The Blue Mountain Review Issue 17

Page 1

Issue 17

a journal of culture






CORNELIUS EADY *all rights within remain with the respective artists

Sharing the Gift


By T.C. Carter Just a few short years ago, already into the backside of my earthly journey, I began to write poetry. So unsure of myself in the process of transferring the productions of my mind and heart to words on paper, I initially would not allow the word “poet� to be a badge I was bold enough to wear. After all, I had little formal education, knew basically nothing about writing and was starting late in the game. My vocabulary, both then and now, needs improvement. On the positive side of the ledger, when I shared my work at open-mics I discovered that there was an appreciation for the words I wrote, the stories I told; room for my voice to be heard. I was welcomed and encouraged in my efforts. My credentials were not questioned; I needed no ticket of admission other than the work sprouting from the seeds of my life and my willingness to let them grow and blossom. As every writer knows, the minefields of the past can cause great pain and many tears as we turn over the rocks of memory, but they can also deliver relief and joy and the sure knowledge that God did not make a mistake when He created us. The gifts we are given are meant to be shared. In the pages that follow is a collection of works as varied and exciting as the artists who created them, each one a labor of love and dedication. These artists are lovers of words, teachers of truth, tellers of tales; they fill our vision with images of their creations, they take us on journeys both strange and familiar to us, and here in these pages, they share their gifts with you and I and all who will partake. Long may they live and prosper.



Poetry Shutta Crum Eric Fisher Stone Michael Spring T.C. Carter Daniel Wade Lisa Trudeau Calvin Olsen Betsy Rupp Vikram Masson Michael Londra James Mckee Helena Lipstadt John Leonard Sheila Black Ace Bogges Johnathan Yungkans Christy Prahl Amy Kesegich Billy Kenney Gregory Loselle Daniel Smart Kelly Girl Johnson Jeremy Ray Jewell Alan Reese Peter Venable Sean Johnson Geo Staley Roy Bentley Twixt Hester Furey Billy Reynolds G. Timothy Gordon t.v. malone Etan Nechin John l. Stanizzi Mary Romero

7 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 28 29 30 31 34 39 40 42 44 46 47 48 49 50 51 55 56 57 59 60 61 62 67 68 70 72 74 78


Fiction 81 82 88 90 95 99

Jana Harris Kimberly Knutson Jim Kelly Robert Earle Rachel Attias Jacquelyn Scott

Essays 105 111

Terresa Ast Jim Reese

Book Reviews 117 119

William Walsh Terri Witek


Special Features

Visual Artists Justin Butts Eurydice Eve

125 128

196 198 201 204 209 213

Literary Interviews Cornelius Eady Kelli Russell Agodon Zoe Fishman Guy Walters Allison Joseph Benjamin Cutler Cajun Mutt Press Clay Matthews Firewords Magazine Hoxie Gorge Review Odyssey Books Rye Whiskey Review Brave Voices Magazine

215 216 219

133 138 142 145 147 149 153 156 166 168 170 172 174

Christopher Lazarus 529 Venue Haley Solomon Movie Reviews Alicia Brooks NuLeaf #1 Health & Wellness Hemingways Dog Mark Gottlieb John Pence &


Music & Entertainment Yitzchok Meir “YM” Alex Gannon Anthony William & Jack Cooper Amber Cordell Jeremy Wells

176 181 183 188 190

SCE Member Spotlight 226

Andrew K. Clark

Faces of Faith 228 4

Joel Goddard

N ow t a ki ng su bm i ssi on s f or the

WOMEN’S ONLY Wo m en of Resi l i en c e ch apbook c on test P R I Z E S AWA R D E D : 1st Place: $200 & 100 copies of their SCE published chapbook 2nd Place: $100 3rd Place: $50

H o s t e d by t h e S o u t h e r n Collective Experience and Judged by Melissa Studdard!

W i n n e r w i l l b e a n n o u n c e d o n A p r i l 1 5 th, 2 0 2 0 Submission Fee is $25. Please submit 25 total PAGES of poetry that highlight the resilience of women while overcoming obstacles along their journey to seek joy & fulfillment.*

Window for submissions runs from November 5th, 2019, until March 31st, 2020.

For additional contest rules & conditions, please go to

*This contest is open to women only. Contest is not open to SCE members.


SHUTTA CRUM By Clifford Brooks Please give us some little-known facts about you. First of all, Shutta Crum is my real given name. Shutta was my father’s nickname. He was the baby of 12 and my mother was the oldest girl, the second child of 11. I’m the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side so there was a great deal of discussion about who I should be named after. My father settled the matter by giving me his nickname. Being the youngest of his family, he had to talk to be seen and we believe he was told to shut-up so much he got Shutta as a nickname. (That’s the story he told me. But then, he was always a big storyteller!) Other interesting things about me include: I was invited to read one of my children’s books at the White House Easter Egg Roll. I was also invited to spend a month presenting to school children in Japan at the Department of Defense military schools. (Wonderful experience!) While I was a working librarian, I was named Michigan’s Youth Librarian of the year. And perhaps the oddest thing about me is that I hate peanut butter and bananas. Ugh! But love that good ol’ southern staple biscuits and gravy. Yum! When and why did the poetry bug bite you? Like many writers I fell in love with poetry at an early age. I vaguely remember a poem I wrote in the fourth grade. It was scary and about something awaiting me at the bottom of the stairs. (Note: our house had no stairs.) But what really cemented it in my memory was how proud my parents were. I had to recite it to guests and others—many times. I think that first inkling of local “fame” did it for me. Hah! What rituals do you go through to get in the right mindset to create? I write erratically—not always the best process. I do wish I could be more habitual about it. But what really seems to start the juices roiling is reading. When I read the work of good writers—poets, as well as novelists and non-fiction writers—I fall in love again with language. I keep notes in my journal of great word choices and phrases I admire. This is partly to remember what I’ve read, but also to give me that push I need to see what language I can pull out of myself. Sometimes the odd word juxtapositions between different authors I see in my journals will spark an idea. Especially helpful are nature writers who know how to see, hear, taste, smell and touch, and how to write about what they’ve experienced. Once, I went on a writing frenzy and wrote a number of poems after reading several stories and books by Loren Eiseley and Rachel Carson. Wow! Their love of the natural world can’t 7 help but inspire.

Another literary voice I adore is Dylan Thomas. Every Christmas Eve, after family doings have died down, my hubby and I have a glass of wine and listen to a recording of Dylan Thomas reading his A Child’s Christmas in Wales. (What a great reading voice!!) Almost any writer would be called to take pen in hand with lines of his like these: “The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves.” And, “I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.” To sum it up, I need to read in order to write. Reading ignites the dried-up deadfall in the brain and can often create a fire—cozy, or roaring. Who are under-appreciated poets you love who more should know about? Why? Generally, I read the better-known poets; Kinnell, Oliver, Kooser, Trethewey, Hughes, Heaney, etc. However, I do try to read online some of the newer poets who are publishing in journals such as Rattle, etc. I think poetry—like any literature—goes through periods when literary styles are in fashion or out—so I like to keep my ear to the ground. A contemporary poet I enjoy very much is Terry Blackhawk from the Detroit area. She has won several awards including the John Ciardi Poetry Prize, so she is starting to become better known. Her books deserve a wide audience for her lyricism and her images. Though I was born in the mountains of Appalachia, I’ve lived most of my life in southeast Michigan. So, I generally seek out and go to poetry readings in that neck of the woods where there seems to be an abundance of poets. Supporting each other at readings and buying books is critical. What books do you have out? What projects await us over the horizon? How can we keep up with you online? Most of my published books are books for young readers from babies through about 8th grade. I have 16 books under my belt, all published by major houses (Alfred A. Knopf, Clarion/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Albert Whitman and Fitzhenry and Whiteside of Canada). So, if you go to my website you will mostly see information about my board books, picture books and novels. Some of these are written in verse. However, poetry was my first literary passion. And while many of my poems have appeared in anthologies and journals since the 1970s, I will—just this year—have my first chapbook out. It’s being published by Kelsay Books. Working title is: When You Get Here. I can’t wait! I know I will be posting everywhere with glee when it makes its appearance. It took me many years to realize that I needed to pull some of my poems together in one place. Duh . . . But then, I have been busy writing 16 children’s books. And if you ever try that, you’ll quickly understand that writing books for young readers is much more difficult than writing for adults. True! A kid has too much to do, immediately. He/She will only give you a few moments to kick into the action. An adult will, at least, give you the benefit of doubt and hang in with you for a few chapters. And try getting plot, characterization, motivation, setting, dialogue, humor, etc. into a book with less than 500 words. Whew! In many ways, working on this volume of 8

POETRY poetry has been a welcome respite. This is not to say that poetry is easy to write—it isn’t! Some of my poems have been rewritten over decades. Poetry is a very demanding muse. But there is a certain groove—if I can find it—that relaxes me when I write poetry. It’s a little bit of real estate in my brain that welcomes me, and that I often find myself longing to visit when I’m in the midst of other writing projects. Currently, I continue to lead a good number of writing workshops, and to appear at book festivals. (Contact me if you need a speaker/presenter!) In addition, I am working on collecting and rewriting some of my poems for a second chapbook as well as continuing to write my children’s books. To keep in touch: my website is Via Facebook: My twitter handle is @Shutta. On Instagram I post pictures of pages from my writing journals.


Denial and Declaration: A Birthing in the South

Shutta Crum

I. Red the blood that speaks without voice the laws are laid down mother to mother they who gather their hands bound to the river they who take turns washing their vaginas in its waters their blood a timeless rubric a thin ribbon unbreakable

II. Darkness swallows the sound of the river Darkness eats the shape of the mountains taking root in the womb Darkness decries an enemy nails a tin moon to the red eye whispers wingless words that mold themselves into concrete and honeysuckle into hungry hallelujahs eyeing the thin trickle of blood on mute waters

III. I cried in the ruddy darkness tied profanities into pretty red bows ate silence 10

POETRY I wanted to tear the mountains into sinuous lies and re-glue them to time I wanted to untaste shame and flaunt my pinkness in the undark I wanted to hear again the truth of old voicings rising from the Sweet Songster Knew only the coming of Shape

IV. I was frightened Shape pushed out grasped blood, claimed sinew I grieved to the highest courts demanded assurances from Darkness consulted the oracle of the tin moon winking red in the black sky I read my future in the Tarot Shape had the high-priestess in a half-nelson and the mountains bled dorsal-humped over a hot sea

V. Now Shape had a finger it pointed to black mucus it pointed to red mucus it pointed to the silence Of the muted mouth of the muffled ear of the masked eye of the mindless tongue it pointed to the space that had sucked the moon into the sea


VI. Time had a part to play it was coached off-stage say: Pain is only a word

VII. Darkness was cramped Shape had taken charge it had many fingers now it felt the red heat rush inward it heard the suck of motion it smelled desire rising it tasted blood on the waters Pain was invited in at last it overflowed its banks— refracting against the tin moon reflecting and leaking in at the eye Shape wet a finger and tested the air it tugged the red ribbon And the mountains crouched ready for the catch their flanks a clear and singing decision



POETRY Going Through Their Things (a sonnet) For the most part, their days were simple acts. I can see that now; going through their things. These receipts Mom kept . . . I could lay them out and piece their lives together. How often she bought milk. He, nails or a tube of caulk. I could count cards rubber-banded, treasured; birthdays, Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day. My siblings and I, toss, sort. Things we do for the parents who loved, and then left us. We find orphaned pictures from happy times; us as children, our pets, our friends, our cars, Mom pregnant and open-faced with laughter, Dad being goofy, more often than not. Our duty: to lift this heart-hurting lot.

Beneath Snow My hand, running along the surface of your life, came away red. I only meant to brush off the falling snow. Beneath the latticed surface of crystals and light lay a shard whose edge was indiscriminate. How naive my seasons filled with the wonder of snow. And now . . . I see the intricacies of flake and drift— the sublime and the terrifying. What frightens is not the immediate bleeding, but the honed edge waiting.


You tell me the secret is that snow hides both the wound and the weapon.

Shutta Crum’s poems have appeared in literary journals since the 1970s; including Ann Arbor (W)rites, The Wayne Literary Review, and The Huron River Review. Over the years, she has placed among finalists in the Current Magazine poetry competitions, and was awarded first place in 2004. These days, a number of her poems have appeared in the AAR2 (Ann Arbor Review). Her first chapbook will be published in 2020. She has several children’s books written in verse published by major publishers, including THUNDER-BOOMER! (Clarion/HMH) which was a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book, 2009, and an American Library Assoc. Notable Book, 2010. 14


Eric Fisher Stone

A Nodosaur Friendship In 2017, miners in Alberta, Canada unearthed a fully mummified dinosaur, a nodosaur. Its spikes, scales and even its internal organs were preserved 110 million years later, as reported by National Geographic, the Smithsonian and Current Biology. Your sweet reptilian eyes stay unblinking at the human world, your lips reaped from mud half upturned in a smile. Reborn from bitter bitumen, dust and death, if only life could wake your careful steps and you’d munch fronds patiently as snow, my hippo-thick lizard. Your fleshy weapons, spearheads finning your back, dragon scales seem tender to me. I’d prove some humans are kind and feed you an apple so you’d taste its plummy cells like sugared rain from parched cretaceous earth. Seeing your picture on the news, I offer friendship as if reunited from boyhoods of volcanoes and ferns.

Second Earth The white owl is death. He carries the beloved to an infinite meadow. Grandpa, brother are you there? As a child, my mother’s hair fell over her shoulders like black rain as she hugged me coming home 15

from school. Dreaming, I still see her before chemo cracked the corners of her mouth, cobwebbed her face gray. I see her lips red under the sun’s apple, her forehead’s moonlight. Midges spool faint clouds with the specks of their wings, their lifespans three to five days. I hope a second Earth contains them and all extinct dinosaurs, dodos, fishes and newts. I’ve become a bloom-maddened bee sipping sad flowers, craving the hot nectar of sorrow. My dog and all those I never knew ride the lunar owl’s nimbus carried to a warm savanna where my mother waits in the sea of grass with open arms and her hair smells like grief.


Eric Fisher Stone is a poet at Fort Worth, Texas where he teaches and tutors college writing. His poetry is forthcoming in I-70 Review and EcoTheo Review and has appeared in about two dozen literary journals. His first full length poetry collection, The Providence of Grass was published by Chatter House Press in 2018. He received his MFA in creative writing and the environment from Iowa State University, and he loves animals.


Michael Spring

Madrone Only a few days after her passing I thought I saw her on the shore -a young woman shielding her eyes and squinting to see the explosive waves against the sea stack. The beach seemed to breathe. Waves flew apart in the wind. The sea stack shimmered green on black. I picked up a folded knot of driftwood that looked like a bird with an open beak. There was a hole for an eye I could see through. I held on to it. Ahead of me was a galaxy made of grainy sand and agates. Below my feet an ant battled and freed itself from a depression in the sand. Because I was thinking of Madrone as dawn’s otherworldly purples and golds darkened the sky, I believed there was a truth being revealed -- that she was everywhere. And suddenly everything I looked at was amplified. I imagined the sea stack’s birth from Earth’s mantle, from magma eight centuries ago -a plume of hissing steam and fire -how it cracked silences into splinters. And now, to this day, the sea stack continues to stand -- a chthonic expression towering above the surging breakers. It looks like a child in the distance-it is Madrone as a child, turned away from the shore, wading -watching the shapeshifting clouds.


Michael Spring is the author of four poetry books and one children’s book. He’s won several awards, including the Robert Graves Award, the Turtle Island Poetry Award. In 2016 he won a Luso-American Fellowship from DISQUIET International. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including the Atlanta Review, Crannog, Flyway, Gargoyle, Midwest Quarterly, Neon, and Spillway. Michael Spring is a martial art instructor, a poetry editor for the Pedestal Magazine and Flowstone Press. He lives on a mountainside farm in O’Brien, Oregon.



T.C. Carter

Scratching that Itch I’ve ‘et my share of arena dirt when big bulls and wild broncs bucked me down, and my life has been saved more than once I believe by wild men rodeo clowns. I know what it’s like to be flush with the cash and I know how it is to be broke. I’ve had steak on my plate and all I could eat, washed down with whiskey and Coke. Then there’s been times when the pickings was slim and my ribs was startin’ to show, but all I could do was to stay on the road and keep doing the things that I know. I’ve showed up for work in trucks new off the lot and I’ve thumbed my way down the road, but one way or t’other I got there in time to make the whole eight or get throwed. I’ve had luck with the ladies who think cowboys are cool, and hang out at the rodeo grounds, and I fell pretty hard for a couple of gals, but romance on the road ain’t near good as it sounds. But that’s how it goes in this life that I chose; it sure ain’t no way to get rich, but long as I’m here on the green side of grass I’ll have to keep scratching that itch.


T.C. Carter started writing late in life and has produced an estimated four hundred pieces of work in seven years. He is best known as a cowboy poet but he also deals with military subjects, true stories from his early southern upbringing and a host of other tales both true and imagined. He prefers to share his work at live readings but has posted a few videos and audios on FB.



Daniel Wade

Outage When the power cut out, the only light left in our flat was the whirring glow off my laptop, milkily stark as the moon. Corralled in sleeping bags, we detached from each other with the slowness of glaciers adrift in meltwater, and I wished I could join you again in sleep where the grip of commitment was loosened and we inhaled the old savory heat that once lifted us from the teeth of a crisis. Impermanent as ice, the sudden quiet did little to calm us.


We have outgrown love just as we outgrew the grass on that brittle canal bank. The quiet does little to calm us. It’s been long underway, we realize as we shiver, stalactites hanging heavy as verdicts in the hallway, leaving us frozen as if among headlights, floods our ears, mists and unmoors our eyes, makes waves of pale flecks rise slowly to our skulls. A rumble of ice calving sets in; the door of what used to be our room is double-locked as cold fronts swirl in from all longitudes. * The bulbs sizzle and flicker again. I get my suitcase ready, unsure to hurry or to drag my heels. You walk out into the crisp sunrise, while I gather up flotsam of the last three years.


Daniel Wade is a poet and playwright from Dublin, the republic of Ireland. In January 2017, his play The Collector opened the 20th anniversary season of the New Theatre, Dublin. He is also the author of the e-chapbook ‘Iceberg Relief’, published by Underground Voices. Daniel was the Hennessy New Irish Writing winner for April 2015 in The Irish Times, and his poetry has appeared in over two dozen publications since 2012.


POETRY Inheritance

Lisa Trudeau

The house falls and seeps. Ivied fingers picking mortar into crumbs, dampness fisting plaster back to brick and stud. Behind boards something slurs elegies to rot and dust. Even now this house is hers. Ancient stains that brine the walls shape themselves to stoop and creep behind me as I sweep up years of biscuit crumb and rodent shit. Pooled and staining every sink, the water stinks like blood, leaching lead through pipes that catheter the hill behind the barn, spring-split. Beyond the cellar door sporous air smacks of mold and apricots, its staircase pitched and slick with God knows what. Jars put by for leaner days crack and leak, the squirmy floor beneath agitating thoughts unsafe to think.


Woodcock “Males perform a remarkable “sky dance” on spring and summer nights, in a high, twisting flight, with chippering, twittering, bubbling sounds.” – Audubon Guide to North American Birds you bend me under briars growing dark listen for the thrum of wings drumming dust tip my chin between your finger and thumb show me its shadow climb then drop into song recklessly cast through waxing arcs all reason aside it lands unharmed close enough to touch

and begins again

shoulders brush

stiffen to memories

shattered glass

irretrievable words and thoughts

night dampens as we strain to witness this display until it ends in failure or quick feathery fuck leaning into familiar dark we retrace our steps without talk without touch unfixed by song mouths dry amid this dewy rush


Lisa Trudeau is a poet, a former publishing professional and independent bookseller. She lives in small mill town just south of the New Hampshire border in Massachusetts. Recent work has been published in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, The Esthetic Apostle, and Cathexis Northwest Press

POETRY 37.7924° N, 122.4843° W

Calvin Olsen

A famous bridge hung in distance. Tide out—barnacles ignored waves capable of ripping fingers from a dock. A cargo ship, feigning transparency in the fog, followed a tug to open water, moaning both its notes. Even shrinking, it dominated the horizon. I’ve heard ships that size kill their motor miles from shore and coast to port with sheer immensity, trailing V-shaped wakes a minute of latitude long. A flock of albatross flew across the daytime moon, the surf filtered footprints and regurgitated jellyfish, the skin on our feet hardening up the beach.

Sinking Below my bedroom window, a tree. Below the tree, snow. Below the snow, leaves who imitated flame then fell then camouflaged themselves against the dirt, pushing out their wet the way an apple wilts when pressed, waiting to be fallen on and frozen, finally getting what they wished. Below the leaves, a crust of dirt—once whole, now punctured by the living things: some uprooting dinner, some there to bury things that overstretched their faces, some digging down to qualm the topple of their higher selves holding back the wind.


Providence Night separates itself from the water. Forms appear: an open mouth, eye sockets, everything shrouded in the same color. We finger the grooves in wet rock, fling stones over the upheaval, they skip once before entering the fog. Not all manmade but not all sorcery, the place we walk is not quite land. It swirls around our naked feet. Tell me, blind man, what breaks your fall if you pitch yourself into the mist and out of sight over the endless sand? Can you hear the sound of your body—this thing whose velocity betrays it well before coming in to view— startling the sea birds into the water.

Calvin Olsen’s poetry and translations have most recently appeared in AGNI, Asymptote, The Cortland Review, The London Magazine, Tampa Review, and The Chattahoochee Review, among others. A former Robert Pinsky Global Fellow and recent Pushcart Prize nominee, Calvin now lives in Chapel Hill, NC, where he is poetry editor for The Carolina Quarterly. 26


Betsy Rupp

Even Jesus Eats Fried Chicken The family of Snake Handlers owns the Chicken Shack, the pale yellow square brick building with a sun-bleached gray awning that sits on the corner of Main Street and MLK Drive that locals call Chicken and Jesus Fish, somewhere famous for crispy gizzards, fried fish, and Revivals, the scent of grease, salt, and premixed seasonings seep into cardboard pamphlets proclaiming you can drink poison straight from the snake’s mouth with enough faith, but no amount of prayer will keep booze from fast tracking you down to the Devil’s backyard, but doesn’t mention binge eating fried chicken skin, though, they agree theirs is so good Jesus his own self would fall to the sin of gluttony and even though it’s hot enough to melt lipstick, the old women working the fryers still wear their long hair and long sleeves while the men cleaning counters keep their crew cuts trimmed with no beards, and they don’t keep the newspaper by the door, only their church’s newsletter about the couple who had their miracle baby only six months after their wedding pageant followed by a list of who died that week and they plaster verses from the Gospel of Mark on their chalk board that hangs next to the front door and on the side of the soggy brown bags, the basis for their belief that the chosen will speak in unearthly tongues, lay healing hands on the sick, and handle deadly snakes without fear because if you believe the scripture, the gristle won’t clog your heart.

My poems have been previously published in Emrys Journal, Burningword Literary Journal, Delta Poetry Review, and Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I’ve also presented my poetry at the Southern Writers, Southern Writing Conference in 2018 and 2019. I currently serve as an English Instructor at Florida State University, where I recently earned my MFA in poetry. Before attending FSU, I earned my MA in English Literature with a concentration in Poetry from Mississippi State University. 27

Vikram Masson

My Dad at the Fountains In 1962 you arrived in Atlanta, from India, and one morning, thirsty from walking miles you came to two drinking fountains crowned by slate signs-WHITE: a metal tower thrumming in the heat, veined with refrigerant, polished with love; COLORED: a dirty porcelain bowl, warm water dribbling from its little snout. Mild man of the tropics, what binaries did you know? You knew “Hindu and Muslim”, “Brahmin and Harijan”, not the Curse of Ham, the strictures of Jim Crow, which leached the red soil beneath your feet. You would stand aside, too puzzled to comprehend the blessed multitudes raising arms in Washington, the whiz of silencing bullet after bullet, the smoke of charred children billowing up from Birmingham. But on that day, you learned this land’s first rule and sipped cautiously from COLORED.


Vikram Masson is a lawyer by training who lives near Richmond, Virginia. His poems have been recently featured in Young Ravens Literary Review and The American Journal of Poetry.


Michael Londra

Psalms from a Diner I want to praise my mother. Dying, colossus in wheelchair. Neck collapsing toward spine Like a folded flag. I want to praise my mother, Terrifying me as a child with her tears, Pulling my body into her body, Making me the editor of her despair. Single parent, no money, living on lettuce, Two recluses in the same dungeon. Our lives of prayer to God, Watching TV evangelists. I want to praise her warm sadness Rising like gladiolas, Incantations of chrysanthemums. You refused to eat and ended up In the emergency room at 3 am. Blood clots in your lungs and You refused hospital admittance. I want to praise the wolf’s teeth in you. Grit between molars, Your ferocious unhinged howl. I want to praise my mother. Inscribe, in jade, this polished heart I made for you, my poem, My calligraphy of midnights. I want to praise my mother, my mother Who taught me to read, who Humiliated me with sarcasm. I want to praise my mother, My tormentor, I will not abandon you. I want to praise her. I want to praise my mother. Michael Londra is a poet and novelist living in New York. His essay on “Summer Knowledge,” by Delmore Schwartz, will be included in the forthcoming essay collection Time Is The Fire: The Transfigured Delmore Schwartz. 29

James McKee

Domesticated You’ve never built a house. So in raising these walls, you just bank them round like a nest with stray chipped bricks you found. Then for title to that house, you trench a line around it and withdraw, crisply bounded, to such peace as your moods allow. Some nights you pace your house behind shut blinds, and cheer where decay or disrepair preview its tumbling down; come dawn, no grander houses ask your keeping, so you rise to paint and plaster and reglaze: nothing here for neighbors to doubt. From the crates its crawlspaces house in a brooding closeness, these rooms draw a force to hold, like a home’s. Even the view belongs to you now.


James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Acumen, New Ohio Review, The Raintown Review, Flyway, Saranac Review, The Comstock Review, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.


Helena Lipstadt

Doina in the Studyhouse You remember surely this is history she said the history of leaving and returning she said. Notes were cut off, halls shrouded, stones baffled. I do not make this up the thick stones of Sejny yeshiva hold a clear cadence, echo seven generations of pages turning, chant repeating, from Vilna, Jerusalem of the North, a scant leap away. When I put ear to stone I hear as do Wojciech and Michał who put lip to trumpet rehearse their Klezmer Orkestr here blow out the very nigun of yeshiva boys who learned pages of Talmud in these halls. If you are a musicant or an historian and put ear to stone you hear and the need to play that thunderous tune grips. You hear history on your back, the weight of it, creak open.


It Could Happen Just like that in front of a hotel in a world capitol two women in dark glasses walk by while I am distracted by architecture the way the cedars float above the parapet distracted from my magpie search of crowded plazas lunchtime sidewalks for someone of certain age or slope of cheek a tossed up shard of long scattered kin fled to boiling harbors and smoking railways. (Step, pause, the younger lowers her glasses it could happen she lowers her glasses she stutters my name.)


POETRY Field Lake Road each field has its blooms blood red poppy in the wheat one drop, one soldier four-footed dancers leap out of the mistbound field wild come back, come back gray wind off the lake in the forest hide the birds what ears catch their song east sun on my cheek dirt road stretches through birches where may you find me

Helena Lipstadt was born in Berlin and lives in Los Angeles and Blue Hill, Maine. She studied with poets Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz, Irena Klepfisz, Terry Wolverton, Laurel Ann Bogen, and her poems have been featured in Rattling Wall, Sinister Wisdom, Trivia, basalt, The Midwest Review (forthcoming), and elsewhere. Lipstadt is the author of two chapbooks, Leave Me Signs and If My Heart Were A Desert. She has been writer-in-residence at WUJS Arts Project, Arad, Israel and Borderland Foundation, Sejny, Poland. Lipstadt volunteers as a writing mentor at Hollywood High School, Los Angeles. 33

My Life to a China Orange

John Leonard

Ahem Pulsing muscles, the half-moons of your shoulder blades glowing as we laid in the darkness…the feeling of your left thigh, scarred by a Roman candle 4th of July—when your twin sister chased us through a field until it was almost time for supper

Iced windows on a railcar…the palm prints of children (Not all were runaways)

There was heavy baggage overhead or rain in the forecast, and the way you always spoke of it, like a dark stranger plotting… Acreage meant the oldness of dirt Tax-man dead in the run off ditch, and the apple trees were applauding Now, a radio program murmurs in my neighbor’s shed while pregnant light glows from one wasp-dug hole in the wood, and bleeds from another (It’s easier just to agree) Place your hands on the table, smear your palms with salt and honey, and think about a mother, a mushroom cloud, or the hopheads of Fountain Square We’re breaking into lists now:

1. A list This list Thermopylae Lost (which is just a misspelled list)


Shopping list…wood chips…avocado…mascara

Where’s the red paint, so I can make more lists?

Picture all of the carvings on the concrete walls of a parking garage Listen to the crickets while I scare some strangers


2. There were coffee stains on the windowsill, a slit in the curtain that your mother watched us through… thin dogs that were never let inside

Never mind One spring afternoon, a short man stood in my driveway for 20 minutes, staring at a pendulum in the sky 3. “Rebecca, you have to get off the roof!” Opaque ice covered the ladder rungs while she had one or two dances with the chimney smoke A blue light was flashing two towns away She saw it right before she slipped Iron in the fire, pomegranates, the flesh, the fruit… Just imagine the taste (That’s enough of that) Forward, into the next thing— Maybe a favor, or maybe something that breaks me (But not me) Hollow buildings sleep through the Midwestern winter, cold trees whimper, forgotten like shopping carts You are probably milling around the marketplace, in love with love, like a fruit fly on a lemon Nursery rhymes circling in your head as something beautiful grows inside you My heart caves in like a pumpkin through the windshield of a double parked car on the day after Halloween We all know our fate, so it isn’t fate

But who will wake me now that you’re gone? (But again, not me) 35

Instead of me, a crystal statue of me A mirror where I once stood One that nobody will cover with oil soaked rags, on the day I say goodbye (Calm seas make shit sailors) Oh, get over it! Move on! Touch a copper pipe

and rearrange the furniture!

Make another list and add a sub-list

4. Outrage, nonsense, old film cluttered in a film storage warehouse


Brake lights, wine cellars, and a very important question; “Would you raise show rabbits me with?” Monsters, raked flesh, the night manager in a body bag


(I don’t have any clue where this is all heading) 4.1 A fox was watching me run through the woods (and this time it was me)

Your uncle’s old camping trailer was wrapped in vines It was the best place to hide ourselves from our parent’s whiskey

The feeling of being 17 at noon on June 23rd, 2009

My arms were covered in black berry thorns Yours were bruised like autumn pears

You heard a sad song and called me

We watched the sunset like people tend to do Light slowly melting into darkness, deep russet and jagged at the edges, like a mountain of coffee grinds and eggplant skins… Bone marrow being slowly raptured into the sea

Can you see?


