began to fade more into the background. I don’t believe it ever went entirely away, but his close relationships with his wives and CD Wright began to take up Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 56
more room. And the way he moved Death with a capital “D” in as a character of almost equal affection and/or intimacy speaks for itself. 6) Why was love such a tumultuous affair for him? It’s not easy for anyone, but Frank seemed to revel in it. How did that influence his poetry? I may not have as good an answer to that question as the several women he had in his life. To say that love was tumultuous for him or that he reveled in that tumult does not set Frank much away from maybe the majority of folks. It was the melodrama that he loved. The conflict inherent in the dramatic. All these things and life as well blended together. 7) In the example that Frank attempted to change his age to be younger and younger in regard to when he wrote his successful, first works: Why did he do that? What part of his personal ideology needed that diva behavior? Good question. I remember that used to drive me up the wall. Frank was so young to be writing so much. But that was not enough. He wanted to be a child prodigy. For a while he tried to say that he was born in 1949 instead of 1948. As he got older, he gave up on that. Also, the copyright dates in the front of the first edition of The Singing Knives in 1972 claim that some of the poems in the book were written when Frank was fifteen and sixteen and seventeen years old. This was just a bunch of bologna. I was there for many of them, and even helped on a couple. When Frank went up to Hollins and met James Dickey, Dickey told him what he always told any young poet asking for advice on how to do IT. Dickey always said that you should do whatever is necessary to put the best poems on the page. WHATEVER IS NECESSARY. And feel free to do anything or claim anything to advance your poems and yourself in the world of poetry. TELL ANY LIE. The world is a lie and so are your poems and since you are your poems, then you are any lie you wish to be. A poem is just a lie you told about yourself. The thing is there is some wisdom in all that. You don’t have to look too far into Dickey’s work to see how many of his poems are created out of that philosophy. For example, and there are so many in Dickey’s work, do you think that he really had the experiences he claims to have had in “The Shark’s Parlor” or “The Firebombing?” No. But his incredible gift for verisimilitude makes it seem so. I doubt if Frank had to be told such things twice. He had a greater gift for verisimilitude than Dickey! And so, after that Frank was off and running to create his whole dark grotesque world full of whatever lying creations he could come up with. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Stanford’s poems is this verisimilitude thing. You know that the best of those narrative poems could not be so, but they seem so when you read them. And it was as easy as pie to move the lie from your art to your own life. And since we are talking about someone who felt like he did not know who he was, then Frank would just create himself as he created his poems. 8) I never want to seem disrespectful of Frank’s suicide. That’s because I am not. However, he (as I understand it) he walked into his living room, found both his mistress and wife sitting together, then walked into the bathroom and shot himself in the chest 3 times. Instead of dealing with them, he let them deal with the horror of such a brutal end. What of his life put him in that mind frame? Was it the Samurai code you mentioned of the famous Japanese poet who “following that code” of his way no longer fitting the world needed to be removed from it? Did he have anything to do with orchestrating this scenario? Mishima? Perhaps. To protest what he perceived to be a modern world without honor, Mishima had the captain of his private army cut Mishima’s head off with a sword. Then one of his soldiers cut that captain’s head off with another sword. And a good time was had by all. You can never know exactly what is going on in someone else’s head, but in Frank’s case I do believe there was some manipulation and orchestrating going on. The suicide was premeditated. His late poems almost announce its coming. And the early ones seem to be setting the scene. The wife and mistress had spent several days together. Frank, knowing that they knew, got out of town. He had spent the previous two weeks in New Orleans partying as if there was no tomorrow. When he got back to Fayetteville, he found they had packed all his belongings in Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 57
his surveying truck. And then when he went into the house they told him he could not stay there anymore. So he left and said he’d be back and they would talk. Evidently, he drove to his surveying partner’s office and got the 22 pistol out of his partner’s desk and came back. It was then that he walked into the house, past the women, and, I believe, into the bedroom where he laid on the bed and did indeed manage to shoot himself 3 times in the heart. One bullet, it would seem, for his wife and one for CD Wright, and one perhaps for his first wife too. You cannot help but think that was as planned as Mishima’s final ritual. As Frank got older, too, he was, with each day, moving further away from that childhood world, mostlyimagined, half-real, where he and Jimmy and that bevy of little black boys dwelled. A bit like Dylan Thomas, he just could not find a way to reconcile himself to a lack of youth and a lack of innocence. The future is not what it used to be, as Yogi Berra pointed out. 9) How did religion play an influence, if any, over Stanford’s poetry? I don’t think Frank was religious in any traditional sense. His mother was evidently obsessively Roman Catholic, and that led to his being sent to Subiaco Monastery, and I don’t think the importance of that fact can be overstated. Frank made ample use of traditional Catholic symbology throughout his poems, and from the use of those symbols by his mother and the monks of Subiaco he got a ground floor education about the power of metaphor and figures of speech. With his mother being so devout and he being in such an acute need to find something or someone to believe in, he made the most of all the religious figures with which he came in contact. Again, A great deal of the meaning of “The Singing Knives” and, most particularly, “The Snake Doctors,” is about finding and using and inventing rituals to become one with another or others. “The Snake Doctors” is about a Catholic boy finding a way to join the Protestant tribe, about creating a way to go through a ritual of manhood. About not being alone anymore.
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Jeffrey Skinner interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us the beginnings of Jeffrey Skinner. Your life in letters has come full circle with a dance with danger at about 180 degrees. Please let the public in on the gangbuster style of life you’ve lived to the hilt. I grew up in Levittown, Long Island, about 36 miles from downtown Manhattan. Whenever I land at La Guardia and hear a cop yelling at taxis to move along I think, Ah, finally— people speaking without an accent! My own accent has been rubbed fairly smooth by living in many different places since then. But it returns in full when I get angry or tired. Then it’s kind of Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy—“Hey, I’m walkin heah!” My father was an FBI agent, and when he left the bureau he bought a private investigative firm. So for many years I worked in the “family business,” as an investigator. Before and after I’ve done many other jobs, among them stock boy at the A & P, waterfront director at a summer camp, lifeguard, factory worker, janitor, assistant to a research psychologist, actor, swimming pool cleaner, roofer, etc. Even though I recently retired from a career as a professor of English at the University of Louisville, where I taught for nearly thirty years, I still consider myself working class. I could tell you about other ways I “lived to the hilt,” especially in my twenties and early thirties, but I’m not sure the statute of limitations has fully run out. So I won’t. 2) Your poetry has a jagged reality imbedded in a good blues riff of, “It's all gonna be alright.” That’s rare. No melodrama, but no fear showing the faces of doubt, addiction, and concern the cosmos doesn’t give a shit (yet you know it does). How do you accomplish this in your poetry? This is, I think, a very interesting and insightful question! I do have the Irish view—in the short term things pretty much follow Murphy’s Law, and what can go wrong, does. But—all will be well in the long run, and all manner of things shall be well . . . I do think there is a purpose and plan to the universe. The alternate idea, that the universe came from nothing, for no reason, is going nowhere and is meaningless (notwithstanding those who, quote, “make their own meaning”) seems to me absolutely absurd. I find it much harder to believe than that there is an ultimate ground of non-contingent, sentient reality—or God—behind and beneath this whole theater. I’ve come to full belief (no doubts? —yes, of course I doubt) slowly, through painful observation and experience of my own brokenness, as well as a great deal of reading and thought. For me belief must engage both heart and mind. I love reading in science (lay science; I suck at math), and don’t think there is any contradiction between that discipline and religious belief. We’re not going to discover anything that doesn’t have, at some level, God’s fingerprints on it. If we do, then, ok—I’ve lost Pascal’s wager. But it was still a good bet. Given the above, I want a poetry interested in ideas, in ultimate questions, and specifically in how such questions play out in actual human lives. Sentimentality and melodrama are anathema; life is obviously deeply Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 59
tragic, and deeply joyful; baroque flourishes are unnecessary. That said, I consider myself a minimalist and a romantic—one who distains frills but also wants to go too far . . . and sometimes does.* 3) I first found you from your book, “The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets.” It’s a self-help memoir that outlines your career as a private investigator, moves into a brilliant show of your mastery in poetic language, but does poke (respectfully) at the MFA world that (does at times) take itself too seriously. What sparked this book’s birth? Is there any chance you’d consider writing a follow-up? In 1995 my wife, the writer Sarah Gorham, and I founded Sarabande Books. Part of our mission, as we went along, was to publish books in what we called the Writer’s Studio series—books on writers and writing. Neither of us wanted to publish our poetry with the press (“pull down thy vanity”+), but I was nearing the end of a long teaching career and I thought I could contribute to the series without fear of vanity. Sarah did too. So I looked back on my career, and said what I had learned about writing poetry, about teaching, and about the writing life—which for me had included a large portion of work outside the academy. Humor is part of my psyche, so that had to be there. My attitude had always been: serious about the art, light about the artist (me). I think most people would agree at this point that the MFA industry is both a blessing and a curse. Kind of like money—which can be either sacred or profane, depending on how it’s used. The book was also a way of doing homage to my own teachers (Philip Levine, and others), and to teaching in general, which, if you work it right, is an honorable profession. Yes, there’s a chance I’ll do a follow up volume. I’m just waiting to get pregnant. 4) What question have you been asked so many times you’d throw up if forced to answer it again? (You don’t have to answer.) Where do you get your ideas? Answer 1: poems are made of words, not ideas. Answer 2: from everything that has ever entered me. Answer 3: I don’t know. 5) If you could design a Literary Throwdown Festival of All Time with 10 writers/poets (living or dead) who would you include? Ha! Great question. My cousin Joe Schick is an MMA fighter, so we’ll use that analogy. Let’s start with the Pearl Poet, for his endurance and shocking punching power; Rumi for the bottomless depth of his game; Thomas Campion for the beauty of his footwork and timing; Shakespeare because he’s still heavyweight champion of all time, with striking as good as his ground game, and both better than any other; Walt Whitman for his incredible cardio; Emily Dickenson for her lethal inside strikes and kicks; T.S. Elliot for innovative submission moves that changed the game; Zibignew Herbert for grappling that brought down the biggest opponent; Anna Swir for the comedy of her trash talk, backed up by real power; and Louise Gluck for her hands of stone. I limit this to poets only; if “writers” my answer would be different. 6) Who inspired you to write, who inspired you to become a P.I., and who motivated you to teach college in Kentucky? In graduate school for psychology I somehow ran across a book by W.S. Merwin. I read it, and was shocked that no one had told me this particular drug existed in the world. Then, I recognized it as my art, read all the poetry in the university library, quit the MS program in psychology, and started writing what I thought was poetry. And never looked back. I became a P.I. because of my dad, who taught me the trade. Many poets inspired me to write, and to widen my writing, and to build a life in poetry. Especially, my teachers—Dick Allen, Judy Sherwin, Howard Moss, David Ignatow, Daniel Halpern, and, especially, Philip Levine. Levine became my “poetry father.” His influence on my life was immense.
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I was motivated to teach in Kentucky by my two young daughters, who were fond of regular meals and the occasional ice cream cone. Also, the job was a 2 x 2 load, which was attractive, because I knew I would keep writing. It turns out it was the right move, the right place. I’ve now lived in Kentucky longer than I’ve lived in any other location. It’s my home. 7) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but never have? (Please answer that one.) If you could have been gifted in some other area besides poetry, and done it as a vocation/career, what would it have been? Answer: stand up comic. 8) Tell us about your writing style and rituals you go through to get your head in the game. I listen on earphones to “post rock” and “ambient” instrumental music, like Rena Jones and Tristeza—can’t be too dynamically varied, and can’t have human voices or lyrics. I read fiction or science, first, then poetry, as warm up. I say to myself, Jeff (I call myself Jeff), just fill the page with lines that interest you—it doesn’t have to be “good.” I try and write at the same time every day, and do some of both composition and revision each day. As to writing style, I will keep pieces of writing that seem both fresh and sound “like me.” At this point, I know what that means, though I am loathe to articulate further. I do tell students, I’d should add, that I have learned through experience that life and circumstance change, repeatedly and unpredictably, and it’s good to train oneself not to depend on any set ritual. I have written, and can write, under almost any circumstance I find myself in. I can also not write for periods of time, when it seems the right thing to do. 9) What are you reading? Submission, by Michel Houellebecq; God’s Crime Scene, by Warner Wallace; and The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe 10) How can we find your new chapbook? How is it different from your previous works? It’s called White Boys from Hell, and I think it engages “political” issues in a much more direct way than is usual for me, though I think it still does so obliquely. Here’s a link: https://www.crpress.org/shop/whiteboysfromhell/ My website: Jeffreyskinner.net
* “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.” (Whitman)
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Chocolate Cecil I misheard a commercial this morning Thought they were selling Chocolate Cecil Didn’t know what it was but It sounded good I wanted some and this Is the way I suppose hawkers figure: people hear Only flying shards of their ads So every word and/or image must Have something shiny or sweet stuck to it And here my mind inserts like A poem but I’m retired and don’t get paid To think that way anymore I don’t get paid to think at all It’s just me and the dog plus earbud Music coffee notebook, no one caring What kind of word factory I’ve become Not that anyone much did before But now zippo, which I can’t upon sober Reflection say doesn’t release And calm me because it does At least when I’m of sober mind Otherwise like everyone else I want To be spoken of and remembered— What Achilles wanted what kids show you With their big heads, eyes, and sticky Outstretched palms also most Of the writers I followed and loved are dead They’re not talked about or read Anymore which is amazing to me I got so high reading Barthelme for example In the West End Café slamming shots And beer there I could turn either Right or left and blubber on about How his stories reached into My chest, curled a finger around The comic trigger of existence and pulled And off I went, a center-shot piñata Laughter and candy flying Every which way and the woman I had turned to would know, she would Know who and what I was talking about But no more I don’t read the new Writers I’m sure they’re great I just feel closer to the dead ones They were of me of my time which Is why new people need new writers For them it’s radical, to me Humans seem more and more made Of the same material, what distinguishes Us is where we’re headed and What we take with us on the ride I’m bearing down on god I take my fellow drunks and the people Of my flesh and the making of poems Vanity stubbornness hope And the occasional bar of Chocolate Cecil or whatever sweet thing I can pluck from thin air and make real.
Reverse Snow Globe This morning I was dressing, drawing One pant leg up & then the other When I saw my leg disappearing, saw That it was old. There is no clinical Answer to the only questions that matter, I thought, & went to make coffee. Open bag by pulling apart little metal clips. Let beans breathe out. Breathe in. Then the grinding & the full release, The oily dark sexual scent Filling the kitchen, waking the house. My parents drank it black, & when We drove each Christmas from Levittown To Buffalo the highway tunneled Through a blizzard, front & back seats Of our Rambler a warm hush, While outside white slammed against White, whirled flakes buffeting Our windows. We were sealed inside A capsule, our reverse snow globe. Those parents were younger Than I am now, young like America After the war. They took no sugar, & When mother calmly opened the thermos To fill father’s screw off cup, a curl Of steam ribbboned up, a scent Like black mink to the touch. Or so I imagined. I had not yet tasted coffee. We had no fear of the cold surround— It might have been another galaxy. Somehow I knew I would come Here, to this present moment, Though not how long it would take Nor by what means. I make coffee For the taste & smell, for the hell of it. Those I love will never die.
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The Astronaut’s Son You were burned to ash so there’s nothing To lament except that portion of you I have in mind: every picture and word and touch. Of course, others have their own versions. Maybe one we share is weekend you, When we’d gather at your house and hit The bottle, joke, toss kids around, until finally You’d return from golf, say a quick hello And bam, right to your chair, the burgundy leather La-Z-Boy. You’d be conscious to gone In seconds, your hand still on the chair lever Like a stick shift, head back eyes closed Mouth open, as if your body were pressed down By earth’s gravity, your capsule laboring On the platform, your snore shaking the room. Suddenly the gantry fell away and you Were off, plunging through a frictionless dark. Isn’t it time, my father, to open your eyes To Saturn, the Magellanic Clouds, the Tarantula Nebula, all undistorted by atmosphere And the dream squabbles of family and business? Your ship recedes in the night sky. I know Nothing can enlarge the dead. Your chair is empty; You yourself a fierce glitter beyond time.
Douceur de Vivre You have to wake up inside the writing while writing, but first you have to drown a little. I said something similar, before words, using my body to surf the waves off Jones Beach. I liked being carried by saltwater, my head poking from the foam lip like an emperor’s head from a ruffled collar. But also I liked when the wave curled me in its fist & slammed me down— holding my breath, not knowing which way was surface—that mortal panic salutary to what would come later in writing, in life. Finally, to give up thrashing & go limp until the wave carried me to the shallows & I broke the surface, & saw mother reading her paperback on the sand.
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Kodac Harrison interview by Clifford Brooks Kodac Harrison grew up in Jackson, Ga. and after earning a BS from Ga. Tech, and a MBA from Tulane, he committed himself to a life as an artist. He played his first professional gig at a place called “East of Eden” in Salinas, California. Since then, he has made 18 recordings of original music and spoken word, embarked on 7 tours of Europe, co-edited 4 anthologies of poetry, and sold his original paintings. Kodac held the visiting McEver Chair of Poetry at Ga. Tech in 2010 and again in 2016. In 2013, he released his first book, which is a retrospective of poems and lyrics entitled The Turtle and the Moon. In the winter of 2015, Senate Records released an audio version of his book. In early summer of 2017, Kodac released his 18th musical recording entitled, From Tupelo to Memphis. Kodac was chairman of Poetry Atlanta for a dozen years and started, as well as hosted, the award winning Java Monkey Speaks for 15 and 1/2 years. 1) Let’s begin at the beginning: Where are your roots planted? Where have you grown over the years? Where do you plan to flourish the rest of your life? I lived in a small house in Jackson, Georgia for the first eighteen years of my life. Even though I grew up next door to the town library, I was more interested in sports and music than reading. My family was very religious and I spent a lot of time at the church. My father was a dentist, but he was ill most of my youth and died when I was nine. Things were tough and I spent my time, when I wasn’t in school or playing organized sports, working in the local textile mills. My mother was a school teacher, but was not much of a reader. In the 50s and early 60s, I lived in a segregated world. I pretty accepted the way things were, until I left Jackson. Travel and music expanded my outlook. I received a scholarship to Georgia Tech, where I received a BS in Textiles. It was a tumultuous time, with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Vietnam. I enrolled in ROTC, which was a requirement for the first two years, (that requirement was soon dropped) and after receiving a low number in the draft lottery, I decided to continue in ROTC my last two years. This would give me more options. Sure enough my mother remarried while I was at Tech, and my step-father offered me the opportunity to go to grad school. After being commissioned as a second Lieutenant, I traveled to New Orleans, where I received an MBA at Tulane. I had started playing guitar my senior year at Tech. In New Orleans got into music even more. I made a commitment to living the life of an artist. I became Kodac in New Orleans. I bought my Martin D-35 acoustic guitar and started playing every day. I went to New Orleans trying to do what others wanted me to do. I left trying to do what I wanted to do. After Leaving New Orleans, I entered the US Army. I spent 4 months in Texas and then traveled to Monterey, California, where I spent the remainder of my two years in the military. Almost immediately, after being discharged from the Army, I booked my first professional music gig at a place called “East of Eden,” in Salinas California. Salinas is 17 miles inland from Monterey and the home of John Steinbeck. I was highly educated, but not in literature. I wanted to catch up on my reading starting with Steinbeck. I read everything Steinbeck had written. About this time I read an interview with Bob Dylan in “Playboy,” where he called Henry Miller his favorite living author. I had had heard Miller’s name and knew he lived in Big Sur, which was just south of Monterey. Miller gave me a definition of a committed artist and lead me to other writers such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I also tried to catch up on classic American writers, such as Faulkner and Hemingway. Of course I was also reading a lot of lyrics. After leaving the Army and playing music in California for over a year, on the spur of the moment, I came back East to sing in a friend’s wedding. I then moved to West Virginia, where some of the musicians I had met in New Orleans now lived. For the next few years, I traveled back and forth between Georgia and West Virginia almost on a seasonal basis, even hitch-hiking at times. I moved to Atlanta, then New York City for a short time, before permanently settling in the Atlanta/Decatur area. Mark Twain said that travel is the antidote to bigotry. I have traveled all over this country and made eight tours of Europe. I count travel, along with music and literature, with wiping out any remaining bigotry left over from my childhood. I have continued pursuing a life as an artist.