(This sub-list isn’t working)

Imagine these words as a line drawn in the sand Pretend you’re a bird-bath besieged by squirrels. Notice all the visuals? Anyways…

I’ll tell you this much, that cotton dress you’d wrap yourself in… and it still hurts to think about, like watching a stone pillar fall on a childhood pet By the way, all my father left behind was a sock full of silver dollars And by the way, that laundromat downtown with the pool table closed soon after they found a dead kid in the dumpster, two buildings down Rust belt violence…like a flock of starlings burning through the night Our gang stole away for one last hurrah and realized the journey was already over My brother sat on a tree stump and flicked ashes at the sky

The best advice he ever gave me “You can always find liquor in a cemetery” Some of the others became statues too soon, cloistered in their poverty…Years later, frozen in the parking lot, waiting like ghosts Listen,

I think I’m failing to explain how much I love you And maybe, in our own unique ways, we’re all failing to define

Moving on, anyone would tell you, is like facing down a three headed alligator OR having no choice but to swallow a mouthful of Asian hornets 37

What they don’t tell you is this— That there’s no shame in folding guest towels that might never be used. And there’s no shame in being the only lemming to survive the fall. Despite what you may hear, sometimes just showing up to life is enough. So throw me out of the window, pour me out with the wash Let me fall Let me fail… (Slow tear sliding down your cheek) Driving to work this morning, and there was just enough sunlight to see a hubcap careen off a Buick and barely miss crushing a wild daisy Ain’t that something?


John Leonard is a writing professor and assistant editor of Twyckenham Notes, a poetry journal based out of South Bend, Indiana. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University. His previous works have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rockvale Review, Eunoia Review, Neologism, Anti-Heroin Chic, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, PoeticDiversity and Burningword Literary Journal. His work is forthcoming in Chiron Review, Blue Earth Review, Roanoke Review, and Rock & Sling. John was the 2016 inaugural recipient of the Wolfson Poetry Award, 2018 recipient of the Josephine K. Piercy Memorial Award, and the 2019 recipient of the David E. Albright Memorial Award and Hatfield Merit Award. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs. You can find him on Twitter at @jotyleon.

POETRY For Persephone

Sheila Black

The stories of the girls who go silent, become like water left out all night, which tastes, after a time, of dust—no longer glimmering, alive. It is terrible to forget you have a body. It is terrible to have a body--and spring, when even the tiniest shoot seems fated to grow until spongy and overblown—in bloom, then breaking. She realized one day she had only ever dared the trace of herself, rust-mark on a bed of blank sheets; she had only ever learned to be as under a roving eye—the one strafed over like a wall or a tree. She had only ever longed for the door in the side of the mountain that led to the bone valley, and the masks on the wall, and the notion that were she to put one on, she could speak in the voice of lions.

Sheila Black is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent (Educe Press, 2017). She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Birmingham Review, The New York Times and other places. She currently divides her time between San Antonio, TX, and Washington, D.C., where she works at AWP. 39

Ace Bogges

Advice for Those Dreaming of Another Era


Can’t clutch sand in your crooked fist. Wind won’t let a sail rest. The world, this world, is changing fast, & who are you to press against it as if palming an oak to prevent its fall? Society, like the English language, stays in flux—never-ending metamorphosis. To resist, it’s you you hurt, the same way I harmed me by angering when I fought splattered paint of new vocabulary. I was wrong to argue against evolving turns of phrase, though I still grind my teeth to see emojis where a paragraph should be, their smiling (scorning) faces mocking. It doesn’t serve me wisdom, as you looking through the wrong end of your little telescope never see the spread of stars, depictions of another past you’ll never reach.

POETRY Coffee Drinkers You feel as though you’ve been dreaming from your favorite seat in the living room, although you can’t recall where you went, what you witnessed when your eyes built walls you couldn’t climb. Maybe you’re a hunter—treed, waiting for the perfect moment of violent squeezing—& the claustrophobic oak & pine horizon hypnotized you, so you drifted, missed the shot, your timing off. Maybe you’re a deputy dazed by flickering numbers on the radar gun or a 3rd-grade teacher whose lesson plan bores you too, the kids staring like buzzards, flying in place. Whatever your role, sometimes rituals lull you into mysterious disappearing. Drink deeply from the thermos you keep beside you like a pistol, charm. Life has grainy hours of unwelcome calm. Answer it by keeping warm within. Your blood requires blood of its own; your heartbeat faster cadence from the drums.

Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. 41

One Breath, O My Silent Soul Jonathan Yungkans

after Walt Whitman

Come late night’s deep dark, people who hear my wall’s constant rattle, like dried beans in a can, wonder how my neighbor could be that deaf and how I could possibly stand Perry Mason or Star Trek loud enough for people two cities away

to hear Raymond Burr argue a case, William Shatner bail the Enterprise from another crisis. Perry Mason’s jazzed-up trumpet theme had blared so much, it was a second-hand thought in my brain, a chaser for my Bushmill’s on the rocks—the way I drink it

what serious whiskey drinkers call a desecration, accusing me of liking whisky-flavored things, rather than the spirit itself—so for them, perdition might be walls that vibrate with old TV shows like some banshee trapped between the wires,

while I sip theme music and wait to hear what might flip on next, out of sight but well into my consciousness, watering down my sleep. Maybe it’ll be an old movie, or Family Guy.


POETRY One night Ezra Pound ghosted a usury canto,

his wavering tone like a page caught in wind. I never knew my neighbor liked poetry— or maybe he didn’t, and it was just another way to resuscitate night out of silence, a rescue that might allow ourselves to breathe, as well.

Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based poet, writer and photographer who received his MFA in Poetry from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in Anastamos, High Shelf Press, West Texas Literary Review and other publications. His poetry chapbook, Colors the Thorns Draw, was released by Desert Willow Press in August 2018. 43

Christy Prahl



The couple has taken up ice skating on the pond past the spot where the boy was killed on his bicycle to pretend they’re still in love. Awkward and unskilled at first they glide seamlessly now without buckled ankles across the surface of frozen mud divining Sonja Henie in Oslo rehearsing for the Olympics on the brink of world war. Though the wife longs more for Surya Bonaly, all backward flips and dares while the husband fixates on the ice dancing pair that went into a spin a half centimeter too close, the blade of the man’s skate cutting the woman’s forehead clear open. The husband keeps some distance from his wife just in case. Sometimes they fall and mutter “You ok?” to one another, then lever themselves up and brush off their backsides. Once in a while they offer a hand to each other and it feels like love or some close approximation. Kindness maybe, which passes for the same at this late hour. And the husband and the wife lay themselves open to these feelings. In the husband it is hope, in the wife, warmth, and they imagine storing these bookmarks away in their pockets and under their hats till next season, forgetting the hundreds of paralyzed fish and thousands of dormant frogs awaiting the thaw beneath them.

POETRY Christy Prahl is a Chicagoan of a certain age, philanthropy professional, foraging enthusiast, and sporadic insomniac. She taught college for ten years as a beleaguered adjunct and eventually left for 9 to 5 and never looked back. She enjoys the hum and grit of the city, most poignantly realized in its public transportation. She is frugal and indifferent and therefore cuts her own hair. Her work has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Carolina Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, and Sun Dog: The Southeast Review. This is her first published poetry.


Amy Kesegich

Ode on an Orange


You give me the mind of marigolds and Mars, such solar heft so far from home. I see a shriveled star-crowned omphalus, a globular cluster from a Florida orchard— where I once went to peel off a layer of tenderness. For many short summers I unwrapped and discarded fresh fruits of my youth, now dearly departed. So I am mottled, like you, and sun-stained. We both pucker like the lips of hoary smokers. Old gold, a couple of dried beehives— yet we have some sweetness sticking to our sides.

Amy Kesegich, Ph.D. is an associate professor of English at Notre Dame College of Ohio. She has published poetry in Whiskey Island, California Quarterly, Frost Notes, Poetry Motel, White Pelican Review Rubbertop Review and Poetography. She has a chapbook, Spare Change, published by Bits Press. She lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She’s been married 31 years, raised two children and toiled as head of the English department of a small Catholic College for the past six years. It has been some time since she has published poetry and would like to give it another whirl before her song is over.

POETRY Adultery I have always wondered

Bill Kenney

how biblical women got “Caught in adultery.� Were they found fornicating in the field next to the well where Christ hung out? Or did their suspicious spouses hire The Sadducee Secret Surveillance Service to follow the women? Moses decreed that these women be stoned, but the men rode free. Christ shamed the would-be stone throwers and pardoned the women knowing that sooner or (perhaps much) later, they would get retribution.

Bill is a retired engineer who spent a lot of time working in Texas and Louisiana. He has published 2 detective novels and a few poems in small journals. He is the father of 9 children, 3 of whom now live in North Carolina with 6 of his grandchildren. 47

Gregory Loselle

First Snow First snow cottons chain-link fences, First snow lints the grass. First snow darkens streets and walks and, without footprints, lets us pass. First snow is, after all, anonymous. First snow magnifies the space between the window-panes and walk, and hazes out the distance and hushes up our talk. First snow comes midway to the equinox. First snow will not last the morning, disappears by afternoon, but settles in again at evening, circling streetlights in the gloom. Make no mistake--first snow’s a doom.


Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others


Dan Smart

Gradual Whether or not you’re there to notice first thing in the morning there is mist— low on cold hills always somewhere in the distance outside your door in between the city you live in and the rest of the world which purportedly exists blue as the first church bells’ dull round ringing still lying heavy in its furrowed beds shrouded by mazes of dark woods, and dreaming— just as you were a minute ago— of being touched by warm light made gradually unafraid, and rising to become the entire air one more time.

Dan Smart is a writer, poet, and musician from Chicago, IL. His poems have previously appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Red Fez, and Hooligan Magazine, among others. He has been featured as a guest-lecturer on poetry at Illinois Wesleyan University and has sustained a daily poetry practice since 2013 which has generated over 2,000 original poems. 49

Kelly Girl Johnston

Processing dredging the bottleneck takes a light step, a hunted-by-the-lion-heart, and a steadfastness that is said to have gone by the wayside …or elsewhere. dredging the bottleneck takes a soft heart yet, not a tame heart the flush of the sludge & the gristle the rise & buff of the faded etchings in the glass… dredging the bottleneck takes a light step.


Kelly Marie Johnston is an autistic writer, visual artist, and educator based in The Bronx, NYC, where she teaches English and Art History at a visual arts-focused high school. Kelly’s work reflects her neurodivergent perception of time, sound, and social interaction, among other things. Much of her time is spent meditating, drawing, and staring into space. Kelly speaks, reads, writes and listens in Arabic, Farsi, some Slovak, a bit of Spanish and her native English.


Jeremy Ray Jewell

The South Disparate experience of shared difference The hand that will not make a fist Fingers never separate, outstretched in invitation and request, but devoid of palm; feral fingers painting evocative terrains, tones and foodstuffs. My mother. Your mother. Our asunderness. Motherless children have a hard time.


The New Math I met a farmer down Pamlico way, who said: You gone get inta chickens, you’ll need you some money first. And he said: Nowadays you gots ta take all the loss an none a the profit, in wheelbarrows, they’s so damn big. But be warned - they got this new math now - You know the one. Intracoastal fief, where that hound’s lifetime of unrequited affection took our final trip round back. No, his castle never washed away, built in that Alligator River mud, it was slouched and gurgled before the ink dried on the deed. Somewheres, back in this hundred and that. What you’ve got now, and the Historical Society will tell you, is all the UV-yellowed RCA memorial appliances, which no one will digitize, though all are welcome to view, to come and dust off the old math as the man once knew it. That’s not what happens. The house falls apart. The County Development Commission nails a barn quilt on it. It becomes heritage. I’ve been looking for that new math ever since but my search always starts and ends with a sign outside Stumpy Point which reads “Greatest Land on Earth”, filled with buckshot holes which spell “Croatoan”; and I wonder, really, in whose image have our maths been made?


POETRY Atlanta Kawaii The overnight cop daylighting The Kentucky derby hatted The General Assembly And all the celebrity photos It’s Sunday brunch at Omie Wise’s Tea Room. Peach tree bends low High fruit hanging into soil like a cherry blossom atomic shadow on the Urakami River Georgia Hirohitos, Empire of the Sun Belt. And in the ashes we see Blanche DuBois with fifth degree burns, arms extended for love, lust, and so her sticky chunks can dangle.


Generation Without Shame What will they not do! exclaims another gaunt lawman in the times of the thin wrists, dust clouds and locusts. We saw Bonnie Parker with a cigar hanging out her mouth and gawked at her and Clyde, imagining every lurid detail: what jaunting splendor they felt gunning down a bank man, and who undressed whom, as what raced through two East Texas minds, when shot through with lead or lust. Truly another generation without shame, one remarks, for what had it taken to make the shrew run off with the devil, or to make the youth rage around the basin of a continent, Heavens we will never know. But ain’t that the way to die? Ain’t they some folk heroes now? In that echo chamber they made an Adonis and Aphrodite of their ragged selves, and a vociferous attestation of the power of that haggard wagoner bound for circles around the abundant plains of hunger; how better might we live as killers, too! How better might we raise this next generation without shame; hands on belt buckles, wrists brimming with torque and plague.


Jeremy Ray Jewell hails from Jacksonville, Florida. He is a contributing writer for Boston’s Arts Fuse magazine. His poetry has been featured in Scalawag Magazine and the Heron Clan VI anthology of North Carolina poets. He has an MA in History of Ideas from the University of London, and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts. He currently resides in Mexico. His website is


Alan C. Reese

All I Want All I want is an inflatable rubber suit to fly me to the moon where I can eat green cheese and talk to the manatee who lives there about politics and poetry until the sun comes up and it’s time to zip home and resume the rhyme and reason of the spinning globe as if it were a paying full-time job.

Alan C. Reese is the author of the chapbook Reports from Shadowland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Smartish Pace, Gargoyle, The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Delaware Review, Welter, Grub Street, Attic, Bicycle Review, Danse Macabre, and the Loch Raven Review. He teaches writing at Towson University. 55

Peter Venable

Cawcophony Caws grate on January calm. Crows hover above, squawk from neighboring limbs. Through skeletal branches, fingery twigs, a huddled shape roosts next to an ivy-strangled trunk. It gazes, ear tufts silhouetting grey skies. The black horde thickens, circling, cawing over the bleak Sycamore. Cardinals and jays gawp from a Blue Spruce. A cat stalks out of the deck and crows turn towards it. The owl bursts through a woody portal, feathers spiraling toward wet pine straw. Canadian Geese honk inches over treetops. The cat races under the deck chased by a Mockingbird. One by one crows rise and plunge in winter mist. One remains, ruffles feathers, preening, glaring at the empty perch, hoarsely clicking at the memory it cannot forget.


The writer has written free and metric, sacred and secular, serious and whimsical verse for over fifty years. He has been (gratefully) published numerous times. He is serving a life sentence, condemned to write verse. He is a member of The Winston Salem Writers.


Sean Johnson

Anonymous Bones she assumes no one ever remembers her she’s just as irrelevant to them as she is in all their childhood stories the ones where they speed down the block with the sun in their limbs as she sits quietly somewhere in the margins if she smiles, she’ll choke on the relationships with her dad and mom and sibling and cousins which are all more jagged and complicated than piecing together shards of anonymous bones they’re each the reason she changed her name and why she only feels comfortable when she’s pretending to be somebody else she had her first crash course in pretense when she was six and realized that her speech made the whole world uncomfortable pretend you have nothing to say pretend you’re not even here pretend pretend pretend and eventually your body will armor itself in invisibility she climbed out of the wreckage of her childhood stumbled into adulthood with a scar on her on throat that she rubs for comfort and a family, aiding and damaging her in everything they do not say let the past be the past they’ve changed, she’s changed except she’s still afraid of children and her lungs tighten at the thought of family gatherings and her heart beats too fast when her name is called and her legs shake when someone says they love her and though she can’t say she’s afraid of speaking or disenchantment anymore she’s still afraid to be seen she can never catch her breath 57

after anyone has looked at her and she cannot knit her words together well enough to blanket her from the cold


From a young age, Sean developed an insatiable love for the written and spoken word and has performed throughout the country. Sean has had art work and poetry published in 29 anthologies worldwide, and in 2014 her poem “Rearview Mirror” was nominated for The Pushcart Prize in Poetry. All My Heroes Were Assassinated is her first full length collection with two of its poems nominated for “Best of the Best” by Edify Fiction and Lunch Ticket, and she was recently nominated for Texas Poet Laureate. In addition to her poetic endeavors, she is also a painter, teacher, rock star auntie, and humanitarian known for her monthly homeless outreach, disaster relief program, and mission work in Africa.


Geo Staley

Robert In the grocery store check-out line, the Down syndrome boy, about 12, reaches out to me touches my beard. His adult companion says, kindly, to him: “Robert, that’s not polite.” to me: “I’m sorry.” As Robert slowly takes his broad hand back, I look at him, say, “Robert, today it’s okay.” Robert glances to his adult companion. She nods, slightly. Robert smiles strokes my beard several times giggles at the discovery.

Geo. Staley is retired from 25 years of teaching writing and literature at Portland Community College. He had also taught in New England, Appalachia, and on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. His poetry has appeared in Chest, Four Quarters, Loonfeather, RE:AL Artes Liberales, New Mexico Humanities Review, Fireweed, Oregon East, Evening Street Review, and many others. He has a short story in the current issue of Plainsong.


It’s 1915 in America and Death Is Humming

Roy Bentley

“I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier”


I’m the random visitation and always a rank surprise. War is my lieutenant. And the bluster of uniformed men. I loathe the anti-war songs on the 78 RPM records on sale in the streets. I don’t like the complexities being reduced to the Sons of Light versus the Sons of Darkness. Geez. As I see it, my task is to usher souls. Not to criticize. I’m Death, not God. If the client is kissing her child, or is someone like Alice Paul, the suffragist, I wait. In the theater of 1915-America, it’s just beginning: American involvement in the Great War, struggles the earworm-ditty I’m humming can’t bully away. I’ve watched long enough to understand mercy— without condescension, I say a name. Tip my hat. Then-president Wilson loved his wife Ellen of the “splendid, laughing eyes.” Ellen, I said. You don’t need to be afraid. After, the President was his grief. He became like anyone gone slack around the heart. When they were younger, new-married, and happy, she took stairs two at a time. Him, too. I was there. She’s resting now in Georgia, the President a shell, RMS Lusitania under way from New York Harbor. Imagine me taking a seat beside some Europeans whose names are lost, yours truly as passenger.

Roy Bentley, finalist for the Miller Williams prize for his book Walking with Eve in the Loved City, is the author of seven books of poetry, including, most recently, American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press. He has published poetry in The Southern Review, New Letters, Crazyhorse, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle among others.’



Timely Tiny The stream’s a self-fulfilling property of flexibility, its clear sheets flux flecks; gargling over rocks, tonsil-twisting flora, what it hits it beats, drummerish gibberish; it’s the constant creation of no one and says so with its non sense.

Twixt has had poetry published in Margie, The Indiana Review, Amelia, California State Quarterly, Emry’s Journal, RE:AL, Pegasus, First Class, Pot-pourri, Art Times, The Iconoclast, Epicenter, Subtropics, Quest, Confrontation, Writers’ Journal, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, The Prairie Journal(Can), Stand (UK), Tulane Review and so many others. His chapbook Less’ More may be found online at Azure magazine, He lives in Clearwater, Florida.” 61

Hester Furey

Bug Relativism So it appears that . . ., the African men of magic found out the deadly qualities of graveyard dirt. In some way they discovered that the earth surrounding a corpse that had sufficient time to thoroughly decay was impregnated with deadly power. It might, in some accidental way, come out of the ancestor worship of West Africa. Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse “Belief in magic is older than writing,” says Papa Franz’s daughter, a storm queen, lightning painted across and down her back. A born anthropologist, lover of the crossroads and those who crossed them, she rolled her birthday forward ten years, then drove south in a Chevrolet, to phosphate mines, lumber and turpentine camps, posing as a bootlegger, collecting stories and songs, shreds of African survivals, holding her own cards close, and taking the temperature for hoodoo in each town. In the Panhandle chiggers, mosquitoes, gnats, and boll weevils peppered her “lying contests.” She feared no damn bugs, been walking into other folks’ camps and looking around since she was a child; knives were a different matter. Undeterred by tales of subcutaneous scorpions and spiders, seeking out every root doctor in New Orleans, humbling herself time after time, asking to be a student. Isolated and naked, fasting and seeing visions for three days, finally crowned with snake skins, she got her black cat bone the hard way. Haitians remind her: the Africans had a god of disease. Mosquitoes haunt the mangrove swamps of La Gonave, but she waxes Guggenheim-lyrical; “the moonlight tasted like wine.” There also lives Vixama, the volcano god “who sits with a hive of honey-bees in his long flowing beard.” Surrounded by animal sacrifice, rumors of zombies, physicians who long to know the secret drug, the maid Lucille who cautions, “don’t run to every drum you hear.” No mention of pests, in all that blood and rum on the ground, but cannibal gangs, and microbe survivals in animal hair and graveyard dirt.


POETRY Visiting the white caretaker of the insane, another “doctor,” a Navy man gone native, she longs to linger trading stories on his swinging porch beds, but wakes the morning after a party to watch the day be born. “It took shape out of a ropy white mist, but there it was, the very last day that God had made, and it went about the business of changing people the way days always do.” She has an abiding weakness for these white fathers -the old cowboy who cut her cord, let her ride on his horse, took her fishing, and told her not to be a nigger; Papa Franz, her dear Carl. She makes up her mind to go home, write a book about Moses the conjure man, but before she can, in seven weeks, unable to stop, writes Their Eyes were Watching God.


Moderns and Mosquitoes “The Sepik is the longest river no one has ever heard of.� Gordon White, Star Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits At the crossroads of Gondwana and Laurasia, mosquitoes married us. The discontented former headhunters looked sideways, receiving our gifts and payments. To the end they insisted their way was better. The Sepik has no delta, but people have cultivated rice there since before the Flood. Now, looking at the blood work and the myths, two markers date this place, a viable candidate for a possible Eden/Atlantis: three separate malarial gene adaptations; and, more telling, a subterranean confluence of story without parallel outside Australia and Africa, of Crocodile swimming, world without end (Gondwana) and the mismatched and quarreling brothers -murder, displacement, loss of home (Laurasia). They guard the origin hole with care, keeping away the destructive Europeans, lest we unmake all in our will to power. We had always lived in Laurasia. To us Orion had forever been a hunter brought down by a scorpion, his belt never wise men or women in a canoe, bound for the Pleiades. We assumed the tallest island on Earth had always been so, not a continent, though we began by going up a mountain. I was carried in a sort of sack, with as little mind to my comfort as if I were potatoes. Without a brother to fight, Reo had stripped me of my personhood, battered me without remorse, beaten a child out of me.


POETRY After two abortive forays into remote tribes, we retreated to the river, to Bateson’s netted tree. An Englishman, Gregory topped our pecking order, we colonials deferring, almost by instinct, to big brother. So he plucked me, wounded bird, away from Reo, salving my many wounds, feeding my starving mind, binding my lame ankle, sending me sugar and quinine. Of course I loved him. Ruth, our distant but ever present Pleiadean light, had sent her manuscript, a kind of benediction on our gathering. The air above the lake was black with mosquitoes. Waiting out a village raid that never happened, as Reo slept with his loaded Webbley, we shared cigarettes in the dark and entered a process of change, a conversation for the ages, sorting human temperaments into a Prussian cross, the four compass points north, south, fey, and turk. I moved then through deliria of love and malaria, witnessed my first birth. Reo joined a men’s lodge, partaking in a raid. When he returned I secretly counted his unspent cartridges. He always loved his sorcerers too much. Unplanning, we reenacted the Laurasian triad with a slight twist: Reo dismembered me, said he did not see the tortoise upon which earth rests; Gregory worked magic to bring me back to myself. After a long ocean voyage, a separation of years in which I wrote, “do you suppose that we will ever have a house together anywhere except in our hearts and in infinity?” we had a child. Gondwana proved elusive. Later Gregory and I fought about our squares, he saying the scheme conceded too much to the Nazis, though Ruth applied it to the Japanese when the long war flared back up. Gregory led the Allies into our Eden. One hundred natives perished because The Japanese thought they had collaborated. Sixty thousand Allied soldiers died of malaria. Decades later The Chrysanthemum and the Sword sat, a self-effacing bomb, on the dusty shelves of grad students.


I outlived Ruth by thirty years, returned to the Sepik twice. Partnered finally with another who studied its cultures, I came to embody the modern, ever seeking that which turned me novice, headless, then building my language boats triangulating my way home, back to the imperishable stars.


Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian, the author of Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and Little Fish: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010). She is the editor of Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 345, American Radical and Reform Writers, Second Series. Furey teaches English at the Art Institute of Atlanta and Georgia State University.


Billy Reynolds

Chuck Box Golden rod and boneset the millipede that crawled among brachiopods the small road that was before us the corn fields that were on either side the girl you were pausing to study the fire the girl you were with your own story to tell in that small hour your eyes saying there’s no end not even to us

Billy Reynolds was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama (“The Rocket City”). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cave Wall, Crab Orchard Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Measure, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry, among others. Currently, he lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 67

G. Timothy Gordon

Romantic All at once post-dawn glow, pink rising head-above-blue before losing itself among tall, thick lindens, white hickory pines, Katahdin ice mists, sooner this winter than sought, sweet spring airs in-the-unexpected-offing old school daft and druggy Brit poets cherished, and nourished, adrift in their cool blue fogs, ready with chirpy tweets, leafy verdures, pointillist blogs logged into notebooks, commonplaces, scratchpads, on quaint bistro napkins stashed away for just these odd, cold-blooded moments, naming all in Latin or Greek, à la Thoreau or J. Wright, scientifically for specificity. Bollocks! A mug’s game, mate. Give ‘em the go-by. None of that here. Want to, regular bloke myself, once, head stuck way up in clouds for short spells, known to know the bottle, smell and toke the smoke, yet when brief west winds puff in between stars breaking upon my pond, dingy cabin, infilling all, even me, with raw, edgy, quicksilver-white nostalgia, know that it cannot resist you. Never let it.

Magpie Season The maggies are yowling again, ass-backward this time, aboard barbwire D&R Ranch posts mooning the mountain, The Organs draining hoarfrost crystals into acequia and arroyo runoff, dawn of the first frost melt auguring, maybe, desert spring, or something like it, quail, egret, flyover geese from up north tucked deep beneath rabbitbrush and gammagrass beds, 68

POETRY foregoing speech, sight, at crusty topsider snow blooms, equivocating heaven and earth.

Lullaby My love must be a kind of blind love... -The FlamingoesWhatever music floats on the wind, floats over the mind, over acacia, fresh-cut grass and hollyhocks’ answering fragrance this late spring night, new ride, new SiriusXM tunes, DJ “Hyskie,” Friday-night CYO dances, slow-motion flow, Carolyn Widdowes, mottled, lacquered hair pillowing my cheek, our bodies, fresh vessels hot with sweat under lights, wool jacket steaming, as we boxstep slide, two-up, two-back, over the polished junior-high gym floor, inhaling the warm incense through open sky-lit dormers scenting our bodies, when the full night swims into ken as Ms. Arlene Smith starts stoking her pipes, a-cappella, overarching her backup chanteuse, Bronx choir, with maybes, and prayers, over all the moving dancers crushed tight against partners, eyes closed, hung on the promise of youth pressed against a blouse or shirt, foregoing noise, lights, sweat, parent politics, school, sex, epicene yet, her catholic falsetto and gathering summers’ and falls’ and winters’ spells cleaving and floating out over blacktop, tops of tipsy umbrella pines and sweet prickly jasmine, over this fresh spring night, over new ride, new sounds, all dreams at once becoming, already become, bodies, given this world, summoned by memory, music, and we, all prayed-up.

G. Timothy Gordon Dream Wind is forthcoming (Spirit-of-the-Ram P). Work appears in Agni, American Literary R, Cincinnati R, Kansas Q, Louisville R, Mississippi R, New York Q, Phoebe, Rhino, Sonora R, Texas Observer, among others. Everything Speaking Chinese received RiverStone P Poetry Prize. Recognitions include NEA & NEH Fellowships and nominations for Pushcarts and NEA Western States’ Book Awards. I divide professional and personal lives among Asia, the Southwest, & Maine. 69


t.v. malone

London, May, 1981

Escaping news of their dying MP, They liked to go to the local cinema, Back home, no picture-house for fifty miles. Five, and fearful to be left alone, I’d be taken too.

A small, cheap second-run place just near our flat The West End was too far and far too dear For the two Fermanagh-born immigrants. Bored, I used to sit, head tilted back, So I could stare up through the blue,

Slow-moving, curling wisps of cigarette smoke, At the credits reversed on the glass front Of the projectionist’s box way up above. They loved an action film. Once it began, Every now and then we would be startled -

By a big on-screen explosion. Squeals and shouts would go up In the shared, illuminated second. Startled too, and for a moment visible, Were numberless mice, 70

POETRY Who would run out from underneath the seats, And head back from where they had come, Back through the holes in the cinema’s wall To the safety and comfort of the flour bags In the bakery next door.

t.v. malone was born in the South of Ireland and for half of his life has worked in the North East of England. He has published short fiction, criticism and poetry in British and Irish magazines and journals. 71

Etan Nechin



A green line cuts my country the color of scuds jettisoned from Iraq the first time I didn’t see them on TV but in real life I was 10 the Gulf War did happen no matter what Baudrillard wrote Oslo happened no matter what the bullets in the general’s back I was 14 the second intifada I was 18 the second Lebanon War I was 23 Operation Hot Winter I was 24 Operation Cast Lead I was 25 Operation Returning Echo I was 27 Operation Pillar of Defense I was 29 Operation Protective Edge I was 32 the Land Day Protest the Great March of Return all happened I am 36 they are happening now all across the green line where a wall divides sovereign from the serf separates nature from nature segregates language from language differentiates blood from blood 40 kilometers separate the golden domes of Jerusalem from crumbling gates of Jericho 4 checkpoints guarded by 18 year old IDF centurions to cross this desert of bureaucracy takes 100 hours it takes only 6 to cross all Israel from north to south 2.5 west to east Jerusalem no man’s land filled with men holding blue cards they can cross the blue line of border police but do not cross the threshold of political life in the shadows of the walls of Bayt Jala placed in between the city of David the manger of Jesus Christ walked the route of highway 60 not to pray in the graves of the forefathers but to end up at the sea not walking on water but floating the sea of death and salt watchtowers like pillars have eyes looking to the east away from Sodom Way the road to Eilat when I was 15 and 16 and 17 would take the 390 bus and cross the border into Sinai to dive in the Red Sea see Pharaoh’s Army working at the cheap resorts at 18 I was dishonorably discharged they said I sold hashish smuggled in from Lebanon by the Hezbollah I worked in construction instead with Arabs and Chinese And Sudanese I never returned Sinai in ‘14 Isis turned the sea red the Sea of Reeds drained of its life the border still open but nobody passed like Moses we could only see the land from afar the blue line of Jordan dried up as we came to make the desert flourish tame the land from its wilderness with cement and barbed wire but nature has nothing wild in it is us who are wild we are untamed we caused the inescapable drought no rain despite our daily prayers in the sea of galilee but there was no Honi to stand in the circle until the sky opened up no saviour to make rock turn to water in the 69 73 77 81 84 88 92 96 99 01 03 09 13 15 19 19 round two elections the occupation is still happening 52 years and counting I am 36 and counting my years away from Israel I left I had a blue card not like Darwish who traveled from Haifa to the West Bank but one that let me travel from Haifa to the West as west as I wanted the West doesn’t have a face it is all mouth open consuming I was 25 when I left on a bumpy flight landed on the east bank of the East River for the first time I began writing from left to right with my left hand it would smear the page making my thoughts half thoughts English is my passport not my language yet I am condemned to write in it to no one who knows words can’t express exile only express what is not exile is not precise it doesn’t mean the same to me as it did to Darwish or to those who read Darwish in English I only read him in Hebrew I was 17 and it didn’t means anything to me only like poetry which is like exile but that wasn’t enough I am 36 and words alone are never enough not in Hebrew or English or Arabic I don’t want my daughter to be 10 and not know Hebrew not know my country Darwish’s country a country that exists only in words written but not realized don’t talk to me about coexistence talk to me about existence screaming our lungs off won’t make a difference won’t bring back Darwish or David won’t make the walls of Jericho and Jerusalem and Bayt Jala I am tired of screaming and dreaming I can only accept the situation that revolution is the only way to erase the green line to topple down the walls the pillars the army the Hamas the politicians the religious apparatus the corruption


the apathy the border police the public intellectuals who feed off the struggle the diplomats the arms dealers the real estate developers the oil barons the zealots this is not a metaphor or euphemism revolution

this can’t go on anymore there needs to be a

Etan Nechin is an Israeli writer living in New York. His writing has been published at ZYZZYVA, Apogee, Columbia Journal, Huffington Post, MonkeyBicycle, Entropy, MutualArt and more. Currently, he is the online editor of The Bare Life Review, a journal of immigrant and refugee literature. 73

John L. Stanizzi

Snags Woodpeckers roost and nest in cavities. As evening falls, woodpeckers head for the cavity they excavated specifically for roosting purposes…Nesting and roosting cavities are usually only slightly larger than the width of the bird and…can be as much as 11 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. -Cornell Lab of Ornithology January grasps the snag, and with straps of cold, blasts, cracks the late tree, weathering for centuries, millennia, den tree for generations of squirrels and raccoons, egrets’ rookery, perch for birds that hunt. * Zygodactyl traction, a contraption in action, coming and going, chiseling a hole that makes me think of The Man-Moth, of Elizabeth’s moon, that tiny tear in the sky through which you’ll slip your small head. * You start, discard, start, revise, discard, start, before your final choice finally is a little flask-shaped shelter, 6 by 9, nine inches deep under a leaning branch, protected from the wind and rain and me. * By the time the nurse log starts to nurture she is long-dead and returning to earth, birthing seedlings, lichens, mosses, these young where she has fallen, growing up and down, up to air, down into the precious earth. * Roosting holes in snags where branches become nurse logs, microcosmic prophets which draw us into the notion that there is pure grace in feeding that breathing desire, that urge to love the living and the dead. 74


* January grasps the snag, and with straps in action, coming and going, chisels a little flask-shaped shelter, 6 by 9, where she has fallen, growing up and down, urged to love the both living and the dead.