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2) Please explain your unique philosophy of how music and poetry share an unbreakable bond. Early on I never considered myself a poet. I was a songwriter. Critics were the ones who started calling me a poet, but I resisted that label. I only accepted the label, after I started performing words without music and after I started hosting poetry readings, such as “Java Monkey Speaks.” Not all lyrics are poetry, but some are. Listen to Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen. I mean Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Of course there is an unbreakable bond. I was looking for an outlet to express my emotions. I found it with words and music. 3) Who in music and poetry have influenced you the most? When I was growing up there was no FM radio, no internet or cable. The only music I heard was top 40 on AM radio. I discovered the music I love through English musicians such as The Rolling Stones. I loved the emotion in American blues and R & B. In fact, I discovered Otis Redding, who lived 45 miles south of Jackson, in Macon, through the Rolling Stones. The first concert I went to, the summer before he died, was an “Otis Redding Home Coming Show.” Even though I never saw the original band in Macon, I would become a fan of the Allman Brothers Band, with Duane Allman. After I started playing music myself, I was drawn to poetic singer-songwriters like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen. 4) What musicians/bands have you toured with, and what’s you favorite venue in which you’ve performed? There was the afore mentioned “East of Eden” in Salinas. The first place I played in Atlanta was the “Little Five Points Pub.” For a long time “The Trackside Tavern” was kind of home base for me. Another dive bar I loved was “Jim Collins” in Savannah. I played “Eddie’s Attic” and the “Cotton Club” on Peachtree many times. I played a club in Prague during the Prague International Jazz Festival that was great. Actually there were two clubs in Germany, where I played on every tour, that remain special to me, “The Wegwarte” in Lucklum, and “Café Eusebia” in Braunschweig. I loved playing “688” and “The Moonshadow” here in Atlanta and “Club Passim” in Boston, along with ”The Other End” and “The Living Room” in New York City. The following musicians I will list fit one of the following criteria: I shared billing with them, they performed live with me for at least a set, or they played on one of my songs recorded in the studio. Greg Allman, Patti Smith, Steve Miller, Brendan O’Brien, John Mayer, Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), Kristian Bush (Sugarland), Tommy Talton, Randle Bramlett, Caroline Aiken, Delbert McClinton, Alejandro Escovedo, Marianne Faithfull, The Bo Deans, Warren Zevon, and many more wonderful musicians. You didn’t ask, but I’ve been on the bill with many great poets at Java Monkey and elsewhere, such as Natasha Trethewey, Patricia Smith, Kevin Young, and Thomas Lux. 5) What question do you never want to be asked again? I really don’t mind being asked any question, but the one I’m tired of answering is where my name came from. 6) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never been? What’s the answer? I can’t think of one. 7) How important is formal study in your opinion with both musical and poetic composition? I’ve never had formal study in either, so I guess in my case not very important, but only in my case. 8) How do you want to be remembered? As an artist! www.kodacharrison.net www.facebook.com/kodacharrisonArtist
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Echo Garrett interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What’s your story, morning glory? What voodoo made you? Without prying (too much) what childhood magic other magazines missed - made you? I grew up in a neighborhood in Madison, Tennessee – just outside of Nashville -- with few children. I was an only child until the age of five, so the birds and critters in the woods and the creek behind our house were my companions. I’d climb the sugar maple tree in our frontyard and entertain myself by making up songs and stories. My dad was a songwriter, and I’d often hear him in the basement working on a song and playing his Gibson guitar. One of my earliest memories is of Patsy Cline, who had recorded my dad’s song “Back in Baby’s Arms,” coming by to see us. She would flick her red, white and blue cigarette lighter that played “Dixie” for me over and over again. With her dark hair and eyes, fair skin and slash of red lipstick, I thought she looked like Snow White. Because I was so lonely as a kid, my stories and my imagination kept me company. I used to pray to have an older brother. I pictured what he looked like and named him John. I would pretend that he protected me while I played in the woods. As I got older I realized that was an impossibility. Or so I thought, but that’s another story. From watching Dad’s devotion to music and seeing all his sheet music and hit records framed and hanging on the walls, I knew that you could make a living from words early on. I decided when I was in fourth grade and started reading Nancy Drew mysteries that I wanted to be a writer. I especially loved biographies and history. I used to get into trouble, because I loved books so much that I’d sneak and read in the crack of light coming in the bedroom door and read for hours. Once the bedroom I shared with my sister caught on fire, but when I told our parents, they thought it was one of my ruses to stay up and read. I went back to the bedroom and told my little sister that Mom and Dad said we had to stay in bed. Our parents smelled the smoke and came running in a minute later. In high school I worked for my dad’s publishing company House of Gold Music on Music Row. By that point he had 25 staff writers working for him. I watched their examples of what it meant to work at crafting a song. Most of them came to the office every day and worked in pairs or trios. Dad literally had to purchase another house down the block, which was nicknamed the Writers’ House. Everyone wanted to be part of the magic that happened at House of Gold, which often had the most #1 songs of any publishing house in town. When it came to sharing what I wrote, I was pretty shy, but my high school English teacher Miss Sharon Tracey started taking my poetry and entering it into literary contests. To my shock I started winning. Then I won in the talent category for my poetry in a national teenage pageant. Without my teacher’s faith in me I’m not sure I would have had the courage to pursue my career as a writer. 2) What literary goal did you first meet that created a sense of hope that your life in letters would be a success? I got a job as an editorial assistant at McCall’s Magazine. I worked for the managing editor and assistant managing editor in the Helmsley Building that straddled Park Avenue and was across from Grand Central Station. Initially, I’d worked as a secretary in ad sales, because jobs in editorial departments weren’t hard to Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 66
come by. A friend of mine Jeannie Ralston, an editorial assistant who was also from Tennessee, tipped me off to the fact that the book editor needed help reading through her slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts). So for six months I would lug big hefty bags filled with manuscripts home with me on the Long Island Railroad. I’d read them and either send them off with a rejection letter or give my comments on the ones I deemed worthy of additional readings. Next I worked as an assistant editor at Venture Magazine, which was a business magazine that covered entrepreneurs and startup companies. I quit when the editor-in-chief failed to give me a promised promotion and instead raised the bar on what I’d need to do. My husband Kevin said, “You wanted to be in New York City to be a writer, not an editor, so why don’t you go for it.” That was 1988, and I’ve been freelance ever since. My focus was writing for magazines initially. But then while writing a feature story for Success Magazine, I ran across a story that I thought would make a great book. I knew nothing about the process of getting a book published. So I asked a few friends in the industry and one of them gave me the name of a contributing writer to Inc. named Paul Brown. He generously sat down with me for two hours one day and explained everything about writing a book proposal and sample chapters. He explained all about how it worked and gave me a copy of one of his successful proposals. 3) There’s a raging debate over whether or not an agent is helpful. Where do you stand? I got really lucky when I first started writing books. I knew a little bit about agents from working for the managing editor at McCall’s. In those days, top writers even had agents pitching feature stories, because they often got $3 or $4 a word for pieces that might run as long as 3,0004,000 words. I knew the names of a lot of agents when I realized I had a book that I wanted to write. Everyone told me it was nearly impossible to get an agent, though. Because my dad traded picking cotton as a teen for picking guitars with his best friend Buddy Holly and went on to have a 60+ year career in music, I ignore naysayers. I bought a copy of The Writer’s Market Guide, which listed hundreds of agents along with their genres and books they had represented. I carefully went through the entries that listed business books and picked out the ones that sounded like they might be a fit. Then I started cold-calling, looking for someone to read my book proposal and to represent me. My first two calls, the receptionists were rude and dismissive. My southern sensibilities led me to believe those agents weren’t a good fit for me anyway then. My third call, the woman who answered the phone listened politely, then said, “Hang on just a moment.” To my surprise, the owner of the agency Denise Marcil came on the phone and said, “You’ve got 30 seconds to give me your pitch.” For a slow talking Southern girl, who got thrown out of line for taking too long the first time I tried to order a sandwich, that was a real challenge. But I guess whatever I said was okay, because after I finished. She said, “If you get me your proposal and sample chapters this afternoon, I’ll give you an answer by 2 pm tomorrow.” I was elated. Partly because she was interested, but partly because I could save postage by walking to her building, which happened to be a few blocks from our Upper West Side apartment. We were living lean – not large – and I watched every penny. True to her word, Denise called at 2 pm on the dot. “I love what you’ve written and I want to represent this book,” she said. “Why don’t you come by and let’s meet and talk about next steps.” I practically danced down West End Avenue. She pitched our book “How to Make a Buck and Still Be a Decent Human Being” to several major publishing houses. We met with the top three that expressed the most interest. I’d made a bet with Rick Rose, who I was writing the book about, that we’d get a six-figure advance – again something that everyone told me was virtually impossible as an unknown, first-time author. I told him that he owed me a nice stereo sound system if we hit about the six-figure mark. On the afternoon of the auction deadline, Denise called with the news that HarperBusiness had come in with a pre-emptive bid. That editor Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 67
was the one with whom I had the best chemistry anyway, so we agreed to accept the offer. A huge stereo system was delivered to our apartment a few days later. We finally gave it away just last year. Denise was my agent for 18 years. She got me one of my favorite projects, which was to write the story of The Iams Company and Clay Mathile, the brilliant entrepreneur behind the company’s success. For that book called Dream No Little Dreams, I interviewed more than 100 people in person over two-year period. Clay became my friend and mentor. From him I learned the importance of a mission statement. She represented me for “Why Don’t They Just Get a Job? One Couple’s Mission to End Poverty in their Community,” about one of the best managed nonprofits in the US. She tried to sell My Orange Duffel Bag: A Journey to Radical Change over two rounds with dozens of publishers starting in 2007. Then she announced she was semi-retiring and only keeping a few clients. I wasn’t among that number. I was in shock and felt abandoned. Then in the next breath, she told me that Michael Congdon of the Don Congdon Literary Agency, one of the oldest and most prestigious in Manhattan, wanted to represent me. I was hopeful and my spirits immediately lifted. He tried to sell My Orange Duffel Bag, too, and again the rejections piled up. Finally by late 2009, Sam Bracken, whose story I told in My Orange Duffel Bag, and I decided to simply self-publish the book, which was a graphic mini-memoir and self-help book. Within the first six months of publishing we sold about 12,000 copies. We won every contest that I entered the book, racking up six national awards for Best Young Adult Nonfiction and Best Self Help as well as two international awards for Best Designed Book in the world. Then a third agent named Jan Dupree, who Sam knew through his new job at FranklinCovey, told us she wanted to represent the book. She represented big celebrity clients like Dr. Phil and several others. Six weeks later, after Sam met with six publishers who expressed interest, we became the only self-published book ever acquired by Random House. She got us a nice advance. Our printing was 65,000 copies, almost all of which sold out. However, the focus of the imprint we were on changed right before our book was re-released in June 2012, and the editor, who was our champion, was fired. Ironically, our book, which was about an orphan, became an orphan book. Although she signed me to an exclusive deal to represent me, we were not a good fit. I severed our relationship after about a year and half. In comparing notes with several friends who are authors and based on my own experiences, finding the right agent is a process that requires diligence. Some are great editors with strong strategies about how to build interest for your book. But there are a lot of agents out there who go silent and allow projects to languish or communicate with clients very little. At this stage in my career, I believe in hybrid publishing and strike my own deals. I’d rather be in control of my book’s destiny. 4) My Orange Duffel Bag is your book that stands as the gospel of how self-publishing is done right. Tell us about the inspiration of that book, and the lengths you went to create it. After working with Clay Mathile, I wrote a mission statement: I tell great stories that inspire others to greatness. Shortly thereafter my husband was injured in a car accident. At the time I was editor-in-chief of “Atlanta Woman,” I was on contract to ghostwrite a book, and we had a teenager and preteen boy. We’ve been considering adopting a girl, but Kevin’s accident changed our plans. We prayed together that God would take our dream of helping an orphan and expand it. The next day I was on my way to a meeting with the senior vice president of marketing for Mohawk Industries with two people from a design firm that had engaged me to write the company’s marketing materials. On the way to Dalton, we got caught in one of Atlanta’s legendary traffic jams. The owner of the firm started telling me about the man were supposed to be meeting with. He knew I wrote books and thought Sam Bracken had a great story. He told me that he’d been homeless when he came to Atlanta to accept a football scholarship at Georgia Tech, that he’d grown up around motorcycle gangs and mobsters, and that he was now married with children and had a successful career. We never did make it to Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 68
the meeting but after three hours of hearing about Sam, I thought If even half of this is true, it would make a great book. I asked them to give him my number and call me if he wanted help with his book. That was in 2005. For the next two years we worked on a full-blown memoir. My agent kept turning it back saying it was too grim. Finally, in late 2007 Sam, who by then had taken a job with FranklinCovey, called me and asked if I could a short book summarizing his life that he could start selling at speeches. I said, “Sure.” I thought about it and remembered that Sam had told me that music, movies and art had saved him. I wrote most of the book in about a week. When I showed it to him, Sam was wowed. Then I sent it to Denise Marcil. She called up and said, “Don’t do anything with this book until I get a chance to take it out.” We put together a marketing proposal, and by spring 2008 she had interest from four publishers. The problem with two of them was that they wanted us to change it to fit their formula. What we’d put together was a graphic nonfiction book that had every single page designed. We worked with a design firm out of Canada that specialized in edutainment, and my husband Kevin, an internationally awarded photographer donated more than 60 images to the book. The first part of it is written almost in poetry in a child’s voice. The second part – once Sam leaves Las Vegas, packing his few belongings into an orange duffel bag he’d gotten at a football camp – is written in a straight narrative. Then the last section of the book is what we dubbed Sam’s 7 Rules for the Road. Sam and I had a vision of starting a movement to bring attention to the plight of homeless youth, kids aging out of foster care and high poverty youth. We planned to do life-plan coaching with teens through young adults based on the transformational change process that Sam had created to help himself. We called it a mini-memoir with a purpose combined with self-help. It didn’t fit neatly into any category. Finally, an executive at Harper fell in love with it. She said she thought it would be the seminal self-help book of the last quarter century. We were thrilled. Then the 2008 crash hit and all negotiations stopped. Over the next 18 months Denise tried and then Michael tried. We racked up more than 60 rejections. By summer 2009, we met with our design partners and decided to just do the entire book the way we thought it should be done and publish it ourselves. We also started the Orange Duffel Bag Initiative in the spring of 2010 By May we had a book launch. I got Sam on CNN and the front page of the living section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and highlighted in several other publications. I set up a ton of book signings for us. The day after our initial launch, I got a marketing newsletter in the mail. It included a profile of a woman named Kathy Murphy, founder of The Pulpwood Queens, the largest meeting and discussing book club in the world. She was noted for spotting hit books before anyone else noticed them and the profile said she didn’t care whether it was with a big publisher or self-published. I ran to my desk and typed out what my husband calls a love note to her, telling her that I was FedExing a copy of the book. She responded and promised to call me the next day once she’d looked at it. I was cooking dinner by the time the phone finally rang. She was practically screaming into the phone about how much she loved our book. When I told her that we’d gone through so many rejections, she said she was going to help us make it a bestseller. “If you sell 1,000 copies in the first month, I’ll dye my hair orange to match your cover,” she declared. By the end of June, Kathy’s hair was bright orange. The response to the book was astonishing. I’ve already shared the rest of the story of the book. The best thing that came out of it was the nonprofit. At this point, I no longer run it, but we’ve got amazing leaders and a fantastic working board and certified coaches. We’ve recently graduated our 1,000 student from our coaching program. The Orange Duffel Bag Initiative (www.theODBI.org) is the youngest nonprofit to win Emory University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award. 5) What are your other books, and where can we find them? My latest books are with Lt. Colonel Mark Green (retired, US Army) and include Step Out, Step Up: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Transitions and Military Service and Warrior’s Code 001: 7 Vital Steps to Resiliency, which was released Labor Day weekend at an event in Missouri called VetFestLive. The book Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 69
became an Amazon Bestseller in eBooks in the self-help category. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, your readers can download it for free. 6) What are a few events you have in the rest of 2018, and how can our readers sign up? Kathy Murphy made both books her November Book of the Month for the Pulpwood Queens. Right now she had more than 775 chapters in the US and internationally. You can start a chapter of her book club. We’ll be doing a book signing at The Book Exchange in Marietta the weekend before Veteran’s Day. I will also be taking part in the Writers Retreat that you are putting on December 1-2. Mark and I will both be featured authors at Kathy’s Girlfriend Weekend, where more than 50 authors will gather along with book club members in January in Jefferson, Texas. I’ve made lifelong friends there and been so inspired. 7 What projects are you working on now, and when can we hope to get our hands on them? I’m working on the remarkable story an entrepreneur in the hair care industry named Jim Markham. He has owned 5 successful companies – the most well-known is PureOlogy, which he sold to L’Oreal. Jim, who came from a tiny town in rural New Mexico, got his start when his creative mentor, a hairstylist to the stars named Jay Sebring, was murdered along with Sharon Tate and several others by the Manson family. He stepped into Sebring’s shoes and cut hair of the biggest celebrities of the day from Paul Newman to Johnny Carson to Frank Sinatra. Like so many of the people I choose to write about, he’s overcome multiple challenges to get to where he is today. We plan on having the book out next spring. I’m also adapting the scripts for an episodic series about a Formula One race car driver into a book, which should also be out next year. Echo Montgomery Garrett is the author of 15 books and her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets. EchoMontgomeryGarrett.com | Twitter: @echogarrett | Instagram: EchoMontgomeryGarrett | Facebook: Echo Montgomery Garrett Here are the links to Mark’s book in the BookLogix BookStore: https://shop.booklogix.com/Step-Out-Step-Up-7833.htm?categoryId=-1 https://shop.booklogix.com/Warriors-Code-001-8200.htm?categoryId=-1 And then here they are on Amazon.com: Step Out, Step Up - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631832107 Warrior’s Code - https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631833847 To purchase a copy of My Orange Duffel Bag, contact me at email@example.com or for bulk copies, contact Sam Bracken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Connor Garrett interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us the road map of who you are and where you grew up. What dreams did you have as a kid, and which of those have come true? What new dreams have begun to seep in as a young adult? I was born in New York City and grew up in Marietta, Georgia. My first dream was to be an explorer like Ferdinand Magellan. Then I saw Castaway in the first grade, and I changed my mind because of the dreadful prospect of being shipwrecked and becoming best friends with a volleyball. By second grade, I had decided on becoming a garbage man, so I could ride on the back of the truck — a dream my parents reluctantly supported. Needless to say they were thrilled when I fell in love with soccer. Eventually, my passion for the game shifted completely to writing when I was sixteen. My ultimate dream was to write a novel. In the meantime, I’ve written a poetry book, a fitness ebook; worked as an advertising copywriter in Los Angeles; started a satire website; and a hybrid publishing company. In early 2019, the great, big, wild dream will be realized with the release of my first novel Falling Up in The City of Angels. 2) What influences do art and music play in your poetry? Music has played a major role in my poetry. I like for my writing to be lyrical, to tell a story, to evoke feelings and memories, and to have a cadence. The best songwriting has these elements going for it. 3) Tell us about your current collection of poetry, and how do we find it for purchase? Life in Lyrics was written over the course of the tailend of my time in Los Angeles all the way through moving back to Atlanta. One of my goals when I write is to make sure that my work is textured and the characters are never wholly good or evil. Things are rarely perfect or miserable, and there’s always a silver lining or something magical sprinkled in with a heavy dose of realism. I’m also proud of the fact that Life in Lyrics was published through my own company Lucid House Publishing, so I could maintain control. It was written using an app I created called “My Typewriter.” The text itself features eleven vintage typewriter fonts and has a randomized look to it. Life in Lyrics can be purchased on Amazon or if you’d like a signed copy, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com. 4) Who are your biggest influences to help sculpt your verse? F. Scott Fitzgerald was the first writer whose words actually moved me to the point of tears. The Great Gatsby taught me the power of words. Among authors, Victor Hugo, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Lewis Carroll, Anthony Burgess, Cormac McCarthy, Alan Moore (the author of V for Vendetta), and Jack Kerouac have been major influences on both my poetry and prose. My mom Echo Garrett has been an enormous influence on my writing and on way I think about it as a business. Many writers don’t like to think about the money aspect of the craft, but the reality is, it’s critical to having the time freedom to actually be able to devote yourself to your work.
Lastly, great songwriting have shaped my style. Everyone from The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix have taught me how to paint with words. 5) As a man of both letters and numbers: Tell us about the writing app you developed and how folks can find it. I noticed a trend on Instagram and other social media platforms: Writers and poets were posting typewritten pages frequently, and these posts seemed to get high engagement. I loved the aesthetic, but didn’t want to spend that much money on a typewriter that would of course require maintenance. So I looked for typewriter apps for the iPhone. There were only two and neither had the functionality I was looking for. So I created my own typewriter app called “My
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Typewriter” thanks to the coding prowess of Winnona Partners in Atlanta. The app is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play and is compatible with all devices. 6) What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have. (What’s the answer?) I’ve always wanted Bill Gates to ask me if I’d like to have his fortune, and my answer would be, yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. 7) If you were to host a poetry slam with your literary heroes (alive or dead) who would they be? Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Saul Williams, Talib Kweli, Rumi, Edgar Allen Poe, Langston Hughes, Shakespeare, Anthony Bourdain (I considered him a poet), Mos Def, Don Henley and Kurt Cobain (also consider them poets) 8) Where will you be touring in the near future? I have a long way to go before I’m at the point where I merit a tour of any kind, but hopefully someday soon with a lot of hard work and a little good fortune. 9) What literary projects do you have in the works? Falling Up in The City of Angels (the novel), Mundane Magic (second poetry book), and The Art of Collaboration (a business book). 10) What advice do you have for up-and-coming poets? Get to know yourself. Figure out what you care about. After that, write about it until you die. Social media links: Instagram: @connorjudsongarrett or https://www.instagram.com/connorjudsongarrett/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/connorjudsongarrett Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/connorgarrett/
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EDR Interview interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What made you create your own business that shows synergy between electronics repair and manga (spelling?) artwork? I decided to start the Phone Repair shop after working for AT&T. Working there was difficult because of the unethical practices they force on you to improve the store's overall bottom line. It killed me to feel like I was ripping someone off every time I sold a phone or tablet. One day I was fed up with it and decided that instead telling every customer with a minor issue that they needed to buy a new device I would instead try to help them fix their problem. I started repairing people's phones on the side to help them out and to prevent them from inflating their phone bills. Over time I saved enough money to open EDR. EDR was started by me and a friend/co-worker and we named it originally as Electronic Device Repair. We shortened the company name to eDevice Repair and further shortened it to EDR. We had hoped that we would be known as the eDoctor's but it never caught on. The location we has decided to open was much too large for our needs. We started out with nothing but one work bench, a customer counter, and couch for guests to sit on. It was a very bare room and our first few customers thought we were going out of business even though we had just started. Between me and my business partner we agreed that I would take over the financials and by doing so we were able to save up funds to improve the inside of the location. The addition of the Anime, Comics, and Games was an idea to fill the extra space we had in the store. We noticed a large portion of out customers were teens and early twenties and "Geek Culture" was popular. My business partner and I were both "geeks" as well so it made sense to us to add that offering to the store. This was the point were we changed strictly to EDR and we rebranded the company. Shortly after the rebranding, in November of 2016, my business partner relinquished his portion of the business to me in order to pursue another carrier and I have been running this store since. I maintain the additional products alongside the repair business because it is something I am passionate about and it gives the store a more light hearted and fun feel to it. Most people that are coming in typically are upset because they have a broken device and the toys and comics and other fun things helps keep the place more upbeat. 2) Where do you see your business model heading? I started this business with a couple of thoughts in mind. The business idea originated because of bad practices from my former employer and from bad practices from another local repair shop. While I worked for AT&T i would send customers to this "repair shop" but most people I has sent there would return to me upset because the owner had no guarantee on his work or parts and his prices were outrageous. He knew he was the only place in town and used that to his advantage. Listening to the complaints of these people and the experience I went through with my employer I came up with a business model, core values, that I would start this business by. This business' core values are Honesty, Fairness, Trust, and Do what is right. I will not stray away from these values. The business will not become a greed driven business. I know that there are not any other phone repair shops in Jasper but I refuse to increase my prices. I generally lower my prices every couple of months and parts prices decrease. I like to pass my savings onto my customer. This business was started to try to become a millionaire, instead I started it because this town had a need and they deserved on that was fair. Because I don't increase my prices and I don't try to nickel and dime every customer into spending more with me I don't see this store growing beyond this location. My pricing is set for me to make a fair living, enough to pay my bills and raise my family but not enough to hire help or open a new location. The plan for this business is to maintain my values and the people of Jasper recognize that and continue to use the services I have to offer.
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3) What are hidden talents you have that many may not know? In my downtime I like to create works of art with spray paint. I make multilayer stencil paintings, usually of superheroes, in my back room. I have actually sold three pieces of my work to people that have come in to fix a phone. I don't do it to make money and when I put them on display I didn't price them because I had not intended to sell them. The guests insisted and I ended up selling them my work. ***Make up 1 or 2 Questions of your own to flesh out the business and you. 1) About Me I am half Japanese half American. I was born in South Dakota, I know it strange, but my extended family is from Georgia (Dad's side) and Japan (Mom's side). My father was raised as a southern boy from Ringgold Georgia and my mother was raised a wealthy northern Japanese girl. My father joined the service (Air Force) and met my mother and the rest is history. I grew up on military bases all my childhood and learned a lot about dedication and discipline. My father is a well decorated Purple Heart Veteran, whom I am very proud of, and he made sure to raise me to be an honorable person. I think those lessons have helped run this business. It keeps me focused and it's also why I always give service members a discount. Military life isn't easy and they deserve a little something for the time they put it. I am somewhat bi-lingual, my Japanese is a bit rusty. I am well-travelled. I've been fortunate enough to visit or live in a lot of locations around the world and I hope to continue travelling and experiencing new things and cultures. I am married to an amazing woman, Kaitlyn, and we have three children. I have three daughters ages 6, 3 , and 1. They are my motivation to keep this business open. I want to make them proud and want to be able to provide for them. I work hard to do this. 2) This business EDR isn't the first business I have owned. Years ago I owned an tattoo shop. It was my first failed business and hopefully my only failed business. I learned so much in failure that it has helped me keep EDR open for nearly three years. I hope to keep this business running for many more years. All I can do from here on out is to hope that if i continue to live up to my company value's and treat every customer fairly and respectfully that people will continue to come to my store. I wasn't sure what else to say. I hope this is sufficient but if it is not please let me know and I will add more.. As for the photo, I am going to try to find a decent one and send it in a separate email.
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Megan Volpert interview by Jules Taylor The first time I heard Megan Volpert’s work, the first time I met her, and the first time I heard her read all happened on the same night. A true rock-and-roll aficionado, Megan looks and acts the part. Rock and roll in a black t-shirt adorned with varying shades of pink guitars, a well-timed curse, clear plastic-framed glasses, a wallet chain hanging on her hip, and short hair flipped out at the ends, a marriage of Mary Tyler Moore (her goal), Daria (the frequent comparison), and, according to one of many humorous anecdotes told, Velma—whom she is vehemently not. From beginning to end, her audience sat mesmerized, entertained, and delighted, including her wife who gazed at her with awe the entire time she spoke, entranced as we all were at her work. Megan Volpert is a well-educated, high school English teacher in Atlanta with a bachelor’s degree in English from Illinois State University and an MFA from Louisiana State University; however, Megan’s voice is truly what sets her apart and draws her readers in. After meeting Megan, I was stoked to find out more about her newest book about Tom Petty, her writing process, life, and her future work. Q: To begin, obviously, you are a huge fan of Tom Petty. How did writing this book change, affect, grow your feelings about him? Doing the research necessarily deepened my feelings, but it didn’t change them. It did certainly change the way I usually write because I felt the stakes were higher. Most of my work is critical in nature, so when I have chosen powerful men for subjects, they end up getting taken down a peg or two. By contrast, this book explicitly aims to elevate Petty and to assist in a definition of his legacy. There’s always more than one way to talk about a thing, and this time—really, for the first time—I worked hard to offer the kindest analysis because I personally owe a debt to Petty. Normally, there’s enough distance between me and my subjects that I don’t take such pains to be respectful. Q: In the book you talk about Tom Petty, his song “Straight Into Darkness”, and his journey as a rock n’ roller. What was it about his music in particular that drew you to him? My mom always had the tape deck going in the kitchen and I still know Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours start to finish. She loves all the Top 40 bands—a lot of the Eagles, ELO, Simon & Garfunkel; you know the type. Even though she never had Petty in the mix, I’m guessing my receptors were open from the tunes he gifted to Stevie Nicks. So I always liked finding him on the radio, but my massive fandom bloomed later. Sometime in my twenties, I ran into Paul Zollo’s Conversations with Tom Petty, which blew my mind. Zollo asked him a zillion questions about every little thing and Petty’s answers really spoke to me. I thought, now here’s an intelligent musician. Dug into the b-sides and outtakes from there. Every noise he makes just hits me in the soul spot, you know? Then when I was thirty-two, my ulcerative colitis flared up and nearly killed me. I was so malnourished I was losing my language—and damn near lost my mind. The pain got so blindingly bad that one morning as I was dragging myself to work like the soldiering idiot that I am, seemed like it might be nice to just give up—just fall down onto the MARTA train tracks at Five Points and suffer no more. I had my headphones on and “Straight Into Darkness” came on just then. And I agreed with the sentiment of the
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song. It talked good sense into what was left of my faded brain and instead of dying like a fool, I rolled into the emergency room and spent a very hard couple of months getting my GI disease back into remission. Petty’s music saved my life. Q: What led you to words as a form of expression, rather than being more involved in music or playing an instrument? Round about fourth grade, I started writing poems at pretty much the same time I started learning to play drums. The drums didn’t take and I didn’t sit down with a guitar until I was over thirty—still don’t have as much time for that as I’d like. Who knows why we gravitate toward particular forms of artistic expression. It’s fine to say I’m called to use my words, and I’m pleased that chance and talent and labor and time have aggregated well enough in my favor that I have had some success at using my words. Wouldn’t rule out more involvement in music just yet though. I see that as an extra layer on top of a certain kind of poetry, and there’s no reason I couldn’t find myself getting around to that somewhere along the way. Q: On page 84 of Straight Into Darkness you talk about this idea of “waiting for inspiration”—what is the process of inspiration like for you? I’m probably in the perspiration camp more than the inspiration camp. My wheels are always turning. Never understood what writer’s block is, and most journalists will feel me on that. But for my book projects, each of those is an idea that spent a long time marinating. If I’m going to commit about two years of my life to building a manuscript, the seed idea must contain multitudes. I like to have a solid sense of how deeply or broadly it can be discussed, and there should be enough weird components to it that I won’t get bored half way through. Then if I can see reasons why my voice might be valuable in exploring the seed idea, it goes on my shortlist for future projects. In three or four years when I get ready to think about signing new contracts, I turn to that shortlist and figure out what’s best to do next. I work more methodically than mystically. Q: There’s a section where you analyze Petty’s handwriting. What does your handwriting say about you?
Q: Was there anything you felt should have been in the book, but for whatever reason wasn’t or couldn’t be? Nope. It’s all there. You know, this manuscript was already 90% completed when Petty suddenly up and died. What I say in it is no more or less true now that he’s gone, nor did we rush it out to print in order to capitalize on his death—because that’s disgusting. The only time I took his death into consideration was in adding on a short epilogue. The manner of his death confirms certain arguments made in the book and I wanted to have that in there. I think the past tense way you’re asking me this question is crucial because Petty’s death doesn’t mean the end of his art in the future. Prince used to say that he thought of his own death as meaning simply that he would no longer communicate in
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real time. Prince and Petty are still all over the radio, and new stuff will be coming out of their archives. People will continue to think about Petty and added info will occasionally come to light. For example, there’s a box set of previously unheard stuff coming out at the end of September, and there’s a version of “Straight Into Darkness” on there that I haven’t accessed. How much more might there be to this song? Despite any potential for new tidbits of data, I know my rock ’n’ roller pretty well and expect that what I’ve said in Straight Into Darkness will remain definitive. Q: As a high school English teacher myself, there’s always this kind of fear that something you do “inappropriate” outside of school will hurt your teacher career. How do you balance or deal with this as someone who uses some explicit language, write about topics personal to you, etc? Yep, every teacher is in a closet to some extent. I think with the ballooning of social media to intrude upon every facet of our existence, teachers are no longer so alone on this front. As far as explicit language, I don’t worry about that at all. And I’ve been openly queer in my classroom always. Plenty of pros and cons to that, but whether you think I’m brave or crazy for simply making it known to teenagers that I have a wife, I know it’s saved the life of many a scared young kid in desperate need of a role model. There are really only two topics I keep under wraps and those are my personal experiences with sex and drugs. Even if I weren’t teaching, most of that terrain would still be off limits just out of respect for my own privacy. Q: Who are a few people, past and present, that you look up to, have been inspired by, generally admire? First and foremost: my wife, Mindy. That’s why I put a ring on it. The best writing teachers I had were Laura Mullen and Andrei Codrescu, over at Louisiana State. My research interests mostly lean toward the late Seventies, so all the usual suspects there from gonzo journalists like Hunter Thompson to punk poets like Chrissie Hynde. I watch every episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. To be honest, I try not to do that much “looking up to”—if I really admire somebody, I do what I can to be on their level looking them right in the eye. Seems more sensible to me to admire so-called “regular” people: my motorcycle mechanic, my high school debate coach, the lady who cleans my house, couple of the folks I teach with, and so on. Q: What’s one question you’ve never been asked, but you want to answer? Let me direct you to this tidbit from Rachel Naomi Remen: “Perhaps real wisdom lies in not seeking answers at all. Any answer we find will not be true for long. An answer is a place where we can fall asleep as life moves past us to its next question. After all these years I have begun to wonder if the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.” I realize this pretty well undercuts our whole operation here, but I’m fine with that. Q: Is there a question you are so sick of hearing? And if so, what is it? Nah, I’m a teacher. I do the same show five times a day and if I don’t get that same question at the end all five times, something’s off. Any writer who’s been doing it for a while is going to run into repeats. Repetition is part of how writers build a personal brand. If I get sick of a certain question that means to some extent I’m just getting sick of myself. I try to approach every interview with a beginner’s mind. The way I figure it, as long as I stay honest, each answer will be reasonably fresh both for readers and for me. Getting the same question over and over is a way to check my own growth as a human. If I find myself reluctant to answer honestly, that kick starts some self-reflection. This is a gig I volunteered for, right? Q: What project is in the works, and what’s next after that? I just put Tom Petty and Philosophy in the can, with my excellent co-editor, Randall E. Auxier. That’ll be out in time for the winter holidays. Right now I’m grappling with Bruce Springsteen for a book that comes out in spring 2019. Went through his entire catalogue and indexed all the songs where he’s talking directly to a female listener, then picked forty of my favorites and am in the process of rewriting them “Weird Al”-style (also known as homophonic translations, for those of you in grad school) so that they respond from a feminist perspective. You can sing them all in answer to the Boss originals; it’s a real kick and blasphemous as all get out.
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Renata Ciuzausk-Markley interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What inspired you to become a poet? The way I see it, it wasn’t I who got inspired and decided to become a poet, but it was the Divine Creator who predestined me to live my life viewing it through poetry. It was He who granted me the ability to be able to stop, even if the whole world is running, and spend time with Him. As I do, He shows things to me from His holy perspective. To me being a poet is spending time with God. And sometimes it is after seeking His answer for years that He unexpectedly answers and a poem is born, and I am changed by the wisdom of it. Then I share it with the world, hoping it would change it too. 2) What do you do outside of being creative? Nothing. To me to live is to create. Be it in relationships, in the garden, in the kitchen, doing the home renovations, writing a book, sending a card to a friend or an enemy, typing a text message, performing my sales job, unfolding the story of my life – it’s all about being alive and present in the moment, hearing the guiding whispers of the Holy Spirit and trying to connect with the people who are with me in that moment. It’s all about creating. 3) What is a major mistake poets make when trying to get their books into the hands of customers? In my humble opinion, the biggest mistake any of us can make is to go at it, whatever it is, alone and not to ask help from the One who holds all the keys, solutions and answers, the One who knows what the best timing and outcome is. As my beloved Pastor Dr. Charles Stanley puts it, “Trust God and leave all the consequences to Him.” I do think this is the key to a life well lived, so I aspire to do just that. The reason I love poetry, is because it is the only space for me to be me without any rules, regulations and pressures of this world. I write these poems of mine, because I cannot not write. I choose not to worry about anything and just truly enjoy the journey and growing in creativity, as I draw closer and closer to the Creator of the whole Universe. Listening to Him and following His lead is all I concern myself with. I know, all things are possible with God. So, yes, the biggest mistake is to set out to accomplish our dreams without the authentic and divine guidance of the Holy Spirit. 4) Why does poetry matter? To be called to be a poet, is a tough path. The moment many publicists and other figures in the publishing world hear it is poetry that you write, they pull back. At least that has been my experience so far. The way I see it, walking the path less traveled can be a lonely path, but the rewards are heavenly, because, if you prevail, you do get to become an authentic self who dares to be herself/himself despite what the world prefers. The world we live in today desperately craves for approval and acceptance and demands it right now. I have to admit, I too battle with it. The flesh is weak. But the Divine Creator has called us for so much more. He is so eager to show us the truth, the eternal value system and, by doing so, to set us free.