Self-Portrait as a Snag A snag in the midst of the heat of late summer, my old bones grow hollow in the freight of summer. Cold loneliness, the air out the winter window, slow burn of snow; oh please, don’t hesitate, Summer. My back has grown tired, my hands are getting cold, as weather winters surely through straits of summer. So many of you have gone before me this year, in fall, February, and then the chaste summer. The window behind the altar, massive, opened, the hand of God behind clouds unlaced by summer. The sun crashed up in the basement of a white church where smooth jazz and lies were not the fate of summer. Staniz you’ve been haunting the same road forever, your heart sad, passing into cicada summer.


POETRY The Sea Would Douse the Flames

-for James Walter Sincere -KIA Quang Nam Province, Viet Nam -November 22, 1968 I will be your inspiration, and you be mine. Together we’ll oppose them – make them yours and mine. The combinations of our hate are limitless. Years are speckles of air strikes, the tears yours and mine. I must go back every day to the place you died -Because your eyes, years gone, have made the hours mine. If you could, you’d see good folks running through the fields, If you could, you’d see wounds of sadness, fears’ mien… But you can’t of course – that’s the gift of being there. But here – I’ll tell you here the weight of cares is mine. Just before sleep she will think her belt is a snake. She will shriek, then laugh, making that tale hers and mine. That is one way all this fighting belongs to us – A thing is and then it’s something else, its fires mine. “They” say only eleven countries have no war. Then one hundred eighty-four are pyres not shrines. Please. No guilt from the stillness of eternity. Yet you ask, Since I died, John, are those wars still mine?

John L. Stanizzi is author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, and Sundowning. John’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, and many others. His creative non-fiction has been in Stonecoast Review... Adelaide, and Ovunque Siamo. He’s been translated into Italian and appeared in many journals in Italy. His translator is Angela Tambra. A former New England Poet of the Year, John teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT and he lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry. 77

Mary Romero

The Firecracker Is it exuberance that in late autumn rips a firecracker, one ignited bb gun, across the lawn? So small a rocket vanishing in the cosmos. The houses near are dark, some with a light in the kitchen, the humid air heavy as wool, smelling of horse and humus. Late crimson leaves blown down and browned crumble when touched like burnt toast. A few tenacious mosquitos lick between legs, fireflies streaking only in memory or like a phantom appear ephemeral in this late sweet heat before winter. But that firecracker– from the hands of the latch-key kids of a neighbor renting down the lane and never at home, they roam at this late hour, fingers inked with the odor of sulphur, lighting for a moment their wonder– a few inches in the darkness before them.


Mary Romero’s work has recently been published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Slant, and Christianity and Literature, and her chapbook Philoxenia received The Luci Shaw Prize. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee and works as a deacon with the Mission Chattanooga, as well as a writer and mother of two lovely hooligans.


The Shiner By Jana Harris Isn’t it obvious? We were just horsing around. It was dark; she was half asleep and ran into the bathroom door. She slipped getting out of the shower. Her high heel caught on the Persian carpet. Her son left his skateboard in the hall. Our Rottweiler knocked her down. She slipped on the icy sidewalk. Nothing got broken. It was a crowded street, there was pushing and shoving. I already told you; why do I get the feeling that no one around here ever listens to me? We were just horsing around and she was several martinis to the wind. How many times have I hinted that she cut down? She kept harping at me. She talked back once too often. I just snapped. I didn’t slug her; fists weren’t involved—I would never hit a woman. It was only a touch. I might agree to call it a slap. We’d been out partying; it was her own fault that she fell stepping out of the Hummer. I was high. It was just a joke that went wrong. I’d had a bad day. My old man used to beat the crap out me, it’s just second nature. She never does what I ask and I got tired of asking. Can’t everyone just leave me alone? It’s because I love her. I’ve told you again and again: I do not have a problem; one toot now and then never hurt anyone. I could stop any time. I can’t remember. She’s always in my face. It’s because I care about her; should I stop caring? She’d be lost without me. Isn’t it obvious? The logical next step is getting engaged. from “Blowing Smoke,” A Compendium of Everyday Excuses “Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people’s excuses.” German poet and dramatist Christian Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863)

Jana Harris teaches creative writing at the University of Washington and at the Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. She is editor and founder of Switched-on Gutenberg. Her most recent publications are You Haven’t Asked About My Wedding or What I Wore; Poems of Courtship on the American Frontier (University of Alaska Press) and the memoir, Horses Never Lie About Love (Simon & Schuster). Other poetry books include Oh How Can I Keep on Singing, Voices of Pioneer Women (Ontario); The Dust of Everyday Life, An Epic Poem of the Northwest (Sasquatch); and We Never Speak of It, Idaho-Wyoming Poems 1889-90 (Ontario ) all are available online from Open Road Press as are her two novels, Alaska (Harper & Row) and The Pearl of Ruby City (St. Martin’s). She lives with her husband on a farm in the Cascades. 81

Flower By Kimberly Knutsen When Fern was five, she saw her kindergarten buddy on TV. “That’s Danny,” she told her mother, pointing at the black-and-white set on the kitchen table.

“It’s Danny,” she said again, but her mom was busy making lunches for Fern’s five older broth-

ers and didn’t answer.

“A gallon of milk and six ears of corn,” Fern’s mother said to no one in particular, then

smashed jelly bread onto peanut butter bread: one, two, three, four, five.

Fern went to afternoon kindergarten. She ate lunch at home.

“Cornstarch. Or was it tapioca?”

“Cornstarch?” Fern guessed. Her mother didn’t answer. “Cornstarch,” Fern whispered and

stared at the TV. It was a morning cartoon show, Ramblin’ Rod. Ramblin’ Rod was a man who looked like her dad with gold hair and a big smile.

“Let’s go, smile contest,” Ramblin’ Rod said. All of the kids on the bleachers in the TV studio

smiled for the camera. Fern smiled back.

Big, happy grins: no teeth, too many teeth, and one little boy in a turtleneck crying and look-

ing away from the camera. And there was her kindergarten buddy, Danny B, dark hair and chubby cheeks, smiling the biggest smile of all.

“Smile contest winner,” Ramblin’ Rod cried. The camera zoomed in on Danny.

How could he be on the TV smiling at Fern in her kitchen on the floor next to the heating vent?

“Hi, Danny,” she whispered shyly, smoothing her nightgown over her knees.

* 82

FICTION “There are three things you must never do,” Fern’s mother told her when she was fourteen. She stood in the kitchen, pounding steak with a wooden mallet. Fern listened while making the face that showed she was not listening at all, only tolerating her mother’s annoying voice. She jutted her hip. She rolled her eyes. She sighed the moment her mother began to speak.

“First of all,” Fern’s mother warned, “you must never smoke cigarettes. You must never sit in a

circle with a bunch of girls smoking like it’s hip or cool. Smoking is not hip or cool. It’s a dirty, dirty thing.”

Fern’s mother had played tennis at the park that morning. She had spotted a group of teenage

girls sitting in the dirt near the swings, smoking. The girls were hippies. Their bare feet were “filthy.” The sighting had left her “shocked and disgusted.”

Fern’s mother picked up a teaspoon and peered into it, baring her teeth. She wiped off a smear

of red lipstick then picked up the mallet and continued to pound. Thunk. Thunk. * Raindrops wobbled on the window. Five-year-old Fern stared at Danny B on the TV with all her might. She noticed a spot on the tummy of his striped T-shirt. The spot grew. It was a flower, Fern saw. Petals opened, and more petals opened, the flower pulsing and shivering until it covered Danny’s chest. It was the color of grape pop. How could it be the color of grape pop on the black-andwhite TV? But it was the color of grape pop, the flower on Danny B, who was on the TV while Fern was most certainly not.

“Why am I not on Ramblin’ Rod?” she asked her mom and burst into tears. * “You must never smoke marijuana,” her mother said when Fern was fourteen. She raised the 83

wooden mallet. The light in the window was the gray of dead fish. “It’s the most unladylike thing a lady could do. Smoking is for naughty, naughty girls. If you smoke marijuana, you’ll end up pregnant by age sixteen.”

Fern’s oldest brother smoked pot and nothing bad had happened to him. He went to college in

Ojai. At Christmas he brought home olives. But he’s not a girl, Fern thought, and a seed of doubt sprouted in her heart.

Thunk. *

On the TV, Danny’s eyes were dark. At school, they were sparkling and blue. They were the

exact color of the water in Fern’s grandma’s toilet. Pretty, Fern thought, flushing it again. * Fifteen-year-old Fern lay in the dirt beneath the jungle gym. She inhaled and exhaled, wondering how she was going to tell anyone the fact that—

But no, it was too awful to even think.

Still, she loved Danny B, lovedlovedloved Danny B, who was just plain Dan now. Dan in his

white, wide-legged jeans and puka shells like teeth, like her teeth, for she would gladly give him all of her teeth, that was how much she loved him. it was a fierce

He had the blackest, longest hair of any boy at school.


Last summer he got backstage passes to Oregon Jam: Blue Oyster Cult, Pat Travers and Lover-

boy. oceanic and 84


If he passed all his classes, his stepdad was going to buy him a Camaro.


Any day now.


Freshman year, he got sick of his braces and took them off himself with plyers in the garage. Tears stung Fern’s eyes. * Seventh grade, science class, a guinea pig named Scoot. Bright wedges of orange and lettuce

from the cafeteria. Scoot’s oats smelled like pony lessons. He made underwater ocean sounds. Fern replayed them in her mind when she was bored or sad.

But today something was wrong. Danny B wasn’t in class. He was in the boys’ lavatory crying.

Nobody knew why.

Skinny Jimmy Manucci calmly reported his buddy’s predicament to the teacher.

The teacher, a man with one short arm, left and minutes later marched Danny back into the

classroom. Poor Danny B, his face sweaty and red, staring at his shoes, collapsing into his seat.

“Tears are for fairies,” the teacher announced, and the students froze. That was wrong. Right? For years after, the memory jumbled in Fern’s mind: rough and oaty Scoot and the underwater

ocean sounds, Danny B weeping and wedges of oranges like smiles. * Tears blurred fifteen-year-old Fern’s vision. She lay in the dirt beneath the jungle gym, its cage of rusted bones. “You must never…” Her mother’s voice was clear as water. Her mother, dead almost a year now. It had happened in the kitchen as she pounded steak for dinner. “Why do you insist on being so—” She quit pounding. Alarm darkened her eyes. “Why do I smell toast?” She sank to her 85

knees and toppled, bloody mallet in hand.

You must never smoke cigarettes. Fern stubbed her Marlboro Light into the dirt, enjoying the

smell of wet earth and tobacco.

You must never smoke marijuana, her mother had said. But Fern, the most unladylike of all

ladies ever, had smoked, with Dan, the love of her—

but if she told him

There was no way. Dan’s disinterest—in her, Fern, the love of his life—had crept in out of no-

where, like a tendril of smoke, the phantom smell of toast, a life-severing—

and if he knew!

It would grow, his disinterest, and in a flash he’d be gone. Fern could feel it already, the seed of

his leaving, just as she felt something else, deep inside, a bud, tiny and flowering and flowering again until—

She sat up, dizzy. The clouds in the sky—tiny puffs like the breath of something impossibly

small—never stopped moving, shrinking and blossoming, dilating and twisting—did they ever stop moving? Did anything ever stop moving? Her mother was up there, somewhere, pounding and vacuuming and watching and judging and why? What did any of it matter? “Mom,” Fern whispered. The sky stared back, flat and blue.

What was the third thing? What was the third thing she must never do? Fern stood and

hitched up her torn jeans and shuffled out of the park toward home. She pulled on the hood of her sweatshirt and jerked the strings tight even though it was a bright fall day. * “The chimpanzee doesn’t really smile,” Danny B told Fern the day he cried in the lavatory in seventh grade. 86

Fern stood at the drinking fountain. She didn’t drink—the trough was full of gum.

FICTION “The chimp is scared,” Danny said, and his blue eyes were secret and bright, like he was telling her the very best thing he knew. “When the chimp smiles,” Danny continued, “it means he’s going to eat you. If the chimp shows you all of his teeth,” Danny warned, “you better run.”

Fern froze, excited, waiting for more.

“Run!” Danny B cried, baring all of his teeth. And Fern laughed and laughed and laughed.

Kimberly Knutsen is a professor of English at Concordia University and author of the novel The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath (Switchgrass Books), named one of the best books of 2015 by the Chicago Book Review and a Midwest Book Award Finalist. She has published fiction, essays and poetry in Cimarron Review, Hawai’i Review, Hoot, Novella T and Fiction Attic. 87

Remembering Marquez By Jim Kelly “Forget Mark Twain” my buddy said, “read somebody new, somebody alive, somebody writing now.” We taught together at a small high school in rural New Hampshire and he was always trying to improve my reading habits. Trying to nudge them out of the nineteenth century. It was Friday afternoon and school was out. My buddy and his wife were over for a cookout. The four of us were sitting on our front porch steps drinking beer out of dented, misshapen cans. Mexican beer. “You got a friend in Mexico” the postman asked, walking up and handing me a beat up, mouse brown package. We busted up laughing at the coincidence. They bought the beer at Sid’s Cash and Carry on the way over. Sid’s is a big discount store. They only sell damaged goods. That’s why all the prices are so low. Dropped stitch, grease spot, missing a part, maybe a few parts, that sort of thing. The Mexican beer was on special. You bag it, limit, twenty-four cans per customer, no exceptions, no substitutions, no mix and match, five nineteen out the door while supplies last. None of us knew anybody in Mexico. But, there was the package with my name on it along with a return address in Mexico City. Dented and smudged, frayed at the corners, it was one hard travelled package, held together, lengthways and round the middle, with twine. Rough, double knotted twine. The stamps were big and bright. A red eagle clawing, snapping at an enormous sky-blue snake. A huge ear of corn, kernels the size of cow’s teeth, floating over a tilled field. Moss green, bulb nose profile of an Aztec Warrior. Fierce squint, skull earring, massive feather and metal bits headdress. The high school we taught at wasn’t a voc/tech, but close. Few kids that went there ever went on to college. Most stayed local and did what their parents did. Fixed cars, wired houses, built houses, did plumbing, cut trees, milked cows. For ninth grade general English we had a single literature text book, publication date, nineteen thirty- two. This was in nineteen seventy- four. Most copies were missing the front cover, the back or both. Pages, those that remained, were often covered in doodles, portraits of long dead teachers or the remnants of serial hangman games. I could count on a third of any class, when I assigned a reading, to say “I don’t have those pages Teach, what do you want me to do?” My buddy and I had taken to bringing our own books to school, and reading stories we liked to our classes. A favorite of my classes was from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “Leaf Storm and Other Stories.” My buddy had given me the book, demanding that I read it “immediately.” The story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” was simple and fantastic at the same time. A naked old man with big wings that had seen better days winds up face down in the muddy back yard of a poor couple in a remote village by the sea. What little he says is in a language nobody understands. They wash him off and eventually put him in their chicken coop, charging neighbors admission to see the strange sight. The neighbors quickly move from wonder to cruelty, throwing things at the naked, cowering old man, cheering when his roommates, the chickens, peck at him and make him screech. When, at the end of the story, he sneaks out and flies away my classes cheered. Clapped and cheered. It wasn’t news to small town kids, cruelty. Taunting. Collectively turning someone into a pariah. They didn’t have the critics lingo about “magic realism,” but they felt that story for what it was, a parable of 88

FICTION the life they saw all around them. The story begins with a plague of crabs. Crabs are suddenly everywhere all the time. Inside houses, in yards, everywhere. Shovel them out one minute and they’re back the next. Nightmare stuff. One kid, a few weeks before dropping out and running away, said that was exactly what his life was like, doing the same awful things day after day, with no break, no relief in sight. I’d written Marquez a letter. Told him how his stories got my students talking. Saying things about their lives. Things, maybe, they’d never said before to anybody. I put that letter in my copy of “Leaf Storm,” sent it to him care of his New York Publisher and forgot all about it. That’s what was in the package. And inside was a double inscription across the first two pages, the top in Spanish, the bottom in English. It reads “All this literary leaf storm for Jim, with the gratitude of a friend.” Then, centered between both notes, in great big letters, GABRIEL. Gratitude is much too puny a word for what I owe Marquez for writing the stories he did, the stories I read out loud to students in small towns in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Stories that got them talking, saying things they needed to say, say and have someone else hear.

Jim Kelly is a retired traveling salesman whose work was published in War Literature & the Arts, Harvard Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Coachella Review, Switchback, Stonecoast Review and others. His story collection Pitchman’s Blues won the 2017 George Garrett Fiction Prize from the Texas Review Press. 89

Sabotage By Robert Earle When they made New Orleans, Tommy said he wanted to go to college as soon as he could— and they needed to stay put so he could say he was living under a tarp behind a shut-down canned fish factory. That was why a college would want him.

“I’m a minority.”

“You’re a white kid,” Maybeth said.

“No, the homeless are a minority. We’re discriminated against. That’s my pitch.”

“Ball one.”

He tried Tulane. They brushed him off: go take these tests, fill out your application, write your

essay, send it all in. A scholarship came last, if at all. Next, he wanted her to go with him to the University of New Orleans. “Why should I?” “Help me figure things out.” “I don’t know anything about going to college.” “Neither do I. Come on.” She worried things would change between them if he got in, but she could see how determined he was. She said all right. They found the Privateer Enrollment Center in the Earl K. Long Library of the University of New Orleans. Tommy explained he needed a full scholarship and work on campus or some kind of extra grant so he could get his degree and go to law school. The girl at the counter said they could join a campus tour in an hour. Tommy said they’d already walked around. He wanted to talk to someone who could make a decision, yes or no. The girl said it didn’t work like that, but he could talk to a counselor when one was free.

Ms. Agnes Hoppy, the counselor, wore tortoise shell glasses and had a purple needle through

her hair bun. She settled into her chair and let Tommy tell her the story of how he ran away when he was seventeen, how made it to L.A., how he met Maybeth, how L.A. sent them back to where they’d come from—him to St. Louis, her to St. Paul. So, he went to St. Paul and found her. From there, they 90

FICTION took off first to Memphis, now down here. He needed a scholarship and a campus job since he still lived on the street and didn’t have any money. But that meant he’d add to the university’s diversity.

Ms. Hoppy took this in like she was watching a TV program different than any she’d seen be-

fore. “Why law school?”

“I want to defend people who can’t defend themselves.”

“What about you?” she asked Maybeth, the gray-green-yellow spindles in her eyes tightening

around her pupils.

“I’m just here with Tommy.”

“You don’t plan to go to college?”

“I don’t have a G.E.D.”

“She could get one on-line same as me,” Tommy said. “Just doesn’t want to.” Ms. Hoppy turned back to Tommy. “Where are you staying?”

He told her about the canned fish factory.

“You’ve been there how long?”

“Maybe a week.”

“Coming from Memphis?”


“Why stop in New Orleans?”

“I guess because you can’t go any farther without getting wet.”

Maybeth said, “He’s a great skateboarder, but he doesn’t know how to swim.”

“Is that true, about skateboarding?” Ms. Hoppy asked.

“I don’t even have a board right now.”

“Do you miss it?”

Maybeth wondered if Ms. Hoppy was fucking with Tommy, but Tommy pretended like she

wasn’t. Yes, he missed it. He missed going nowhere all over the place, he missed being weightless up in the air.

“And the camaraderie of other skateboarders?” Ms. Hoppy asked.

“I guess you could put it that way. If you don’t know where they are, you don’t know where you 91

are, either. That puts you in danger you might sabotage each other.”

Maybeth saw in Ms. Hoppy’s widening pupils that Tommy had passed his college interview

when he took in the word camaraderie and responded with the word sabotage. Meanwhile, she felt no camaraderie at all in this office, in this building, on this campus, which put her in danger. Ms. Hoppy said she needed to consult with someone. When they were alone, Tommy asked Maybeth how it had gone so far. Maybeth said Ms. Hoppy probably went to get security to throw them out. Tommy said come on, how had he sounded, what about his pitch? Maybeth said people on the street wouldn’t be on the street if they fit, and they didn’t fit here, either. But what about him saying he planned to be a lawyer and defend people who couldn’t defend themselves? Tommy asked. Maybeth said if he became a lawyer, maybe he’d turn out like his father, leave his family, cut off their money, and move to another city. Tommy said no, he wouldn’t. He was part of an economic minority fighting back, that was his value, not skateboarding. Why did she want to know about skateboarding? Maybeth kept what she really thought to herself. “Come on, let’s go. She just walked out on you.” “No, let’s play it, like you always say.” That was what she said. Wherever they were, the only alternative was to be hustling somewhere else, so what was the hurry? But she turned that against him. She said if he got into college, he wouldn’t ever be somewhere else. He’d have a schedule, he’d have classes, he’d have to study, write papers, take exams. He’d be trapped.

They looked across the snaky plants on the windowsill toward the buildings around the Earl K.

Long Library. Tommy said he wished they could see some water and boats. What if that’s where they ended up, living on a boat? She said she’d rather live in a trailer again, the Mississippi irritated her, the way it kept following them. He said it wasn’t following them, they were following it, and the water by the university wasn’t the Mississippi, it was Lake Pontchartrain. He went back to talking about living on a boat, being Tommy again, and it amused her, listening to him speculate about what kind of boat it could be and what they’d do on it and where they’d take it, technically not on the street anymore, probably with a gas refrigerator. Gas was the kind of refrigerator you had on a boat. How did Tommy know that? He hadn’t known anything when he showed up in L.A., too scared to be smart. 92


Ms. Hoppy came back and said that Tommy could take the ACT test right now. If he got a good

score, he could fill out his application, no essay needed.

“But my essay might be my best part,” he said.

“We can do this without it.”

“What about money?”

“We’ll get to that. First things first. What about you, Maybeth? There’s a workstation for you,

too, if you want to use it.” Ms. Hoppy didn’t have a bun anymore. Her brown hair was loose down over her neck. She looked younger and friendlier, as if while she was gone, she had decided to swallow the both of them.

“I told you I don’t have a G.E.D.”

“If you got a high enough ACT score, we could work with that.”

“No thanks.”

Tommy said come on.

Ms. Hoppy said why not just give it a try.

Maybeth said she’d just walk around outside until Tommy finished. That upset Tommy—when

she went walking around in L.A., sometimes she didn’t come back for days—and she knew it upset him, but everything about the University of New Orleans upset her. She felt like she had no idea where she was. She felt like Tommy and Ms. Hoppy were the pair.

She went outside and headed toward the lake, big as the ocean but without waves, only a wa-

tery shrugging along the shoreline, sailboats here and there, and some speedboats you couldn’t live on, and some fat dark boats with long poles and big winches on the stern for fishing. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe she’d rather roll with the Mississippi out toward the delta instead of parking on that lake. But then what? Islands? She didn’t want to think about islands. Her on one. Tommy here.

A cool breeze was blowing. The sun drifting west was turning the sky a peach-tinted blue. She

didn’t like that. She didn’t like anything about New Orleans. When it wasn’t gaudy, it was rotting.

She sat down on the grass and leaned back against a palm tree. She knew she’d made him feel

bad and wondered if he’d screw up the test on purpose and come out looking for her with that disappointment in his face he always carried around in his chest, threatening to surface when something


else didn’t work. It was what she wanted, not him defending people who couldn’t defend themselves, the two of them defending each other, not sabotaging that.

With more than 100 stories in U.S., Canadian, U.K., and Australian literary journals, Robert Earle is one of the more widely published contemporary writers of short fiction. Vine Leaves Press published his story collection, She Receives the Night, in 2017. He also is the author of a nonfiction book about Iraq (Nights in the Pink Motel/Naval Institute Press), a novel (The Way Home/DayBue) and was contributing editor of a book of essays (North American Identities/Stanford). He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 94

The Keys By Rachel Attias The key glows hot in her hand. Even though it’s already dark, and already much cooler than it had been all day, the key is so warmed from its hook in the sunny window that a red imprint will remain on her palm minutes after she lets it go. She unlocks her bicycle from the front steps; she has to jimmy through the old, rusty locking mechanism until the shackle pops, deliciously. The key goes in the back pocket of her jean shorts and she’s off, pedaling through the suddenly quiet evening toward the waterfront. Her street isn’t usually this empty, but everyone was at the show or somewhere better, like on vacation. Usually she can count on the blue glow pulsing from Antoni’s window across the street, or the church hymns escaping the Connolly’s’ house next door, the many children all homeschooled and redheaded and cruel. Tonight, they’re gone; she must have been the only kid on the block who wasn’t allowed to go out for the 4th of July. In her house, with her vet dad, this day is solemn and sacred, a time for reflecting on the meaning of freedom. In the years he’d been away, though, she and her mother barbecued with the neighbors and baked vanilla cupcakes with red and blue frosting. As her wheels squeak forward the streets get more crowded, parents carrying sleepy children on their shoulders, couples holding hands and picnic blankets, teenagers tipsy off their parents’ liquor in a safe, wholesome way. Everyone walks in the middle of the road. Meandering, lazy. The air downtown smells like fireworks. The owners’ kids sit outside the pizzeria on Bedford, eating little paper cups of lemon and watermelon Italian ices with plastic spoons. She rides past some kids she knows, too fast to hear if they’re calling her name or not. Past the antique jewelry store, where she thinks the owner used to want to date her mom because he’d give her big plastic costume rings for free when they went in there together, but since her father came home he’s acted distant and cold, and she wonders if she made his kindness up. Past the toy store where, when she was younger, she brought her whole piggy bank to the counter and dumped it out ceremoniously in order to purchase one Beanie Baby. A decade later they’ll tear down the toy store and the candle store connected to it, to make room for an office building with tall, reflective windows. Despite the current of people in the street, the waterfront park is nearly empty, the air humid and thick with sulfur and black pepper. She leaves her bike unlocked on the curb and steps through the pachysandra (she can hear her mother- Check for ticks!) to the boardwalk on the other side, and the black water thumbing the rocks not too far below. She stays there for a long time, the perfect, heavy air a shawl for her bare shoulders, the occasional rude splash from the river spraying her sneakered feet. The ride home (all uphill) is not on her mind, nor even is the thrill of having snuck out or the fear of being caught. She fingers the key in her back pocket and breathes deeply the pure panacea of standing by a river on a warm summer night. *** This key is an anchor and she cast it off into her father’s face. She’s sure that if she kept it, he’d just 95

have the locks on the front door changed anyway. She is unmoored now and a rising tide will change the landscape of her life so rapidly she won’t ever find her way back. The last drop was, of course, some stupid thing. Smoking weed in the garage with a college boy home on break. Leave, her father said. And don’t come back. The tautology misses him completely, but not her. Her bag is already packed, money for an Amtrak ticket already set aside in the piggy bank, and the love between her mother and herself already frayed enough to snap from the tug of her turning back. She goes south, to Clemson, where the college boy says he’ll be, having conveniently left out the fact that it’s community college he’s enrolled in, not the university. It doesn’t take long, once she gets there, for them to grow sick of each other, neither of them really expecting her to show up. But it’s not hard to find a room on the left side of a two-family home with a couple girls she met while wandering around campus. It’s not hard to find a waitressing job. The rent is pretty cheap and the tips are pretty good, and it’s not hard to make a little life with the little key hanging from the flowery keychain that she stuffs in the back pocket of her jeans as she leaves for the breakfast shift, locking the door behind her. There’s a man, because in some way, shape, or form there always is. This one is a regular at the restaurant, but he could be a teller at the bank or some guy at the library, or her boss, or her friend. He’s not even seated in her section the first time they speak. She is loaded down with two trays covered in plates of eggs benedict, corned beef hash, and toast, and he flags her down anyway to ask for more coffee. Your server will get that for you right away. She tries not to smile, is working on letting people know she’s annoyed, but it’s hard and her lips turn up in a not unfriendly grimace. Thank you, beautiful, he says, and as she toddles away, still laden with the trays, his hand brushes her upper thigh. She could chalk it up to an accident, the close proximity of the tiny, sweaty restaurant, but her skin burns where his flesh touched hers. After that he seems always to be in her way. Normally he is in her section, and when he’s not he finds ways to ask her for extra ketchup, more ice water, a shim for the warped table leg. He asks her questions. Where are you from? You studying at the university? What brought you down here? Are you a dancer? You’ve got a dancer’s legs. He tips magnificently. The other servers know him as her guy, and largely ignore him. The bubble around them grows smaller and closer every time she brings him more syrup or cream. It is almost as if he exists only to her, until the bubble bursts. A gift-wrapped box. Neatly wrapped in paper patterned with orange flowers, a cream-colored background. Tied up with a gold bow. The kind of impersonal, gender and age neutral wrapping paper you’d get from a department store. She finds it perched rakishly on her bike seat when she leaves for her break between lunch and happy hour. She knows right away it’s from him. It’s a warm day but her blood feels cold and her mouth goes dry. She looks around before approaching the bike, although he can’t still be here. He’d left hours ago after two eggs sunny side up, hash browns, and rye toast. She is alone in the dirt parking lot behind the kitchen, save for a fat crow that perched on the dumpster despite the plastic owl meant to scare away scavengers. 96

FICTION The box is light, and she sickens at touching it. She shakes it briefly and some muffled thing thuds around the walls inside. Instinctively, she opens the lid of the dumpster, temporarily displacing the crow, who gives her a stricken look. She tosses the box inside. She breathes heavily. Without looking around, she bikes the ten shaky minutes through the university and back home, her house key nearly glowing in her back pocket, a beacon of safety pulling her in and weaving itself through her hair, around her wrists and waist, as she goes inside and locks the door behind her. When she goes back to work a short half hour later, she tells her manager about the gift, about the man. I don’t know what you want me to do about that. Just tell him to stop. And maybe don’t flirt so much? Her coworkers are largely unsympathetic, as they suspect her of squirreling some of his tips away from the pool and into her own pocket. From then on, every time she makes the short walk from her bike to the kitchen door, she holds her house key and her bike key in between her fingers, like claws. The man keeps coming back; he never says anything about the gift but the way he looks at her has changed. Like he knows she’s scared now, and he likes it. She becomes intimate with the feeling of the key bows against her palm, her knuckles giving birth to their jagged cuttings, which are ready to do just that. But she doesn’t know how she’s meant to use them. Do you stab or scratch? What happens if you drop them in the scuffle? No one ever taught her how to use the keys like that. *** Another key, both new and old. She never dreamed she’d be this person with this life, a car owner. A ten-year-old Honda CR-V with light blue paint and a tire on the back shielded from the elements by a white plastic cover. She’ll be a shard of cloudy sky crossing the horizon. Spitting out exhaust. Playing loud music with the air conditioning on. Tossing banana peels, apple cores, pistachio shells onto the freeway like her mother used to do. (What! They’re biodegradable.) It’s been years since they’ve spoken, their correspondence whittled down to an annual Christmas card, the mother’s smiling face budding out of a chunky wool sweater that swallows her neck, her new husband behind her, arms slung loosely over her shoulders. She doesn’t have a new mailing address. The Christmas cards will likely be returned to sender, or thrown out by the new tenants, sick of receiving her mail. Clemson, the restaurant, the townhouse, the humid, heavy summers, and the blank paper skies, are all in the rearview. Every mile marker that ticks past is the farthest west she’s ever been, the farthest from whatever notion of home she’s got. She is embarrassed, a little bit, at this choice she’s made. Before she left, friends joked that she’s going out West to find herself. And though the phrase is cringeworthy, she can’t fully refute it. She’ll drive state-to-state, camping in the little nest she’s made from blankets and pillows in the back of her car. She doesn’t know anyone this far out, her mother’s family largely having stayed in one place. Her father’s family unknown to her. If she dwells on it too long, the loneliness that paves the roads ahead, she fills with a weighted anxiety. She’ll just keep going, taking turns when she feels like it, staying straight when she doesn’t. It’s hard to get lost in this country. 97

She crosses over the South Carolina border. She passes through the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Nantahala, making her way through Tennessee, a state she knows nothing about besides whiskey and Nashville. Maybe she’ll get herself a drink at the next stop. For now, she drives with the windows open, her hair whipping wildly into her eyes, her mouth. She can smell the sweet, hot asphalt of I-40 rising into her windows with the possibility of the day. She’s made it, somewhere. A chamber of her own; she can close the windows when she wants, turn up the music, blast the air conditioning. She’s got a cooler full of fruit, a large stick she’s brought for protection, and that she’ll cuddle up to when she sleeps on the side of the road. The abundance of it all buffets her like a gust through an open window. She grips the steering wheel with one hand, fingers the keychain dangling from the ignition with the other. She doesn’t know what she did to deserve all this.