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Very few can handle poetry because the best of it calls for honest and therefore very vulnerable communication. The world is so loud today and yet it is so very lonely, because we get lost in creating the image and not simply being the flawed, hurting, longing, rejoicing ones. Appreciating poetry is like appreciating oysters or all the other finer things in life. It takes character to expose ourselves in honesty. It is not a main stream dish, but when the poet finds her/his audience and the bold and truthful ones, the likeminded, those wired to appreciate the finer way of communicating ones heart, mind and soul, it is then that the heavenly rewards flow and the miracle of connectedness, the miracle that can touch and alter us takes place. God placed poetry in the very center of His Book, because He knows that it’s in Psalms, in poetry that honest emotions are shared and to this day people can be helped as they connect with the poet in their sorrows, struggles and joys. That is why poetry matters! 5) What is most important in life? Since we have been created by the most amazing Creator, the most important thing we can do in this life is build a deep relationship with Him and get to know Him very very well. It is through finding who He is that we discover who He has made us to be and what our unique purpose in life is. So, let’s all set out to find, or rediscover JESUS and become everything we were meant to be and as we do, let’s not look back any more, let’s move forward on our authentic path. God bless you and may you TRIUMPH with HIM! Link to my website: https://www.poetrenata.org/ Link to my Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/poetrenata.org/
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John Pence interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Give us the rundown on how you came to be the man you are today? Who were your greatest influences growing up? Well, I was a country boy -- I figure that’s probably important -- and an only child. So I didn’t have many people to play with, but I had plenty of opportunities to just develop in my own weird little microcosm. Also, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and Granddaddy was a funeral director. So I got an unusual perspective on life and death. Who were my greatest influences? The woods I played in, the dead things I poked with sticks, the snakes that nearly bit me, crayfish, public school bullies, parents and grandparents, Kerouac, Voltaire, Richard Feynman, Hunter Thompson, [animation director] Ralph Bakshi, the Eurythmics, DC punk records, 80s skate culture, girls who shot me down, the Marx Brothers, Bulgakov, T. S. Eliot, the Tao ... I don’t know, these are just the names that bubble up to the top. I’m sure we could invest in some good therapy time and get things nailed down a little better. High school was not great, being a weird kid at a rural school, but I went to college at University of Virginia, and met a lot of people who were way smarter than me there. I was exposed to a lot of cool perspectives, people, and parties in those days. So, I went from trying to live in a really narrow picture of the world to a lot more freedom in a much bigger one. Maybe from that experience of opening the world up so much, I still always try for new experiences. I’ve had a lot of jobs, learned a lot of skills just to the point of competence. I’ve fought forest fires, driven cabs, founded a literary magazine, learned a fair bit of kungfu, raised kids, done some exploration of consciousness, and I write stuff. 2) What are your greatest literary accomplishments to date? Which of those are you most proud? I think the Surgeon is so far my best work; it’s my favorite, I think it’s the best craftsmanship, and I think it is the most emotionally manipulative of its reader. Whether I’d describe it as an “accomplishment” or “literary,” I’m not sure. 3) What is your passion that drives your love of haikus (n.b.: Haiku is its own plural: one haiku, two haiku.)? The form is so restrictive, and it’s just so stinkin’ Zen. It’s definitely a finger pointing at the moon. I try to take a complex thought or emotion and use that ridiculously difficult but simple form to show you how I was feeling. And I hope that the feeling is either new to you or one that you thought you were the only one who ever felt that way, and now you know that I do too. It’s just difficult to do. And because haiku are so short, they can just kind of be forgotten, blow away from your consciousness and memory, and leave no trace. 4) Your graphic novel under construction is stunning. What is the impetus for its construction? Thanks. Now, it’s important to understand that I don’t mind calling it a comic book. People get all tongue-tied over trying not to say that, for fear it’s some low-art dis. But I’ll call it a graphic novel when all six chapters are complete and it’s bound in one volume, the way God and I intended. The script is written, but it’s not really “graphic” beyond chapter two yet. Until then, we can call it what it is. It’s definitely a labor of love, though. The project started as a purely commercial, professional thing at its beginning but turned into something else. I was working with a group of about a half-dozen comics creators who were looking to make a couple books, make money, and get noticed. That was during a year that I’d given myself to devote all my time and effort into making a living off writing. I wrote that script for the group, but the group eventually ran out of steam, as did that
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“put up or shut up” year, and I still had a lot of steam. I also had this script that I really loved. It took a while for things to come together, but I worked it out with the art team/publishers at Unlikely Heroes and early this year chapter 1 was born. Here we are, two chapters in, and I think we all feel really good about quality, craft, and product with it. 5) What’s your daily life like? Your work with those in pain is proof of a man who sees the good in others. How does your day job influence your artistic one? Yeah, I see the good in others to a fault, man. Sometimes I’m a little too Pollyannaish about things. Long story short, I got injured about eight years ago. I was a teacher and writer at the time. It took a couple years of physical therapy to get me back to decent shape and to a level of pain I can deal with. Pain’s a hell of a teacher, and a better one that I was. I changed career paths, and now I’m a physical therapist assistant. I do work with some folks in pain, sure, but I mainly work with stroke survivors, folks with Parkinson’s or brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, weird neurological stuff. I just want to be competent and helpful and do what I can for them. I work four ten-hour days a week so I have Fridays off to work on comics, on the small press I run, and on my own writing projects. I also use Fridays to exercise, run a kung fu study group, and do shit like go to the DMV. 6) Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I think I want to start wearing bolo ties. I might pay more attention to my clothing and appearance in general. My kids will be grown, so maybe I can have a cool car again. 7) Do you host any reading/open-mic events? When and where can we find them? Every now and then, I’ll get pulled in to do a series. I like to do it, but somebody else has to bust up entropy and inertia and ask me to. I got all the work I need right now. 8) Do you have any other literary projects in the cooker? What are they? I’m working on a comic book about cowboys and mummies with my ten-year-old son. That’s shaping up fantastically. There’s also a novel on simmer about a bad guru and the student who falls for him. 9) What question would you like to never answer again? I mean, shit, I don’t care. Ask what you want. If I have beef with the question, I’ll let you know. 10) How do you want to be remembered? It doesn’t bother me a bit if I’m not remembered. I reckon I probably will be remembered by somebody, but that kinda gets into worrying about what other people think about you, you know? I hope my wife and kids love me, and I’m pretty sure they do. Aside from that, when I’m dead or out of the room, y’all do what you want.
●●●●●●●●● Pep Boys clerk’s belt knife her dad’s, from ‘Nam. four notches. the steel felt alive laid low by calving we dragged her with tractor chains up from the creek bed children can see ghosts make rain stop, lawnmowers fail or at least I could call the cops: long grass and the buzzards on the porch might just smell something
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Kerry Neville interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Who are you as a human, artist, and educator? What about that person makes you happy? How do you see her growing in the future? What regrets have you abandoned? I have always been a writer, from the moment I could give shape to letters then words then sentences on the page. It started in earnest when I was eight years old, sitting in my basement in front of my mother's old blue Smith Corona typewriter, determined that I would find a way to make the clickety-clack of the keys tell a story. I taught myself to type with two fingers--and that is how I still type: peck peck peck, middle finger of right hand, index finger of left hand. I've
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gotten pretty fast over the years, forty-five words per minute, but I still have to look at the keyboard as I type every word. People wonder why I never learned to touch type, to be able to write while looking at the paper or the screen...but I find that having to thinking about every letter, having to search for every letter makes my writing more intentional. Each letter must become a word under my watch which allows me to think microscopically. Yes, maybe I'm a slower writer for it, but this gives me space to think between letters and words and ideas and paragraphs, etc. So yes, at eight I started typing out stories, started believing I was a writer, knowing there was nothing else I could be because all I loved was language, the way words could create an image, could construct a story, a palace, a tenement, a feeling, a movement: the world concentrated on the page. And then, after writing for a few decades, and publishing my first book, a collection of short stories, my life unraveled: bipolar disorder brought me to my knees and I wasn't sure I would be anything other than dead. So I started writing that story, writing myself out of illness and into wellness, giving shape to pain and suffering, but also to success and joy, holding all shameful, dirty, black bits into the light of language, and asking myself on the page: what happened, how did it happened, why did it happened, and how is it meaningful? Empathy, transparency, using narrative and language to bridge the gap between people--that informed my second collection of short stories, characters who are outsiders, who have been marginalized, who are searching for connection to other people and to the larger world. That has also become the center of my memoir that I am now writing. The story of collapse and redemption, writ small through the lens of my life. As an educator? This is exactly how I teach now. No presumption of authority, no walls between myself and my students. I am there to help them along in finding their voices and telling the stories they have to tell to survive--as writers and as human beings. 2) How do we find the pure history of your work, and where can we go to buy it? Both of my short story collections are available on Amazon and many of my essays are available in online journals and magazines. My website has links to most! (www.kerry-neville.com). 3) What question have you never been asked, but always wanted? What is the answer? How do you solve a problem like Maria? Seriously, how do you solve a problem like writer' block? I used to be crippled by moments when I wasn't clickety-clacking on my computer but then, I learned compassion for myself--if you are a writer, everything that is experienced and tumbled over in the mind across a day, and even in sleep, is part of writing, part of "productivity." I can't turn off language. Maybe because I have bipolar disorder, so am prone to obsessive and ruminative thinking? I walk around all hours of the day, or run miles down a forest trail, or sit quietly in a church pew, and am always sounding words and sentences and beginnings of stories and essays in my mind. Writing is the company I keep 24/7. I can't turn it off, and understanding that the moments of not actually writing, but thinking, imagining, seeing, being are part of the process of getting words on the page. 4) What question have you been asked so many times you never want to hear it again? (You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to answer that one.) Who is your favorite writer/s? Oy vay! Impossible to choose one. I own thousands of books by my favorite writers, all friends of the imagination, all stories and poems and memoirs that are part of me. When we read, we incorporate someone else's voice and vision into our own. I suffer no anxiety of influence--I have learned how to shape language, how to find the music and possibility in a sentence, how to play with narrative form from all the writers I hold close on my shelves.
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Also, when I'm asked this question I panic. I had a pretty extensive course of electric shock treatment when I was at the bottom of bipolar depression's well, and as a result, my ability to access what is in the hard drive of my memory was compromised. All the information is there, but not ready in the moment. I might be able to answer that question when I'm standing in front of my bookshelves, but when asked? A blank. 5) What’s the project of creative swell you’ve just put to bed? What’s the next one staring you in the face? I just finished and published a collection of short stories, Remember to Forget Me, and am working on that memoir, and always bits and pieces of things to be developed. Fragments that will give rise to future stories. 6) What was the first level of literary fulfillment you reached that abated your anxiety? What’s the next hurdle you’re up against? First level: My freshman year of high school, English class, a studentteacher. She gave us the assignment to write a story. So I went home that weekend and two-finger typed at 14 page story about a blind girl going to live with her two maiden aunts in the country. I turned it in. When I got it back a few days later, there was a giant, red-circled F on the front page along with the comment: "See me." I was mortified, thinking I was a shit writer, thinking I had to revise my life dream. She said I got the F because it was obvious I'd plagiarized because the story was too good for someone who was 14 to have have written. My mother had to come to school to vouch for me. I was pissed as hell, but I also knew that by her doubting my abilities, she'd also shown me that I was indeed the writer I was going to be, even at 14. A giant Fuck You and Thank You at once. But abatement of anxiety? Good god, never. It never really gets any easier. Each time I finish a project, each time a story or essay is published? I can relax for a few days, confident that yes, what I'm doing is what I'm meant to be doing and it seems pretty okay. But then, the hurdle of the blank page again, of trying to write an idea, a hope, a dream into being. It brings me to my knees over and over, humbled that while I might have some talent, the execution is always daunting, always has me asking the question if I am being faithful to language, if my writing has integrity. 7) Do you listen to music, dance, or scream into the night while you write? If not, what are some of your literary rituals? I write in silence with a lot of coffee, usually in the morning before the noise of the day interferes. Even if I only write one page, one paragraph, one sentence, one word? I feel like I have earned my keep for the day. At least as a writer. As a human being? That is what the rest of the day is for: to be present in the world for the world and my fellow inhabitants. Website: www.kerry-neville.com Twitter: @mommamaybemad1 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KerryBethNeville/ Instagram: kerrynevilleirelandfulbright Books: https://www.amazon.com/Remember-Forget-Me-Kerry-Neville/dp/0998966738 https://www.amazon.com/Necessary-Lies-Kerry-Neville-Bakken/dp/1886157561
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Kristin Sunanta Walker interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Please give us some background on yourself. What makes you tick? What event(s) from your youth shaped you into the astounding person you are today? I have been a CEO in the field of technology for over twenty years with an emphasis on the behavioral health sector of healthcare. I started a podcast about mental health several years ago which has grown into a digital media network. So far we are the only podcast network that focuses solely on mental health. I've also been speaking about child abuse and mental illness since I was a teenager. Untreated mental illness runs rampant in my family which led to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The most defining moment for me as a child was telling my mother I was being molested by my father. I was twelve and my entire life changed from that moment forward. From there it was a journey of discovery about why this was allowed to happen. Why I was not protected. Years later, the realization that the untreated wounds of my mother perpetuated severe emotional abuse well into my adulthood. This journey has forced me to be exceedingly passionate about mental illness: how it manifests, how it can be treated, and making sure anyone who will listen realizes that it is part of the human condition and nothing to be ashamed of. 2) What are you reading right now? Sally Field's book In Pieces and In Sheep's Clothing by Dr. George Simon (a cohost on my series Character Matters) 3) What person, or persons, inspired you to take the helm of such a critical radio show? What personal fires set the conflagration beneath you to educate the public on mental health issues? I had some terrific mental health counselors and advocates from a young age that were my healthy parents. I also had a wonderful Grandmother who spent years as a volunteer working as a foster grandmother with children who struggled with mental illness. There is chapter dedicated to her, Audrey, in Nancy Reagan's book To Love a Child. I was with my Grandmother a lot as a young child and spent time with her foster grandchildren. Her example really instilled in me a sense of compassion, understanding, and empathy that made being an advocate at a very young age something I had to do. I started speaking my early teens about sexual abuse, incest, and mental health. I led peer support groups with counselors at high schools. I love language - the art of it - and how to use it in ways that create safe places for people to their most vulnerable and to share, often times, things they didn't even know needed to be unearthed.
My family, on both sides, come from extreme trauma and child abuse due to untreated mental illness. It was the family edict that you do not speak about what is really going on behind the facade invented for the public. I found this crippling. Children know what the world is from who is raising them. I believed so many things that were horrific were normal and I did the unthinkable in my family: I dared to open my mouth. I also dared to uncover the truth. Some people write as their art which is their cathartic expression of their inner most self. Others paint. Others sing, act, dance, swim, knit. I seek and I speak. Podcasting is my paintbrush. Mental well being is my life study. I want everyone to view mental health like they do physical health or brain health. If you do not take care of it, every other aspect of your life will be negatively impacted.
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4) What question have you been asked so many times you never want to hear it again? Why do you do so many shows about narcissism and psychological abuse. 5) How do you think those with mental health diagnoses can help the general public stop pigeonholing them into stereotypical boxes? Is that an aim of your show? Yes that is partly the aim of my show and our entire network. Mental Health and Mental Illness are two completely separate terms. Somehow they've been lumped together and neither should be stigmatized. I have no one in my life, and because of this network I know thousands of people all over the world, that could not be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness at some point in their lives. If you have anxiety - that's a sign of mental illness. If you have acid reflux that's a sign of physical illness. Both can be temporary or life long problems. Neither should have shame associated with them. 6) What are a few vital tips you can provide to those who are in a dark state of mind and considering suicide? Dark states of mind are temporary and suicide is permanent. Have you really and truly tried everything you possibly could to examine your dark states of mind? They might actually have a purpose for you that can be explored with a caring professional. 7) What question have you always wanted to ask, but never have been? (Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the answer?) I'm assuming this is a question I've wanted someone to ask me? After what you experienced with your family of origin, do you think you'll ever be able to fully trust anyone and is that important? I am able to trust people to the degree that I trust my own mind. This has a direct correlation to how much compassion I have for myself. The more compassion I show, which was a foreign concept in my childhood, towards myself, the more true compassion I have for others and that affects my ability to trust. Psychological abuse makes trusting your own mind very difficult. Psychological abuse creates mental illness. The journey in and out of that labyrinth takes a lifetime of excavation. 8) What are a couple of books you suggest to help the general public understand how mental health is understood today? Blue Genes by Dr. Paul Meier and Running on Empty and Running on Empty No More by Dr. Jonice Webb 9) Tell us about the format of your show, and how itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s set apart from the rest? We do a 50 minute hour just like a therapy session. They are conversations rather than interviews. Some of my other podcasters are more formal than I am and do shorter shows. Everyone is unique with their format. Mine will consistently stick with the 50 minute hour like a therapy session. We've interviewed one of the Bill Cosby survivors, CEO's of corporations, mental health professionals, and a neighbor who struggles with bipolar disorder. 10) What legislation would you like to see passed to help those in need of mental health treatment? I would like legislation passed that makes psychological abuse illegal. Ireland has this as part of their domestic violence laws now. I'd like to see this happen in the United States. If this were deemed a criminal act, people with mental illness due to the psychological abuse they've suffered would have better access to care including insurance coverage. https://www.instagram.com/mhnrnetwork/ https://www.linkedin.com/company/mental-health-news-radio-network/ www.mhnrnetwork.com www.mentalhealthnewsradio.com https://www.bingenetworks.tv/category/32023?page=2 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC94qnJAYE06foImT8QhwdLg https://twitter.com/MHNRNetwork
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Literary House Press interview by Carolyn Wilding Kelso 1. What was the impetus behind your creation of this magazine/press? The Literary House Press is the publishing imprint of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. The Press was founded just over 30 years ago, when we added a letterpress print shop onto the back of the house. It produced mostly small lecture pamphlets and various broadsides for its first two decades. And then after a few years of dormancy, and the hiring of a new Literary House Director in 2011, the Literary House Press was revitalized and given a new mission: to connect Washington College and its students with the larger literary world. We now produce an annual series of letterpress broadsides, a biannual series of deluxe letterpress chapbooks, trade paperback poetry anthologies, and an annual literary journal called Cherry Tree. Our books and broadsides are printed using a combination of new and antique technologies. Current students participate in all facets of book production, including design, editing, publishing, and marketing. We’re currently designing our 2018-2019 broadside series which will feature poems and prose by Jehanne Dubrow, Erika L. Sánchez, Ada Limón, Lucy Corin, Edward P. Jones, and Lidia Yuknavitch. We’re also in-production on Issue 5 of Cherry Tree, which will feature fantastic new poetry and prose from writers, including: Denise Duhamel, Miguel Murphy, Dean Rader, Kevin Prufer, Lauren K. Alleyne, Aaron Smith, Tommye Blount, Nancy Reddy, Emily Cinquemani, Alan Chazaro, Alicia Mountain, Oliver de la Paz, Kelly Dulaney, and Claire Yoo, among others. Work by Toronto artist Christopher Austin will grace the cover. 2. What sets you apart from the rest? With our broadsides and chapbooks, our focus on letterpress printing sets us apart from many. Although, with the recent resurgence in enthusiasm for letterpress publication, there are more and more presses that are beginning to produce beautiful letterpress broadsides now, especially those featuring poetry. For the Literary House Press broadside series, we select a short poem or a brief passage of prose from each of a select handful of writers who visit the Literary House during the academic year, and then we pair that text with a corresponding image. All design work is done in-house, as is the printing work. Our letterpress chapbooks rotate between the genres every two years: poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Each chapbook features either a small cluster of tightly-bound poems, a single short story, or single essay from a writer of national reputation. Their text is then paired with original illustrations and printed by hand on the Vandercook 4 Proof Press in our print shop. Sometimes these illustrations are then handtinted by Literary House Press staff. After the printing, folding, and collating is complete, the book guts are sent off to Campbell-Logan Bindery in Minnesota, where each copy is bound by hand. Because these deluxe letterpress editions of our chapbooks are more expensive, we also simultaneously release a more affordable, standard edition of each chapbook: perfect bound paperbacks that are either offset or digitally printed. With Cherry Tree, our feature section on Literary Shade certainly sets us apart from other national literary magazines. Beginning with our third issue (printed in 2016), Cherry Tree has devoted a section of each issue to poetry, fiction, and
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creative nonfiction that fits our definition of Literary Shade: poems, short stories, or essays that throw shade at the institutions that have whitewashed our literature and history, be they laws or events or texts authored by dead old cisgender white supremacist misogynistic homophobes. We believe that shade—subversive wit, withering critique—can empower. Our concept of “shade” comes, of course, from the Jennie Livingston documentary, Paris is Burning. 3. Where do you see your business headed in 5, 10, or even 20 years? As we are a small press attached to a liberal arts college, we are a nonprofit publisher; and all earnings funnel directly back into the production of future publications. We hope to be able to continue producing great literary works in the form of broadsides, chapbooks, anthologies, and a literary journal for decades to come and to send them out into the world. We hope to continue providing opportunities for Washington College students to participate in the editing, design, publishing, and marketing of these works, to give them experiences that will launch them into future careers in literary editing and publishing outside of Washington College. 4. Please provide us with quotes from a few of your staff concerning the golden lining surrounding your creation. “The Literary House Press’s rededication to publishing nationally renowned authors in limited edition, fine press format has also invigorated our writing community locally, proving that people everywhere are hungry for beautiful and urgent art.” —James Allen Hall, Press Editor 5. Are you looking for new staff? If so, how do they apply? Although we always struggle with overwork, we are not currently able to hire any additional staff members. We hope that may be a possibility in the future. 6. Do you/have you implemented the use of interns to assist in the layout and/or editing processes? If so, how did you source them? How were they compensated for their time? The Literary House Press employs paid student interns who assist us with every aspect of editing and publishing. Our student screeners are the first round of readers for all of the work submitted to Cherry Tree during its annual open reading period. Using the knowledge they gained taking Washington College’s Literary Editing & Publishing course, they help decide which pieces should be sent on to our senior editors and which to the rejection pile. Our Production Intern completes all of the initial layout work for the next issue of Cherry Tree, placing all of the accepted pieces into the journal’s framework. Our Literary House Press Intern designs & edits each year’s new product catalog, as well as assisting us in various marketing campaigns for our publications. When we have a book in production, the Literary House Press Intern assists with the intensive proofreading and editing process for that book. And our Social Media & Marketing Intern manages various marketing campaigns for all Literary House Press publications. In addition to their monetary compensation, these interns also have their names printed in the publications that they helped to produce and receive free copies of those publications. Only current Washington College students are eligible for our internship opportunities. 7. What are a couple of do’s and don’ts you would recommend for those looking to create their own press or magazine? Do think a lot about your mission statement and what value you’re adding to the current landscape of literary production. What gap in the conversation are you seeking to fill? The more you can articulate that, the better you poise yourself to reach your audience. Don’t be afraid to ask other presses and magazines for practical advice. We’re in this community together.
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John P. Midkiff interview by Clifford Brooks 1) What makes John P Midkiff the man we admire and respect today? Beyond the “I was born. I survived. I still breathe.” does the public deserve to know about you? Well, there are several things I like to think molded me or shaped me into the person and writer I am today. My life is certainly shaped by my military experience and struggles with PTSD. As a writer I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to having incredible mentors and friends that really encouraged me and helped build me into the person I am today, Stephanie Walker was the first professor I had that really pushed me to write. I couldn’t begin to explain the influence that Joel Peckham had on me as a writer both his work and his mentorship really played a significant part in the writer I am today. 2) Who are the poets/writers you cleave to when inspiration seems impossible to find? Oh man this is tough. I have an od way of sort of adapting to what I’m reading, so if I’m trying to write more lyrically I gravitate toward poets like James Dickey, Robert Penn Warren, and Frank O’Hara. If I am struggling with story or making the elements fit together Stephen King is a good go to. The authors that I find help me the most however are the ones that are just good story tellers I don’t give a shit about craft or being literary I’m talking the guys that can just tell a good page turning story they always seem to recharge my batteries and right now Shayne Silvers is the author that really does that for me. 3) Who are your favorite musicians who never fail to put you in the right mood? I would have to say that I typically get down to classic rock and 90’s grunge the Beatles have been big for me this month. When I’m writing but lately I have been jamming to soundtracks and instrumentals when I’m writing creatively something about the way the tempo and classical instruments really helps me in the creative process. 4) What rituals do you have before, during, or after writing? I mean I try to do scholarship and non-creative working in the mornings and my creative work in the evenings. I’m not sure why that matters to me it’s a very weird process my mind just somehow does better with certain things at certain times I guess. And when I’m writing I have to put away all tech. just my laptop with nothing else open, I can’t have my phone. Those things are the death of creativity. 5) What projects are you working on now? I’m working on a scholarly essay about James Dickey’s poem Sharks Parlour. But, my primary focus is my novel A War on Cowardice I have actually put most of my other work to the side as I work on it. 6) What question have you been asked so many times you hope to never hear them again? Well interestingly I’m a nonfiction writer before a fiction writer so a majority of my frequently asked questions come from that world. Students I have had the opportunity to talk to always ask the same question, “How true does Nonfiction have to be?”. The answer is complicated, but everyone has their own truth to a situation, if you and I witness the same events then write about them we would write about them in drastically different ways, however it is important to get the big details correct. Interpretations are one thing but don’t let your interpretation get in the way of what actually happened.
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7) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but never have - and what’s the answer? Why? Why I do what I do, why I chose this over something with a better chance for success? The answer is complicated, but to simplify it, as a kid I was lonely and backward, and I often escaped into the world of fiction maybe more than was healthy. I write for the escape not for me but for the kid or adult that needs a place to go to recharge their batteries or to go on the adventure that they are desperate for. I write because I need a refuge from this world and books have always been there so its my way of helping to create a refuge for others. 8) Where do you see yourself in the literary word in ten years? Ten years!! I know where I would like to be but that’s a vain hope. I would like to be one of the big dogs everything I write is published making a hundred thousand a book and my books becoming movies. Realistically, I think I will likely be teaching at a university somewhere and writing, grinding in the trenches with everyone else. At the end of the day I think if you get in this profession to get famous you are in the wrong line of work I’m just happy if someone wants to read my work. 9) Where can we go to find more about you and your work? The best place is likely my website Johnmidkiff.com I try to update it somewhat frequently and as I finish the novel I will get back into doing blog posts as well.
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James Johnson interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Please provide me with a bio of you and your law office. Born 1962 in Canton, Georgia, attended West Georgia University, Graduated from Atlanta Law School with a Juris Doctorate Degree in 1992. Live in Jasper, Ga. with my wife and 2 children. Attended United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, honorable discharge 1986. Admitted to practice in Georgia State, Superior, Probate, Magistrate, Juvenile courts, Federal Court, Northern District of Georgia, Georgia Court of Appeals, and Georgia Supreme Court, Member in good standing of Appalachian Bar Association, State Bar of Georgia, Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association Counsel for Children. Founding Director, and past Vice-Chairperson for the Appalachian Children’s Center. Worked in City of Jasper Municipal Court since 1996, former city Court Prosecutor, former City Attorney for Nelson, Georgia, former City Attorney for Jasper, Georgia, former Public Defender Pickens County Juvenile Court, former criminal Public Defender Juvenle and Superior Courts, former Special Assistant Attorney General for Georgia D.O.T., served as a Law Clerk to trial court Judge, State Court of Fulton County. Currently a private attorney in Jasper, Georgia.
2) What fascinates you most about the law? What about it keeps you happy you chose the vocation? What drove me toward the law is a very deep sense of right and wrong, and that good people should not be abused or taken advantage of. I dont like it when it happens to me, and I dont like it when it happens to others. 3) What are a few unknown helpful hints to happiness you wish you’d been told about being an attorney before you got out of law school? My best advice is find a mentor. I had to do it all on my own and I dont recommend it. I was always jealous of the young attorneys coming in to a family business, with all the built-in support. You can go it alone, but it is tough. 4) What do you do to get your mind off the courtroom? By leaving it behind at the end of the day and spending time with family and friends. Think about it, nobody wants to constantly be dealing with problems. But as an attorney, that is your job, working out other people's problems. If you done take care of yourself and limit the stress you will burn out in the legal profession. 5) What are a few things you “dislike” about the legal profession? That I would have to work with attorneys all the time! (There are attorney jokes for a reason) Just kidding (mostly). 6) I understand you went to art school before law school. Did you abandon your creative dreams, or still pursue it to shake off the doldrums of the courtroom? Please slide us a few photos to show you still got what it takes. My decision to abandon art as a career was based on cruel necessity. I saw too many art school grads still roaming the halls, unemployed, months and months later. I had to switch to a career that would pay the bills. I still like to do something artistic for fun, but there never seems to be enough time. I always fantasize about retiring and doing something in the arts-crafts area. Maybe I just need a push. Phone 706 692-7226 Email JTJattorney@gmail.com
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Pearl Cleage interview by William Walsh TO TELL THE TRUTH Pearl Cleage, born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1948 and raised in Detroit, Michigan, is the daughter of Albert Cleage, a minister who ran for governor of Michigan on the Freedom Ticket in 1962. She is primarily known as a playwright, but her novels are quickly becoming a large part of her reputation. She is also a poet and essayist. Her novels include Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, I Wish I had a Red Dress, and What Looks Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day (her debut novel and an official Oprah Book Club selection). She spent three years in the B.F.A. program studying drama at Howard University but left to later graduate from Spelman College in 1971. All of the plays she has written have been produced, including Blues for an Alabama Sky, Bourbon at the Border, Essentials, Flying West, Good News, Hospice, and Puppetplay. She was formerly the Playwright-in-Residence at Spelman College, editor of Catalyst, and the Artistic Director of Just Us Theater Company. This interview was conducted on February 25, 2005 at Paschal’s restaurant in Atlanta. While we were sitting in a secluded area of the restaurant, a woman from Detroit who had not seen Pearl in over thirty years happened to walk by. She stopped and introduced herself as having known Pearl’s father. This woman was in Atlanta on vacation. The interview ran late and Pearl’s husband showed up to drive her to Spelman for a lecture, and as a result, we decided to finish the interview by email. Three emails were exchanged during this time. She is a most pleasant person, easy to talk with, and one who is vibrant and passionate about those issues dear to her, but the idea I came away with most is her quest to tell the truth because from truth all things change for the better. Walsh: What is the writer’s responsibility? Obviously, it is to clearly and precisely write your ideas. There are different ideas about this, but is it to change society, to make society aware of injustices? With some social issues, you are dealing with ideas and instances that are very immediate in our culture. Cleage: I think the writer’s basic responsibility, whatever form you are working in, is to tell the truth. That doesn’t necessarily mean the truth that exposes the government or exposes where the government or the powers to be have lied to us. Although a product of the Sixties, that’s a big part what was going on in my writing and in my life as I was growing up. The truth, even necessarily the social truth, is all the emotional truth - what do you know about human beings, why do human beings act the way they do? For me, a person whose work is very much tied to social-activism because of my family - people knew my father who was very active in the Civil Rights Movement, a very radical person who ran for office all the time - so my formative years, what an artist’s responsibility and role might be, was very much shaped by my father and my mother’s activism and by the fact that my family always tied everything you did, whatever it was, to the fact that we were trying to get free. That has always been very important to the work I do. As I got older, I realized the truth of human beings is equally important and is equally important to me as a writer. What do people look like when they fall in love? What do they sound like when they fall in love? That has less to do with the social circumstances they find themselves in and more to do with the fact that at the heart of it human beings are very much the same. When we fall in love we all do the same kinds of things, have the same insecurities, the same euphoria when the other person says, “I love you.” We have all of those things - concerns about getting older, an interest in family (either good or bad depending upon how our family gets along). What I am trying to do is push myself to tell the truth and push myself to look at the heart of the matter, to look at what is really going on with people, what holds people together rather than to write about my own specific little group because we are different than everybody else. At twenty, I might have thought that. At fifty-six, I think we are all pretty much the same. My writing has reflected more of a connection to a wider response to humanity than I thought when I was much younger. The advantage to being a writer who was fortunate enough to live a long time - you can see your own work growing as your own understanding of the world grows. Do you find that when you visit your older work that you’re less satisfied with it because of your maturity as a writer? No, because I never try to evaluate what I did before based on what I now know. Of course, I am smarter now. Thank God. I look at the love poems and love stories I wrote when I was eighteen and I think, “Who was that woman? What did
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she really believe?” (laughing) There is no way I could have known at eighteen what I know at this age. I actually feel very protective of my younger self when I read things. My sister recently discovered a bunch of letters I had written from the time I left home when I was seventeen and went to college up until the time my parents passed when I was in my forties. They saved every letter I had ever written. So my sister came upon this group of letters and sent them to me. It’s the same way reading those letters as I feel reading my work - which is I can’t remember being that young, I can’t remember being that naive. I do intellectually, but when you actually read your thoughts when you were seventeen years old, you cannot help but feel protective and affectionate toward yourself because you are so innocent. I mean, I was very innocent. And I was very idealistic. Very passionate. I’m still very passionate about things, but I’m not nearly as innocent as I was. I don’t miss that, but I do feel forgiving of the things I didn’t know because there was no way to know them. I would be horrified if I looked back at things I wrote when I was seventeen and I was still writing the same way. Then I would think, “What happened to those thirty years?” Maybe you’d go back and think, “Wow, I was a genius!” Yeah. (laughing) I was really smart. Didn’t they know that! It’s interesting that you brought up your past and your father’s political life - he started his own church, the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church, then ran for the governor of Michigan on the Freedom Ticket. He was very political. How much of an influence was that and how it shaped your view of the world? My father had a profound influence on my life as a writer, and my mother, too. I also have a step-father so that all three of them were involved. My father was the most public of them and what he was doing was a great influence on me because it formed my political view of things. I grew up in Detroit and we always lived in all black neighborhoods. My father was very involved in the activity of organizing the neighborhood, picketing grocery stores. It was the Freedom Now party. He founded the party. I always knew that I was a writer, so I understood the work I was doing artistically was tied to the work my father was doing politically and that all of us were involved politically. I understood that early on. Later, I came to understand another part of my father’s influence - my father was a brilliant person, a really smart man and read widely. He loved the movies. We used to go to the movies all the time. He just read everything. As a minister, he was always trying to connect what he was thinking and feeling and reading politically to the spiritual side of what the congregation was looking for, but also his ability to simplify all of this very sophisticated political jargon and international forward thinking material, to synthesize it in a way that a congregation of regular black folks on the west side of Detroit would understand what was going on in Algeria, what the Cuban revolution really meant to us as black folks in Detroit. The fact that he was able to do this so people could understand and respond emotionally in a way that made them want to be active and involved and register to vote was really impressive to me because I would see what he was reading. I was always very focused on my dad so that I would watch him with all these stacks of books and he would talk to me when I was ten years old like I could really understand these things, but then I would hear him stand up on Sunday morning and talk about these things in a way that was immediately accessible to people. That was very much a part of what I absorbed as a writer - you don’t have to speak in a way that alienates you from the masses of the people that you are trying to move. You can have that information and think at that level, but the trick is to relay it in a way that people understand. The balance is, for me, to write and think at that level but not in a way where people who are trying to move into action don’t get it. It’s a balance. As a writer, you want to keep pushing yourself to think about things in a deeper way but not get caught in that trap of writing propaganda. You are trying to get people to march downtown and push over city hall. That is always the tension that I try to balance, to push myself. You have a journalist background, much like Hemingway, and he had that same simplistic quality of presenting ideas and themes without a convoluted text. In your work, like in The Sun Also Rises, the text is not sophisticated, but it is precise. Your writing is the same way. I have a lot of journalist experience. I don’t really have a lot of journalist training. My major in college was play writing and dramatic literature. I didn’t take any journalism courses. Most of my journalism writing is free-lance work - trying to make a living other than taking a full-time job. I did some free-lance feature writing and interviews, but much of what I have done as a journalist is really opinion columns, talking about how I feel about the mayor. It’s less than sending dispatches back from the Spanish Civil War where you are really trying to be very clear because it’s a news story. But I do believe the discipline of journalism is involved with opinion pieces because you have such a limited amount of space to say what you want to say. You are under the canopy of playwright, essayist, poet, and a novelist - how do you like to view yourself as a writer? As a writer. I like the fact that I work with so many different forms. It’s the revolutionary in me. Some people will never go into the theater to see a play but they will pick up a newspaper to read a column. Some people are never going to read a
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book of poetry but they’ll read a popular novel. So, I am always conscious of the fact that if I can’t get them one way, I might be able to get them another. And it’s of interest to me to see what it feels like to write a play, a novel. It never was my intention to become a novelist. I love theater and writing plays. That is really what my training is in, but I had an idea for a play that didn’t fit the stage - you can’t make it more than an hour and a half these days. People aren’t going to sit in the theater for five hours and you have all the conventions you have to deal with on the stage. So I fell into writing novels because I had a story I wanted to tell. I think the good thing for me, not only in terms of reaching an audience, but for me as a writer, is that it forces me to keep pushing myself because I am always a little off balance. I don’t have a chance to get really comfortable and say “I’m a really great playwright. I don’t have to think about form anymore because I know how to do that.” I’m always trying to learn. My fourth novel is coming out at the end of next month and I’m working on the fifth one. The first four were written in first-person. The one I am writing now is third-person and is completely different, so that’s exciting for me. After four first-person novels, I feel that I got that. I’m cool. Although with your first novel you originally wrote it in third-person but tossed out the first 200 pages. Tossed them out because I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand. I was already nervous moving from theater to fiction and then trying to write third-person because I was trying to be a serious novelist - I’ve got Alice Walker to think about and Toni Morrison - all of those girls to think about. It was making me crazy. I gave myself permission not to place that kind of artificial standard on myself. With this latest novel, I really felt I was making myself crazy trying to continue writing in first-person when I really didn’t want to because it confines you in a certain way. You can only see what the characters see. You can only say what she says as opposed to being the “all-seeing eye of the novelist.” You can’t leave the room without the first-person character with you. You can’t do it. You can’t see it. You can’t say it. With this last book I felt that restriction for the very first time. It was interesting because it had not occurred to me that I would want to write in third-person. Writing the new novel in thirdperson is so exciting because I can see everything. I am the “all-seeing eye.” That’s what keeps it interesting. There are always questions of craft, content, form, always something that you can do better. Before you wrote What Looks like Crazy On An Ordinary Day had you tried writing a novel prior to that? Never. That was my first one. I had written short stories but they never really appealed to me so that I didn’t persue it. I was writing plays at that time, too. Plays were really what I was interested in. One of the things you have done in your books is utilize popular culture, music, to bridge, to meld the generations and to connect the people from one generation to another. Do you like our popular culture as it is today? No. Not the commercial culture, I don’t. I’m distressed about it. Actually, I’m going to a forum at Spelman College later on this evening where they are going to talk about rap music and all of that. I have a real problem with much of the popular culture although I am fascinated by the power of it. But I feel that so much of it is controlled by commercial interests that it is not really popular in the sense it’s not really people putting forward something they love. It’s the record company saying, “Okay, you like Beyonce, let’s do twelve girls who look just like Beyonce.” Or Tupac - he’s dead, so let’s do twelve other guys who can make you remember how much you like Tupac. That is the death of real creativity. Didn’t that happen a lot during the Sixties with The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, and all the imitations that strung from those artists? Also, with the girl groups - The Supremes, etc. Even earlier with Elvis. I think that has always been a problem. The difference now is that the commercial entities have such a hold on things it is very difficult to get anything off the beaten path. They are looking only at sales. Artists didn’t used to talk about record sales – they talked about what they were doing and the other musicians they knew. Movies stars would talk about the movies they were in. Now they talk about box office and records sales. I think that’s too bad because it makes you think about money instead of the work you are trying to do. The bottom line verses the creativity? Yeah, what made you want to make this music? It is important because we have so little in terms of a national culture anymore that we all agree that this is important, that we sing this song and love it. We all do this when there is a death in the family and know this is how we behave. The things that we all know tend to be things in the popular culture. We know more about Madonna’s personal life than we do about the people who are related to us. We know more about Brad Pitt
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and Jennifer Aniston’s divorce than the people who live next door because we are being fed that all the time in a way that removes us from the real events in the world, the real events that are going on in our neighborhood. It’s very difficult now for the audience that I am writing for to find references that are not popular culture, references that everyone knows. They know Densel Washington and Terry Macmillan, but I don’t know if they would know Arthur Miller or other kinds of references other than the ones that we see in the popular culture. I call it the hyper-pop culture, because it is that hyper stratosphere where everyone is sort of hovering and underneath them is a private sub-culture of art, literature, painting or the things that really matter. You are right when you discuss the very narrowly defined movie or novel - you see this when a movie is released that is an art film that was produced on a shoestring budget and it’s brilliant. Then all of a sudden it grosses $300 million in ticket sales, then the movie company says that this director is brilliant so they let him (or her) direct a new movie, but then they wrestle over what he wants to direct. Exactly. What is so terrible is the relentless focus on how many did it sell, how much money did it make. It makes the artist think about things we shouldn’t think about. It’s what you are talking about - how someone is working along the way they want to and they have tremendous commercial success and then they go crazy. They have a block then cannot produce because the publisher thinks that since you sold this many this time that you have to write that same book. People used to ask me, and they still ask me, are you going to move to New York. Living in Atlanta has been a real blessing for me because New York and Los Angeles are so focused the commercial side of what you are doing that you end up reacting to it even if your reactions is “I’m not going to react to it.” You have to because you are present in that environment. The neighborhood where I live in Atlanta, some of the people know that I am a writer, but they don’t really. They don’t think about it. They don’t ask me how many books I have sold. They don’t talk to me about all those things as if I was going to cocktail parties in New York. I don’t have to think that all these people around here are going to be disappointed if the next book doesn’t sell as many as the last one. All those questions became present for me when my book was picked by Oprah because the commercial spike that it engenders is so intense and so immediate that the publishers lose their mind. I know several of the younger writers who were picked and were traumatized by it. They were in those environments in New York and L.A. - their publishers were very focused on making them write the same book with hopes Oprah would pick it again. My experience was really wonderful. I paid off every debt I ever had. But no one in my real day to day life really cares about that at all. My neighbors see my picture in the paper because I had a play with Kenny Leon at the Alliance Theater or something commercially interesting happened to me and they congratulate me on the facts of it, but they won’t go see the play. They are so happy that you are on Oprah, but they’re not going to read the book. It really allows you to keep a perspective. The truth of it is, you are doing just what people next door are doing - getting up in the morning and trying to earn a living, and not really becoming that thing that elevates itself. Am I more precious to the world because I write than I would be if I was looking in from the other side? Randall Jarrell in an essay in Poetry and the Age has that wonderful quote, “Tomorrow morning some poet may, like Byron, wake up to find himself famous - for having written a novel, for having killed his wife; it will not be for having written a poem.” I remember that then tell myself now get back to work and earn a living. Toni Cade Bombara, who was a good friend of mine, a wonderful writer who died several years ago, never called herself an artist. She called herself a cultural worker because it kept her from distancing herself from the people. She was a real revolutionary woman so that the people were always at the heart of what she was doing. I always thought that was interesting. I grew up in Detroit and my grandfather came from Alabama to Detroit to work at Ford’s factory. He worked there for forty years. I remember that he had one of those old-fashioned black lunch boxes that people took to work. My grandmother would pack it in the morning and he would go to Ford and work on the assembly line all day, then come back. For forty years! And he never complained. I never heard him complain how loud and dirty and tough the work was – never. Whenever I think to myself in those moments when it is hard to write or find out what you are talking about, I remember my grandfather, and I say to myself, “On my hardest working day as a writer, it never was as hard as getting up at 5:00 a.m. and catching two street cars to work on an assembly line. So get over it and go back to your desk find the words and write them down.” (laughing) Don’t get distracted by “I don’t have this and I don’t have that recognition.” Just find a part of it that you love and do it. Have you ever visited an older relative, someone who is in their seventies, eighties or nineties and just look around their house - what they have in their house are just the things that they need. Okay, I have like six televisions all around my house, and they have their one television, and still I’m not happy because all my televisions should be larger. We’re spoiled. And I know we all get caught up with keeping up with the Joneses - we all do this - but our life is never as hard as we think it is. We don’t need all of those things, we just want them. Just like the recognition.