Rachel Attias is a writer and librarian whose work has been previously published in The Portland Review, The Rumpus, The Masters Review, among others. Find Rachel on social media @multi_rachel or connect with her at 98

We Are Burning By Jacquelyn Scott 1 We love our mountains. We love the way they dip and roll, the way they turn from green to orange and red. We bought our land and built our treehouses and when we let our visitors in, they talked about the smell. That bright, wooden, inescapable smell. They stood motionless at our windows and looked out at our mountains, and we didn’t say anything because we already knew. We knew what they were thinking. We saw it every day. We looked out at the stretch of peaks and elevations, at the vastness of the world around us that made us realize how truly small our lives and our troubles, that wrapped us in an ever comforting envelope of peace, and we got lost in our solitude, our gorgeous aloneness, just like them, the tourists who visit for days, weeks, and months to get some time alone. 2 We watched the bears play in our yards, tumbling over our trash cans and opening our car doors. Some of us, like Madison, watched the bears swim in our pools, picking up their cubs and throwing them in the air so they could fall back into the water with a splash. Madison, fresh from her divorce after twenty-four years of marriage, liked to sip tea in her sunroom with her dog resting at her feet, watching the mama and baby bears, thinking about how she wished she had a child of her own. And others, like Justin, watched bears paw their way into cars, searching for food, sometimes sitting upright in the driver’s seat. Justin would let his daughter peek out at the bear from the doorway, one hand on her arm and the other on the front door, ready to rip her back inside the house if necessary. We took videos and pictures, posting them on Facebook and Instagram so our friends and family who didn’t live with us in Gatlinburg could see the beauty that surrounds us. They could see what it was like to grow up and learn from the wild. 3 But despite all this, despite the beauty they saw from our windows, the photos and videos they liked and commented on (How amazing, they said. Look at God’s great work, they said. How I wish I could live there, they said.), despite the trips they made, driving from miles and miles away to stand on the balconies of our rental cabins, they left us alone. Alone to pick up the pieces. Alone to dust the ash off what remained. Some of us had friends and family to turn to, some of us didn’t. Madison called her ex-husband every night for a year, placing her phone on speaker so she could pretend he was sleeping next to her. Some of us lost parts of ourselves we would never recover, and some of us didn’t. Justin took to drinking six shots of whiskey and two beers every night just to sleep, his daughter back with her mother in Washington State. But all of us felt utterly and completely alone. 4 A fearful word, alone.


5 The day the fires came, we were not evacuated, as we should have been. We sat and watched our TVs, listened to our radios, waiting for an announcement that would never come. We thought we were safe. Instead, we heard about the fires through friends, family, neighbors. We answered our phones, one by one. (Get out of your house, our family and friends said. Your mountains are on fire.) We didn’t know the wind had kicked up and sent fireballs through the sky from the blaze started days ago but not put out, spreading from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to mountain top and mountain top all over our town, jumping, catching, and burning everything in its path like a great, raging inferno. Madison had a bag ready to go, packed that morning just in case she needed to leave, the heavy smoke in the air the only indication of what was to come. Her neighbors, a husband and wife, had left an hour earlier because their baby was having trouble breathing. Some of us grabbed what we could on our way out—clothes, pets, heirlooms—and some of us made it out only with the clothes we wore. Justin, alone for the weekend with his daughter at her friend’s house in Knoxville, didn’t notice until the fire was right up on him, when he looked out the window between bites of ramen noodles and saw his deck in flames. His neighbor, a young woman living alone above her grandparent’s garage, was sleeping as the building burned beneath her, the nonstop calls from her friend the only reason she woke. But some us didn’t make it out at all. 6 We saw each other on our way down our mountains, and we did what we could to help. The smoke, heavy around us, made it hard to drive, hard to breathe, hard to see, and we didn’t know how those who were not familiar with our winding, snaking roads could find their way. We tried to pick up people we saw running or stuck, watching as the walls of fire closed in all around us. But most of us were in this alone, sitting in the lines of cars, following the directions of the firefighters, pointing us to the roads left open. Justin stopped and begged for help, thinking if they got there in time, they could save his house, but the firefighters told him they weren’t here to fight, just to get us out. Like a scene from a horror movie, Madison watched as some of us ran alongside the bears and deer through the backedup traffic: A young woman abandoned her car and belongings in a side parking lot, too frightened to wait; an older couple stopped every few feet to try and catch their breath but instead inhaled smoke into their lungs; two young brothers who were stuck without a car, their parents gone into town for groceries. We could all feel the heat encroaching on us, surrounded by the flames, and we thought we were going to die, afraid and alone. 7 And some of us did. 8 But for those of us who made it out, we split in different directions. Some of us huddled around in the Rocky Top Sports Complex that served as our evacuation shelter for weeks. Justin sat on his cot, his donated clothes folded in a bag on the floor, and watched the family across from him. He recognized their daughter from picking up his little girl from school. Some of us slept in our cars in any parking lot we could find, and some of us drove to a friend’s or family’s house, waiting and listening to know 100

FICTION how bad the damage was, if we had a home to go back to. A handful of us called our loved ones out of town and turned our cars in their direction. Madison took her dog and drove overnight all the way to Chicago to stay with her sister for a while. Our families and friends patted our backs with deep sympathy and tried to understand, but our grief was our own. 9 We stood alone in lines at the travel section in Walmart, covered in our ashy clothes. We looked at each other but did not speak. We didn’t have to. We felt the collective aching inside our bodies. The deep, visceral sadness that connected all of us like branches intertwined under the ground, but like those trees, we each stood upright on our own. The volunteers came in droves for a week with the news cameras, donating aid, volunteering their time. But when the cameras left and the aid ran out, so did most of them. Some of us used to wonder what happened when the cameras turned off, but now we know. We are left to fend for ourselves, alone. 10 Four days after the fires, we were allowed back up into our mountains to look at our houses, to see if we had anything left. We waited in lines of cars once again, a different kind of panic in our hearts. The firefighters and police officers took our names in case we never made it back down. We drove up our roads, staring at the blackness of the ground and the trees, once so green and full of life. We passed house after house reduced to ash and nothing. We tried to recall what they looked like before, but all we could see was the devastation in front of us. Sometimes, we saw a house standing alone in between two black and gray spots of rubble, which seemed to us impossible, miraculous, that the owner could stumble upon such luck, and we hoped, deep in our hearts, that we had been blessed the same. Some of us were. But most of us weren’t. And those of us who weren’t, pulled in the driveways of the houses we used to own and stared out into the nothingness that remained, a giant hole where our homes, our lives, our hearts had been. 11 We searched through the ash for anything that survived, and sometimes a few of us came across something. Madison found an old Christmas ornament and some jewelry melted together. Justin found a broken drinking glass and the bones of his daughter’s cat. But most of us came across nothing. We stood alone in the middle of our houses—the bedroom the only sure spot we could see because of the metal springs of the bed—and looked out over our mountains. We could see the stark difference where the fire had been, the green and orange and red interrupted by blaring patches of black. We traced it with our eyes, that strange, winding path that led to our front doors. 12 Visitors came to our animal shelters, looking for pets to rescue. They cleared out our dogs saved off the mountains in a couple of weeks, “fire dogs” they called them. Danielle walked into one of our shelters and asked if we had any left. We didn’t, only pets saved or abandoned under regular circumstances. She turned around and left, not bothering to look. 101

13 The numbers grew higher and higher. Over 17,000 acres of our beloved mountains burned, over 2,000 of our buildings destroyed, almost 200 of us injured, and 14 of us dead. 14 We learned that patience and understanding had a time limit. The doctoral student who lost all of her research and wanted to talk to her sister about the fires, but her sister felt they had talked it through too much (Isn’t it about time you move on, she said). Madison’s friends stopped calling because they didn’t know what else to say. Justin knew of a young woman who visited Helen Ross McNabb six months after the fires for the free therapy consultations they were doling out in the aftermath, but as she sat alone and waited, she listened to the staff argue back and forth on whether they “were still taking them,” as if her courage to seek help was only congratulatory if she made it in the doors within two months, three months, four, as if the fires that had already taken all of her material possessions, her house and car and clothes and makeup, had also tainted her down to the very core of her soul, made her rotten and disgusting like the corpse of the rabbit her old dog had once bitten and chewed and broken. 15 One year later, some of us sat side by side at a memorial ceremony praying for the loved ones of the deceased, listening to the plans of a memorial walking bridge, as if that would ever be enough. Madison still lived with her sister in Chicago, unable to afford to rebuild another house in the mountains. Justin bought a small camper trailer with the $10,000 he received from the Dolly Parton Fund and set it in his driveway. He hadn’t heard from his daughter, still living with her mother, since he told her he couldn’t save her pet, since she hung up in a torrent of rage and tears after blaming him for her cat, for the fires, for everything. We held each other’s hands and felt our collective grief. We bowed our heads in a moment of silence for those we lost. But we knew that, even though we all shared in this experience, each of us lost things that only belonged to one, our memories and connections with an object solely our own. (My house, we said. My pictures, we said. My family heirlooms, we said.) And because of this, isn’t it something, that even when we’re completely surrounded by people, we can still feel entirely alone?

Jacquelyn Scott is a current MFA candidate at The University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and The Write Launch. Find her on Twitter @JacquelynLScott. 102


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An Iconoclastic Artist: Wanda Maria Kowalska Ast By Terresa Ast

Wanda Maria: Polish-American Poet and Artist Wanda Maria was my paternal grandmother, my Bopcia. She, my grandfather, and their four children left Europe and emigrated to America in 1951. They had survived the Nazis, but they weren’t sure they would survive the Communist domination of Poland. So they left their homeland in the Old World and traversed the ocean, disembarking in the New World. Within a few years of their arrival, having mastered her fourth language, English, she began writing poetry. By the early 1960s she was taking art classes at the local community college and began painting. This is a collection of her oil paintings. In the two photographs above you see Wanda standing by one of her paintings at an exhibition, and then you see a close-up of the same painting.




ESSAYS Iconoclast, Devout Catholic, Modern Artist Wanda was an iconoclast; she liked to break patterns, challenge traditions and disappoint people’s expectations. I should qualify that, she liked to break patterns and challenge traditions. It was later in life that she discovered that when she disappointed people’s expectations, she often received intense reactions. She liked intense reactions, even negative ones; she liked being the center of attention. Eccentric, emotional, intense, flamboyant, sensitive, and very much a bohemian. She was not a typical grandmother, and certainly not a typical American. But she was always interesting and always creative. She was also a devout and practicing Catholic her entire life. She never learned to drive, but attended Mass every Sunday, often walking fifteen long city blocks to attend mass. Many of her poems have spiritual and religious themes and some of her paintings and batiks do as well. Polynesia and the South Sea Islands Her journals were a place for her to think out loud, to express frustration, to record moments of revelation and excitement, to communicate with God in prayer, to record the insights she found in the Bible and other religious works, to record the musings of her inner creative spirit. In her journals she jotted down notes and ideas for future poems and paintings, and even notes for future letters that she would write to family and friends. The journals alone make very good reading. Wanda did both representational art and abstract art, and much of her work falls within the framework of the modernist period. You can find echoes of many of the artists from the modernists period reflected in her work. For a woman painting in the1970s and 1980s, who was in her sixties and seventies at the time, she made exuberant and unusual use of color. The color combinations and juxtapositions in her work are often the first thing that viewers comment upon.


Edmund and Wanda Ast Just as my grandmother was a painter and poet, my grandfather was a sculptor. He worked in marble, granite, various kinds of stone. He even pioneered a fiberglass process that enabled him to create busts and figures that were very light weight, but looked as if they had been cast in bronze. The final photograph in this series shows both my grandparents and two of the fiberglass sculptures created by Edmund.


ESSAYS The paintings below are classical nudes, clearly representational, a clear depiction of the human form as it really is, with customary and traditional draping. You will notice that the final two pictures, although they look different in tone and color, were painted using the same model. The difference in color and tone is partly due to the fact that I have the original of one of the paintings, and only a faded photograph of the other. The standing nude in blue hangs on the wall in my home. The sitting nude in blue, which is also in the final picture, was sold at an art exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia. All that remains is the faded photograph.


Wanda Ast (Painter) and Edmund Ast (Sculptor) at an exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia.

*** All photographs belong to Theresa Ast who inherited them after her grandparents and father died. Theresa Lynn Ast grew up on Air Force bases and has spent the last twenty years teaching European History and Interdisciplinary Studies at Reinhardt University, a Liberal Arts Institution, in North Georgia. Her focuses on Modern Europe, the Holocaust, History of Science, and Twentieth Century World Conflicts. She began writing poetry seven years ago after twenty years as an academic. For three years she participated in the Etowah Valley MFA Creative Writing Summer Program. In 2019 she began studying, exploring, and fell in love with abstract acrylic painting. 110

Never Talk to Strangers– 12 Years in Prisons and What Criminals Teach Me By Jim Reese Below is the essay “Never Talk to Strangers—12 Years in Prisons and What Criminals Teach Me” excerpted from the new book BONE CHALK by Jim Reese. In this eclectic collection of creative nonfiction Reese explores crime and how it has affected him throughout his life and how working with prisoners has become his calling. This center-piece essay has been condensed from 12K to just under 3K words for this issue. 1984 Serial Killer “The Nebraska Boy Snatcher” John Joubert Arrested Where I come from—urban middle-America with apartment buildings, rows of split-level houses, manicured lawns and shopping malls, never talk to strangers were four words constantly drilled into me and my friends because a lot of us were latchkey kids. We liked to believe the neighbors looked out for us. When the serial killer John Joubert volunteered as a Boy Scout troop leader to lure and torture young boys, eventually kidnapping and killing two kids in the same part of Omaha where I lived—he became the nightmare, proof of the validity of those four words. None of us will forget the police crime sketch on milk cartons and plastered to street poles—this gruesome profile of a man with his mirrored sunglasses and hoodie pulled tight around his head. It was my neighborhood he did this in, and we wanted it back. To sleep, most nights I curled up in a fetal position and stared at my bedroom window shades. It didn’t matter what our parents said to console us, they were full of hate that this could happen in the Midwest, in the Heartland. So, we all re-invented worry, never again would talk to strangers because every one of them was him. We looked over our shoulders and learned to run the second an unfamiliar car stopped and someone inside asked for direction. It was the paranoia of the eighties in Omaha. These were the warzones of my home, which made us aware of our surroundings after peace and love had fallen on the cusp of cocaine—and everyone began living faster and meaner. This was when you, John, were living with your nightmares, perhaps calculating rapes, cuttings and killings. Ashes, ashes, John. No. No. No. 1990 The Murder of Christina O’Day Christina had been babysitting overnight. Chris Garza and another perpetrator cut the phone line, broke in a basement window, tied her up, slit her wrists, took turns raping her, and then left her to die. For a few days after it happened, the police couldn’t find him— his headshot on re-run on the


news—the high school, the whole city of Omaha in an uproar. It was surreal, but it was our reality. In our high school hallways, I remember some of the friends Chris used to hang with (before he dropped out) saying they knew where he was hiding. The gossip. The uneducated comments from some of those people in a class of over 450 was beyond disturbing and immature. The child Christina was babysitting is still alive. The whole episode was replayed in the news—twenty- six years later. Joe Chiodo of WOWT wrote: Christopher Garza has been resentenced for the 1990 murder of Christina O’Day. He was given 96 to 110 years in prison. Judge Polk said by factoring in the “Good Time Law” and time already served, Garza would be eligible for parole in about 23 years. Garza is one of two men who beat, raped and murdered Christina O’Day as she was babysitting. At the age of 8, Beth Ann listened as the brutal crime unfolded. Twenty-six years after the murder, a Supreme Court decision means one of O’Day’s killers, then 16-year-old Christopher Garza, is in line for re-sentencing. That’s based on new research showing at that age, a portion of a juvenile’s brain is not fully developed. When I think of this murder from my adolescence, and of the safe split-level suburbia I came from, the fear is still ingrained in me. This is reality. Is there a killer inside me? If I think of my loved ones, and what I’d do if something like that happened to them, it scares me. We could talk about eye for an eye. We could talk about the death penalty. However, that’s being extremely irrational and paranoid. What I know is that most prisoners aren’t heinous animals—they aren’t wicked criminals. 1998 It’s not just a criminal and a victim who are affected by crime. It goes much deeper than that. It affects whole families and communities. When she was nine years old and her father was sent away to prison for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine, my cousin said she walked around with a target on her back for the next nine years she was in school—until graduation. Kids couldn’t play with her. She was branded—was considered an outcast. “I was the bad influence.” 2008 My First Finger-printing I was in my office in the Midwest ten years ago. I was a new assistant professor with editing and publishing credentials. I was blazing new trails at the college, and the SOE (Supervisor of Education) from the federal prison in town was standing in the doorway of my office explaining a new writing program, an interagency agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the main objectives of the new program was a book of creative writing and art from inmates. I had been publishing books at small presses since I was an undergraduate. I knew the ins and outs of publishing but, more importantly, I knew how to teach complete strangers how to write. I had degrees on the wall that said so. And very quickly after my initial meeting and an extensive federal background check, I was at a federal prison getting my fingerprints stamped on official documents and my photo taken for my contractor’s badge. 2009 Welcome to San Quentin When I first brought the news home that I’d be working in a prison, my wife was concerned, but she listened. The pay was good and, like most young couples, we needed the money. I reassured her ev112

ESSAYS erything was going to be fine. Part of our contractor training through the National Endowment for the Arts entailed working with the William James Association where we would visit some California state prisons and study their arts in corrections programs. So, in my second year, as I filled out waivers about my safety— “The CDCR will not negotiate for you in a hostage situation” —concerning my trips to San Quentin, I was scared. But I was already invested. There are lines we cross all the time in our lives, purposefully and with good intentions. There are lines we know never to cross. This was the dilemma. Hoses One day in prison, a student in class told me a story about one of his greatest regrets. What I began to discover was that addiction, in all of its gross immaturity, will make people go to extreme measures. The student, an inmate in his late twenties, was built, as we say here on the plains, like a brick shithouse. He and I talked briefly at the back of the class. “My grandfather had a Farmall 300. You had a need for hoses for your tractor so you could raise the lift cylinders and tilt bucket with the hydraulics. When the hose was missing—I’m sure he was shocked. When he asked me if I’d seen it, I lied. He said, ‘I’ve had that tractor, I don’t know how long. No one’s ever taken a hose off it.’ What he didn’t know was that I used the hose to cook meth. I can’t keep feeling guilty about my past. I’m done paying that bill. But I tell you, I wish I’d never took that hose.” GED Test Result Day “Hey, I passed—I really did it!” Two inmate students high five each other. “Way to go man! I knew you could do it.” The one pats the other on the back. Men happy to be graduating. Their smiles frozen on Polaroid—ear to ear to sky, soaring alone now. Free. “GED test result day is always fun around here,” the Supervisor of Education says. New Folsom Prison There are few words for razor on flesh. For scream. Black. Blue. Cut. Wet. I see some of you bandaged at the wrist or forearm. Bandaged at the belly and throat. You are cutting to get out. 2014 The Track I’m walking the prison yard when an inmate student next to me begins to tell me a story I’ve never forgotten. “You know, one of the prisons they had me at, I could step into a corner of my cell and get a sliver of sunlight—it would hit me right here.” He cranes his neck, closes his eyes and traces a line down the side of his cheek and over a hard vein in his neck. “Right here for about a half an hour. That was the only sunlight I’d see. It’s mental deprivation. It works. “Hell, most guards don’t know what you’re in for. They don’t care. We were loaded on a 747 one winter, and we were standing on the tarmac without any jackets—bunch of us. Just a t-shirt and orange pants, no socks, no shoes. They had our legs chained at the ankles so tight I was bleeding all over my feet—freezing. Scars are still here.” He stops, puts his leg on a bench and pulls down his sock to show me. “You know, I’m no killer or sicko. My whole stint that got me here lasted only five months. Meth will eat you up. Fifteen years I’ll be down for an addiction I couldn’t shake. Could have never imagined. When my daughter used to come visit me, I’d be behind those glass partitions. She’d tell me, ‘Daddy, roll down this window.’ I’d 113

say, ‘I can’t, Honey.’ She’d ask, ‘When you gonna come home?’ ‘Soon’, I’d tell her. Now she wants to know the date. She’ll be graduated by then.” Writing for Reentry At the SD state prisons where I teach, 57% of the inmates are nonviolent offenders. 86% of women are non-violent—65% of whom are drug offenders (internal monthly report April 2018). We cannot ignore our drug crisis. Tough on crime will never fix this. It’s an illness. Back to the Track I really like this student I’m talking to on the track. He’s a lot more honest than most people I know outside of this prison. He means what he says. He’s the kind of guy you want on your side. He’s a good listener. He’s in here for drugs, and honestly, I don’t care. I’m not the judge and jury. We are beyond that. It’s my job to help him never come back here. He’s an amazing writer, spinning yarns of deepwoods Missouri kin. So, it’s surprising to me when he asks what specific tree is in front of us with bark peeling off the trunk. “River Birch,” I tell him. “That’s it. How did I forget that? You know before I got here, I was at a different prison. Most of us trickle down the system to get to a place like this if we are lucky. And most prisons aren’t like this. I never saw anything green. Just concrete, dirt, and razor-wire. I remember arriving here in a mini-van. The instant I got out I saw this tree. I walked right towards it and touched it. I grabbed a hold of it and squeezed. The guard said, ‘get back here; I need to process you!’ I told him, just hold on a second. I haven’t seen a tree in three years. And I wrapped my hands around its trunk. Squeezed so tight. I’m a country boy. To be denied the outdoors was like a death sentence for me.” I’m walking the yard. I’m thinking sunshine, handcuffs, Plexiglas, scars. STATS I work at two prisons within a fifty-mile-radius of my house. Both those prisons were colleges less than forty years ago. Each year we spend billions on criminal justice but spend less and less on education. Right now, there are approximately 2.2 million Americans behind bars. Each year more than 600,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. Around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record—almost one in three Americans of working age. A recent 2013 RAND Corporation report found strong evidence that correctional education plays a role in reducing recidivism: “Education is key to turning our justice system around. The study concluded that every $1 spent on prison education translated into $4 of savings during the first three years, post-release.” If nothing else, if you are just worried about “Your Tax Dollar,” that’s why you should care. More importantly, though, is that prisoner education helps transform lives on both sides of the fence. You can lock a person up and let them out after so long. Maybe during their incarceration, you teach them a trade—that’s great. What you also have to do is help them tap into the emotional instabilities that brought them to prison in the first place. If a person never comes to terms with himself or herself, you are just going to send an angry person right back out into society. 114

ESSAYS A Ladder, an Oar, a Walk-in-Closet at San Quentin Training at San Quentin prison, I had access almost everywhere. Inside 4 1/2 ft. wide by 7 ft. high by 11 ft. long cells—the size of your typical walk-in closet. The kitchen where a man stood on a ladder stirring a cauldron full of spaghetti sauce with an oar. Medieval rooms, a 164-year-old cavern in the exercise-yard. Even condemned row, where a longtime C.O. said, “The men sentenced to die aren’t animals. They’ve made some horrible decisions. Some premeditated.” At a cocktail party one evening, I met a man who taught yoga to men on Death Row. “They are human beings,” he said. It was odd to hear this with a glass of red wine in my hand. It was different from the fear I feel, the anguish I still possess over my friend who was raped and killed, the tight knot in my heart that every parent has, the horrendous feeling of knowing if that happened to my child what I might do. Eye for an eye while the Pinot Noir stained my tongue. Uncertainty when the glass was empty. Jesus Christ Pose In a theatre practicum in San Quentin, I watch you, a prisoner, standing in the center of the room. You raise your hands, palms up, head dangling down, your Jesus Christ pose. You begin to stand on one foot. The room is quiet. People begin shifting in their seats. Minutes pass. You begin to lose your balance. “Every morning,” you say, “after my foster father left for work, she made me stand in the corner like this.” And when your desperate left foot hits the ground, you scream in the voice of a child being beaten. Now I understand why some of you are here. Coda Things that have altered me are crimes. When I was young, I felt like an outsider, a stranger (especially as an only child), someone who was never afraid to ask, “Why?” I’ve never shaken that. Nor do I intend to. We as humans are indecisive—are unpredictable. We act out. Have I ever been an insider? With my freedom I will never be “one of them”—a prisoner behind bars, but I am human, and so are they. We are all family. I, perhaps, can only help them realize it through my classes and by helping them write memories they have of the past. Who really is alien in our culture? Could the stranger be the prison staff? The prison professor? How can anyone stand in judgment? Petty or not, we are all guilty. We exist within physical and sociological entrapments—our concepts of freedom and staunch viewpoints—but these are all ideals we can free ourselves from if we are willing to learn. I daydream that maybe I’ll spot some of you, holding your children’s hands, running your tattoo parlors, catfishing in your favorite holler holes, facing your demons the best you know how. I imagine a greeting from an aging mother who still relentlessly milks the Holsteins, imprisoned on her own farm, the smell of rotten silage and the overwhelming burden of not having enough time. She, though, will be waiting at her threshold, doors wide open for you. Imagine the toy brontosaurus on laminate flooring pointing its head to your childhood bedroom—you will be welcomed again. When you board that Greyhound bus to the halfway house, keep your head high. With smart time, you’ll have only two months to go. Perhaps I played a part in some of this, here in this place any of us could have wound up in after a few misdirected decisions. As kids, we were taught to never talk to a stranger. But who is he? The kid in junior high who helps you with your homework? The unfamiliar person who takes you safely to school? Who really knows? I’ve been instructed never to get too close to any inmate. But I’m your teacher here, and I’m afraid that’s just not possible. Tonight, like most nights, I carry you home. 115


William Walsh’s Fly Fishing in Times Square By Micah McCrotty When an accomplished poet takes on the subject of generational change as the centerpiece of a new book, and then deliberately investigates how someone can renew their connection with their own history, I find myself sitting forward in my chair, taking special interest in each line. Director of Reinhardt University’s M.F.A. program, William Walsh’s new poetry collection Fly Fishing in Times Square draws a reader in with his descriptions of the conflict and dissonance present in a lifelong search for personal narrative, asks difficult questions of how to create a home in a time of hypermobility, and adds an element of awe to the often heart wrenching process of remembering times of regret. The main speaker remembers his childhood in mid-century America and wonders how such an upbringing shaped his life, why the time of both “Good Vibrations” and Edward Hooper left him with an ever-present sense of having missed out. These poems speak with the vividness of life, they sway back and forth between memory and hope, lean into the contemporary while remaining firmly rooted on a historical timeline. They don’t shy away from realistic descriptions, nor do they hide in a veil of nostalgia. The four sections of the book follow the course of the speaker’s history, with each section examining different periods in his life. The first explores alternate realities through a child’s imagination and questions the validity of memory. In “Visiting Secretariat in 1974,” the speaker retells a boyhood memory of meeting the triple crown winner with his father. At first the boy watches from the family car, but by the final stanza the delineation between imagination and reality becomes obscured. The speaker seems to have won the affection of the great horse with a Milky Way bar and then remembers riding him bareback across a wide pasture in “one last cantor to the winner’s circle” (26). The ending sounds too incredible to be true, but Walsh gives no indication of when the boyhood memory changes from history to fantasy. The second section tackles the concerns and regrets of an adult’s forsaken paths. “From Nashville to Lubbock” channels the tone of an outlaw country song, something Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams Sr. might sing. The speaker looks back on wasted opportunities for lasting love with a woman, 117

the long shadow of “the same guy / who painted these white lines I’m following” (8-9). The theme of regret repeats and begins to give way to a sense of inevitability. Referencing the poker playing Cincinnati Kid, the speaker wonders why he couldn’t “go all in / with her” before concluding that the house always wins (27-28). Unified by the questioning of alternative personal timelines, the first two sections offer poems of playfulness and disappointment and allow Walsh a platform to probe delineations between historicity and personal myth making. The third section contains the single long poem “The Last Days of Friendship with Shawn M.” and describes the demise of a neighborhood curmudgeon at the hands of two boys. The title of the fourth and final section, “Memory is My Homeland,” also serves as a Heaney-esque final line for “Digging Up the Past.” The poem describes how the speaker returns to his former homes in order to gather and save dirt from each location. Walsh’s poem reads: Near the mailbox my grandfather planted before the war, the shovel’s spade slices into the ground. I turn the tongue of grass over like a dog’s ear, communicate with the dead by releasing the energy of history. (1-5) This poem could act as a focal point for the book as a whole. Similar to Faulkner’s scene in The Unvanquished when Ringo collects a pocketful of dirt near a spring, the speaker in Walsh’s poem treats memory as native soil, and sifts through the dirt and nutrients of his past to discover the foundation of his present. Poems like this display Walsh’s ability to offer clear and relatable imagery, deceptive in their depth and meaning, while his words pour through the scene as fluid as prose. While many of these poems address the tensions and regrets of a cosmopolitan context, Walsh occasionally breaks away from his suburban themes and lays out an underling desire for the natural world, for the almost Dickey-like simplicity of the wild. It is in his wilderness poems, sprinkled between works concerned with residential life, that Walsh further demonstrates his gift of narration; a reader becomes absorbed in his stories. Though sometimes his nature poems feel abrupt within the flow of the book, works like “Brook Trout Along the Ellijay River” and “Hemblecia at Beartooth Pass: A Vision Quest” bring to light questions of humanity’s ability to communicate and interact successfully with the natural world. These poems differ in tone from many of the surrounding pieces and often function as a contrasting backdrop for the speaker’s need for instances of clarity and reverence. In the book’s namesake piece “Fly Fishing in Times Square, 2015,” the speaker reimagines the busy center of downtown Manhattan as a troutstream and describes how his “Muddler Minnow drifts / to a current seam behind two rocks. With my coffee and bagel, / I sit on a bench near the Sunshine Cinema” (11-13). A Muddler Minnow is a fly designed to hang between the surface and bottom, to hold its place in the current of the river, committing to neither sink nor float. Many of the poems in this book exhibit this same paradoxical ability, they don’t sink to despair or rise with false confidence; they watch the world around them in order to find their place. William Walsh has produced a book of poems which observes its own narrative while it creates it, seeks to find the wild in the common, and praises the development of placeness while sifting through the path of the examined life found within the soil of personal history. 118

Terri Witek’s The Rape Kit By Clifford Brooks

ul procedural collection of poems that unearths the ic apparatuses that proclaim to attend to the trauma of ginning. The range and depth of this book is astonishing in its Kit manages an unrelenting force of return to languages of wer from the gaze of the apparatuses and those behind it. It k’s collection is rare and necessary and a fire in the throat anguage for rape and its aftermath. Her approximation here be spoken. It takes multiple approaches—renderings of ams, historical overlay, erasures, and language repetition— s a grand success, the best we’ll get. Fresh, relevant, and

Terri Witek creates a necessary discomfort in the reader to reach a place of rebirth. “The Rape Kit” is her collection of poetry, personal narrative, artwork, soulful schematics, and a whitehot refusal to bow down. One page holds only —Dawn Lundy Martin fingertips. An evidence tag, memories, snippets of the news, Witek’s scientific view of her way matized—seemingly can no longer locate the pertinent whole) beingback who (traumatized) understands how wide andtakes on a poetically from the unspeakable be prepared to marvel at this gorgeous willingness to explore strategy, thisclinical astonishing edge. human inclusiveness.Think on a lyrical case file of This book is of…—as opened by this work—and its synonyms: relevant, one woman’s survival. an insistence on logic, what does our legal system leave

ed in our effort to narrow the definitions of the pertinent? ays, in some ways, a rape kit—requiring investigation) ve and what it means to have been violated. And then to xamined what happens around the violence, why haven’t er in memory, what sounds and resounds there, and how all plorations are just what we need: courageous, unfettered, oetic truths, shimmering images, and magic, complex and he sad and hopeful truth is that almost everything is or will be pot), “the code is made of wounds.”