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We’re trained to want them. We’re programmed to want them. My grandson says, “Oh, get that for me.” It’s relentlessly beamed to him. All you have to do, for me, and my husband is very good at helping me do this, is keep up with the international news. Look at the BBC and what’s going on all over the world and you will stop thinking that you have a single problem. All you have to do is look at the people in the middle of the Sahara in the desert carrying buckets of water and babies - women in situations where they can’t feed their children, there is no clean water, there’s the tsunami, there’s all of those things and we’re fussing because we have six televisions as opposed to seven - we want the flat screen. The key is not getting caught up in that American materialist theme. Look past the ads, keep looking past what people are trying to program you to want [and look] to what is happening to other people. We don’t really have to go too far to find it. In my neighborhood we can walk a block to see people living under the viaduct. But we don’t do it. We don’t want to know that they are there because then we will feel guilty about wanting a second wide-screen t.v. as opposed to saying, “I have all the stuff I need, now I am going to do this. I’m going to do my work and change the world and when I can I’m going to send two dollars here or three dollars there. In an article I found on you it called you a “black revolutionary.” Is that an accurate description and what does that mean to you? Is that the same as a poet such as Amiri Baraka? (laughing) God, that is such a big thing. I take the idea of revolution so seriously that to call myself a revolutionary gives me cause only because I am not engaged full-time in trying to do what a revolutionary would have to be doing. There is a tremendous need for revolutionary activity in this country at this time, but I am a writer and what I am doing is writing and hopefully clarify the truth to people in a way that will move them toward progressive action. Malcolm X has that wonderful idea about people calling themselves revolutionary but if you knew what revolution really was you would jump back in the alley because you would be afraid because revolution means bloodshed and land and resources have to change hands. I believe that. But I know on a daily basis when I wake up in the morning, that’s not what I do. I am not engaged in trying to make resources and land change hands. I’m trying to get words on paper that will awaken people to the idea that there is an injustice in the distribution of land and resources, which is revolutionary in a sense of being a cultural worker connected to progressive movements, but not in the sense that Fidel Castro went to the mountains and said I’m not coming down until we get rid of the dictator. I am definitely a progressive person and committed to social change and I would be very happy if my work moved people to revolutionary activity. You are a well-known feminist. I wanted to discuss the current state of feminism in our country and where its strengths and weaknesses lay, and what can be done to advance this agenda? Is it as strong as the movement was in the 1970s, at least as I remember it as a child, from my point of view. The biggest two problems with American Feminism were race and class. The people who most clearly articulated the need for an American Feminist movement then proceeded to define it were middle-class, white, urban American women, and certainly it is not punishable by death to be that, but it is also a very insulated group of people where you ended up with meetings where this group of people, middle-class white feminists were trying to define for women who were not white or middle-class or urban what it meant to be a feminist. And many black women were beginning to define ourselves as black feminists and understand ourselves as feminists. I grew up in a time that was very racially conscious but did not really talk about gender, so I didn’t discover myself as a feminist and become a serious feminist until I got to Atlanta at about age twenty-five or twenty-six. What happened was - many of us went to the meetings and found that the women who were so progressive on issues of gender were not progressive and had not examined themselves on questions of race or class. You ended up with a very rarified group of people trying to make us all think one thing of feminism - a feminist is this. We would end up many times in meetings (when we should have been able to bond on issues of gender) going back and talking about issues of race, saying that was a very racist thing that you just said so before we can talk about women we need to talk about me as a black woman and you as a white woman. Many times that discussion was not welcomed. Those of us that wanted to get that straight, left the meeting. Was the umbrella of feminism for all these different groups too small? The people who were defining it made it small. Feminism itself is large because it means that women should not be penalized for being women and all the specifics of it are the basic theme. The metaphorical umbrella, the definition, was too small. Exactly. Because it was controlled by a group of women who had really good intentions but were confined by their own race and class. It is very difficult to talk about class in America because everyone pretends it isn’t true. But to be a professor at New York University, born and raised in New York who always went to private schools, is very different than being a black woman working in a chicken processing plant in Valdosta, Georgia who graduated or didn’t graduate from high school standing in water all day up to your ankles plucking chickens - that couldn’t be more different as an experience but they are both facing issues that would be addressed by feminism, but the inability of this woman in New York who was calling herself a feminist to understand that feminism has to be defined in a way where this woman working in Valdosta
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can also accept that definition - made it impossible for us to bond in a way that we should have. Women are the majority in this country - there’s no reason to look at Congress, the Senate and see so few women there. There is no reason to look at the captains of industry and see so few women there except that we cannot bond because we are not clear on issues of race, class, and because women have the problem of having our primary alliances, most of us, with men. As a black nationalist, as a person who was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement, I grew up in neighborhoods where there weren’t any white people. I live in southwest Atlanta - there aren’t many white people in my neighborhood. My family is black, my husband is black, all the people I regularly interact with are black, but as a woman, a feminist, that’s not true. I’m married to a man so all of that rhetorical “sleeping with the enemy” is really true. It makes the issues much more complicated. It makes navigating them much more complicated. For women who are in a position of economic dependence on men, it’s almost impossible to raise those questions. What feminism was able to do was raise a lot of questions, raise the consciousness of a lot of middle-class, well-educated women but not really find a way to work across those race lines, those class lines to make the movement inclusive enough to get to this woman in Valdosta, inclusive enough to speak to younger women about the fact that it is not over and that we still have to be concerned about it. My daughter is thirty years old and was raised by a feminist mother but she does not feel that those issues are as present now as I wish that she would. We still need to look at what is going to change the country. There was a wonderful interview in Oprah’s magazine where she was talking with Bishop Tutu, and he thought that in order for the world to change, women needed to make a revolution. I screamed when I read that. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t say, “I’m sorry guys, I don’t mean to talk bad about men.” He said that if the world was going to change, women are going to have to do it. They are going to have to make a revolution, and I believe that’s true and that feminism, if it had been able to address those issues could have taken us a lot further toward that goal. If they had done this thirty years ago. . . . Then we wouldn’t have to be talking about it right now. The dialogue is almost gone. We don’t talk about feminism anymore in the same way we don’t talk about black nationalism, about non-violence versus violence. All of the progressive movements have been silenced by assassinations, by the fact that people are getting older and having to pay their rent as opposed to being college students with somebody else who is taking care of that. There is a pendulum happening in terms of historical movement. I think feminism will have another moment in this country when we will talk about it in a different way. Since you mentioned your daughter, I see the parallel between second and third generation immigrants who are acclimated into the U.S. culture and unlike their first-generation parents who worked very hard and accomplished things, established themselves and prospered - each generation tends to be a little less hungry because it is oftentimes given to them too easily. They don’t remember that there was any struggle at all. You may have fought your daughter’s battle for her and she may be comfortable. Her generation. I think that is true. They don’t see what the problem is. They are doing much better today. They have easily accessible birth control. Legalized abortion. I come from the generation that remembers people dying of illegal abortions. In college, I remember, I knew people who died from illegal abortions. My daughter’s generation doesn’t have a clue about that. Now they definitely know that those rights are under attack, some of them, but the idea of what you had to go through when I was eighteen or nineteen years old is inconceivable to them. The fact of life without the birth control pill is. . . they don’t have a clue. Now, they have different challenges - they have to deal with AIDS. We didn’t have to deal with that. They have all kind of other things to deal with. But, it would be so much more productive for them if they were dealing with those questions under a general over-arching discussion of being a young feminist, but we didn’t do a good enough job, my generation, in translating what we believed to them. That is why I feel very strongly now. We have to look at the work we’ve done for the ten or twenty years and see what we believed as black feminists and how it translated into the work we did, and these girls who are reading our novels, plays and poetry - did they get the point. If they didn’t, it’s because we didn’t do a good enough job and America is so all-consuming in its otherness that we couldn’t get through the commercial culture to talk to them. This is a very open-ended question - what’s wrong with the world? (laughing) (laughing) Well, let’s see. Our country is symptomatic of what is wrong with the world. The leadership of this country has a feeling of entitlement that is ridiculous. We feel, at the elected level, at the leadership level, in Washington now, that there is a feeling (and many American people have it, too) that we are owed the oil that we need to run the country at the level we run it. It doesn’t matter whose oil it is, we are owed that. We are owed the right to invade other countries and change their leadership because we think it is the right thing to do. All of those things that are happening are completely
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out of sync with what the world is like now. The idea that this country can police the world is completely wrong and scary. Part of what needs to happen - people must look at other cultures, other people, as full human beings. We must be able to say, “Yes, we think it’s terrible the way they treat women in Afghanistan but we don’t know anything about that culture.” Most of us don’t. What we know is what we get from Peter Jennings, that these women must wear burkas and these women need to do what the Taliban makes them do, but we don’t understand what that came from and out of. What we take with us is our American arrogance, feeling that woman should be able to do this, this, and this. We feel that men should behave this way, that democracy is the only form of government you should have, that capitalism is such a wonderful form that we should punish people who don’t buy into it, and the ability to hear different points of views, to not be so arrogant, to not feel like we have the right to use 80% of the world’s resources for our wonderful country because we want all those televisions we were talking about and all those big cars. Until we stop having that cultural arrogance, we’re going to be fighting with people around the world and governments who will say to us, “You have a bomb and we have a right to have a bomb, too. Yes, you don’t like us having it, but we don’t like you having it either.” It’s inconceivable to me that our country feels like we can have all the nuclear weapons in the world but tell North Korea we don’t trust them. North Korea has never used an atomic weapon. Only the U.S. We are the only ones who have ever dropped it on anybody. The idea that we would say to Iran, “You can’t develop atomic weapons” or to Cuba, “You can’t have missiles” - we are the ones should look at ourselves and say, “We are a part of a community of people in the world. We are not the only people deserving a high standard of living and a good education and good health care and the rest of it.” I think it is very difficult for us as an extremely privileged population to embrace that idea, to understand that we must find a way to talk to people about buying their oil. We can’t just go in and take it. Now, I’ll agree with you on some of those issues, but I cannot let some pass without comment. To begin with, we have not taken their oil. It’s still there. The idea that the United States went in to liberate Iraq was not driven by the confiscation of the oil. I would think that as feminist and someone who is interested in human rights to such a degree that you are would want people to be free at whatever cost there is. We just liberated Iraq so that they can vote for the first time in eons and freed the women from a lifestyle of absolute oppression. I would think that you would be in favor of that. I’m totally against the United States looking at another country and saying we think that your leader is so bad that we are going to come in there and kill him or kick him out and in the process we are going to bomb your children. The number of civilians killed is just mind-boggling. They are continuing to kill civilians and that is part of the response to the invasion of their country, but the idea that we did this because we care about the women in Iraq is just not true at all. If we actually cared about human rights, why did we pick a place that has oil that we need? There are human rights violations all over the world. What I believe is that our country tends to go to war and invade people because they want their resources. The idea that the American people have been sold on the fact that al-Qaida and Osama Bin Ladden and the Iraq leadership are the same thing is not true. Iraq did not harbor Bin Ladden. He was in Afghanistan. What we’ve done is overlaid that in such a way people don’t know the difference. People in my neighborhood don’t know the difference between Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria - we believe what the president says because he’s supposed to tell us the truth. The problem we have is that he’s not telling us the truth so that the things we allow this country to do in our name are completely unacceptable to me. There are peace demonstrations all over the world and the Middle East saying, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” If we are concerned about nuclear weapons and human rights violations, why is our position the way it is with Israel? What about Gaza? What about all of those people who were in Palestine on the same farm for 900 years and now there is a wall through their farm so they can’t be there? It’s much more complicated than national leadership makes it for us, and as long as they simplify it, it means we as Americans are discussing it on a level that doesn’t really help communicate adequately and honestly with rest of the world. We had about twelve years between the Gulf War and when we invaded Iraq. During this time, Saddam Hussein had ample time to open up and show the inspectors what he had, to abide by the sixteen United Nations resolutions, specifically UNSCR 687, and he continued to refuse time and again. So, we invaded his country. While the inspectors were there. Every single inspector said he didn’t have WMDs. We’ve looked. Afterwards, what did the president finally say - well, it’s true, we haven’t found any but they could have had them. Yes, but we knew Iraq had WMDs because even under the Clinton Administration it was acknowledged that they had them, and we have since found canisters of such things, although they have not found the smoking gun. I’ll admit that. Right, and think of how many people died. Let’s just say for the sake of the matter - we’ve liberated the country. . . . I don’t accept that. I don’t except that term that we’ve liberated the country. I don’t think so.
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Maybe the end will justify the means. No. I think they have a country and that they have to deal with what they believe should be happening in their country. I don’t think this country has the right to bomb them and to send troops to do all the things we have done since we have been there because we think their leadership should be changed. Even with all the atrocities against women and children. . . . But there are atrocities against women in Liberia. Why didn’t we go there? Because we need oil. This country needs oil. That’s the reason we are in the Middle East. Why are we not in all those other places in the world where there are human rights violations? If it was about oil and we needed their oil solely we could get the oil from Alaska or Canada where there are huge oil reserves. Of course, in Russia, too. There is readily available oil. I would have to say that our role over in the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan, is justified in the fact that we were attacked. . . . Not by Iraq. Not by Iraq. Not directly, but by al-Qaida with ties to Iraq. And coupled with the injustices that Saddam Hussein administered against his own people - I don’t think you can ignore that. Why pick that country? There are injustices and dictators who are torturing people all over this world, why would we pick that one and attempt to make our people believe the reason we picked [Iraq] was because he was responsible for the bombings in New York. I don’t think the American people believe that. I think they do. They do. They’ve asked people on the street. People believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, that Saddam Hussein was responsible. The president presented it to us and continues to present it to us as if it is true. And it’s not true. Iraq didn’t have anything to do with 9/11. There was definitely an attack and we know who did it, Bin Ladden claimed he did it. The fact that we chose to invade a country not responsible for the attack is unacceptable to me. I know the women there are treated horribly. The women in Saudi Arabia are treated horribly. The women in Pakistan are treated horribly. Those are our allies. So, why is it that we are concerned with the women in Iraq but not concerned with the women in Saudi Arabia who were not allowed to vote in the last election? We are talking about how wonderful it is because we had a great election in Iraq. Our ally doesn’t let women vote. They can’t walk down the street without knowing in Saudi Arabia, as a woman, there is a certain decorum that they must have. For our country to decide this is the one place [Iraq] that we are invading in all the world when women are treated badly all over the world, you have to say, “Why? Why is it that we want to go specifically there?” This is what I try to do, and I am sure you try to, because we are talking about it. The problem we have is that so many people don’t have any information to make an informed decision. You think about it and read about it. You have an informed decision. It’s different than mine. I read about it and think about it. I have an informed decision so that when we talk we can discuss this country and that country. Most folks in America can’t. How then do they form their opinions? They form their opinions through what the government say, what the president says, and what Peter Jennings says on the six o’clock news. You say that we are not informed, but we should be. If anything, we should be more informed these days than we have ever been in the entire history of our country simply because of the Internet. We should be but we are not. Cable and satellite television. But we’re not. We are informed about celebrity culture which is a sad, distressing thing. I no longer teach at Spelman College, but I could ask my students any question about any popular rock star and they could tell me. With international affairs, they’d give me that blank look (laughing) that college kids give you. The American people have to address that by looking deeper. If a person is not informed then that must be an individual shortcoming, because the information is available.
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It’s totally available and they could do it. The information is everywhere but they don’t. We end up with the situation we are in where the majority of the population is completely uninformed. I still believe that the United States was completely justified in liberating the people of Iraq, and in the long run, these actions will be justified. And to realize that, every day, mothers are losing their sons - American mothers are losing their sons and daughters, Iraqi mothers are losing their sons and daughters and husbands, and there is no end in sight. It’s something that we have a different opinion on, but we can do that. This has happened since day one. Man cannot get along. Countries don’t get along. And as a final resort, they lash out violently to whatever degree. Not to say that it is right or wrong, but it has always been that way. That’s what men do. That’s the way men organize their societies and governments. That’s what Bishop Tutu was talking about - there is a different way to look at how people can get along. The older I get the more I try to find the one thing we all agree upon. One thing. The only thing I can find that sane, caring people agree upon is that we want to have a safe place for children to grow up. We don’t want to bomb babies. We want to have safe, well-fed, well-loved little children. What does that mean? How then can you use that as the center of foreign policy? I know even as I say it how idealistic that sounds but there has to be another way to organize relationships between people and countries. There has to be a better way than the one men have found. Men are in charge everywhere so I blame your gender. (laughing) Sexism and racism seem to manifest themselves because we don’t always hold people accountable for their actions. But pop culture says it’s okay to be sexist, and at times racist - just look at music videos. Do we let people off too easily, including pop culture, television, movies, and what is the solution? Pop culture has never taken a position against racism and sexism. The music and movies that came out of the Sixties and Seventies were reflecting the artists who were working at that time, not any official position of record companies and movie companies. The artists were, in turn, reflecting the mood of the country, especially the young people who drive pop culture. The Vietnam War and the draft shook young people up and made them become more actively involved in politics. But once the war was over, many people who had been activists, retreated back into their individual lives. We also had the presence of movements to help push people in a more progressive direction. The Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement were all active forces in shaping the politics and the culture of the country. But those movements are no longer the forces they once were. Assassinations, economics, and getting older seem to have put people on another path. That being said, I would argue with your generalization about “pop culture.” There are lots of strains within that big umbrella. Britney Spears couldn’t be more different than Erika Baud. Alicia Keys is certainly not Jessica Simpson. 50 Cent is in no way similar to Brian McKnight. So there’s still variety, but the pop culture, which my husband says is really commercial culture, doesn’t encourage variety. What boundaries do you believe still hold you back, if any, in life, as well as in your writing? Are there areas in your writing that you haven’t explored, and if so, why? I don’t believe that any boundaries are holding me back. I have been extremely fortunate in every phase of my work. I’ve never written a play that hasn’t been produced. My novels have sold very well and been critically praised. I have lots of perceptive readers who give me lots of positive response to everything I’m putting out there. I do not feel that at this point in my life racism and sexism are keeping me personally from doing the work I want to do and live the life I want to live. There are always new stories to tell. I don’t know if I would say there are areas I want to explore as much as I want to develop my craft. I want to be a better writer. I want every book or play to be better than the last one. I’m not competing with anyone. I’m about the business of doing my work. You have talked about how people need to be grounded in reality, but isn’t that the antithesis of what our hyper popular culture projects to society through television, movies, music, as well as literature at times? How do we (especially young people) find the reality? The only way I know to fight unreality is to make sure that my work is always fully grounded in the truth. I think my responsibility as an artist is to be sure that what I write reflects what I know to be reality. I would make myself crazy if I thought my job was to defeat the pop culture. It’s like Judith Massena and Julian Beck talking about capitalism many years ago when the living theatre was at Yale. She said it is difficult to be a revolutionary because capitalism is like a jellyfish. Everywhere you touch it, it smiles. Pop culture is like that, too. You can waste a lot of time and energy ranting about how bad it is and how influential it is and while we’re ranting, Snoop Dog is making another nasty video and
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strippers become the new female role models. I try to keep up with it enough so that I know what I’m up against, but to keep the focus on the work I’m doing. I found a quote of yours where you stated that you are “writing for your life.” I really love that idea. That’s pretty passionate. Does the passion ever wane? My passion for writing never wanes and my belief that writing is a way that I can change people’s thinking, and therefore, change their lives, never wanes. I grew up watching my father use language in a way that inspired people by clarifying their understanding of the world around them and their specific place in it. That example has stayed with me. I have been told that my essay (and later the book) “Mad at Miles” has helped many women who were stuck in violent relationships with their husbands and lovers. The cultural specificity of the work allowed them to think about domestic violence without making the excuse that race was the reason the man behaved in such a violent manner. This makes me feel really good about the piece. I also know that writing is what I do best. If I am going to do anything of value in the world, it is going to be writing. Since I believe my friend Toni Cade Barbara who said the struggle of the 21st Century is going to be whether or not we are defeated by the psychopaths, I also believe that it would be foolish of me not to use the stronger weapon I have against that madness. You also said that you are “writing to expose and explore the point where racism and sexism meet”. . . “ [helping to] understand the full effects of being black and female in a culture that is both racist and sexist. Reginald McKnight told me thirteen years ago that he felt as long as there was race there would be racism. Would you agree with him? I would hope that isn’t true. I try to take the long view. I refuse to believe that the way we’re doing things now is the only way things can be done. If I believe that, I will also have to believe that as long as men can dominate women, they will do so. I think that people can get to the place where we can appreciate the differences between us. It’s kind of like that song in the old musical South Pacific where the woman sings “you have to be taught to hate and fear/you have to be carefully taught.” It’s a great song and I think it points out the problem. If we weren’t raising children to be hateful, I don’t think they would automatically begin to despise each other based on skin color and texture of hair. This may take a very long time to happen, but I have faith that we can do better. Where do you see your writing moving toward in the future? What issues have you not tackled or would like to? I don’t think about my writing in terms of issues, although there are certainly issues explored in my work. I’m always thinking about characters, stories, situations, settings. The issue comes from the characters, not the other way around. The only time I remember consciously wanting to create a character to examine an issue was in What Looks Like Crazy On an Ordinary Day. I wanted to create a black, female character who was HIV positive, faced the challenge and in the process, fell in love and found work she cared about and a community that needed her. In that case, the story grew out of my desire to get my readers to think more deeply about HIV/AIDS and to think more compassionately about people who were dealing with HIV/AIDS. I am interested in writing another play. I have a great character in mind, but I’m not clear about her story, yet, so she’s still simmering back there, waiting for me to come around to her full-time. I am currently writing my first novel in thirdperson and that is very exciting to me. There is so much to learn about the craft of writing. There are so many ways to get better at what I do and I know that comes with discipline, patience, courage, confidence and faith. I would like to explore the idea of writing an autobiography or a memoir. I am interested in writing a screenplay. I would like to write a book for young people. There are so many ideas I’d like to pursue. I am never at a loss for projects. My challenge is to find the time to do everything and still get some sleep and see my family and friends! “Babylon Sisters” places the main character in a job where she’s working with women from all over the world. I see more of that in my work. I see myself more and more as a citizen of the world and I believe that Bishop Tutu is right when he says what we need is “a women’s revolution.” That means we have to develop the kinds of bonds that cross all artificial boundaries. I think literature is one of the ways to do that.