That is not to say for a second that “The Rape Kit” is aloof or apathetic. No, Witek faces down the past, elegantly takes disjointed thoughts to produce a powerful-whole idea, and builds —Laura Mullen a case against the man who attacked her. There is noquizzes, groveling or self-pity. This poet ives, lists, drawings, maps, interviews, once difficult, beautiful, and necessary. More than a doubles-down to pick apart reality, aggresfeminist poetics of testimonio, and beyond male-dominated erican experimental writing, Latin American concrete sion, violence, her ability to heal, the cause of a process poetics that demands we interrogate our own y impulses. (How do we respond to piercing, jagged lyrics evil – from a distance that allows her poetry to ns?) Somehow, in this process or counterarchival music, somewhere breathe. That breath is shared with the reader hrough the book is the voice of in panicked d, whose first-person account bursts or calm, slow draws.

egemonic violence of Ovid’s ck against revanchist e timely, but it is also seemingly impossible “Forget about usic. / That’s it.

“The Rape Kit” is unique in its method of delivery. Witek created an interactive collection of poetry equally appealing to wordsmiths as —Urayoán Noel mathematicians. This volume is an elegant fusion of left and right brain gifts. It lights up You as clarity returns for the poet and you. bothcelebrate hemispheres. The heart is not forgotten. Why name your book “The Rape Kit”? How does the title resonate with you? What deeper meaning might we glean from it? We think of rape kits as collections from a crime scene (the raped one’s body). Collected, stored, hopefully processed (see stats from your city), these rape kits are “evidence.” But rape kits are also the collection of objects rapists bring to the scene, as in “Can You Take Us Thru What Happened”:






Isn’t it amazing that the exact same phrase stands in for two such different types of evidence? Apply to 2 different bodies? One thing to maybe be “gleaned (and thanks for that clarifying verb) is that such apparent unlikenesses often lie down together. That’s what happens in any relationship, it’s what any rape does and what any metaphor is. In the title of the book it’s also literally what “rape kit” doubles into a demo of. Now: what “kit” will we bring to examine the language we use, such troubled and unlikely evidence? How did you tackle this book’s story? Was the process that went into it different from your other projects? This is the first of my books to start with a writing prompt: I was asked to write a letter to the parole board in response to the man who raped me’s request to be released. This will become a repeatable gesture, as, after his initial time served, the challenge will be re-issued every 7 years. To think how to write this letter over and over was the first, most literal task of the book. At the same time, the poem I knew was at the heart was the early combo of Mary Rowlandson/Michael Jackson. It took me a really long time to write because I was trying to figure out so many technical and culturally fraught things. But when I got there at last the book had found its strategy: strangers literally lie down together as interwoven text. Those poems were a joy to do/make. I was holed up in a hotel in Nashville—which was coincidentally the city scene of the crime--waiting out a hurricane at home in Florida. The poems almost flew together. I’ve been poetically rescued by a Greek myth before, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the water arrival of Arethusa, with her fresh waters through salt path and quasi-escape (a geo-rape story). This ancient tale let me think about underwater karstic systems and offered a hypothetical water route underlying everything: very tempting to someone verged on 2 sides in Florida. Of course Arethusa’s rape story has many kinds of endings but the action begins with an act of dailiness: it’s hot; she bathes in a stream…..can she become another kind of creature and survive? What are your favorite poems and why? I’m drawn to the combo poems for their desire to interweave national and international texts together to suggest rape language as both the ancient and up-to-the-minute pattern of western 120

BOOK REVIEWS culture. How the poems live on and off page is always interesting to me, as I try not to separate out visual/verbal/sonic so much, and the texts are also performances. The combo poems are challenging to do live so I can’t wait to see what various actors make of them in a performance of the book for LA Camerata scheduled for March. In the same vein, I have a fondness for Certain Things Went Down because 3 people in the audience read the three columns aloud simultaneously---it always sounds so amazing and different: legible as bird cries, little words darting out in different places. More privately, I liked the humble action of drawing circles for the book by tracing shot glasses. I’m most happy, though, that in the parole board poem all the women and children and even the night slip the text: they literally aren’t there as nouns so in language, at least, they are safe from rape’s toxic touch. They escape. In the spots where they would be, I use a particular strategy when reading the poem aloud that doesn’t let the raped or the rapist forget, however. This poem is satisfying in many ways to me. What surprise favorites have your readers chosen? What a great question. It depends whether people read the book first or come to a performance, as I’ve discovered after visiting several classes. Advance readers often cite Sex After Rape: it’s a simple little poem, but I think people wonder about this in fact. Of course, the poem doesn’t offer much technical help: I’m not much of an I poet. I would say that unlike what has happened in your questions, Clifford, people either in silent reading or in participatory readings often seem to engage in a healthy struggle between wondering about the writing and wondering about writing about rape and wondering about my rape, and that may determine favorites, or at least questions. I am happy that this tangle is what it is. There’s no charm to protect anyone here---we are just in it. At the same time, I love that readers often point to the water system graphic as a favorite and puzzle over the ancient Roman city of Volubilis as a contemporary domestic rape scene. Really thought that one would get a quick pass-through on the way to…..well, the whole world that grows up over such ancient sites Tell us about the cover. What drew you to that design? It’s more like who drew it, I think! The cover image is by Cyriaco Lopes, the Brazilian visual artist with whom I’ve so joyfully collaborated since 2005. Cyriaco paused his beautiful series of Saints and Martyrs to make this reliquary head and pose it in a riot of color for The Rape Kit. It seems, like his series, to hold both ancient statues and a rough contemporaneity in mind; I love too that it’s both sad and festive. He’s a photographic genius at rendering these things—I am very honored that his work has been featured on 3 of my books and consider this another happy fragment of our time and work together. We teach Poetry in the Expanded Field together in the MFA of the Americas, among other collabs. I’m also grateful that fine image/text poet Lucianna Chixaro Ramos fashioned such a great design for the overall cover----it was particularly fun at the end to pick out phrases in color and make a tiny mirror of what happens inside the book.




Justin Butts By Clifford Brooks Who is Justin Butts? I am a 33-year-old working visual artist born and raised in Birmingham, Al. Currently residing in Chattanooga, Tn. Doing his best to live a fulfilling and meaningful life while leaving a breadcrumb trail of art pieces along the way. What inspired you to be an artist? I guess I can’t point out any specific one thing that inspired me to be an artist per say. I think art chooses you more than anything and I never thought at one point oh I want to be an artist. If anything, growing up I was told from movies and books and adults in my life it’s an impossible way to live and make a living. It was just something I kind of always did. Doodling instead of taking notes in class or drawing my favorite cartoon characters or cars at my desk in my room. Even remember when I was very young maybe 8 or 9 trying to guess what the female form looked like under clothes. This was pre internet and all that stuff. When you discovered these things by stumbling upon an uncle’s dirty magazine stache or even a random magazine in the woods for some reason. I would say I can remember some moments that inspired me to take the leap. A definite moment of inspiration would have been the movie “Beautiful Losers”, it inspired me because all the artist in it were successful “lowbrow” artist who

started the same way I did with no inspiration to make money or living, but just to create. It really made me want to work harder and I began to really dive into developing my own style. Did you ever find yourself at a crossroads to pick another art form over painting? What drew you to life on canvas? The only other art form I’ve spent a ton of time on has been cooking. That was out of necessity for a paycheck for 8 years of my life. I enjoyed cooking but not the lifestyle and most of the head chefs I worked for. Working for such conceded assholes really was a push and fuel to make art full-time a reality. The goal was to always survive off my painting. I quickly learned I would have to learn other mediums though to make a full income so I taught myself photoshop and illustrator. I really enjoy rich beautiful labels and branding. I have been lucky enough to get graphic work pretty regularly and I had draw all my graphic work and then vectorize it and compose it in illustrator. I love the mix of analog and digital. I will always be fully in love with analog, pen paper, paint brush and canvas, vinyl lps, dirt and grime over clean and pristine. I also love doing mural work. I have always said the bigger the better. 125

I also am always exploring other mediums because one thing I am in love with about creating the experimentation and process. I just ended up being best at painting and drawing and have delved the most into that particular medium. I do still plan on pursuing others and always learning and evolving. What do you feel is your responsibility as an artist to those who see your work? Good question. I don’t know that I have thought that I have any responsibility of anything. I think I hope to inspire positive thoughts and actions. Invoking feeling and relativity in a way that makes a person feel not alone is always something I have enjoyed from art, reading and music and I hope I can do that for others as well. What other art form do you enjoy? I enjoy many art forms. I enjoy cooking, dancing, and woodwork. I recently have really dove into music and playing several instruments. I really enjoy learning and progressing in something. I haven’t met to many art forms I don’t enjoy. What are you reading right now? I am always reading multiple books. I was a lit major in college and have always as far back as I can remember loved a good story. Another reason I love painting, being able to tell a rich story in one single frame is very exciting to me. Currently I am finishing up a collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut titled “Welcome to the Monkey House”. Also working through “The Hero with A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, a book suggested to me by a friend to help in story development, because I plan on creating a graphic novel. Also Reading a graphic novel titled “Conditions on the Ground” by, Kevin Hooyman, and lastly just a book on guitar scales, chords, and progressions of the two. 126

Who are your heroes? That’s a hard one. I feel like it’s a powerful word and used in fantasy a lot. I have some real-life ones though. I would say my Grandpa is one of my heroes. He has done so much in his life and is so loved by many. He has a doctorate from the University in Alabama where he lettered in Tennis as well. He then went on to teach health education at Jeff State where he also coached Gymnastics winning them several National Championships. When I was young, he was the Athletic Director and retired, from there he decided he would run for Mayor of the town of CenterPoint where him and my grandmother lived and raised my mom and her brother. Center Point had just become a city so he would be the first mayor. He was elected the first Mayor of the city of 16,000 people, that was when I was 13. He is still the mayor today and I just turned 33 a few days ago. Only one time has someone ran

VISUAL ARTS against him and that person received 1% of the votes. That says a lot about him and his character right there. He has always been a shining example of a human being and a true Hero of mine. I have other heroes but I would consider him my number 1. He is 83 and can still put a whooping on me on the tennis court and I was ranked top 25 in the southeast in United States Tennis Association when I was 16. So, he is one would say even a Super Hero. How does music play into your creative process? Music can set a mood or tone for sure, even perpetuate one. I usually have music playing in the background in my home which is were my studio is as well. I am very into vinyl and have been collecting since I was very young, I still have some of my mom and dads records I would jam to as a 5-year-old. Music doesn’t necessarily play a roll in my creative process other than get me pumped up and going. I would say it is a good fuel for me. Especially hip hop. But usually my choice for background is something very chill like some lofi hiphop, funk, mo-town, just very chill. Although I enjoy a very very wide spectrum of genres and sounds. What advice do you have for those coming up who hope to make it in art? My advice would be advice that was given to me. Put yourself out there and don’t stop creating if it is something you are deeply and truly passionate about. I will always say read the poem by Charles Bukowski “So you want to be a Writer?”, If you don’t feel this was about creating then you won’t make it. I feel it’s either in you or it’s not. I think the age of social media has really clouded the whole view of what it actually means and takes to be an artist. It’s not really a choice and especially not for me now. I have a hard time surviving and being in corporate worlds and I really wilt in those scenarios. My true happiness, freedom, self-worth and purpose are all

empowered and nurtured through creating. So advice is that it’s not easy and you will have to diversify to make an income, you can fill a pool a lot faster with more than one hose. You will have times where you are hungry and stressed about keeping the lights on. I truly believe if you work hard and believe in yourself, treat people with respect and dignity and expect the same in return you will go far and all of it will pay off in the end. But this won’t come without sacrifice. I have had moments of living on a couch and moments of dumpster diving to eat, all has been worth it. Be ready for a rollercoaster. What do you call the mind of painting you do? Why? I guess I have always called my art lowbrow. Which was comes from an art movement in the 70’s with roots in underground comix, punk music, tiki culture, graffiti, and hot rod culture. I think it is the best description of what I do and things that have visually inspired me. How can people keep up with you online? You can keep up with what I am doing through my Instagram (Mute0n) that is a zero in Mute0n. Also, my website- where you can see my works, murals, and graphic work, hire me, and buy originals, merch or prints.


Eurydice Eve By Clifford Brooks Who are you? What makes you happy? How does your life look today? I’m 100% creative human. What makes me happy is being in freedom, beauty, harmony, peace, connection, truth, & synergy, maintaining continuous flow, finding potent meaning, & inventing meaning-beauty-harmony-clarity & helping others live in freedom & truth & the above. The lack of the above makes me most unhappy. What and who inspired you to be an artist? I was born an artist. By artist I mean writer as well as maker-composer. My art practice & my life have always been one & the same. I taught myself to read by age 2 & by age 4 I was rewriting in the marginalia the children’s or adult books that I was devouring. I was painting my versions of saint’s icons on found wood before I had memorized psalms by heart as a toddler. In my head I’m weaving stories & tunes always. How do your travels inspire you? Where are you top five locations to create? My travels remind me of the fundamentals I live by which do not coincide with the fundamentals the vast majority of humans live by today. When I travel, I am most free because I am seen as an outsider, a witness, a passerby & as such I am expected to be a misfit & to be in awe of everything I see & to have no filter. I love to create anywhere near nature & always live near some easily accessible expanse of unmodified nature—ocean & desert are my favorites because they provide open sight, blank space, an empty metaphoric wall I can create on. My top five locations are most likely places I have yet visited because what I don’t know interests & inspires me more than what I know. How do you take up the charge for equality in the LGBTQ community? How is the landscape better or worse today? I’m conscious of the extreme power disparity & of the lack of inclusion in everything I do & say & think & how I live & create. The landscape is immeasurably better & I never forget that nor take it for granted, because I’ve lived in cultures—like the one I was born & raised in or like India—where prejudice, sexism, & the traditional extreme & unquestioned primacy & oppression of patriarchy are still mostly unchallenged. 128

VISUAL ARTS You also write poetry. Please plug in one here and tell us its story. I started writing by writing poetry in my native Greek & I started publishing by publishing a book of poems called Naked-Breasted Woman (Gymnostithi) when I was 15 in Crete. My role models were Sappho & Rimbaud back then. The latest poem I’ve published is titled Being (in the world) Outside Myself & will come out in the next edition of Black Scat Review. I don’t binge read or binge listen. How does music factor into your art and life? I play my Spanish guitar but I’m not a musician. Music is always playing in my house & studio while I work & I love live music of any kind as a source of emotional connection & ecstasy (being outside myself, which is my favorite place to be), though I do prefer the live sounds of nature. What are you reading right now? What musician or band has your attention right now? Tough question as I read dozens of books simultaneously instead of a book from start to finish & I go from book to book while I read, meaning that something I read makes me look for something else in another book & follow that link in another book & so on. I’d say I’m not a passive reader. Same with music. What philosophy gets you through the hard times? Ancient Greek & Indian thinkers without exception. I’m an avid student of philosophy but I belong to the Heraclitus tradition as you may have noticed from my Insta profile which has always started with: Panta Rein. It could have said Odos Ano Kato. Who are your favorite poets? Why them? Too many to mention all but my mentors were William Blake & ASllen Ginsberg my teacher at Naropa. My College mentor-teachers have included Ed Dorn, CD Wright, Joy Harjo & Anselm Hollo & Robert Creeley. I can recite by heart some John Ashberry & H.D, Keats & Donne & Coleridge, Baudelaire & T.S. Eliot & Pound (despite their misogyny & politics), not to mention Homer of course, the first poet whose verse I memorized.


What is your process to get in the right space to paint/write poetry? Is it the same for both? I don’t need a process other than solitude. I’m always ready to create & as soon as I find myself alone & not hungry, thirsty or sexually aroused, I create. I don’t work on the same project or medium consistently. I have many art projects open simultaneously at all times & I jump into the one I’m spontaneously moved & inspired to take to the next level or draft or layer or twist. I find finishing an art piece or literary work artificial & believe I could work on everything indefinitely like Maitre Frenhofer on the Unknown Masterpiece by Balzac, but I do, however arbitrarily, because I do not wish to be considered mad. Do you support any causes more should get behind? Please explain. I volunteer at homeless women’s shelters in Miami & refugee camps on Lesbos where I was born & where I live every summer, I have taught in prison & given refuge to people in need but I don’t proselytize or preach. For causes to follow, see below. How do we keep up with you online? Follow/Subscribe to my podcast ‘Speak Sex with Eve Eurydice’ on your favorite platform—it’s free on Apple, Spotify, iHeart, Stitcher Luminary, Swoot etc—as well as on YouTube under the same name. Subscribing helps & it’s free. It’s a project of love all done without financial gain. Sex refers to everything human. On Instagram I maintain 4 accounts, each with different content: @EveEurydice is my main & personal account, @speaksexpodcast is self-explaining & contains links to audio & igtv of each episode I publish, @artagainstall refers to my art business Art Against All & contains solely images of my artwork & news of upcoming exhibits, @scribaltherapy contains quotes from my writing & is about to get a reboot to visual content of me reading some of my writing. The fourth one @climatewarwitch is meant to marry my wiccan knowledge to climate change issues but is waiting for me to give it my focus. On Twitter I am @EurydiceEve & @EveEurydice & @speaksexpodcast. On fb I have a SpeakSexPodcast page, an ArtAgainstAll page, a EurydiceScribalTherapy page & my personal Eurydice Kamvyselli account with my last name misspelled on purpose because patriarchy. On the web you can find me on or where people can buy my art & my books & on www. where people can listen to podcast episodes, read or subscribe to my blog, & of course donate or support my cause to liberate us from patriarchy by changing the way we speak, interact, love & have intimacy ever so slightly & consciously.


VISUAL ARTS Birth (Being Born)


A neglected Medea

Line one

gave me birth

The woman denies the sun,

contracting in a crack

Her self-mocking laugh

of a broken aeolian wall

Sends her down a slippery spiral,

that tawny village women

She knows her spine is not

were whitewashing;

An elongated squiggle,

my first sight

She croons to some moon,

in that first Hellenic light

line eight.

was of their vast low-hanging breasts behind which some old red graffiti read: ‘Take Revenge On Kronos.’ & those were my first words. Ad hoc Logos on the wall. I didn’t know from spelling yet, or the tradition of castrating the father. So I understood “Chronos.” & instead of killing God, I have been killing time.



Cornelius Eady By Clifford Brooks

What are a few highlights from your beginnings? Where did you grow up? How did your teen years shape you? I was born and raised in Rochester, NY, Upstate New York, which is most famous for being the home of Eastman Kodak, the camera and film company, but it was also the city where Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony both lived and worked—at the same time. Both their homes, and Douglas’ newspaper were in walking distance from my parent’s house. Douglas’ famous 4th of July speech was written and read in Rochester, I believe a few blocks away from my elementary school was first located. Growing up, I remember Rochester as a blue, union, working-class town in a red, conservative county. I imagine my parents, who both came from Florida, but didn’t meet until they moved there came up because the word got out that there were good, union jobs, and houses that would be sold to blacks— and maybe the cops wouldn’t have been quite so bad—at least, that’s my guess. I never thought much of home ownership when I was a kid—and totally distained it as a teen—but a dead end block in the inner city where all the homes were black, and almost all of them had a mortgage—that was quite a feat, esp. in 1950’s America. It was a raggedy-ass place, in a beat-up neighborhood, but it was a house. Having nothing to compare it with, I just took it for granted. All the parents on that block are gone, so I’m probably never going to get to find out how they all figured that out. I have my guesses- it may have been the start of white flight—that block had been Italian, before my folks moved in—but giving mortgages to so many black families at once-this was way before fair housing programs—really intrigues me now. 133

It only sort of dawned on me lately that my block and that part of town was a bubble—not a safe one, perhaps, but I just recently found out that the black population in Rochester when my parents hit town was less than 1%. That took me by surprise until I remembered it wasn’t until high school that I actually had any sort of extended contact with the other parts of town. The two biggest events that shaped my teen years was busing—I was in the first group of black students that was bussed across town to a white high school, where I met the teacher who really most encouraged me as a poet, and also was responsible for my transferring out in my Junior year to an experimental free charter high school, which only lasted two years, but allowed me to really dig in as a writer. The space was basically open 24hrs, so I pretty much moved out from my parent’s house at around 17. When did you fall in love with words? When did you know you wanted to work with music too? I’m not exactly sure about when I fell in love with words—probably in Junior High, when I figured out I write better than I play guitar. How does “home” figure into your art? How does place figure into your art? Perhaps diction locates place—I’ve noticed that Marie Howe and Philip Schultz, slightly older than I am, but both from Rochester, write with short-to-medium size lines, with strong music, but little flash---by which I mean, it isn’t writing solely written for the purpose of craft, but craft in service to whatever subject the poet points our attention towards. I also think we grew up in loud, talkative families and neighborhoods, Irish-Catholic, Polish and Black, and that probably had some effect on our ears. Please tell us about the books you’ve written and what each embodies. Where do we go to buy them? I’ve written eight books out so far, but the two books you can find easiest are BRUTAL IMAGINATION (Putnam), a cycle of poems written from the point of view of the imaginary black person Susan Smith, a white mother living in Union, N.C. invented to take the blame for the murder of her two children by strapping them in their family car, and rolling it into a lake in the 1990’s, and HARDHEADED WEATHER, (Putnam), which is my New and Selected. Amazon and Kindle are the fastest way of getting hold to them. What question have you always wanted to asked, but never have? (What’s the answer?) I’m not sure if you mean a question I wanted to ask in a poem, or a question no one has ever asked me in an interview. If it’s about poetry for me, writing is, in a way, a process of responding to whatever questions float up; if it comes up, a poem begins to try to figure it out—so there’s no question left unattended. What music projects do you have out and where do we find them? I have a few, starting from 2013: 134

LITERARY INTERVIEWS On BANDCAMP, you can find “Asking for the Moon”, which are sessions with my first acoustic group from my hometown of Rochester, NY, Swamp Rose: “Seven Songs” which is the only recording of the full, original line up of the rock band Rough Magic: “Cheap Hotel” an EP project with the guitarists in Rough Magic, Charlie Rauh and Lisa Liu, which would lead to the formation of the Trio later the next year: “December”, the second recording from the Bow and Verse Project, with Concetta Abbate, who was the violinist in Rough Magic: And “When You Go to Sleep, Do You Think You’ll Wake Up in America?” By The Strummers, a folk-rock duo with myself, and poet/songwriter Sarah Azzara: On SOUNDCLOUD, you can listen to the first Bow and Verse project, “Hanging Out with Ms. Sparkle”: And “Singing While Black”, a project made with most of the members of Rough Magic: On the KATTYWOMPUS PRESS’ WEBSITE you can order “Field Recordings”, the first recording of the Cornelius Eady Trio (it’s a vinyl release, with a download card included): As well as “2 out of 3”, the Trio’s second release, a bonus CD to the chapbook “All the American Poets Have Titled Their New Books “The End”: 2020 will see the on-line release of The Sterling Brown project, “He Was A Man”, poems by the great African-American poet Sterling A. Brown that I set to music, in both Rough Magic and Trio versions, (which will hopefully compliment the reissue of Mr. Brown’s COLLECTED POEMS from Northwestern University Press), “706 Union Ave”, a session the Trio recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis last 135

fall, and the on-line re-release of my first project with Kattywompus, the two CD set “Book of Hooks”. What do you believe the difference is between songs and poems? They are cousins. I really don’t have much of a stake or interest in the poem vs. song debate, if indeed that’s what your question is hinting at, esp. since Dylan won the Nobel; if there was a fight, guest what? It’s over. As I think you can gather from the list of music projects I’ve done over the last seven years, I pretty much write songs to be songs, and poems to be poems; songs come from the musician/ composer side of me. I’ve set other poets work to music, the most obvious example being the Sterling Brown project. But in general, so far, except for “Walking While Black” (on BOOK OF HOOKS), “Turpentine” (on FIELD RECORDINGS), and “Limo” (on SINGING WHILE BLACK), where I’ve felt that recitation was the only way to go with that track, I’ve tried to keep the two in their own camp; when it’s time to sing, I sing, when it’s time to recite, that’s where the words go. I have no beef against poets who read their poems to live or prerecorded music, and I hope the feeling is mutual; in my small, music circle, both Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate have composed amazing settings for poems. I just feel that for myself, it’s been more comfortable and fun to hang in with the songwriting traditions of folk, pop and blues when I write and sing, and record with the circle of musician friends I’ve rounded up over the years. But of course, in following where things lead you in the arts, nothing is written in stone, and there is no such word as “never”. What is your philosophy on living a rewarding life? If you can, don’t worry about the reward; just have a life. What are a few things you love most about teaching? You can’t teach talent, but you CAN expose a student to their latent, writerly self. Who are your favorite poets and songwriters? I’ll take this question as an opportunity to suggest some poets/musicians you probably haven’t heard of, like the late neo-classical guitarist Linda Cohen, (try her third CD, ANGEL ALLEY, on the Tomato Label), or Sterling A. Brown, a black poet who was a contemporary of Langston Hughes, but not as widely read, but should be. Luckily, his COLLECTED POEMS are just about to be re-released in 2020 by Northwestern University Press. Read him, and see just how little Jim Crow has actually flown in this country. He’s a poet we’re going to need to carry with us to help keep my minds clear of all the nonsense being tossed our way. What advice do you have for new writers and/or musicians trying to make their passion their vocation? The actor Sean Bean once starred in this series called Sharpe. He was a solider, in the days when you had to load and re-load rifles by hand; powder, musket ball, ramrod, etc, and there’s a scene where he’s teaching young recruits the art of battle. The trick, he says and demonstrates, by firing loaded guns next to their terrified heads as they try to concentrate, is to stand—can you stand, and do your bit 136

LITERARY INTERVIEWS while all of this is going around you, and your friends face turns to a pile of mush besides you, etc. Art for the most part isn’t nearly as deadly, or dramatic, but the question is pretty much the same: Can you stand? You have to train yourself not to give up when things seem too hard or crazy. Who are your heroes and why? Any activists who have stood, worked, and in some cases died to move things forward. What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s easy—Garland Jefferies. I’ve been trying for thirty years! What books shaped you as a person? Off the top of my head: The World Book, Mel Bay Guitar, The Little Red Book, The Whole World Catalogue, Our Bodies, Ourselves, The Waste Land and Various Poetry Books and Anthologies, The Collected Plays of Shakespeare, Various novels, jazz liner notes, comic books. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. What rituals do you go through to get yourself ready to write? These days: Sit down, Turn on laptop. Write. Before that: Sit down. Turn on electric typewriter. Write. Before that: Sit down. Take out pen or pencil. Write. How do we keep up with you on social media?


Kelli Russell Agodon By Clifford Brooks Please give us some highlights of who you are, where you were born, where you grew up. I’m a poet, writer, editor, book cover designer, avid paddleboarder, and hiker who was born and raised in Seattle. I received my BA in English with a writing emphasis from the University of Washington and my MFA from Pacific Lutheran University. But those are just facts, not highlights. Highlights include kayaking with orca whales at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, quitting a well-paying corporate job at 27 to move to a town of less than 3000 people to write poetry, inadvertently running a half-marathon three years ago, my daughter and I not dying during her birth (it ended up being a complicated delivery), selling/giving away 75% of all my possessions and moving to an even smaller town and a smaller house (where I am now) just to simplify my life, write more, and live closer to the water and nature. Lowlights include totaling the family van because I was reaching for a snack (cranberry medley) I dropped, having to put in a brandnew septic system at our old house, getting a concussion from a mountain biking accident, watching people and pets I love go through pain, and screwing up several fellowship applications because I was rushing and not taking my time. How do you describe yourself on the best and worst of days? On my best days I’m optimistic and have faith in the world and everyone in it. I’m eating Key lime pie, napping in a hammock, writing poetry while kingfishers fly past my impromptu outdoor office. I’m engaging with the world, finding coincidence and signs everywhere. I’m fearless. 138

I trust my family and friends will make it home safely. Worry is a planet I never think about. I find connection and synchronicity everywhere. On my worst days, I’m the last one out of bed, maybe noon, maybe later. I’m crying in the shower, I’m writing sad poems that aren’t really poems but me just trying to see what pain looks like in word form. I’m overthinking and believing the worst-case scenario. On the best of the worse days, I’m using my lifelines—phoning a friend, texting my favorite people and asking for a little love. On my worst of the worse days, I’m terribly sad or anxious without mentioning it to anyone. I’m the first one in bed with my electric blanket on level three. Both times though, I am writing, that seems to be the constant. What are you reading right now? What drew you to it? How is it inspiring you? I’m reading Brandon Amico’s book Disappearing, Inc. (Gold Wake Press, 2019), Callista Buchen’s Look, Look, Look (Black Lawrence Press, 2019), Taneum Bambrick’s Vantage (American Poetry Review, 2019) and Space Struck (Sarabande, 2019) by Paige Lewis.

LITERARY INTERVIEWS these last couple of years, so when I saw his book was available, I immediately DMed him to buy a copy. It’s fantastic. It’s one of the books I reach for when I’m writing because it’s so smart, but with wit—two of my favorite characteristics in a book. Callista asked me to blurb her book, so I was one of the early readers and just loved what she did in here. It’s a stunning debut collection where she brings a fierceness into motherhood and her poems. It’s just beautiful work. And I was introduced to Taneum Bambrick when I saw her read at the Copper Canyon Press Holiday party, and was completely engaged. Her writing mixes environment with relationships, and deeper issues in our natural world as well as sexism and harassment, but all pure poetry. She was an absolute joy to hear read, I left that reading so happy to have found her work. I have been a fan of Paige Lewis’ work for a long time. Space Struck represents all that I love in their work—magical, surprising, tender. I heard Paige read at Open Books in Seattle a couple years ago and I felt as if they were writing poems for the world I live in—I mean, how wonderful is that? How are all of these books inspiring me? These books make me want to write better poems. The best poetry does that to me; it makes me feel as if there’s a better poet inside me and to find her, ask her out for coffee, see what she has to say. What was the first poem you remember writing? How does poetry stave off the madness around you? A poem called “Walking Home” in Linda Bierds’ poetry class at the University of Washington. Wait, I wrote a limerick in 5th grade about a dog who ate lunch with a fork (it’s kind of a cult classic).

Poetry is the first way I process my emotions and feelings—which is a statement which may freak out some poetry professors and critics out unnecessarily. When the world feels mad, I know poetry can remind me of connection, of being part of a larger conversation, and feeling less alone. (Poets can do that too.) But having a space of a poem to exist in is one of the quickest way I can find to move into flow and exist in a strange timelessness of place where words are not just queen, they are the universe around me. What is the social responsibility of a poet? This is a tough question especially as I am a believer we each need to find our best lives and really be aware what’s best for ourselves. I’m very much in the camp of “You do you and I’ll do me,” but if I had to offer some ideas I’d say— Write about the topics/subjects that are important to you. Your poems don’t need to be happy or sad, hopeful or not, but write with vulnerability and from your own truth. Focus on the art and not your success. Share other poets’ work. Speak up as needed. Find ways to help instead of harm. Be quiet when you need to be. Share generously and often. Don’t put yourself or others down (everyone is trying their best). Take care of each other. Lead with kindness, not ego. Write to make the world a better place. What does your creative process look like? Write an ocean of poems, ignore many of them and watch barnacles grow in their margins, revise the gems, wash, rinse, and repeat. 139

What books do you have under your belt, and what themes/time periods do they encompass?

Isn’t Key lime pie cheesecake? No.

Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014) The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice, coauthored with Martha Silano (2013, Two Sylvias Press) – Daily poetry prompts! Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry edited with Annette Spaulding-Convy—an anthology that includes some of the best women poets and their exquisite poems. Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010) Small Knots (Cherry Grove Collections, 2004) Geography (chapbook, 2003)

How does music fit into your life? What role does it play?

I’m not 100% of my themes as that’s like looking in a mirror—you may see a big smile, I may see a blemish. I just write what I write, but I think my books have hit on some of these themes/topics include: alphabetization, anxiety, environment, love, death, fear, struggle, joy, loss, nature, spirituality, science, God, birds (so many birds), the moon (so many moons), motherhood, family, daily life, hope, music, visual art, darkness, light. What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? (What’s the answer?) Why do you like hazelnuts in your desserts but not in your morning muesli? Hazelnuts are better in chocolate and add a nice texture, which in muesli they overtake the flavor of my breakfast. Hazelnuts are a friend of mine, but more of a “sometimes friend.” For several years, you ended your bio with “and my favorite color is plaid.” Why? I wanted to see who read to the end of the bio. Do you really hate cheesecake? Yes. 140

I have a poetry playlist of music I listen to when writing. It’s that muscle memory, when I hear certain songs, my creativity kicks in and I know to write. Currently, I’m hooked on The Kooks’ “She Moves in Her Own Way,” “Girls” by Girl in Red, and “Powers” by Tidus. My alarm clock goes off every morning to the Four Seasons’ singing “Who Loves You Pretty Baby,” but has gone off to Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” and the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show (“you’re going to make it after all…”) My daughter made me a birthday playlist based on my favorite songs this year and she said, “You have a very diverse taste in music,” which is accurate. We’ll be listening to “Sister Golden Hair Surprise” then the next song is “Jump On It” by Sir Mix-a-Lot and then some Trop-Rock, Glenn Miller Band, and my favorite, Ella Fitzgerald. (At night, I listen to the Ella Fitzgerald station on Pandora.) I prefer music to news. I used to always have NPR on then I realized their news-on-thehour was bringing me down; I started calling it “news-to-slit-my-wrists-to.” I realized hearing the same bad news every sixty minutes wasn’t helping my emotional state. Now I get my news long-form in a newspaper and play more music daily. I also own a turntable, so I am constantly browsing at Goodwill—my best finds were Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Paul Simon’s Graceland, several Earth, Wind, & Fire albums, The Eurhythmics’ Revenge, Culture Club, and Steely Dan, Aja (which is really not a find, as there is usually a Steely Dan album—I just love Steely Dan espe-

LITERARY INTERVIEWS Revenge, Culture Club, and Steely Dan, Aja (which is really not a find, as there is usually a Steely Dan album—I just love Steely Dan especially to listen to when I’m writing) and there’s always a Pablo Cruise album!) What are some of the pros and cons to collaborative works with other artists? There are mostly pros. Friends make not-so-fun projects more fun. I am inspired by other poets and artists, so I am happy to find ways to be around them more. Collaboration brings more brainpower, shared work, connection, laughter, the feeling of making something together—all pros. The cons are if someone doesn’t do their part or misses a deadline. Sometimes I get overexcited and jump into a collaboration only to realized I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t have the time, that would be my personal con—doing too many things at once. Though I recently learned about the 8 Stones Method on the Happier in Hollywood podcast where you put eight stones on your desk and each stone has a different project under it—this way you never make one project too important. If I think of it this way, I’m doing projects right. But I do tend to be someone who becomes overwhelmed by too much, so I do have to be careful how much I say yes to. It’s an ongoing issue (though each year I get a little better.) What do you do in your free time to maintain your cool? Paddleboard, read, play cribbage, stare out the window, nap, hike and go for nightly walks, ride my beach cruiser, birdwatch, sit by a bonfire, look at the stars, give others a pass, forgive mistakes (myself and others), and remember there is no one way or right way to live a life.

What is your philosophy on life? Be brave. Be bold. Love hard. Make art. Be kind. (Not necessarily in that order.) What book do you have on deck for publication in 2021? What does it include? Dialogues with Rising Tides which will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2021. It includes a few better-known hits “Hunger,” “Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror,” “String Theory,” “Love Waltz with Fireworks” and a lot of poems that deal with struggle (self, relationships, the environment). The book focuses around the idea of rising tides—what can lift us up and what can take us under. Also, the things that lift us up, can also knock us down, spin us around a few times and drop us on the shore (if we’re lucky). There’s also a definitely environmental and ecofeminist edge to the collection, as I’m deeply concerned to what we’re doing to our planet. I think it’s mostly about finding hope in a ravaged world— and well, it has a good beat and you can dance to it. How can we keep up with you online? Newsletter: Twitter: @kelliagodon Instagram: @kelliagodon Facebook: Sometimes I blog at: kelliagodon or


Zoe Fishman By Robert Gwaltney You worked in the publishing industry for thirteen years, your experience including the editorial department of Random House, the rights department of Simon and Schuster, and two boutique firms where you minded the gates as literary agent. How has this glimpse behind the publishing curtain influenced your writing career? Well first and foremost, I learned that publishing is a business. Publishing houses need to earn money from the well-established authors and big-name celebrity books to make the money to extend as advances for debut and lesser known authors. Secondly, as an editor I learned that to be a successful writer you have to check your ego at the door. This doesn’t mean of course that you shouldn’t be passionate about certain elements of your prose, but you need to recognize the experience and knowledge of your editor and respect it graciously. In terms of handling Foreign Rights, I learned a great deal about what the world wants to read. A successful book here in the U.S. is very often not guaranteed that same success abroad. Since the 2010 publication of your first novel, Balancing Acts, you have written four additional novels: Saving Ruth, Driving Lessons, and Inheriting Edith. In your fifth novel, Invisible As Air, you write about Sylvie Snow, an upper-middle-class mom who becomes addicted to prescription drugs. What inspired the telling of this story? I came up with the idea for Invisible As Air in the Spring of 2017 largely because I was fascinated by the opioid epidemic. This is a prescription drug reducing entire cities to zombie villages on television and in the news. A drug prescribed by your doctor for pain! It’s terrifying 142

because it very well could be me or anyone else we know, if it hasn’t been you or them already. I wanted to explore the drug’s effect on the brain because as an opioid it most certainly is affecting the brain in very serious and although perhaps initially euphoric ways, ultimately crippling and destructive for so many people. I also wanted to explore underlying reasons for addiction, which is repressed grief in Sylvie’s case. Your exploration of grief and the impact it has upon Sylvie Snow and the lives of her family resonates with such truth. How did you draw from your own experiences with grief when writing Invisible As Air? The novel was always going to be about repressed grief and addiction. I chose stillbirth because I had friends and family who had experienced that heartbreak and I had so much compassion for them, not only as a woman

LITERARY INTERVIEWS but as a mother myself. Personally, I had not experienced severe tragedy or trauma in my own lucky life at that point but then, that all changed. My very healthy, wonderful husband and father to our two very young sons left for work one morning and never came home. He suffered an AVM brain aneurysm and after a week in a coma, died. Writing Sylvie and the Snow family through their grief helped me navigate my own. Writing has always been my therapy, but this time it was a life vest. Even more so when my father fell ill as I wrote, and passed away just as I finished my final edits. It wasn’t until after Invisible As Air was published that I realized that as my father was dying, the character Morty I created, who is very much like him, was coming to life. Within your work, a reader enjoys the subtlety of human experience. Your talent for this is not unlike the adeptness of a master painter capturing light upon canvas, a thing not easily done. How are you able to accomplish such realism in your writing in such a compelling way? Oh gosh, Robert! My goodness. Thank you. That is a gorgeous compliment. Geez.

Well, I guess because I learned from some of the greats? I’m an avid reader and have always been particularly moved by compelling characters and the human experience. By the difference in perception; by family; by chemistry. And small, profound moments that can be easily dismissed but shouldn’t. I also adore writing dialogue. It’s where I’m most comfortable on the page. In literature, what moment or passage in a single novel has inspired you the most—that string of words that can not be forgotten? Explain the power that moment holds for you. One that immediately comes to mind is a scene in Olive Kittredge, when the author Elizabeth Strout plumbs the depth of Olive’s vulnerability with such exquisite skill. Instead of the prickly Olive we see throughout most of the novel, we see her discomfort in her own skin; her fright at aging; her yet completely hidden self-consciousness and heartbreak at the pain she has caused her son and his inability to see her as anything other than a burden. Olive goes out with him and his family for ice cream, she has a lovely time, but when she returns, she sees that she has dribbled it all over herself and no one has told her. She is reduced to tears by what on the surface seems like a superficial slight but to her feels like a betray143

al; proof that he and his family merely tolerate her but do not love her. It is written so simply but with tremendous emotional currency for me. My heart broke for Olive. Strout’s unpeeling of Olive’s layers remains perhaps the most effective characterization by a writer I have ever come across. You are the single mother of two adorable young sons. If you could select only one of the five books you have written to date for them to read when they are older, which would you choose and why?

gold, blue and celadon all around its edges. It spoke to me in a specific way at the time because I was hemming and hawing, procrastinating and making excuses for my laziness. It was something my mother has and would say to me. So I bought it, framed it and hung it above my desk. Little did I know how prophetic it would turn out to be. Pretend I just asked a question you always have wanted to answer but never have been asked. What is the question, and what is your answer?

Probably Invisible As Air. Only because I had to really dig deep to write it as I was grieving. At the same time, I was so grateful to truly love my job. I love being a writer. My hope is that it not only shows them that it’s important to keep going; to fulfill your obligations to yourself and your family and your art against all odds but also that creativity can serve a tremendous therapeutic purpose.

Ha, I like this one.

On the topic of children, what influence has motherhood had on your writing?

Zoe, a writer is forever and always faced with the query, “What’s next?” I ask these final questions, not as an unimaginative interviewer, but as an anxious fan of your writing. What are you writing now, and when do you anticipate completion?

Everything. Motherhood made me a better person; a much less selfish person. And so my writing is less selfish too. It was only after having my first son that I truly wanted to push myself beyond my comfort zone; to write less about what I knew and more about what I wanted them to one day perceive about the world for themselves and the validity I wanted them to feel about their own emotional expression. “Buck Up, Buttercup.” Because I had the lovely experience of attending the launch of Invisible As Air, I understand your connection with this phrase. Share the role these words play in your life and routine. About a week before my husband Ronen died, I saw a beautiful piece of art is a local store here, inscribed with that phrase in the center in a very arresting font, with flowers in tones of red, coral, 144

I like the question James Lipton always used to ask on Behind The Actors’ Studio: “If there is a God and you see him at the pearly gates, what would you want him to say to you?” And I think it’s this: “I told you you could do it.”

I’m working on my next novel, which features a man in his eighties and a woman in her late twenties who begin as shiva crashers (meaning they both frequent shivas of people they’ve never known for very different reasons) and end up unlikely allies. Hopefully I’ll have my first draft completed by the spring. Author photo credit: Karen Shacham

Guy Walters By Clifford Brooks What is the mystery behind Guy Walters? Where were you born? What inspired you as a child? What do you want to be when you grow up? Little is known about my past. I was found walking through the streets of a small town in Belarus when I was estimated to have been 16. I had no memory and no clothes, but I was carrying a small automatic pistol and a Chanel handbag. I only tell you this because my actual background is so unremarkable that any readers would quickly skip to the next feature. I do remember wanting to be a writer of some sort, so I suppose life has gone roughly to plan. You speak with visible excitement while your manner of speaking is succinct. Did you grow up with wonderful storytellers? How did you hone this skill? I didn’t. Although I did read a lot, and I write every day. I guess when I am speaking on television I am more visibly excited than when discussing the weekly shop with my writer wife, Annabel Venning. The way you write is equally as infectious. You reported for the Times of London. You have six books under your belt. How did you learn to compose a story with such crisp eloquence? That’s kind of you to say. I think I have something like ten books under my belt! I’m not sure I ever did learn to compose a story with crisp eloquence. But if I have, then I should thank great teachers. Did you try your hand at writing poetry or fiction along the way? Did you take creative writing courses? Tell us about that, please.

I wrote LOTS of poetry as a teenager. Isn’t that normal? And I did do a creative coursing at my senior school. I wrote some great stories, but mostly some terrible ones. Who are your top three favorite poets? Top three novelist? Top three investigative journalist? Why those? I don’t really have favorite poets. How about my great-great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Richard Harris Barham, who wrote the 19th-century bestseller The Ingoldsby Legends? Novelists include le Carré, Ambler, Greene – upmarket adventure and espionage novels, essentially. How does music factor into your writing process? How does music factor into your life? It doesn’t at all. Music is for the car and for dancing to.


What inspired you to write about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin? How can that story still be so intriguing to us today?

I was planning to write a novel set during the Games and during the war, but I couldn’t find a decent enough history book about it, so in my arrogance I decided to write one. I think it’s intriguing because that dysfunctional marriage between sport and politics is still with us. And racial problems of course. And totalitarianism. And doping. And a world on the brink of war. How do you disconnect from society to relax? Do you have an unusual hobby that takes your mind off impending Armageddon? I primarily like to spend time with my wife and children. I walk our three dogs, and I go running a lot on the hills here in Wiltshire in southern England. I also go game shooting, and like to spend time with friends at my club. I host an annual pétanque tournament which is better than Christmas for me. I am brilliant at backgammon and Scrabble. I also watch too much TV. Who are your heroes? Why them? I don’t have any heroes. I guess I could be worthy and make myself look good by naming some inspiring people, but that would be too cynical, even by my standards. Do you have a new project on deck? Do you have big plans for 2020? I am planning a book and some TV projects. Planning these things seems to take up more and more time these days. What philosophy do you live by to enjoy the most out of life? “It’ll be fine.” 146

Why do you think we’re still morbidly fascinated by the rise of the Nazi party? Because it’s like a soap opera of the worst people that ever lived. And of course, the consequences of its rise were huge. How can our readers keep up with you online? @guywalters on twitter. Not on Facebook please, which is just for friends and family.

Allison Joseph By Clifford Brooks What’s the first song you can remember? Where did you grow up? Do you carry home in your heart? The first record I remember buying with my own money was a 45 of Rick James’s “Give It to Me, Baby.” I was probably eleven, and the raunchiness of that record went right over my head. That would have been in the Bronx, New York, which is one of my many homes. I spent ages 4 years to 17 (when I left NY for Ohio and Kenyon College) in the Bronx, so I think of it as my hometown. I was actually born in London, to parents of Caribbean heritage. Who helped shape you into the brilliant woman you are today? Who are your heroes? Those parents I mention above. I am the daughter of two immigrants. My parents were part of the Windrush Generation—Caribbean people who came to the UK post WWII to help rebuild the country. My mother left her native Jamaica at 19 to come to cold, clammy London. She did her nurses’ training there, and was a nurse in the UK, Canada, and in the US. My father came from his native country, Grenada, met my mother, fell in love with her, and they started a family. My sister, then me, then we moved to Canada, and eventually the US. The other person who shaped me is my late husband, the amazing poet and writer Jon Tribble. Jon and I met in graduate school at Indiana University, and became a couple quickly after meeting. I’m still reeling from losing him (we were together for 30 years). But he taught me patience, kindness, a strong work ethic, and most of all, he taught me to treat people well, even if they are being awful. What are you reading right now? Right now, I have “widow brain” still, so it’s hard for me to read and comprehend much of anything. I’m hoping that will lift soon. You’ve recently won more than one honor in regards to your poetry. Please tell us about those and what each means to you. The awards are very nice. It meant a lot to me to have a book of mine so well-received. But more important than the actual honors is summoning the faith to believe in my own work. That’s something I struggle with—imposter syndrome is real! 147

What does your life look like these days? How do you enjoy your time outside of work? What is often on your mind? My life these days is basically trying survive after losing Jon. So many things are now different for me. I miss him immensely, but I have to find a way to move forward. But he’s always on my mind. Outside of work, I try to find the time/energy to work out, to visit friends, to travel. What visual artists do you admire? How do the visual arts mix with your love of words? I enjoy the wild self-portraits of Cindy Sherman, the history and majesty of Romare Bearden, and the artistry and ambition of Gordon Parks. But I also would say I’m more of a music person than a visual arts person. I’m gearing up to teach a poetic forms and popular music class this coming semester— we’ll look at artists such as Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Langston Hughes, Miles Davis, Kurt Cobain—it’s a very exciting class to teach. What projects are you working on now? I have a new chapbook coming, The Last Human Heart, from Diode Editions. I have a bunch of poems about losing Jon and becoming a widow that may become a book. Is there anything new to announce about the Crab Orchard Review? We’ll try to keep Jon’s legacy alive, but also incorporate new ways of interacting with our audience. Jon wasn’t big on social media, and I was encouraging more interaction with it before he passed away. What are a few favorite memories from your college years? None. College was hideous. Next question ;-) Who do you want to be when you grow up? A good person. I want to have a solid legacy of good writing behind me. Social media contacts: Website: Facebook: Instagram: allisonjoseph8882 Twitter: @allisonjoseph


Benjamin Cutler By Clifford Brooks

What are the highs and lows of your early years? Who are you today? I’m still in my early years—as a poet. I have one book and it’s still fresh. Sometimes it seems like such a little thing—as though there’s still a long distance ahead of me. But I try not to diminish the journey—what a long-fought-for accomplishment it was to even get my first publication acceptance for a poem. And I try not to think of or define “arrival.” As for highs and “early years,” I can’t help but think of how late I was to the joys of reading. I began reading for pleasure after I graduated high school. Once freed of the structures, mandates, and pressures of school, I tentatively turned to reading and quickly fell in love—titles that now seem frivolous but were instrumental in instilling in me a sense of what words could do. It wasn’t until I began my college education that I discovered poetry and even began to try to write a little (both stories and poems); I hope no one ever discovers those early pieces. For the longest time, I worked at fiction. And I have to say that I failed. Much if this is due to the fact that, though I knew I had to be a writer, I attached too much of my own self-worth to that process. Though I was a voracious reader, I didn’t enjoy writing fiction. I was never sure if I was even writing a good story, and I would become so anxious over the thought of publication. And, as every writer knows, there is plenty of rejection. By this point, though, I had developed a love for contemporary poetry and I began writing some toler149

able poems. I’m ashamed to say it, but at the time, I viewed this as “practice”—I hoped writing poetry would help me improve as a fiction writer. Before long, I was writing nothing but poetry. The act itself—apart from any notions of worth or publication—was so satisfying: the intense focus on a line, the cadence and music of language, a well-wrought metaphor. Once I accepted my calling as a poet and threw myself into it wholly, the success I’d sought for so long began to arrive. Today, I am a poet. What’s your responsibility as a poet? I rarely think of poetry as a responsibility, but a dear friend of mine—during an existential discussion on the oppressive and disheartening state of our nation and world—shared with me that she believes one of the purposes of life is to “ascertain beauty.” If I have any responsibility at all as a poet, it is this. As Maggie Smith writes in her poem “Good Bones”: “The world is at least / fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative / estimate…” It’s so rare that the line between what it terrible and what is beautiful is clear and defined. In my work I seek to ascertain this beauty—the evident, the hidden, the unlikely—and give it form, make it sing. What’s the first poem you felt real joy writing? Do you have it handy? I turned to poetry as a means to joy—both has reader and writer. But the first poem that comes to mind is “How Mom Quit Saying Shit.” This was the first of my poems to be accepted for publication, and I think it was also the first poem I’d written that I felt was publishable. I enjoyed what I was able to do with sound—not just gimmick but as a functional and meaningful expression and celebration of memory, my mother, and change—with a touch of humor. Originally published by Cider Press Review, “How Mom Quit Saying Shit” is included in my fulllength collection The Geese Who Might be Gods:

How Mom Quit Saying Shit She started by dropping the i and stretching the hiss which she would halt with a punch of tongue to teeth for a hard t. I swear, it sounded just like the flight of arrows in those old westerns Dad would watch: feather, shaft, and flint finding leather, bark, or bone. But Mom would turn her head to the side and down to release it harmlessly 150

LITERARY INTERVIEWS to the ground. After so many battles won or lost—really, who can tell the difference in the war of loving and raising?— she lost the t, too: breath through teeth became the wind through trees, just the hush after shots fired— her quiver empty. What’s your philosophy concerning the editing process? Revision is where I feel like a poem becomes itself—where the poetry happens. Process is personal, so I try to avoid heeding or giving explicit advice for “how it should be done.” However, I would encourage any writer to develop a process for revision. A poem should transcend its conception. Editing was difficult for me in the beginning, especially when working with typed drafts. A typed poem looks too clean, and it became easy to convince myself that a poem was finished. (A beautiful font like Garamond, for example, can dress it up too nicely before it’s ready for the party.) I discovered early on that handwritten drafts work best for me. When using a pen, the work is ugly: notes in the margins, words and phrases and entire lines crossed out—always an unfinished aesthetic. This method compels me to rewrite—entire drafts over and over again until it’s as clean as can be. When you force yourself to continually start over, you see your poem as new every time—reinvented—and you can surprise yourself with breakthroughs in language or form that you otherwise might not have had. I might go through five to seven drafts like this before I type it up. And then it will of course endure more editing—over days or even weeks—as it continues to take form and evolve. Never settle for a first draft or even a second. A poem deserves more chances to get it right—and so do you. What are you working on now? I always try to just think about the next poem, but I’m also seeing my next manuscript take shape. I nearly have enough—more than enough—poems for another full-length collection. Its working title right now is As Long as Daylight Allows, though this could change. I was fortunate to be awarded the 2019 Susan Laughter Meyers Poetry Fellowship through the North Carolina Poetry Society—which includes a week-long residency at the Weymouth Center. The historical home is lovely and surrounded by quiet woods and walking trails—the right kind of place to get some inspired work done. I’ll be spending my week there in June; the goal is to have my poems ready by then so I can use that time to organize the collection and ready it for submission. 151

How can poetry help society in these troubling times? It is difficult to envision how poetry can mend or even begin to ameliorate these “troubling times”— there is so much that is troubling. But language is not weak—it can be so muscular. And language is often used to hurt, to manipulate, to deceive, to provoke or move to violence and hate. Poetry transcends this. Poetry is language elevated. Poetry heals. Poetry makes the ineffable effable. Poetry gives voice to the marginalized. Poetry celebrates the overlooked and magnifies beauty. Poetry, though often viewed as cryptic, is language stripped of its disguises and pretense. There is nothing more honest than a good poem, and mending always begins with truth.


J.D. Casey IV, Editor-in-Chief of Cajun Mutt Press By Clifford Brooks What sparked your desire to build your press? Initially it was going to be a venue for me to publish my own titles. I’d submitted manuscripts to a couple of big-name publishers and didn’t like the fact that it took almost a year for a response just to get rejected. Plus, I wanted complete creative control over my brain babies. I already had three self-published books under my belt that were doing pretty well, but after I published Owls in Hot Rods with Pink Elephants and Dead Bats under the Cajun Mutt Press imprint I started getting messages from fellow writers asking if I would publish theirs because they liked what they saw. So, I decided to take the leap, and here we are almost two years later with 18 books published by Cajun Mutt Press including four of my own titles. I also publish Featured Writer spots every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each month. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I love what I do. Literature is extremely important to me, especially poetry, and it’s a passion of mine to help get the words of myself and others out into the world. How is your press different from the others? What sets you apart? First of all, I give the author complete control in the creative process to make sure the message they’re trying to convey comes across just as they intend it. I know some small press venues like to take the reins, so to speak, and steer the book in a direction that they see fit to adhere to their rules or beliefs as to what’s acceptable in the literary world. I don’t like that aspect of the publishing scene, and my goal is to make sure the writer is 100% satisfied with the fruits of their labor. They work with me personally from start to finish, and ultimately have the final say in every part of the book. Second, I have a personal investment in every writer I work with. I like to create a working relationship that’s on both a business and friendship level. It builds trust and makes it easier for us to open up to one another on a more personal, even plane. Some press companies can make you feel like you should be on your knees thanking them for accepting your work. What they don’t take into consideration is that without the writers they wouldn’t exist. The press needs writers more than they need us. That’s a fact.