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Roger Johns interview by Clifford Brooks Roger Johns is the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries, Dark River Rising (August 2017) and River of Secrets (August 2018) from St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books. He was named the 2018 Georgia Author of Year (Detective-Mystery Category) for Dark River Rising. He is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, with law degrees from Louisiana State University and Boston University. During his nearly two decades of teaching, he served on the editorial staffs of several academic publications and he won numerous awards and recognitions for his teaching and his scholarly writing. His checkered past includes, in no particular order, med school dropout, bookseller, ranch hand, drapery hanger, party photographer, hospital orderly, shoe salesman, and tuxedo rental clerk. Roger lives in Georgia, and belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. With four other crime-fiction writers, he coauthors the MurderBooks blog at www.murder-books.com. Please visit his website at www.rogerjohnsbooks.com. 1) What is home to you? What is your writing home? I have lived just outside the Atlanta metro area for the past thirteen years so, even though I’m a native of Louisiana, I consider Georgia home. My books are set in Baton Rouge, a city that had a profound influence on me my during my college, law school, and early work life days, so that is, in a sense, a place I would consider my ‘writing home.’ 2) What do you do to prepare your mind space to write? My writing life is divided into three parts: (1) promoting the book that’s currently out, (2) editing and preparing to promote the book that’s in production (although, by this past May, I was finished with the editing part of my forthcoming book), and (3) writing the next book. Consequently, writing is a fulltime job. To make this all work out, I try to confine my efforts for each part of the job to specific parts of the day. The morning and early afternoon are spent taking care of administrative matters related to promotion and editing, and the later afternoon and evening are devoted writing new material. Preparing my mind for writing new material is pretty straightforward because my stories are never far from my thoughts. I just read the last page or so of what I wrote the last time I was at the keyboard, and before I know it, I’m in the flow of the story. 3) Your current book just won Georgia Author of the Year. Tell us about it and where we can find it? Dark River Rising is crime fiction set in south Louisiana. But it’s not typical crime fiction, because the main character, Wallace Hartman, is more than just a device to advance a narrative––she’s the axis of a story that takes a deep look at southern culture, perceptions of women in the workplace, the intersection between science and religion, criminal violence, and how grief and guilt and loss can shape us and move us and simultaneously be a source of sorrow and joy. Wallace––all of the principal characters, really––are drawn with as much realism and fidelity to type as I could bring to bear, and I worked very hard to avoid even the appearance of cliché. Consequently, in addition to the darker elements typical of crime fiction, there are lighthearted, humorous, and tender moments throughout the book. How I learned, and continue to learn, to write from a woman’s point of view is a big part of why my writing career eventually achieved escape velocity, and it’s a story I’m happy to share. Here’s the promo copy I’m currently using for Dark River Rising: The horrifying murder of a local drug kingpin, followed by the disappearance of a government scientist with ties to the victim, forces Baton Rouge Homicide detective Wallace Hartman into an uneasy alliance with a DEA investigator in order to solve a case that grows more dangerous by the minute. Meanwhile, the killer lurks in the shadows with an agenda no one saw coming, and when Wallace gets in the way, the killer proves ready, willing, and able to shatter her world. The book can be purchased (in hardcover or as an ebook) wherever books are sold, and it can be found in about three hundred libraries across the English-speaking world.
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4) How do you spend your quiet time away from the keyboard? Hanging out with my wife. 5) What day job to you enjoy that we may promote? See the answer to Question 2, above. Before I took up writing, fulltime, I was a corporate lawyer (a long, long time ago), and I retired from college teaching about eight years ago.
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Selah Dexter interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Give us the skinny on your incredible history. Where were you born? How did you grow up? How did your childhood and young adult life sculpt your art? I was born in Warner Robbins, Georgia. I grew up sort of scattered about due to my father being in the military (Vietnam veteran) and my mother a schoolteacher, we were always moving around New schools new faces, new neighborhoods new places, overseas (Germany), back to the states, back overseas, back to the states, when we weren’t moving around we were posted up with family from Cordele Southwest to Glenwood Southeast Georgia, all the way to Newark NJ staying with my Grandmother. A lot of times my father had to go leaving us behind, sometimes tours of duty, sometime war. One that really sticks out ( I gave them a sketched I did of the only image I have from that time for their anniversary this year), I remember he had to leave us for the Gulf War Desert Shield/Desert Storm, not knowing if he would come home or… that gave me a greater appreciation for life, I was young and would have many hard lessons to learn, so if you ask my moms about the life appreciation part, she might roll her eyes, but pay that no mind…I love you Ma!! We are so blessed even, he managed to survivor and made it back to us EVERYTIME, when he could tell you stories of many who didn’t. I love you Chief! Cordele, Georgia is where I can say I learned the realities of life at a very young age. It was actually there, in an alley between fifth and fourth Avenue 1000ttth street side, that I would find art or the inspiration to express, I found it there... moving around like that does affect you as a child. Sometimes the signs wait until you've moved on in life to reveal. We often go deep inside when confronting any situation that is out of our control or out of our comfort zone. Not the only, but this did have a great impact on my life. Something i found or that found me, in that alley has followed me my entire life. I would say that in some way or many ways, the genius is created in these circumstances. 2) Who are a few of the people in your life to inspire you the most? * First my son Noble my wife, mom dad Sister, I mean when you talk about people being inspiring or motivation, they’ve all sacrificed and are still sacrificing so much for this journey that I am on. I mean I had my fair share of challenges, things i had to go through to reach this point in life. It’s my family first in my mind when I consider my ultimate motivation, and then to know i have been chosen regardless of circumstances to document a portion of mankind's existence in this cycle of time, is beyond inspiring. I among the great thinkers that feel it is an artist’s duty to reflect the time in which he or she lives.
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3) What galleries or events have you exhibited your work within? What are your favorite festivals to be a part of? * My work has been featured on cable tv networks viacom's B.E.T (rap city) VH1 (ATL exes) STARZ (survivors remorse), and I featured painting live on CentricTV’s ‘ from the bottom up’ season 2 finale show/ as for museums or galleries- The Mary McLeod Bethune museum national Council house for Negro women (this museum is actually her former house turned museum), the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. 4) What events do you have coming up that people should know about? * upcoming events you can probably look for me to be in Detroit at the top of the year, I just got back from New York doing a show and you can probably look for me to be back up there at the top of the year 2019 o and DC in February, so the best thing would just be to stay connected with any of my social media sites to get better details shows And to stay connected because there’s always events that are coming up, sometimes they pop up at last minute. 5) What social causes or charities are close to your heart that our readers should know more about? * I am really in support of the Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse movements, I support the men and women day in and day out that are striving to hold it in the road 6) What question are you sick of answering? (You don’t have to answer that one.) * I tell people all the time that it’s OK whatever they want to ask me because I remember a time when I was inquisitive and searching, you know, and I had an experience with an artist that was quite a bit older than me, I was young so I kind of had a beef for a while, and then I realize that being upset with him when he’s entitled to his own vibration, I knew then that I didn’t want to be that type of artist/person, so anytime im anywhere and I’m working on a mural or live painting I tell people feel free to ask me anything especially if you’re an artist I have no reservations about sharing any knowledge that I have with you know. Someone shared it with me actually most of the time I was just in the right spot at the right time and I have my ears open, had my antennas up, you know. 7) If you could bring 5 artist into one gallery (alive or dead) for a single show, who would they be? * Joseph Delaney Carl Owens Edmonia Lewis, Jean Michael Basquiat, Salvador Dali 8) What are you reading and/or listening to right now that others should pick up? over the line the life and art of Jacob Lawrence, wake up our souls is a good read also, Far as music far as listening I’m really into sort of chill hop, ambient vibes, Of course I keep some J Dilla in the mix, Lewis Parker, John Robinson I like listening to Eckhart Tolle also 9) When you transcend this life, what do you want your legacy to be? * You know I never really thought about legacy, I guess, in that sense, but I always say that artist should be recognized before they transition or transcend so I guess my legacy would be to bring more monetary recognition to the brush holder while he’s holding the brush.
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Isabelle Gautier interview by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us a bit about yourself. What shaped your style of art from your childhood? I think my love for creating has always been part of my life. When you grow up in a small village in Normandy you learn how to create with your hands. I have always been surrounded by original art. Before the age of 10 I already had visited Le Louvre and been to Montmartre where I saw artists painting live. I was born the 5th child of seven children. It seemed to me I was always the odd number, never fitting with the younger and not quite with the older. I was often by myself dreaming, trying to find something to do and then I still wanted everybody to listen to what I had to say. It was not always easy to be heard. Expressionist artpainting or dancing-has always been a big outlet for me. 2) Where do you see your artwork going in the future? How is your style developing? My love for colors led me naturally into painting (oversized) colorful abstracts, but more recently I chose to create monochromatic artworks. Our environment seems to be overloaded with images and noises where messages and meaning get lost. Using few colors seems to me to be a stronger way to communicate. I believe the less you say, the more message there is. Maybe there is something true in what Rodin used to say: "The more simple we are, the more complete we become.â&#x20AC;? Using just one color but also texture and light is powerful and fascinating. It forces me to concentrate on the composition and balance. My recent series has an Asian feel to it where my intuition is the guidance that shapes and balances my strong and passionate work. My work itself is going back and forth, as a metronome does, between bold minimalist strokes and musical calligraphy. On one side, I work with texture and light to create powerful minimalist well balanced black shapes. Highly receptive to my environment I use painting as my meditation time to absorb and process the daily stimulations of our too busy life. On another side it seems I am writing musical calligraphy as I let my hands lead. Laying my canvas on the floor, my hand gives free lyrical interpretation to the music inside and around me. 3) Who is your favorite contemporary artists? Why? If I have to pick only one favorite contemporary artist I would say French painter Pierre Soulages gets the favor. Soulages has been working with mostly black mediums his entire career. He has put his emotions in a thousand of paintings studying the reflection of light and the matter for as long as we can remember his oeuvre. 4) What are a few of your favorite galleries to show your art? I love New-York City galleries, because they are avant-garde.
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My art does well in the mid-tier cities around the Southeast like Dallas, TX, Birmingham, AL, Nashville, TN and Greenville, SC where I am represented, but Charlotte, NC, Miami, FL and Houston, TX are cities I want to find representation in. In order to be consistent in her/his work an artist or at least I need to be able to stay focused on my work. Knowing my art is appreciated and not having to worry about galleries is obviously a tremendous advantage. My ongoing series is resonating with the millennials. California and the Northeast is a good market for it. Atlanta is still very much conservative in its artistic taste. 5) What’s a funny story from your tours around the globe? A funny and bit scary story was during my arrival in a small village in Senegal, Africa. After a long taxi trip from Dakar to a small place on the river, (whose name I don’t remember )I arrived with my husband and my two year old child to almost our destination, just short before midnight. Before we crossed the river we were told the bridge was broken and we would have to use a boat. Here I was at midnight, tired, with my sleepy toddler embarking on a small shaky two oars row boat for what seemed to be an unknown destination. We ended up to our cottage safe and sounds, but it does make a good memory. 6) What are a few major differences in how Europeans and Americans view the art world? I have been leaving in the states for 20 years and my idea of how Europeans see art versus Americans is probably a bit erroneous. So let me talk about Americans in the Southeast, who are part of my day to day life. On one hand, Americans are considering their house like their “baby” but don’t always trust themselves to make it theirs. They call upon interior designers for help and become rapidly dependent. They don’t allow themselves to make any decision without consulting “the authority” and won’t allow their sensitivity to express itself. There is a competition among neighbors and friends to have the best and newest trend. On the other hand, French people, during their entire education, have develop a critical thinking and can’t absorb any new idea before at first rejecting it and then maybe making it theirs. The French WANT to be different, original, creative. They will take time to find the perfect piece that speaks to them and maybe decorate their room around a painting. They like to provoke and challenge. It is a totally different approach, that is still to this day surprising me. 7) What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked about you or your art, but never have? What’s the answer? Let’s be more general and ask the question: Is art a MUST? Art will spark, evoke and provoke creativity. We all need an ignition to think out of the box, to find solutions and to escape the hustle and bustle. In order not to go backward we need to go forward. Contemporary art just does that; It breaks away from conventional thinking, from traditional mindset and challenges. It helps to think global, embrace the differences and create new solutions that help us to keep growing. Art is not only a beautiful things to put on a wall. It is a conversation piece, a means for reflection, a catalysis for growth. Do we need art? YES, we do and in its original form. Large duplicated art just reproduces the conformity from which we have to brake. Issue 12| The Blue Mountain Review| 117
8) What major shows do you have coming up? My next show this year will be Artclectic at the University School of Nashville Oct 18-20. It is a new show for me and I am proud to be accepted and very excited about it. Come and see me. 9) If you had the ability to put on an art show with your heroes (alive or passed on) who would they be? Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s say the art show would feature my tachisme work, then I would love to be exhibiting at the sides of Pierre Soulages, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, M. Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb. Robert Motherwell, calligraffiti artist Retna, maybe Japanese calligraher Eikaku Matsumura and the list goes on. 10) How can people find your work for purchase? The best way to find my work and see it in person and come and visit my Studio in Atlanta. The colors will be real and the texture will be relevant. If you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make the trip please visit my website IsabelleGautiersART.com/tachisme, Bennett Galleries in Nashville or Canary Gallery in Birmingham to experience my tachisme series for the more colorful expressionist art you can visit Bee Street Studio in Dallas, TX and Mary Praytor Gallery in Greenville, SC Thank you!
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LESS IS MORE: TWO BLUE ENSO, 36x36in Acrylic on canvas
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Work on Paper #1, 22x30in
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Work on paper #2, 22x30in
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LESS IS MORE: Blue Enso, 36x36in Acrylic on canvas
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IGA-8-6, 36x36in Acrylic on canvas
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INTRICATE, 40x40in, Vinyl on canvas
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Team Abyss interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Give us some details about you, your roots, your inspiration, and where you see your future. My parents are from Laurel MS (Delta) I was raised in Detroit, MI (Inner City) I graduated High School I served in The USN and USMC for 8 years as a Hospital Corpsman. I grew up in Motown so the interest was always there for music and with The Delta Roots I was drawn to the BLUES FUNK and JAZZ. I'm a Peabody Award winning poet, I appeared on various different networks performing my gift HBO, BET, BETJazz, Food Network, The Congo Network In the Future I see myself as an Inspiration to many different people. Developing Artists ranging from Youth to Elder to bring the quality back to entertainment industry! 2) How did you come to be known as â&#x20AC;&#x153;Abyss.â&#x20AC;? My barber Karl gave me the name 21 years ago. He said A.B.Y.S.S described my work DEEP! I turned it into an acronym A Bright Young Soul Searching or Seeking! 3) How is Team Abyss different from Abyss the man? Team Abyss is the workings of the man! Abyss the man has bad habits with good intentions lol. Seriously though they are one in the SAME! 4) Who comprises Team Abyss, and what is your goal for the group? Anyone that I work with under the guise of Team Abyss is any project that I'm the P.O.C. or the producer! In the spirit of poetry I AM PROFESSOR X and my friends are MUTANTS! (Metaphors) 5) Where can we find Team Abyss online? Currently you find me in any SOCIAL MEDIA Platforms under #teamabyss #Woolyheads #PoetryonSteroids #AmplifiedMelanin #AcidGospel
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6) Where are some of your upcoming shows in November 2018 and beyond? Upcoming Dates are coming in as we speak But I will be in Montgomery, AL early Nov TBD Dec 6-10 Carnaival Cruise Lines HBCU Alumni Cruise (Cozumel) Various Private Engagements Jan 19th PHX AZ Jan 20th CHICAGO IL More dates to come! I can be in your town soon I'm just an email away firstname.lastname@example.org. 7) Are there other groups you work with? If so, who? I was a board member on the Atlanta Community Food Bank for 7 years. I've worked with the Alliance Theater, Boys and Girls Club of America, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Coach Wink NJTL, The City Of Atlanta, Decatur Book Festival, National Poetry Slam, Academy of the Arts aka How Big Is Your Dream Music Camp, Salvation Army, The Singing Boys Of Stillwell, Various Youth Detention Centers, WRFG 89.3FM Atlanta just to name a few. The list goes on... 8) Does your group sponsor any charities? We donate our talents to charities on many occasions. 9) Who is on your Dream List to collaborate with some day? My Dream list includes The Band Of Brothas (Son's Band), Mos Def, Outkast, Damien Marley, Dr. Dre, Stevie Wonder, I'm the only poet on a CD Project with Prince. The project is called RS2 Rhonda Smith (Prince's Bass Player) The only guests on this project are Fred Hammond, Sheila E., Prince and Myself. 10) Is there a mantra you live your life by, and is it one that sums up Team Abyss? Your mess will be your message but in time your TEST will become your TESTIMONY!