What are a few things writers should and shouldn’t do when they submit material for your assessment? I prefer it when they just send me the words. No need for any type of formatting or structure, that’s my job as editor/publisher. It’s unnecessary for me to get a manuscript that’s all neat and numbered and gussied up. I have to deconstruct it and start from scratch anyway to do what I need to do to make it book ready by adding/fixing front matter, body matter, and end matter. But, with that being said, at least make the words you do send presentable. Some of the manuscripts I get are all over the place. Different fonts and text sizes, all colors of the rainbow, page breaks in crazy places, all kinds of jacked up. Times New Roman in a reasonable font size with the poem titles in bold or italic is all I require to add the final touches and finish the job. What is the philosophy behind your business practices? Cajun Mutt Press is a home for outsiders, outlaws, and all things on the literary fringe. I like to keep it professional but have fun while doing so. My approach to publishing is W.W.H.S.T.D., “What would Hunter S. Thompson do?” What advice would you give others building a press? Make sure you’re aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Especially if you’re a one-man operation like myself. It’s a ton of work to run a small press with little to no payout, especially in today’s market where so many people are taking the do it yourself route. If your heart isn’t 100% invested in the time and effort it takes to pull it off, or writing isn’t your main passion in life, I’d suggest pursuing a different career path all together. What books do you have under your belt? Links to all Cajun Mutt Press titles can be found on our Facebook page and Wordpress site, they are listed below in order of publication: Owls in Hot Rods with Pink Elephants and Dead Bats by James D. Casey IV; Haight by Red Focks; Absurd by R. Bremner; Isomorphic by James D. Casey IV; Dark Linings by Joanne Olivieri; Death & Love/Love & Death by James D. Casey IV; Juggernaut Fuzz by Ryan Quinn Flanagan; This Many Years After the War by Matthew Borczon; Wild Rose Country by R. Keith; Detritus Of The Drunken Night by Ian Lewis Copestick; Dreams Of Mongolia by Will Mayo; Requiem for a Robot Dog by Lauren Scharhag; Unwritten Words That Slide Down The Wall by James D. Casey IV; Around the bend By R. Keith; Miles of Sky Above Us, Miles of Earth Below by Steve Denehan; Stick Figure Opera by Howie Good; Hoodoo Voodoo by Will Mayo What books do you have on the horizon? It may or may not change in the coming months, but the lineup so far is Safer Behind Popcorn by Sean Hanrahan in December, Fracture Point by Rani Whitehead in January, Sharks & Butterflies by John D. Robinson in February, For My Muse by Stefan Bohdan in March, and Outstanding Balance 154

LITERARY INTERVIEWS by Patricia Walsh in April. I also have a few manuscripts on standby that I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ll be scheduling them accordingly after I get caught up with what I have going on as of now. Like I said before, I’m a one-man operation but I love what I do. What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but haven’t? What’s the answer? What do you see for the future of Cajun Mutt Press? Hopefully it takes root and grows into something substantial that will stand the test of time. I’d like to see it become one of the best indie literary publishers on the small press scene. Only time will tell. For now I’ll just keep my nose to the grindstone and continue putting in the work. Wordpress - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram -

James D. Casey IV is the author of seven full-length collections of poetry, founder and editor-in-chief of Cajun Mutt Press, and extensively published online and in print by small press venues and literary magazines internationally. He is a southern poet with roots in Louisiana & Mississippi, currently residing in Illinois with his Beautiful Muse, their goofy old dog, and two black cats. 155

Clay Matthews By Clifford Brooks How did Clay Matthews come to be? How did poetry factor into your childhood? What poems helped you into young adulthood? I wonder this myself, and any answer would have to be a patchwork—the rhythms of church hymns and sermons, the “Greatest Poems Ever, etc.” anthologies my mother bought for me when I was young, listening to country music every night to fall asleep, the trees I climbed and the trees I just looked up into, the sunsets in Southeast Missouri, the irrigation ditches I swam in, the long stares into a horse’s eyes, the nursery rhymes and little brown bear stories I heard as a child, and the list could go on and on. Everything that made me sensitive—that made me look, listen, feel. If there were poems that helped me into young adulthood (though I stumbled awkwardly into that), they were first and foremost the “classics” I read in some of those aforementioned anthologies—Tennyson and Yeats and Dickinson. I suppose poetry is still helping me into (or perhaps out of) adulthood. What about teaching keeps you coming back? Which teachers meant the most to you along the way? With each passing year, I’m more and more drawn to the service of teaching, insofar as I recognize how much teaching molded me and opened some avenues in my life that might not have existed otherwise. There are too many influential teachers to list, and at every level in and out of my formal education—from cradle to the present. I’ve been blessed to have teachers single me out and praise something—behavior, work, writing, and so on. Those moments were formative for me, and I know from my own students’ literacy narratives that it’s unfortunately just as likely for students to be shaped by negative interactions with teachers. I’m drawn to teaching because it’s an opportunity to facilitate some learning that can carry on for a lifetime, and it’s a chance to tell someone they have a voice, and that it’s worthy of being heard. That’s something that’s good for all of us to be reminded of from time to time, I think. What relevance to the writing community is a Master of Fine Arts? How much can anyone learn to write, and how much is one born with? I’m not in the “either your born with it or not” art camp, so I absolutely believe we can all learn to write, and probably all should be. I didn’t pursue an MFA, but I did do a whole lot of graduate school, and, as is the case with any education, you can find it all for the most part outside of the school itself. There are some ethical questions surrounding graduate degrees in creative writing—job prospects, student debt, the insularity that can sometimes happen in the creative writing community, and so on. 156

LITERARY INTERVIEWS On the other hand, there’s also something absolutely beautiful about flying in the face of conventional wisdom and throwing yourself into an art—whether that’s in school or not. I think what’s relevant about an MFA is the ready-made community that it provides, and the time to really focus on craft. You have to be really intentional about finding that time and creating those communities once you leave a program—it’s a lot of work, but extremely rewarding. I think it’s easy to get a little lost after heading out from one of those programs, though, because at the onset it can feel sort of like you’re all alone out in the world. You’re not, though. Everywhere I’ve ever lived, as soon as I start turning over some stones, I’ve found poets, authors, artists, musicians. The community is everywhere. I am a fan of both your books, Pretty, Rooster and Shore. How do both books relate to your life? What do you remember intimately as you wrote them? Thank you. I found my way back into the sonnet with Pretty, Rooster because I couldn’t stop writing really long poems, and the structure of syllabics and the English sonnet afforded me some constraint I was having a hard time honestly giving to myself otherwise. For Shore, having grown up in the shadow of the Mississippi river, I’d always wanted to write a flood story. My childhood was loosely informed by flood myth—both of the biblical sort and of the realer fear of a levy breaking. Both of these collections were of a certain time and place in my life, and so as I look back at them, they mark some sort of metaphorical chapters in this narrative I’m spinning. If you created a salon of your favorite writers, poets, and musicians (living or dead) who would the top ten folks be? Jeezum—this would probably change on a daily basis for me, but here goes: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Larry Levis, Anne Carson, Bob Dylan, Sylvia Plath, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Jan LaPerle (who is much better at facilitating conversation than I). How does music and visual art work into your writing process, and/or the writing itself? Music plays into whatever rhythms I’m writing and/or hearing in my head both directly and indirectly. In Shore, a sort of rambling and freewheeling cento of sorts, a lot of the lines in the poems are propelled (quite literally) by lyrics. I think visual art affects me in much the same ways. I haven’t written a whole heap of intentional ekphrastic poems, but the way the various frames of art have expanded and informed how I see the world—that’s definitely changed the way my mind frames things over time and I how understand myself, my sensual condition, and the vast wildness that picks up where the gates of my self ends. What projects are you working on now? Trying to write some Psalms—or something akin to that. I have a couple older manuscripts that I send out from time to time, too. There’s a bigger project on the backburner I’m still trying to figure out how to even begin approaching, and then I’m mostly just trying to find a poem in all of it here and there. How does your love of art help you through this rocky terrain of life? At some point, the idea of a creation myth became sort of draped over reality for me—maybe from


reading Borges. My reality is pretty thinly tied here to earth, it seems—and it’s a faith in the creative act of god that helps me to hang on to (and in) this world. When I come back down into all of this from that perspective, and into the creative act of all sorts—writing, art, carpentry, gardening, relationships, cooking, cranking wrenches, digging holes, and so on and so on--I can escape the constructed questions of this place and fall into a sort of rhythm with a way of being that’s playing some tune inside of me. That’s my joy, and without it, god knows where I’d have slipped away to by now. Art helps to ground me. What excites you about life? All the things mentioned in the previous question. Breathing. Sitting in chairs and staring at leaves. Witnessing my daughter live all the beautiful and hard things from the bud to the blossom. Being present to witness the day-to-day, when I get out of my own way. This past year has brought some trying times for my health, family, and so on. When I think back on all of it, I try to spend time reflecting on being better about staying excited for all of it. I’m a quiet man, but the world buzzes within me if I listen. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Ha. No idea. Alive, hopefully, and hopefully grateful for wherever that is. If alive, I hope to still be surrounded by loving family, friends, pets; still being slayed by poetry, trees, music, seasons, art, love, good food, and the silhouette shadows sometimes make. Twitter: @claydmatthews

Friday Catfish and potatoes fry, a large hand pulls beers out of a bucket of ice. A creation story of motor oil and rotting fins. August and the news replays the story of an empty parachute found near a creek. Nail guns hiss in the distance, a crew raises the walls of another home, another back porch, another evening spent under strands of Xmas lights listening to the local soft rock station talking about losing people 158

LITERARY INTERVIEWS through mouthfuls of tartar sauce and long drinks when there is too much more to say. On the corner of 8th and Elm, there’s a jar you can place money in to ask forgiveness. Never pick up the phone unless you’re willing for your world to shatter. Years later (years), outside that new house, in the glow of the kitchen window, they’ll plant a tree, and name it after a son they’ve lost— a dumb young robin who doesn’t know any better will build a nest there, we’ll be passing the hot sauce by then and not mentioning the afterlife, toasting whatever we can find to toast. So, cheers to the forest. Cheers to propane and corn meal. The battered fish steams from a mouth and that part of the soul that always looks for wind. It’s dark now, and cooler, but not cold enough to give it up. This is something that will go on longer, that has been going on all this time. Mosquitoes and cicadas. Stars and the passing clouds. A nest in his tree where a blue egg shakes. 159

Sestina Originally published in The Cape Rock The neighbor’s cat howls at a lonesome wind. In time, the leaves shuffle, and I pick up our daughter from the ground, wet with black dirt and holding bits of gravel. On a road once I was the man down in the ditch. Once I was the driver, the lonely last song of a blues hour, the same heartbreaking song we danced to just yesterday, rain and wind at the door. Remember I told you once that I would never let the world end, up in a tree with our feet wet, the long road to childhood in the distance, paved with dirt and innocence, the dirt of years, the dirt on the hands of men like myself, a song spelling out words, M, A, N, take this road until you reach a fork, then let the wind grab your hand and guide you. Child, woman, up in the sky a beautiful story once was told. So we lie down and sleep now once the movie ends. Shadows hide the faint dirt on the walls, lights pass by and I pull up the covers, the dog moans. There was a song my mother sang, about willows and wind. There was a house, then a driveway, a road and then us, holding hands beside that road, laughing in a picture someone took once. There is nothing I love more than to wind a clock that no longer works, to take dirt into my hands and plant a seed. A song just needs singers. A down just needs an up. If you are tired, take my arm and look up at what the bare trees do to the sky. Road, road, road, road—the incessant machine song. Our story begins with a book, a once upon a‌. Our daughter begins with dirt and ends as a wildflower in the wind. The sky lights up. I found you in a once. Composed of dirt, hope, narrative, and road, I give you this song and promise the wind.



Originally published in Willow Springs

If you wear ties, wear one. If you have a suit, put it on, even if it’s the same suit you only bring out for funerals, or weddings, even if it is black and black seems kind of depressing and might send the wrong message: be kind of depressing, send the wrong message. After all, they’re probably not going to hire you, anyway. You will smile and laugh at bad jokes and move around rooms between strangers who expect you to say something profound, but you will resign yourself to the weather, and talk about tulips because you assume everyone likes tulips, even though you know that everyone does not. If you believe in god and you know they do, too, maybe mention that. If not, not. If you believe in love it doesn’t really matter one way or the other because they’ve probably already made up their minds even before bringing you in, they’ve probably already fallen in love with another job candidate, with another job for themselves, too, in another city where it rains less and they have good diners right beside work that serve local beer. Play hard to get. Always turn so that they’re looking at the side of your face. If you believe Elvis is still alive, always, always make it known. Because after all as they say you are interviewing them, too, and who wants to not be hired by people who’ve never seen the king, stretched out in an Coup DeVille, heading down sixty-six, hairy arm hung out the window and wearing a tattered suit that was made for a thousand other occasions.


Originally published in diode

The muggy heat of late May comes on, the day after Memorial Weekend, a day which seems inconsequential in context— I am not sure what to do with myself. 161

The ice cream shack down the road didn’t open back up this year, this year the economy is bad, oh, so bad, so at the campsite I was not surprised to find others there, like us looking for a cheap vacation, some place for the kids to ride their bikes without fear of fast cars and interstates, some place, in short, to build a big fire and burn things. The water bill, the grocery bill, the electric bill, they kind of take up this space on the table beside the door. Today the mail runs again, and that’s often what I look forward to most in a day. Perhaps that is sad, perhaps I am sad, perhaps the sun will shine on the garden in the back before another spring storm pushes through. Go on and rain, goddamnit. I want everything to be green. There was a woman blow-drying her hair at the campgrounds, and it wasn’t right, we thought, she shouldn’t be doing that, there shouldn’t be RVs there bigger than our house, it shouldn’t be that easy to escape, to pack up and go, leaving all the comforts of home for the comforts of not being home, in the sticks, with no grass to mow, no dishes to be done, no laundry, only the sound of a crow cawing through the night high in a tree, not so different than the mockingbird at home, still looking for a mate, nothing so different at all, after all, as birds, and beds, and our hot bodies touching each other, finding themselves too hot, rolling away to the other side of our dreams where we find each other again, in the good and bad ways of that world. You were saying something last night about controlling the mind, laying there, before sleep, we were sticky and hungover, 162

LITERARY INTERVIEWS tired, but not sleepy after the long afternoon nap, after getting back from camping, after bbq because it felt necessary, mid-morning beers, a little dip in the lake which was the best part, the water so calm and cold, the day just beginning, people skiing, canoeing, and you, swimming out to the middle, saying, So, this is why people have boats. It was Memorial Day, after all, I want to remember, to make the mind go as I ask it, back to each moment we were happy, each moment tired, each moment dipping French fries into ketchup, coleslaw falling all over the place, the ice cream we tried to make on the porch that never set-up, I want to remember you at the grocery store, the veterans handing out homemade forget-me-nots for you to place in your hair, and in our planters at home, outside right now, there are real forget-me-nots, which turns out to be a wonderful name for a flower, I think, I think it turns out that laying in bed doing nothing is substantial, a real important thing, even with the noise of the many birds outside, the neighbors taking turns riding a dirt bike through the night, so annoying, that buzz, and the ceiling fan, and the stillness in between, such a holiday as one boy after another flew by, the engine roaring, riding for no good reason except to ride, as we sat in the darkness, a little unsettled, but each of us unable not to smile at what we must give in to, not to jerk awake at some noise in the night, before feeling safe enough to fall asleep again.


Dan Burgess, Editor of Firewords Magazine By Clifford Brooks What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? As a writer and designer, I’d always been keen to bring these two worlds together. I didn’t find the majority of literary magazines already out there very inspiring or accessible. I also thought a writing magazine with aesthetic appeal could open the world of short fiction and poetry up to new readers. The first iteration of the magazine came while at university, in the form of a literary newspaper. It got a great reaction so we decided to try it in the real world. It’s come a long way since then but that’s where it started life. What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine? I think we face the usual challenges that most independent magazines face: funding and time. Fitting the production of the magazine around full-time jobs will always be tricky but rewarding. Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? For me, a submission has to be each of these things: memorable, different and of a high standard. High standard: Mistakes are distracting and I want to be lost in the story. Obviously, we proofread and edit everything we publish but, ideally, it’s not something we want to consider on a first readthrough. Memorable: A story needs to be memorable enough to be in my head after reading hundreds of other submissions. In our editorial discussions, the question ‘Which one was that again?’ is often followed by ‘Probably not.’ Different: Most of all, I want a story to take me by surprise: something I’m not expecting and don’t want to put down. I’m making an assumption here, but I’m willing to bet that’s what all editors will be looking for. Who or what magazines inspired you to create your own? There is a now defunct and hard-to-find literary magazine called Zembla that I loved. They did things differently and used graphic design and layout to push the boundaries. We also started at a time when the indie magazine scene was starting to flourish, which showed me that anyone can start a magazine if they have the ideas and drive to do so.


LITERARY INTERVIEWS Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? We’re excited to launch our 12th issue, ‘Truth’, in January and we’ve got an online writing community that we’ll be opening up to new members soon. Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? Social media is something we could always do more with but never have the time. Sometimes it can feel like shouting into the void but is also great for interacting with people around the world. We actually find that our email newsletter is a more effective way of talking directly to our followers. How can we keep up with you online and across social media? Online at and Twitter/Instagram at @firewordsmag. What are a few distinct differences between American and UK publishing? This is difficult to say as the internet has made borders less important and we sell most of our copies via our website. The fact we offer free worldwide shipping also makes it more appealing for US readers. Most of the independent bookshops who stock Firewords in the UK and Europe are ones we deal with directly. However, we do find that most stockists in the US prefer to deal with a distributor, which is challenging for smaller magazines.


Heather Bartlett, Editor of Hoxie Gorge Review By Clifford Brooks What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? Hoxie Gorge Review is based at the State University of New York at Cortland, edited by myself and occasional guest editors, but also staffed by students in our writing program. Our aim with Hoxie Gorge is to carve out a place in the literary conversation. We wanted to become a space for important and incisive voices, and in doing so, it was important to us to place emerging writers right alongside established writers. To also have emerging writers, student writers, at the helm of that work gives us a unique and fresh perspective. What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine? I’ve described the process of creating this literary magazine as a labor of love. Everything was new, so everything was a challenge. We had to learn as we worked. From creating the website to sorting through the slush pile to making final decisions. We stumbled along the way, of course, but even in our stumbles we had an eye toward our ultimate goal: to publish a beautiful issue. One of our biggest challenges is one I think all new and small publications face: limited time and resources. We were flooded with submissions during our open reading period, so many that it took far longer to read and discuss submissions than we’d anticipated. Of course, this was such a wonderful challenge to face. It meant that we were being seen; we were part of the community. This also made us really feel the weight of the responsibilities we’d taken on – to submitting writers, to readers, to the writing community, and to each other. It meant that every big and small decision was important, and so every decision was made with thought, discussion, and purpose. It meant late nights and early mornings and many cups of coffee. We worked. We learned. We continue. Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Do: read submission guidelines! I know everyone says this, but I have a new appreciation for just how important this statement is. We set guidelines for a reason. Send us five poems, not a whole collection. Send us a short story, not a novel. Time and resources are very limited. Submission guidelines don’t just tell you what a publication wants to read; they also tell you what the editors can (and cannot) manage. 168

LITERARY INTERVIEWS Do: Send your best work. Be bold. Take risks. We want to be surprised. We want to be broken open. We want to know what you have to say. Don’t: be defeated by rejection. There is so much excellent work that doesn’t make it to publication for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Keep writing. Keep sending it out. This is the work. Who or what magazines inspired you to create your own? I love online publications because the medium is so immediate and accessible, so it was important to me that Hoxie Gorge Review have a main presence online. Other online magazines like the Los Angeles Review, Quarterly West, Redivider, and Waxwing were certainly inspirations when I was first imagining what Hoxie Gorge could be. I’m still imagining what Hoxie Gorge will be as we move forward, and I continue to take inspiration from writers and publications I admire and the new voices I find along the way. Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? Our first issue was published in December! It features some well known and established voices. It also features a few brand new voices from whom you’re sure to hear more in the future. Our next issue will be published in the Spring. Stay tuned! Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? Social media has become such a central necessity in the writing and publishing world. It’s how we readers find our favorite writers and publications. It’s how we find new writers and publications. It’s how we connect with the writing community. For Hoxie Gorge, Social media allows us to continually promote our magazine and our writers, and it allows our contributors to promote themselves and each other. It allows us to continue reaching out to our audience and to continue having a voice. How can we keep up with you online and across social media? Find us on facebook at: On Twitter at: @HoxGorgeReview On Instagram at: hoxiegorge_review Read the first issue of Hoxie Gorge Review at


Michelle Lovi, Owner of Odyssey Books By Clifford Brooks What makes your press unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? Odyssey Books emerged from a long-held passion for books and reading. Since childhood I’ve been an avid reader and always knew I’d forge a career in publishing or other creative field. After many years working in publishing and research roles for the government, the urge to follow my dream of working with books became impossible to ignore so I founded and launched Odyssey. We’ve published over 100 titles in 10 years, which, so I’ve been told, is quite an achievement for a small press. One of things that makes Odyssey unique – and what inspired our name – is the ability to travel, to explore, to take the press anywhere because we’re not tied to a fixed location. Odyssey began in Canberra, Australia, has had the occasional jaunt across Europe, and is now journeying around New Zealand and occasionally back to Australia a few times a year. Our team members check in from various parts of the world, and we have published authors from several countries. What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your press? I was fortunate to have developed a good grounding in editing, design, and production through my previous work, but marketing and distribution have involved huge learning curves. “If you build it they will come” is not a phrase you can throw around in publishing -- there’s so much choice now that getting readers’ attention is a massive challenge. If I had known that book promotion was one of the biggest aspects of running a press, I would have stuck with the Marketing degree I started when I graduated high 170

school. But I was more drawn to telling stories and creating beautiful books, so I switched to Communications, Journalism and Multimedia instead, which still worked out in the long run. If you’re going to run a small press, you need to be an all-rounder or have a good team of people who can fill in the gaps in your skillsets. Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? We try to make it easy: read the submissions information on our website and follow the instructions. Read some of our titles to get a feel for whether you’d be a good fit for our house. We know authors like to cast a wide net and hope to get a nibble when submitting their manuscripts,

LITERARY INTERVIEWS but you should demonstrate you’ve done some research into the publishers you’d like to work with. It’s like applying for a job or screening potential babysitters. We want to know you want to work with us, just as we consider carefully who we want to work with. Who or what publishers inspired you to create your own press? I can’t say a particular publisher inspired me to create my own publishing house -- that motivation came purely from wanting to work in book publishing and the joy of discovering new authors. But I have been influenced by other publishers and study what they publish, how they promote their books, what their focus is. I love for the community they have built around SFF. Quirk Books was partly the inspiration for creating a new imprint called Publisher Obscura, which focuses on unusual picture books for adults and other novelty titles.

showing off our new books, promoting our backlist books, chatting with authors and readers, discussing industry news, that sort of thing. Since we publish across a range of genres we don’t try to put a spin on our social media, but I think that could be a good tactic for authors to implement in their own social platforms. How can we keep up with you online and across social media? (self-publishing division)

Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? We’ve signed some exciting debut authors who we’ll be publishing in 2020 alongside new titles from our existing author family (our “Oddies”). We’ve also started production on our first audiobook -- audio is going to be a big focus for us this year. We’re expanding our self-publishing division as well. Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone, but we can share our expertise with authors who want to self-publish without the learning curve. We can take care of the publishing process, marketing, and social media, so the author can focus on writing. Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? We are very active on social media and use it simply to talk about books and publishing:


John Patrick Robbins, Editor of Rye Whiskey Review By Clifford Brooks What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest? My journal is basically all things barroom, so in other words we are a themed magazine that thrives which is never an easy task in dealing with any journal that has a theme in my opinion. Also, I never truly had the desire to be an editor in fact I used to question the type of person that desired such a job. I received a truly unprofessional rejection from a zine, I saw how things needed to change and decided to make those changes myself and now here I am. What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine? Well having no true idea how these things run in all truth, I was green as a glade of grass. But in that respect, it allowed me to learn without some expectations the first and biggest challenge as in starting any magazine is getting the writers to submit. So, I just went and sought out writers I read in other journals I had been published in myself it was a challenge at first but as the journal got known it became far easier. Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid? Please do read the journal before submitting I enjoy humor and all things baroom and nightlife centred, with that said not every write has to mention whiskey somewhere in it. I truly try to publish a wide array of subjects and styles so in that sense it’s not so limited also think of the Whiskey as a good dive bar. I really don’t care to talk or publish anything on religion or politics as I enjoy work that connects not turns people off. There are many other journals dedicated to publishing that sort of stuff and with all due respect I am not those places. Who or what magazines inspired you to create your own? It was honestly the lack of magazines I didn’t see that caused me to create ones that I myself would want to read and be published in. I have to give credit though to Ben John Smith of HST, as I truly admired the man and his publication. Although the Whiskey is nothing like that magazine. I admire how Piker Press operated and how it still does as another that wasn’t around when I started and I greatly admire is Punk Noir Magazine as well. I am also a fan of Red Fez which has always been a fantastic magazine. 172

LITERARY INTERVIEWS Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? Well as an editor of eight separate magazines including two print in The Black Shamrock and The Angel’s Share Magazine, I always have something on the horizon including a well overdue break. I have literally been running two years straight with no off days and unlike some journals the work all largely falls upon me and my co-editor Scott Simmons. Throw in running Whiskey City Press and doing a podcast Guest Haus with Mark Antony Rossi and also my own Off the Wagon I am totally exhausted. So, although I doubt I will be able to take a full vacation I am at least going to try but along with my own writing, I never stop working. Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it? Social media is key to everything I do the Whiskey often advertises our projects at the press as well as other writer’s books from other fine presses. With my other zine Under The Bleachers is where I truly have the most fun as we turn everything upon its head, being its a totally humorous magazine. But no matter the mag, social media is everything to us and I do believe we use it to its fullest potential including doing live readings from the mags. I just figured why not get the most out of what you have I always try to do things differently and in that regard, I do believe I hit the mark. How can we keep up with you online and across social media? All the mags including The Rye Whiskey Review, Drinkers Only, The Angle Share, Under the Bleachers, Midnight Magazine, The Abyss have facebook pages. UTB does have an Instagram the only one of my mags that does being it is meant to give the reader a laugh. And I am always writing full time as well and can easily be found on facebook. Also, Whiskey City Press has a facebook and a website as well. Off the Wagon will begin taping its new season next year it can be found on Facebook, so please look it up and check out all my avenues and support the writers we promote because without them the mags are nothing.


Brave Voices Magazine By Clifford Brooks

What makes your journal unique? How does your backstory put you apart from the rest?

Who or what magazines inspired you to create your own?

What makes our journal unique is its accessibility. We publish work based on the emotions & ideas behind it, rather than just the language used. Our backstory sets us apart because our editor in chief made this magazine spontaneously.

A Feminist Thread and Turnpike Magazine inspired me.

What were some of the hidden challenges in creating your literary magazine? Some of the challenges are not being able to pay staff and contributors. Also, it has been difficult to sort through submissions without Submittable.

Do you have any announcements to make about issues or projects on the horizon? We are currently working on a series called Brave Conversations, which has interviews with poets, writers, & creators. We also have a blog called Courageous where we regularly publish work. Social media: How does it play into your operation? Do you put a spin on it?

Please give us a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to submitting material. What do we do? What should we avoid?

Social media helps a ton. That’s how we get our submissions and views. We try to make it full of heart & humor.

Do: include a cover letter and submit your best work. Don’t: send us inappropriate material or expect a decision ASAP.

How can we keep up with you online and across social media?


Follow us on Twitter. That’s where it all happens.


YM By Clifford Brooks Tell us why you call yourself “YM.” What are the highlights of your youth and young adult years? Hey there. I was born on the eighth candle of the festival of lights also known as Hanukkah. I’m the youngest and my mother really wanted to have a baby on a festival. She lit the eighth candle and cried realizing that would never happen. With her tears came labor and I was born on the eighth candle. She was so happy she named me Yitzchok Meir which means laughing from light. I don’t have an English name so many of my friends called me by my initials YM. I happen to love that the Y sounds like the question why, since blessings of continuity are found within the question. Say you meet someone in the street and they ask you what time it is, if you answer, the conversation is over. if you respond to the question with a question, then your new relationship has just begun. Relationships are over when people think they know each other, when they think they have the answer. When we continue to ask questions about each other and treat each other like we are born a new each day, we feel free and don’t feel stuck. We feel the blessing of continuity. Interestingly enough, if you rearrange the letters of the Hebrew word for wisdom, it can also spell ‘strength of what‘. May we all be blessed to ask more questions and humble ourselves realizing we don’t need all of the answers. In terms of your question of my youth, most cannotate the word ‘highlight’ with extremely positive occurrences though in my case I think my parents divorce was the highlight of my youth. Not because I enjoyed it, I definitely did not. I didn’t get to see my father for eight years. The reason I choose this is because honestly it’s the first thing that came to mind and because it has taught me to deal with hardship and darkness and realize that bad isn’t intrinsically negative. It could either build you or destroy you and that is definitely a life long work. There’s no doubt that the highlight of my young adult years was packing up my bags and deciding to move to Jerusalem alone at the age of 17. Being free in such a physically and spiritually safe country restored my faith in humanity and taught me how beautiful fun and productive life can be. From hitchhiking around with my guitar to being an emerging artist in the ever budding Jerusalem music scene, I believe renting my own apartment in the old city of Jerusalem was part of the highlight from the half decade long summer of love for many in my age group in the region. Who are you? What’s the difference with you onstage and you on the street? Who am I? I think I like the question more than the answer. I am who. It’s way more infinite than the finite answer. After all, we are all created in the image of the creator and since the creator is infinite, I am who. For those looking for a finite answer, I am a soul spark broken off of the great soul which is one, clothed in a temporary human body. My subjective life’s experiences has led me to believe that I have received from the creator gifts of a good heart, beauty, charisma, compassion, wisdom and humor to enable myself and those around me to see the good in others, remind us all that we do not need to agree in order to love and use the universal language of music to rebuild the house of prayer for all nations once and for all. The only difference between me on the streets and me on the stage is the stage and the amount of peo176


ple I am conversing with. In both instances I am blinded by the great lights which surround me and melt in love. How has your music matured over the years? I would like to answer this question in regards to expression. Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of Kotzk who was famous for his sayings once said; “Not all that is thought need be said, not all that is said need be written, not all that is written need be published, and not all that is published need be read.” The expression of my music over the years has matured in that I no longer write it all down, I no longer put it all out there. Only what is memorable, only that which is absolutely golden and is a true expression of the creator through myself, which will benefit those who experience the feelings the music which flows through me brings up for them. Who inspired you to music? Who inspires you now? When I was three years old my grandmother who survived Auschwitz gave me a violin which survived the war along with her. They buried us, they didn’t know we were seeds and we would grow. This was my first instrument. This was my introduction to how to make music. She also gave me a piano. When I was 14 years old I found an electric bass behind the enormous air-conditioning unit in the attic of my parents pizza store in Manhattan. It intrigued me and I played for a year. The following summer I heard the classical and flamenco fingerpicking of guitar virtuoso C. Lanzbom on a record of his in my friends car. I looked him up and spent one month convincing him to teach me guitar. He taught me for two years and went on to produce Pete Seeger and win a Grammy. Right now I’m inspired by the coming together of opposites. Men and women, physical and spiritual, light and dark, body and soul, one and zero, heaven and earth, plus and minus and finally acoustic 177

and electronic. I love incorporating all worlds into one, I mean, everything is, one, right? Anyone you wanna give a shout out to? My band. Zvi Rodan for recreating the Drums beat and voice, Jonathan Haringman for your harmony and the Keys to the cosmos, Benny Weill for wailing on Six million heart Strings & Evyatar Kirsh for bringing our souls up by bringing that Bass down, droppin our knees and wavin our bootys’ to and fro - all of you are the coolest bros. Asher Parkes for musical directing the sun and the moon, the soul behind the tune. Who are your legends of music and literature? Why them? My great great great grandfather King David wrote at least 150 psalms/songs. He was a king, a human, un-worshiped yet lauded for his ability to fall and get back up. We must teach each other the art of falling and the skill of getting back up. Shlomo Carlebach merged classical marches with 60s folk to uplift the generation of World War II out of the great depression and into a life of healing, acceptance, love and rebuilding. I once spent two years listening only to his teachings and music. Miraculously prolific, he had written thousands upon thousands of tunes before he died of a heart attack in the mid 1990’s. Frank Sinatra, especially in his early days working with Harry James also lifted many out of the great depression and inspires me to sing with a voice that can keep us warm in the winter. Elvis taught me how to shine your soul and rock ‘n’ roll all the same time. The Doors & Jim Morrison who in my opinion sing from a similar place to Frank Sinatra, helped merge different time periods into a place of honesty, acknowledging that which is dark and it being OK to be your wild self. There’s nothing like the funk groove, unity and brotherhood of the Jackson 5. As a child Michael Jackson kind of weirded me out after he became white but as I got older I realized how he was truly one of the greatest artists and performers to walk the face of this earth and who are we to tell him what to do with the color of his skin. The poetry and acoustic guitar playing of both Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen has givin’ me the permission to be myself, to sing however I want to, and to write on multiple levels all at the same time. Bob Marley and The Wailers have helped me tap into another realm, another groove, a higher energy, a pure expression and an open heart. Simon and Garfunkel for teaching me the power of a duo and harmonies with just one guitar. What poets. Paul Simon’s solo works has truly taught me freedom of expression and has given me permission to incorporate anything I would like to into so-called western music. What a genius. 178