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Moses Mo of Mother's Finest interview by Dusty Huggins 1) When do you believe was the first time you knew that Rock and Roll was your calling? I knew I wanted to rock by the 7th grade. I already had a guitar and was learning everything on the radio. Not many options in Dayton, Ohio. You either worked in one of the factories or you got a job that didn’t pay well. I felt the pressure to do what everyone else wanted me to do during my senior year, but luckily I was gone a week after graduation and never looked back. 2) How has it been to grow up in one of the greatest revolutionary times in Rock and Roll and how has it felt to be a part of it? I guess it was the best period because it’s the only one I know of first hand. As far as music goes, I always had the feeling there was a better way to do it. Stuff on the radio was ok and, at least we had radio, but I started looking early for musical influences from other periods. Radio connects everyone in a way that doesn’t happen anymore. Now you get tailored internet sounds, and many things to choose from, but in an isolated way. You can’t go to your friend and just say “cool song . . .” and have him know what you’re talking about. 3) Mother’s Finest is definitely a fusion, in majority, of Rock and Funk. What were some of the key inspirations in mixing the two genres in order to create your own sound? It was more of us being inspired by each other. We all are so different that we have something to offer each other. I think you can be influenced if you let yourself be influenced. That idea made everything we tried sound like fusion because we always looked for “the jam” in any piece of music. 4) How has the tour of Europe be and how can you explain it to fellow musicians who hope to do the same someday? I think it all starts inside your head. If you have a clear idea of something you want to do and believe in it, it comes out automatically and you can’t stop it. If the goal is to go to Europe then that’s what you achieve, but that’s not music. I would just recommend to immerse yourself in a song and let what happens happen. 5) You are now playing all over the Southeast with your solo project Moses Mo and the Really Cool Band. Tell us about the band, sound, and what drove you to chase you own ambitions of a solo project. Moses Mo and the Real Cool Band is my ride to the next thing. I have a lot of ideas and things I want to try and these are a great bunch of people to try it with. It all started with my daughter, Tomi rocker, wanting to play music, but then life happens. She got married, had children, and she wasn’t writing like she had been before due to the lack of time you have when raising a family. She is a great talent and has much to offer, not to mention the guy she married, Enter Zero Basement, is a killer rapper. Now if one of them walk through my studio I try to direct them to a song and we put it down. Even their kids have got in on the action and have sung on a few songs. I think we have something to offer, so look it up and check it out. Hope you like it!
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6) Is there music anywhere that the readers can listen to and, if not, when can we expect to have some Moses Mo release some music? We are still getting the website set up and that’s where you can find it. The newest release is called ”Drive In“ while the one before is entitled “Two Ton Message” with the initial release being “Cartoon You”. We’re working on the next one already so if you find it and like it please share it with your friends. 7) Is there a point in your career where you have set back in contention of all you have accomplished? If not, do you feel there will ever be? No, I’m going to play until I drop. It’s gotten very important to me to be productive at this point in my life. I have so many things to say with music before the finish line and I want it to be really good, so that doesn’t leave a lot of time to be content with the way things are. I cherish every experience I’ve had and my records are an open book of those experiences so check us out, hope ya like it! Website: https://mosesmo.com Music Links: https://mosesmo.hearnow.com https://www.soundcloud.com/moses-mo https://www.reverbnation.com/MosesMo https://open.spotify.com/artist/39lZZoP9pu7HDWENjakKjh https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/moses-mo/38589414 Social Links: https://www.facebook.com/MosesMoandTheRCB https://www.facebook.com/MosesMoMF https://www.instagram.com/mosesmomf https://Twitter.com/MosesMo https://www.YouTube.com/TheMosesMo
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Andrew Evans of The Stir interview by Dusty Huggins
Andrew Evans is one of the premier up and comers in the Atlanta music scene. He has a blooming solo act under his name Andrew Evans and is the front man and lead guitarist for Atlanta based Rock group The Stir, signed to Madison Records. The Stir has recently started making waves across the eastern United States opening for acts such as Collective Soul, Clutch, Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, and a full tour with Chris Jericho’s, Fozzy. As you will read, this is just the beginning for Evans. His solo career is about to start paying dividends from Evans many recent deposits in time and energy, just has The Stir has. Evans works hours on end perfect his craft in order to deliver blistering guitar riffs and solos, all while belting unconceivable vocals simultaneously. The combination of work ethic, raw talent, and an unwavering passion for music is a combination that has Atlanta on the edge of its seat with anticipation of what is yet to come. 1) Tell the readers about your first memories of loving music? Some of my very first memories of music are hearing Iko Iko by the Dixie Cups as a little kid, while my mom would chase me around the house. I remember my first favorite song being ”Runnin Down A Dream” by Tom Petty. 2) At what point did you know music is what you wanted devote your life to? When I was about 10 years old I started playing guitar after my sister asked for a guitar for Christmas. Then my good friend and bass player for The Stir, Tanner Hendon, introduced me to Guns N Roses and I was hooked. 3) What are some of your biggest influences? I have many influences but to name some from each genre and generation I would have to say AC/DC, Soundgarden, Guns and Roses, Collective Soul, Black Sabbath, LED Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, RATM, All Them Witches, Tyler Childers, Ed Roland, and Pantera. All of which come from many different backgrounds, but encompass what has really influenced me the most as an artist.
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4) Which bands have you yet to see that are on your “to see” bucket list? As a heavy concert goer I have been blessed to see many of my favorites, but the list would go on and on if I could go back in times. If I had to pick one I would go with Rage Against The Machine. A lot in part due to the fact that all of their members are still living. 5) Now that your band, The Stir, is hard at work touring with bands like Collective Soul and Fozzy, what are your plans and expectations for your solo career? Well, I’m releasing two singles in November called “Dealt With The Devil” & “Missing California” produced and engineered by my buddy, Ned Lane. But the main focus right now is cutting The Stir’s full length album and getting back on the road. 6) How has the last year felt as you have been on the road and living your dream in front of sold out crowds? It’s really been incredible, but it’s certainly not easy. The energy has been great though. 7) How do you separate songs from what you will do with the band and what you will keep as your own for your solo acts? Well you know different emotions and influences bring out obviously different songs and from a different approach. Just knowing the different vibes is where the songs end up. 8) The Stir is definitely classified as a Rock band. What genre would you say your solo act falls into? Americana/Singer Songwriter 9) At what point do you set back and feel content with what you have accomplished in your career? Hopefully never. Satisfaction and being comfortable never produces good art.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8WtKlWIghAY https://m.facebook.com/Andrew-Evans-661607614226324/?ref=bookmarks https://www.facebook.com/thestirmusic/
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Ides of June interview by Clifford Brooks
1) Give us the rundown on each member of the band. If each had to pick one song to represent their life, what would it be? Justin Nelson: Drummer for The Ides of June and native to The West Coast. Justin was brought to Atlanta for work and was approached by front man Dusty Huggins to join he and Clay McConnell in their adventure to start a band. Dusty and Clay had written a few songs before the entrance of Nelson, but the percussionist has been a part of the Ides since the beginning. (Nelson’s song choice is Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.) Alex Gannon: Hailing from Blue Ridge, GA, Alex is lead/rhythm guitarist and vocalist for The Ides of June. Gannon is a graduate of Young Harris College with a Bachelor’s degree in music performance and recently earned his Master’s degree from Georgia State University in classical guitar performance. He is currently teaching private classical guitar lessons as well as music appreciation at Georgia Highlands College. Alex may have two degrees in classical guitar, but his rock and roll soul runs deep. In a recent interview with Atlanta Music Grapevine Gannon said, “I really cannot remember a time I did not play guitar.” Alex is the newest member of The Ides of June and will be debuting all of his talents on his first album with the group entitled Stop, Rock & Roll. (Song: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.) Clay McConnell: Lead/rhythm guitarist and co-founding member of The Ides of June hails from Blairsville, Ga. McConnell’s family history is bursting with musical talent. His grandfather on his maternal side is a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and played with such notable musicians as Elvis and Johnny Cash. Clay picked up the guitar alongside Huggins with the strict intent of starting a band. After a mere two years of practice the two comrades joined forces with Justin Nelson and Mike Rosenfeld (former band member) to embark on a musical journey together as The Ides of June. (Song: Right Hand by All Them Witches.) Dusty Huggins: Bassist and vocalist for The Ides of June was also born and raised in The Appalachian Mountains of Blairsville, GA. His musical exploration began late as he did not pick up a guitar until the age of 27 after the unfortunate suicide of his mother. He would lean on his best friend and musical brother McConnell to harness his passion for
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songwriting and music as a whole. Huggins spent very little time playing rhythm guitar with the first four members of the band, but would move to bass with the acquisition of Gannon’s incredible talents on lead guitar. Huggins has now been playing bass guitar for two years and has really begun to find his sound and place alongside Nelson in the rhythm section of the Ides of June. (Huggins’ song choice is Strange Desire by The Black Keys.) 2) What’s the meaning behind the name “Ides of June?” Has it changed in significance from the time y’all chose it to now? The name The Ides of June is derived from a Roman folklore in reference to The Ides of March. The Ides of March is a day in the Roman calendar signifying March 15th. On The Ides of March Caesar was told by a seer that he would not survive the Ides of March. He was stabbed to death that very day by members of the senate at an official meeting that the seer warned he should not attend. The modern day version for the Ides of June is the tale of a curse. On June 15 th of 2012, front man Dusty Huggins’ mother was taken off of life support due to a suicide attempt that left her with zero brain activity. In the following years his group of friends would endure car crashes, motorcycle wrecks and many other oddly occurring events on The Ides of June. When the date was soon approaching Huggins would exclaim “Beware The Ides of June.” After a year of searching for band name, Huggins said the phrase per usual and McConnell was stricken with the idea for a band name. That night the two agreed that their future name would be The Ides of June. The first album was bursting with fuzzy tones and dark, angry lyrics. The songs on this album are mostly songs with lessons and learning, but many end with despair, such as the song entitled “The Ides of June.” Today its meaning is a positive and uplifting meaning to the band members. The group talks about itself with the simple nickname “The Ides.” The music has also gained a more refined sound with uplifting overtones. This is due in part to the changes and progressions in the music and lives of the original members and largely in part to Gannon’s addition to the band. The Ides is no longer a curse. It is a cause for celebration of life and of what a group of people can do together, whether it be pulling together to help a friend through his mother’s death or spending two years grinding through practices, on the road and in the studio in order to make an album that the group is proud to call their own. 3) Your new album’s release party is at Smith’ Olde Bar on 10/19/18. What’s the name of it, how is it different from the others, and where can people get it? Our new album is entitled Stop, Rock & Roll. Its one predecessor is our debut album Exist. We believe that it is very different than our first album. For one, we have Mr. Gannon’s input, taste in music, and even tastier guitar licks. Besides that, the group made it a goal to make a brighter and more uplifting album. Dusty had reached the point in his writing career (and in life) that he was ready to start writing about the blissful parts of life. The album is also much more technical and higher quality production all around. We are very excited and proud to show the world what we have been up to for the past two years. 4) If you could organize a music festival with 10 bands (alive or passed on), who would it include?
The Allman Brothers Band Vulfpek Ty Segall Led Zeppelin Lynyrd Skynyrd Queens of the Stone Age The Black Keys Stevie Ray Vaughan Jimi Hendrix The Black Angels
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5) What question are you so sick of answering you never want to hear it again? “Alex, are you jealous of Dusty’s hair?” 6) What are each of the band members reading right now?
Justin: King Rat Dusty: text messages Alex: Zen in the Art of Archery Clay: Blink by Malcom Gladwell
7) Do any of the band members have any side projects going on? If so, what are they?
Dusty and Alex have taken up an acoustic duo to showcase the softer side of The Ides of June. Dusty is starting a folk band with a very talented artist named Bridget Leen. Besides solo classical and singer/songwriter gigs, Alex has been covering full albums with his side project Roulette via facebook live. He can also be found performing covers of great oldies with Atlanta’s local Stephen Lee Band. Most recently he has formed a group (as yet unnamed) whose music is stemmed from more of a traditional blues sound incorporating the organ keyboard; they aim to be performing in Atlanta by the start of 2019.
8) Where can folks see you live in the coming weeks/months? We will be touring the south the rest of 2018 and 2019 promoting the new album. Mule Camp Tavern in Gainesville, Ga is our next stop and then we have Athens, GA, Macon, GA, Asheville, NC, Greenville, SC, Birmingham, AL, Ellijay, GA, Blairsville, GA, etc. to get to in the near future. 9) Who are some bands you guys dig so much you rock a cover song? We play weddings and house gigs so we’ve played up to 4 hours of covers before. A lot of those gigs are what helped pay for our latest album. It is great to learn your favorite artist style in order to use it for inspiration. As far as original shows we have probably covered Allman Brothers, Gary Clark Jr. and The Black Keys the most. All of us are fans of all of them but The Black Keys may be leading the way. Dusty has a unhealthy obsession with their lead singer Dan Auerbach so he pushes their tunes any time he can.
https://www.facebook.com/theidesofjune33/ www.theidesofjune.com @theidesofjune for Instagram
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The Rev. George S. Yandell Rector, Holy Family Episcopal Church Jasper, GA 30143
interview by Clifford Brooks
My story: Born in Mobile, AL in 1953. Baptized on Pentecost (then Whitsunday) by Bishop Claiborne who was filling in for the rector (chief pastor) in old St. Paul’s Church on Old Shell Road. My godparents were my grandfather (for whom I was named) and my cousin Nancy, who was almost 16 at the time. Both were constant, doting godparents throughout my upbringing. My father moved our family to Atlanta in 1957. We moved again to Knoxville in 1958, where I lived until going to college. We joined the new Episcopal Church in Bearden, Church of the Ascension. My mother made me try out for the boys’ choir when I was six, and that pretty well sealed the deal. Music became my passion. Clergy Vocation and the Episcopal Church: As a choir boy, sitting in the loft at the rear of the Church, I began to read along in the prayer book as the priest led worship. I followed his gestures, his measured movements. The dignity and grace of the services got into my psyche. As we sang the psalms, the hymns and our anthems, I loved the way harmonies and the cadences made me feel. I believe I was falling in love with the Holy. Flash forward to the end of junior year in high school. Billy Graham’s crusade was coming to Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee. A number of my friends pressed me into attending. It was May 28, 1970. Billy Graham’s message was OK, the songs pretty good, but when he introduced President Richard Nixon as a guest speaker, I realized I had been co-opted. Even though Nixon only spoke for 13 minutes, I was seething. Our parish had lost 3 of its young men in the war in Viet Nam. I had served as acolyte in one of those services. I realized then the God I worshipped was not the God Billy Graham was propounding. I suspect that marked a turning point for me, maybe opening a door toward a later decision to seek vocation as a priest. I knew Jesus then as I know Jesus now- a peacemaker, the Son of God who intends healing and wholeness for all God’s people and all of God’s creation. Doubt along my journey: I quit doing priest work when I resigned as rector (chief pastor) of a large church in North Dallas. The work was grinding me down, my marriage was dying, I was continually dismayed at the direction the bishop was trying to move the diocese. I guess this was a mid-life correction/crisis. In Dallas, I’d sought out counselling from a highly recommended Jungian analyst. For 2 ½ years I worked with Dr. Myrna Little. She heard all my pain, my doubts, my anguish. She helped me practice a discipline of dream recording- pray to God for a dream, wake myself up when a dream unfolded, write it down, then go back to sleep. Some nights I recorded more than one dream. When we met, I’d often tell her my dreams. By the middle of my fifth year as rector, I had a dream that troubled me deeply. After I’d told it to her, she said, “What meanings do you take from it?” I tried to name a few, but was blocked. She said to me, “George, it sounds as the dream is telling you that you’re no longer called to be the shepherd of your sheep.” I started crying then, and for two days I was often overcome. And realized I had to make changes. That dream and Dr. Little’s guidance changed the course of my life. And now, 23 years later, I realize my doubts and fears led me onto a new path. I am grateful beyond knowing. What question are you sick of answering? Can’t think of one. What question hasn’t been asked recently? What do you want to do when you grow up? As a senior citizen now, my curiosity is stronger now than ever. (I’ve been called Curious George most of my life.) I’m reading history without it being assigned- I’m seeking the minute details of the history that surrounded the Jews and the Early Church. Silk Roads: A New History of the World is the book that’s lighting me up now. Learning how 6th century BCE Babylon was a mega-city fueled by importing slaves from recently conquered territories created it as a cosmopolitan
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wonder. And of course, the Jews who’d been conquered by the Babylonians were part of that immense population. Learning how empire after empire followed Babylon’s lead- the Persians particularly. As I’m growing up, I want to learn more intimately all that contributed to the fellowship of Jesus over the ages. Who is my a Patron Saint? Paul the evangelist. Recent research on the historical Paul has redeemed him for me- he was a revolutionary Jew who imitated Jesus more strongly than anyone in his age. He raised up women in leadership roles, he balanced the Jewish and non-Jewish members of the congregations he developed and served, he braced the authorities in Jerusalem when they tried to create burdensome conditions for non-Jews to enter the fellowship. He walked up to 30 miles a day on the emperor’s highways, spreading the gospel of Jesus. A great irony, that. What are my go-to books in the Bible? Philippians and Galatians. Especially the Christ hymn in Philippians 2:5 ff. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited (or grasped or held onto) but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Two thing stand out for me: 1) This hymn is very early, probably sung less than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection. It has what scholars call very ‘high Christology’- a strongly developed regard for Jesus as “Christos”, the anointed one of God. It’s possible those in the fellowship in Philippi knew of it and sang it with Paul in absentia as his letter was read to them. 2) The hymn implies that Jesus is exalted above all others- he, not the emperor in Rome, was in the form of God. And that the emperor too should bend his knee at the name of Jesus. A most seditious letter when understood that way. Helpful tips for others looking at the priesthood: Read spiritual classics. Pray the daily office, read the Bible readings in the 2-year lectionary. Start following the disciplines a priest undertakes. Attend worship in a wide swath of Churches. Visit synagogues. Talk exhaustively with a wide assortment of clergy about their vocation. Pray and pray for God’s guidance. Find trusted spiritual guides/spiritual friends. Volunteer in a parish or in other challenging ministriesjails, soup-kitchens, community relief agencies. Attend discernment retreats. Spend time in monasteries. Make confession often. Recognize that time is on your side- don’t get frantic about it. There’ll be plenty of time to unfold the ministries God intends. What do you see coming that will add to your legacy? I have no idea. It’s all a process unfolding, each day surprises me, challenges me, moves me. My older daughter and son-in law have delivered us a granddaughter, named for my mother. And my younger daughter and her husband will give birth in January. Getting to be an active grandfather to those little beings as they grow may be the most rewarding legacy imaginable.
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2019 PLAYBILL ADVERTISING RATES Tater Patch Players JAN-DEC 2019 MAIN STAGE SHOWS: All productions are nine performances Feb 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, Mar 1, 2,3 ................................................................................................ Kitchen Witches April 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 ...................................................................................................... Drinking Habits June 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 ............................................................................................... Greetings! Sept 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 ................................................................................................ On Golden Pond Nov 29, 30 & Dec 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 ............................................................................................... Dearly Beloved
Program Advertisements Back cover (color)
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Inside back cover (color) (SOLD)
$120 per show -- $400 per year
$80 per show â&#x20AC;&#x201C; $250 per year includes 10 Flex Passes and an ad on our Lobby Marquee
$ 50 per show -- $160 per year includes 4 Flex Passes
$ 35 per show -- $100 per year
For an additional $50, get an ad in the play bill for: July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 2 8......Youth Theater Show . Support the kids of Pickens County! To become a named sponsor for our Youth Theater show and be prominently mentioned in all advertising and press releases, contact us at email@example.com before April 30, and tell us the best way to get in touch. All advertising must be paid for in advance. Camera ready artwork must be submitted 3 weeks prior to opening of show. You may change ad copy for each show. Other advertising opportunities: We are seeking restaurants to provide one Monday Volunteer Lunch per month. The meal should be of the "take out" variety, and we will pick up, and should feed approximately 12 hungry adult volunteers. In return the restaurant will receive a 1/2 page ad in our main stage show playbills (and our undying thanks). If you are a business who provides goods or services that you think we may need (some ideas: building supplies, concession boxed candy/snack, healthy snacks for kids at our several youth workshops each year, office supplies, cleaning supplies) please contact us , contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us the best way to get in touch.
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