MUSIC INTERVIEWS The Beatles. Oh my God the Beatles. What song writing. What harmonies. What simplicity. And thank God they met George Martin. His production and touch blow me away. I was super inspired by my meeting and meriting to play one song live for Alicia Keys in the Old City of Jerusalem. During a moment of eye contact I asked Alicia, “What is your dream? Who are you?” She took a deep breath and replied, “To connect, to be real”. During our stroll we happened upon ruins from the second temple era. “Streets of Jerusalem!” Alicia exclaimed. I said “I have a song entitled Streets of Jerusalem”. Alicia asked me to play the song later. What could I play for a hit queen vocalist? In the tea room we sang ‘Bloody War’ off of ‘Dear God’. She was so real, so inspiring, such a queen. What do you see as the major similarities and differences between songwriting and poetry? Sometimes a song comes down in the form of words, sometimes a song comes down in the form of a tune. Sometimes they come down together. They are similar in that they both come from a place beyond us – where do your thoughts come from? What do you see as your responsibility as a musician in these troubles times? I feel that as a musician in these troubled times it is my responsibility to stay true to my passion and help others out of slavery and into living their dream. It’s a hard one because people are worried about money. Why is it so important to remember that we have left Egypt? Why is it in my tradition to commemorate leaving slavery at least three times daily? Or maybe it’s because slavery is alive and well today. Perhaps slavery is the act of doing somebody else’s will in exchange for security. Back then it was in exchange for a roof over your head and food. Nowadays it’s in exchange for money which you can use to purchase a roof over your head and food, or to hire other slaves. There are no two people alike in that there is only one of you in the whole entire world. If you are not you, who will be? You have something unique to give to this world and what a shame it would be if your whole life was lived for somebody else’s passions because you were scared of where your resources would come from? Of course this is easier said than done and we must all take it upon ourselves to share the worlds many resources with those less fortunate and give 10% of all of our profits to charity And put an end to greed. There is enough land, housing and food for all the humans on this earth that we don’t have to focus on attaining it and can focus on our true life passions. What tips do you have for those aspiring to be musicians to help them dodge hard times? You have to want it. You have to really really want it. If you hit a wall and there is a knot in your stomach, just know the creator has taken care of all of the knots in your stomach during past hardships so much so that you don’t even remember what they all were anymore. This too shall pass. What you will be left with is what you continue doing during this hard time. What are the pros and cons to touring? In the past two years I have toured Canada, USA, South America, Europe & Scandinavia. Touring is incredible because you can get in touch with so much of the world in such a short of time. I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it? To get in touch with the world? On the other hand, Touring is hard because 179

and you don’t get to travel the world with a free flow because you are on a rigorous work schedule which for me has been airplane, perform hotel and repeat every day… if you do have a tour I’d recommend extending your tour for as long as you can before or after your tour to give yourself time to experience the unique location of the world you have been blessed to visit. What do you want to do when you grow up? Grow up;) How do we keep up with you on tour? The best way to keep up with me on tour is to follow me on Instagram music.ym (I might change it to iamym really soon though) or on Facebook at There’s no doubt that if you really want the insiders Scoop you should join my email tribe. You can sign up on my website http:// (which I might change to really soon;) What albums do you have out, and what do you have on deck for the future? “Dear God” is my first full-record offering, a symbioses of genre, vibe, reflections and hopes. I miss debut album of mine charted on to Billboard charts during its first week of release. Sometimes the track itself reaches out to poke you with a sudden shift in both mood and technique. The move-along groove and the gently laid lyrics ease you into a journey through identity, love, loss, war and peace. Eclectic, sometimes-edgy arrangements and ensembles prove worthy of a maturing, grander perspective, echoes recalled in a smooth and sensual vocal performance. What comes out is a classy and suave flirtation of jazzy flows and bluesy bass, peppered with the occasional ballad and campus quad acoustic. “Dear God” is my witty, subtle, well-seasoned prayer for the world. What’s crazy is that I recorded this album with Ronny Vance, former president of Geffen Music and Interscope Music, responsible for the signings of Tupac, New Edition, Stephen Sondheim, Bruce Hornsby and Gwen Stephani, and for the placement of such notable songs as “Maniac,” “New Attitude,” and Eric Clapton’s two-time 1998 Grammy winning song “Change The World”. Now that I got the band back together we are going to be recording a series of singles so that you can taste the excitement happens when our unique r&b soul funk meets melody. You have to come see us live, there’s a certain indescribable magic that happens when the crowd and us become one groove. And of course the other reason is that one of my dreams and is to meet every precious being in this universe and help them live their dream so please be sure to get in touch and come meet me after the show. Photo credits: Solo photos by Irene Bel (cover, p. 175) Band shot by Nathan Meloul (p. 177)


Alex Gannon By Dusty Huggins Tell the reader about your beginnings as a musician and the evolution that has led you this point in your career. As a young kid I used to sit and watch my dad play guitar for hours. Whether he was on the front porch with an acoustic guitar or playing along with Santana songs on electric I was absolutely fascinated by the capabilities of the guitar (not to mention of his fingers). I bothered him daily to play his guitar until at some point he bought me my own: a small Ovation Applause. My fascination for the instrument developed into a love…and arguably an obsession. While in middle and high school I’d stay up late into the school night learning as much Hendrix, SRV and Santana as my amateur fingers would allow. By the time I graduated I knew without a doubt that I wanted to go to school and learn as much about guitar and music as I could. I went to college as a music major and learned the art of classical guitar and ultimately earned a master’s degree in classical guitar performance. (Some would say “classically trained” but I have never liked that term. Why does no one ever say, “blues trained” or “rock and roll trained”? A tangent for another day.) While being in Atlanta you have joined The Ides of June, gained a degree in classical guitar from Georgia State, began teaching at multiple universities, co-founded the band Sidewalkers and really began to develop your solo career. How important is it to you to have these multiple outlets to express yourself musically? Having multiple outlets is extremely important to me. I find that if I get too much of any one genre or style of playing, I become off balanced. It’s like eating filet mignon every single day for dinner. Yeah, it’s great but if you don’t change it up now and then it loses its appeal. Similarly,

I feel that classical guitar helps me balance out rock and roll (and vice versa) and keep me fresh. There’s a line in the movie “Crossroads” (no not the Brittany Spears movie) in which a Julliard music professor tells Eugene (Ralph Macchio) that one cannot serve two masters. While I understand fully what he meant by that in regard to the technical demands of classical guitar, it has been my life’s goal to prove a fictional character wrong... With all these different musical influences what led you to making an acoustic blues album for your first full length solo LP? I have always had a fondness for the acoustic guitar. As much as I love a screaming guitar solo, there is just something so personal, intimate and organic about playing the acoustic. My very first REAL musical passion was acoustic blues music. Going back to my dad again, I used to love listening to him play blues songs on 181

his old Gibson. They were always my favorite. When I was old enough to know how (and when we finally upgraded from a 56k modem), I used the internet to learn a good deal about these old blues guys. I started buying their CDs if I saw them in stores and listening to them on repeat. Robert Johnson blew my mind with what he was capable of, playing a bass line and an upper melody while simultaneously singing (likely what led to my later love of classical). My friends would give me a hard time because they’d get in my car and I’d have a John Hammond CD (whose daddy was a producer and actually recorded Johnson) playing rather than the current coolest band on the radio. Anyway, when deciding what to do for my first solo LP I knew it would be an acoustic blues album. The only real decision was what songs to cover in addition to my own songs: Son House, Johnson, Hammond, Blind Willie, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker…? I couldn’t do them all, so I started to narrow down a list and honestly kind of figure it out as I went. There was a great blues guitarist who was a close friend of my dad’s named Bill Perry. I knew I wanted to include one of his songs, but the rest was sort of unknown. I’m very happy with the selections I made and honestly, I recorded more than I put on the album...maybe the start of a sequel? Tell us about the album, release date, etc. I’m calling the album Roots in recognition of the origins of the music I love. As a musician (and even as a listener) I feel it is very important to understand the history behind the music I play. In both bands and as a solo artist I tend to gravitate towards a blues-based style of playing. Without going off on a tangent about the history of blues music, suffice it to say the early acoustic blues musicians set the standard that we continue to follow today. I even included a classical piece by Andrew York composed in a ragtime style as somewhat of an interlude but still relevant to the concept. 182

I’m currently working on a release date in late March 2020, but with the craziness of this time of year I have not been able to lock in a definite date yet. To anyone interested, please keep up with me on my website or on social media (Facebook and Instagram) as I will be promoting it as soon as I can! Website: Facebook: @alexgannonmusic Instagram: @alexgannonmusic What are your goals for 2020 and the beginning of a new decade? Playing as much as possible and learning new things are always my top 2 goals of every year. Like any other musician I am always trying to push myself. I’m very excited to start the year off by getting straight into the studio with Sidewalkers to record our first EP at the beginning of January and later in the month starting work on The Ides of June’s 3rd studio album. One big aspect of the business I need to get better at is social media, marketing and those kinds of things. I’m not technologically dumb by any means… but I’m not great at the social media thing. Definitely going to try to step it up in 2020. What advice would you give to someone considering a career in music? It is definitely not an easy task making it in the music world, and I would never sugar coat that. However, it is extremely rewarding to do so. My best advice is to stay proactive and persistent when it comes to your career. There are many of us trying to make a living in music, so it is important to set yourself apart and to be professional. Focus on your craft just as a good wood worker does. Continuously critique, adapt and adjust. But also network and support your fellow musicians. No one understands the struggle better than we do and showing your support does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Basically, just work hard and be happy and you’ll be fine.

Anthony Williams & Jack Cooper By David Peoples school, high school, and then in twelfth grade my band director asked if any people would be willing to play secondary instruments in the bottom concert band. And I was in the back messing around (typical percussionist) I raised my hand and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll do it…’ You know, I was actually going to try to get out of it, but Mrs. Dee, the band director, actually called my mom and told her I had volunteered and that she should hold me to it. “I had to go to school the next morning and pick up a trombone — that’s how I started playing the trombone. The crazy thing is I fell in love with it. I was still doing percussion seriously, but the trombone was like an extra hobby on the side… I was like ‘okay, do I play video games or trombone - it was trombone’ and if I get some extra time, I’ll play video games.

Recently, I had the great opportunity to host a conference on contemporary composition (ROCC). We brought in composers and scholars from all over to talk and share/perform music at UNG Dahlonega. During the event I hosted a live interview with Anthony; we started with a question about the paths that led him to his instrument, the trombone: “I started out as a saxophonist, beginning band, seventh grade, I’m from Little Rock Arkansas — it’s where I grew up… beginning band, saxophone… I DON’T KNOW WHY! Well, I do know why, my older cousin plays saxophone, so I was ‘cool I wanna play in band, I wanna play saxophone.’ “Two weeks — is what it lasted; two weeks — I changed to percussion, and I became a serious percussionist. All the way through middle

“For college, in my mind it was all about going to play football, I played football for two years but I’m still in band. Things migrated and the percussion studio was full - it was very competitive…. all of a sudden with all my trombone practice, my percussion chops were not good enough. So, I was like okay maybe I could find my way into a band on trombone — that’s what happened (but, I still wasn’t a music major). Then, I started taking lessons, became a music major — that’s pretty much how it happened.” Since then, Anthony has moved on and has performed with several groups, appeared on numerous albums, and now is a trombone professor at the University of Northern Iowa. His latest album, ‘Synthesis,’ makes a powerful statement in the field of what is sometimes termed the Third Stream: a synthesis of music for the concert stage with jazz. My personal favorite to help people experience this synthesis would be (one of numerous examples) the Modern Jazz Quartet’s ‘Blues on Bach.’ 183

Anthony’s recent release features numerous tracks that delve into this Third-Stream style — and each piece was commissioned specifically for the project. To understand more about this album (Synthesis) we had a conference participant ask Anthony if there was any repertoire (music) written for trombone that he wished existed. The response shed a lot of light on the purpose for this recent album: “This is part of my project! The whole reason behind this process: I did my doctorate and my dissertation was on jazz influenced solo trombone literature. The problem that I discovered was that there were only a handful of pieces and half of them were written by French composers. And all of them, except for two: Jack Cooper’s first sonata and Richard Peasley’s (who wrote for the Stan Kenton Orchestra) ‘Arrows of time.’ Those two pieces were the only ones that were actually written by people that actually made a living writing jazz and classical music.” Everything else, they were merely impressions — especially the French stuff, they were impressions of what they heard. You know, when you think about World War I and all the regimental bands especially James Reese Europe - the band out of Harlem that was in Normandy providing morale… the French composers, musicians, and the people heard this and were like ‘we never heard anything like this before.’ It was the marches and jazz mixed in…. I wanted to get a collection of people, of composers, that have written both (and American composers too) — that have lived in the country and that have lived the culture (because that influences the music as well). I wanted to start helping/contributing to the cannon of repertoire more pieces to merge the styles together.” Following our interview, Anthony performed a piece written for him, the Second Sonata for Trombone and Piano by composer Jack Cooper.

On to Jack Cooper: Jack Cooper is no stranger to the synthesis of music for the stage with jazz. In my Southern California years, I had the opportunity to record a commission from Charlie Richard (that ended up being the title track to the album) of Cooper’s ‘Upside Out.’ Jack’s music kept popping up to me, I heard an arrangement of a Charles Ives piece ‘Tom Sails Away’ by the University of Texas Jazz Orchestra. In my Texas years, I remember finding a note written by Jack in a music score by Jimmy Giuffre. I had the opportunity to get to know and work with Jack at Memphis and fortunately crossed paths (again) recently with Anthony Williams performing one of Jack’s trombone sonatas. Why music? Can you share how you came to choose music (ie: - was it always a clear path, did you ever consider a different field of study, etc.)? First, our mom was a professional pianist, organist in the Southern California region and


MUSIC INTERVIEWS for 30 years taught in the Brea Olinda District (Choral Music and English grammar). She’s truly one of the best sight-reading pianists I have ever been around, I’m no just ‘blowing smoke’ when I say this. Our dad was an amateur woodwind player; clarinet and saxophone. All fours kids played instruments at some point. Our parents had an enormous record collection of jazz, classical and pop music. Honestly, I played 9 years of baseball and wanted to get drafted to the Dodgers or the Cardinals…sort of like Anthony and football. That did not work out for me…but, the music thing. Dating back, around 4th grade I started on violin and I did not take it seriously…my mom had me take violin lessons with a very nice lady who played with the Orange County Phil and the Pasadena Symphony, great player and I frustrated the hell out of her. Then I took piano lessons with my mom and then guitar lessons. By the end of 6th grade my folks said I would have to REALLY take a musical instrument seriously and enrolled me in band; they handed me my dad’s clarinet. So at age 11 I finally took this ‘somewhat’ seriously. Yes, I did find some enjoyment in this clarinet it did not ‘hurt my fingers’ like violin or guitar. I will say here, I was very inspired by the sound a playing of Artie Shaw, I tried playing along with his easier recordings. By the time I was in high school my dad played me some Charlie Parker 78’s he had, that did change my world. That’s what I wanted to do but it took a long time for me REALLY bear down and practice the way I needed. It was around my senior of high school that I started to tinkering with transcribing music and composing some things. My first years in college I was very inspired by a composition and arranging class I had with Tom Ranier.

Thanks to Anthony we were exposed to the compositional style of Third stream (coined by Gunther Schuller) — music that successfully merges music for the stage and jazz. How important is this style of music to you? This is an interesting question. First, it is probably the most important thing I do now, it is where I find my most inspiring moments and growth/development as a composer (chamber music that is ‘cross-over’). This type of music really dates back to George Gershwin and composers like Darius Milhaud, Charles Ives, and Francis Poulenc. Honestly, I can even argue some of Maurice Ravel’s works start down this path (he is a huge inspiration of mine). I honestly think it’s not right for music historians to put so much importance on Schuller ‘starting’ this moniker or label. I appreciate Schuller’s contributions but this category of music was going on dating back far before WWII. Can you share any experience(s) about composing/the premiere of your Second Sonata for Trombone and Piano? The work was specifically commissioned by my close friend Anthony Williams. We first got to know one another while he was a DMA candidate at the University of Memphis, he was also a shared grad assistant with me and John Mueller. Anthony is truly a special artist, a wonderful trombonist; I am very humbled to have completed numerous musical projects with him. He had performed my 1st trombone sonata and I was very flattered the work was part of his dissertation focusing on several major trombone concert works that pertain to this subject of ‘cross over’ repertoire. Later, Anthony was getting settled into his position at the University of Northern Iowa and approached me and several other composer friends to write a whole album of trombone works for full length CD. Yes, the work was to have elements of improvisation like my 1st sonata. Oddly enough, I have NOT heard this work 185

in person and my first listening was Anthony’s rough mixes from the recording session. Really, the ‘premiere’ I heard is when Anthony’s album came out on SkyDeck Music. As relating to adding repertoire to the Third stream, your album ‘Mists’ is a refreshing and energizing fusion of Charles Ives (a very modern American composer for the concert stage from the early twentieth century) with jazz ensemble. How did you come up with the concept? Thanks, I take your compliment to heart about the “Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra” CD. First, I was hearing my mom play Ives with my Godfather/her close friend Robert Voris. Bob was a professional vocalist (baritone) and featured soloist with the William Hall Chorale. He and mom recorded a very good LP in late 1963/ released in 1964, just after I was born: ‘Festival of Song’. The cuts they had on the LP include vocal/piano works of Wolf, Purcell, Mozart, Handel, Dvorak, and 4 from Charles Ives. So, you might say I was ‘hearing Ives in the womb’ —- so to speak. Through school I played Ives ‘Country Band March’ and other works of his. Much later, in 1995 I was trying to come up with research (i.e. a dissertation subject) that would have some meaning and also be inspiring to work on. Thanks to Elliott Antokoletz graduate history class at the University of Texas I found what I was looking for. He was going through Ives; he played and went through his analysis of Ives’ “The Cage.” While I had heard the work before, maybe this was finally the right moment. I heard something in my head and went home that evening and wrote down numerous ideas for a big band playing “The Cage.” I got this first chart done and brought it into the #1 big band at UT and the guys/girls liked it a lot. I also sent it to the University of Northern Iowa and they recorded it on their album that year and played it at the North Sea Jazz and Montreux jazz festivals. 186

The success of first led to choosing a list of Ives things to make into more jazz orchestra works. Three of them became the dissertation for my UTexas DMA and then things evolved into 5 more (total of 8) for the album eventually recorded in 2014 for Planet Arts Records. The album has done quite well in terms of notability internationally and people enjoying it. Was there a memorable fun moment(s) — were there difficulties getting Ives to work with the ensemble? Well, honestly, the most fun is when I took all the charts to the recording session in New York. I strategically had them first play the most ‘swinging’ chart from the album to make sure the ‘best guys in the city’ were all on board. Yes, it was nice to see the smiles when they read the first chart, truly a great moment for me! The most difficult thing was trying to write and rewrite solo/improvisation sections into the charts. The ‘chords changes’ of Ives transcribed directly did not make for good ‘blowing’ changes. I really had to work a lot on those to make all the works sound seamless. People have thought Ives wrote all those chord changes… nope, those are all mine based on Ives’ raw compositional material. I recently enjoyed your posting of your Concerto for Violin and Piano, can you share with us any new projects forthcoming? Thanks again, I do appreciate it. The Sonata for Violin and Piano was commissioned by my wife and violinist German Rahel Rilling. They have played it on several concerts across northern Germany and the recording session of the work come out quite good. The work was premiered here in the United States on October 21 in Memphis. I am working on a new chamber music CD for SkyDeck Music with will have that work, my piano sonata, a new bass trombone sonata, my string quartet and some other works. I have several new works for jazz orchestra coming out

MUSIC INTERVIEWS on other CDs with SkyDeck also. The Berlin Jazz Orchestra is to finally release an album I wrote for them this coming year: ‘The Songs of Berlin’. ROCC and its 2019 annual conference was at the Dahlonega Campus of the University of North Georgia on October 26. Anthony’s Album, ‘Synthesis,’ can be found at More information about Jack Cooper can be found at


Amber Cordell By Dusty Huggins Please tell us about yourself. What crafted you as a person and a musician? Was music on your mind from childhood? I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, the home of the Blues, but I was raised on country music and church hymns. Music is in my blood and genes. My dad was a singer-songwriter and guitarist, my mom is a singer, pianist and organist and my sister sings. I’ve been singing since I was a very small child, so music is more like breathing than something on my mind. My father died when I was 13, which greatly influenced who I became as a person. What crafted me as a musician was life experience, especially getting my heart broken. You have a unique history, Amber. Tell us about your college career, your love of Japan. How does a mixture of culture inspire your music? I grew up Methodist but fell in love with the comparative study of world religions my senior year at Shorter College where I double majored in psychology and religion. I got a master’s degree in religion with a specialization in Buddhism from Wake Forest University. I moved to Japan to do research and had the opportunity to travel around Asia, which had a profound impact on my life and how I see the world. My adventures all over the globe, often by myself, turned me into an adventurous story teller who is willing to be authentic and vulnerable. I aim to write and perform songs that speak to my diverse friends and students across cultures. What are you reading right now? What books have the most influence in your everyday? I am currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I read a lot of personal growth and leadership books as well as biographies of people I respect because I am constantly on a journey of self-discovery and love to be inspired. I also read a great deal about culture, psychology and diversity, equity and inclusion because of my work in international education and my passion for these subjects. Do you feel that your job at Emory University helps you get a healthy disconnect from music? Not hinder your music, but allow your soul to refocus as you help others. Absolutely. During business hours, I focus on assisting international students and scholars and teaching intercultural communication and leadership development. I’m able to fulfill one purpose while refueling the thirst to share my music every chance I get. My daily commute gives me a chance to discover new songs to cover or to dream up new lyrics while amusing others in traffic by singing with 188

MUSIC INTERVIEWS everything I’ve got. How do you feel poetry and songwriting are very different and wholly similar? Poetry and songwriting are both the sharing of one’s heart and experience through written word. They both have the potential to stir great emotions in the reader/listener or to call our attention to the present moment and every day, relatable life. I believe they both have the power to heal people, especially the author, through storytelling. However, music is magical for me. It’s transformational. It moves me and stays with me longer than words on a page alone. In fact, words aren’t even necessary for music to make me cry or get me dancing. Who are your favorite poets? What are a few of your favorite poems? Maya Angelou, Rumi, Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda. If, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Still I Rise, Invictus, The Invitation. What do you bring to your live performances that makes you stand out? I choose my songs intentionally depending on what I need to express in that moment and who is in the room. People often comment on my stage presence, especially my eye contact. I make sure to look at certain people on certain lines to deliver a message and use my eyes, facial expressions and different ways of singing to communicate emotions. Sometimes I can sing things that I couldn’t otherwise say, and I sing every song with conviction. I hope to inspire listeners and genuinely connect with them, to see them and let them see me. The greatest compliment I can receive is that I moved someone to tears. Who are your legends of country/folk music? Who is on your dream list to work with? My legends are Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks and Bob Dylan to name a few. I’d love to work with singer-songwriters Lori McKenna, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, the Avett Brothers and, of course, Dolly. How does your faith make it into your music? My spirituality shows up in my willingness to bare my soul in my music in the hopes that my truth and my lived experience might touch another person and help them know they are not alone. We are all in this thing called life together and need to take good care of each other. What is your philosophy on life? Life is precious and must not be squandered. We always have a choice as to how we respond to and move through life. Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield sums it up well: “In the end, these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” How can we keep up with your online? Facebook: Youtube:


Jeremy Wells By Clifford Brooks What defines you? I feel like the most recognized thing that defines me is the passion I have for music and the honesty I try to convey in my lyrics, no matter how shady the subject seems. I use my position of “songwriter” to stomp the soap-box quite often. Mostly of the imbalance in the world and the effects of such division. Lately a lot of the subject matter involves the addictions and afflictions of our nation. I have personally been affected by the “opioid crisis” in ways immeasurable. Families are bound to the fences between them. Children are in limbo, forgotten, and put on hold. Elders are raising grandkids with no help for themselves. Faith has become survival. How did you grow up? It may be evident that I grew up on the low side of the ladder. There were five kids in our clan. My mother has always been the “superwoman” that could feed an army with an acorn. She planted music in my heart as a kid with sounds of the good old days. Dolly, Conway and Loretta, Waylan, Cash. The good stuff. I remember singing “coat of many colors” as a very young lad word for word with my mom. She still inspires me in her strengths. My parents were divorced before I knew the meaning. Through my youth we were military brats and moved every two to three years. I was always the “new kid”, eventually taking toll on my social being. I still have troubles with crowds but I’ve learned to deal with it better with age. Stages still get me, haha. So, around the fifth grade or so mom had divorced and met a South Georgia vet named Bill Belote. A man that would teach strength and patience. He was a semi-pro football player and a sniper in the army, leaving with several honors including a purple heart. While I always had trouble with my father not being there in my youth, Bill would be constant. When my father came to live closer in my teens, he welcomed him with open arms. Bill died a few years ago of a heart attack. I was able to build many memories with him. When did the need to make music grab you? Around the age of 12 or so I started banging on keys and borrowed guitars. My father, Dennis Wells Sr. Of Texas, was the textbook picture of a nomadic poet. I’d read some of his work in my teens from 190


an old electric typewriter he’d keep in his room. I thought of him as an enigma of sorts. I learned the art from his parable like stories and listening to greats like Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Dead, and really anyone that took pride in their lyrics. My Dad and I became very close when he’d moved in around my teens. He turned me on to some great music I’d never given the chance. By this this time I was well versed in the guitar and experimented with many different styles, so I welcomed the new sounds. He even moved in with my fiancé and I when we’d gotten an apartment in my twenties allowing for some much need catch up. Of course, it was too little, too late, because my Dad had already endured a few years of colon cancer by then. I’m grateful of the time we spent. He was the age I am now, 42. He died before I was married in ‘97 but he’d bought the wedding dress in anticipation. An antique French ball-gown. To adorn the woman I’ve spent 24 years with. Her name is Kendra. My saving grace. We met in night school while earning our GED. For different reasons we didn’t graduate, but it brought us to that place in time. She had an 8-month-old daughter “Kelsey” and eyes that would lure me to this day. We raised her and eventually had a boy in ‘08 named “Javen”. We bought a house near Athens Ga. and settled in for a few years. Are you in any bands? I cut my teeth playing bars and fests around Athens. For every gig I got I was turned down another, it seemed. Although I did meet some pretty great folks and had some cool experiences there, it’s very dog-eat-dog unless you’re in with the locals. That’s my take on it anyway. It’s that way in most towns with many bands in competition for a show, I’ve learned. 191

I moved back to North Georgia with intent to change. The wife and I were at ends with finances. I was laid off with the rest of the world when the housing market crashed and couldn’t get a leg up. We both found work running a pawn/gun shop in Calhoun and eventually bought a place in Sugar Valley. This is where I picked up the pieces of “The Kamikaze Dali”, a band I started in Athens. Reinvented, the Dali has been a staple in the Rome Ga scene the past 6 or 7 years with 3 albums to boast. We pride ourselves in our harmonies and songwriting. I’m always working on new music and writing. I’ve even released a solo album called “Salt.” on all the streaming platforms. It’s pretty difficult to book shows as I only have a few available weekends a month as well as trying to schedule for 5 people but we do what we can. I’ve been lining some things up for 2020. There’s also a Dali album in the works as we speak! You can find us and our discography at the links provided. Stay tuned! Https:// Http:// Booking: Photo Credits: Head shot courtesy of Nick Burchell Bank shot by Kendra Wells





Christopher Lazarus By Clifford Brooks Give us a few details about you. What’s your story? What makes you, you? I’m a country boy with a Northern accent living in the suburban South. I don’t think I need to say much more to confuse people who were born and raised here. I grew up in Berkley, Massachusetts, where the cows outnumber the people. I grew up riding dirt bikes and fishing off the Taunton Bridge, before moving to Georgia just before 6th grade and meeting my wife at the age of 14. We’ve been together since I was 17. We have a beautiful family with three kids, James (6) Scarlett (4) and Amelie Clare (2). As a family we own Sellect Realty in Marietta, GA. What are you reading right now? The Culture Map by Erin Meyer What first drew you to real estate? What makes you unique in the field at large? In college I read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. That’s when I decided real estate would be a part of my portfolio. I studied finance at the University of Georgia and have a background as a Financial Advisor. While advising wasn’t in my future, I’ve taken a different approach than most to operating a real estate business due to my financial background. You have an interesting story about how you came into and then flourished in real estate. Please share that story with our readers. My in-laws had been in real estate since the 70’s. Around the time that they started Sellect Realty, in 2007, they began suggesting that I’d be a good fit for real estate. In 2010, I finally gave in and entered the business. Early in my career, a neighbor knocked on my door one day,

in tears. She needed to do a short sale on her home and had called about a dozen agents and not one returned her call. Most agents didn’t know how to process that type of sale, so she turned to me. Not one to turn down a challenge, I took the listing and successfully avoided foreclosure for her and helped her move on with her life, dignity intact. That was the start of a successful career in sales throughout the recession. The rest just fell into place. What are a few negative stereotypes about real estate agents that you’d like to dispel? I think the biggest stereotype about our industry is that we make a lot of money by touring homes. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Agents work for months or years with little to 195

no income while they build their business. They struggle, invest in their training, spend countless dollars on marketing and business infrastructure development in hopes that they will one day make a profit. Real Estate is no different from any other service industry. While the individual check may seem large, those checks don’t happen very often and most agents use those checks as reimbursement for expenses they’ve already fronted the expense for. What is the difference between a realtor and a real estate agent? A REALTOR is a member of the National Association of Realtors. They have the same license as a real estate agent and can transact in the same way, but they make a commitment to an additional level of scrutiny as a REALTOR by committing to a Code of Ethics. What advice do you have for those looking into becoming involved in real estate sales? GO FOR IT! If you have a dream, follow it. There are few industries like real estate. The industry calls for relatively low initial financial investment with almost unlimited upside potential. I would recommend that anyone interested in the career research the business first. It can be glamourous at times, but there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into building a successful career. What are some pitfalls you hit along the way you want others to avoid? I wish I was more diligent with my early clients from my sales business. I initially treated my clients like transactions. Sell the house and move on to the next client. My follow up and tracking were abysmal. It took me way too long to realize the humanity in business is what keeps people coming back. Focus on the relationship and you’ll be in business for life. 196

Tell us about Portraits of Atlanta. What does it cover? Who does it involve? How can folks tune into it? Portraits is a cool project that I started in 2019. It’s a podcast that showcases some pretty cool people in our community around the North Metro area. We’ve had community organizers, a champion archer, a former UGA player, local business owners, and some more just really cool people. We tell their stories. It’s available on all podcast streams including iTunes, Google, and Spotify. People can also check out the webisodes from the studio on Sellect Realty’s YouTube channel. You take a carefully unique angle in social media marketing. What are your secrets to success? Thanks! I really don’t have a specific plan, but I’ve worked my tail off for a decade, and got my business to the point where I can just genuinely have fun and do some cool things in the community. I just try to share those things because I think other people will enjoy and be interested in them. What do you want Atlanta to remember about you and your agency? Our people are awesome and they’re the reason I enjoy coming to work every day. I hope that Atlanta loves our agents as much as I do. I also hope they recognize our commitment to our community. We live and breathe Georgia. It’s our home and we want to be great neighbors to everyone living here.

529 Venue By Dusty Huggins Give us some background on yourself and how you became involved with 529. I’m Van Bassman; musician, promoter, graphic designer and social media strategist. I’ve been a musician for longer than I wasn’t a musician. Most recently I’ve performed in The Buzzards of Fuzz, John Denver Death Plane and Black to Comm. My work promoting Buzzard’s shows in town led me to Amos Rifkin who was kind enough to fill in the blanks of the booking and promotional processes for me. He’s a dear friend and we really enjoyed working together so in in 2018 he brought me on as a partner at his company, A. Rippin Production. A few months later I had the pleasure of managing the stage for Henry Owing’s H2050 Fest and he later recommended me for a position as the Social Media Director at 529. A month or so after I joined the team Amos was hired as the lead talent buyer and we’ve been managing the calendar and promotions there since. When do you remember knowing that the music industry was the field in which you wanted to pursue your professional career? I kept one foot on the stage and one in the cubicle for ages but in 2015 my band performed at the Sweetwater 420 Festival in Centennial Olympic Park on a Saturday. The next Monday I got chewed out at my call center job for being ten minutes late and it just felt like I was living someone else’s life. It would still be a few years before I could make music my full time but I knew then that it was over. If I wanted to be happy unless I could work with music. Many readers may believe that the booking process is a simple and short process consisting of a few simple emails and then the band plays. As an artist that plays your venue, I am very aware that there is a lot of work that you do to make a show a success. Can you walk our readers through the process from putting a lineup together to the night of the show? I think we could probably write a book and still miss some things! Most bookings begin with an email from a band or an agent contacting us directly and requesting a 197

date or set of dates for an artist or a tour package. If the requested dates are available, the holds are placed and we attempt to locate support. Multiple holds can be placed on a date and there is a challenge process in place but my best advice is to work quickly with your booking agent / promoter to the venue for your show. Once confirmed we must locate the artists’ assets, design and hang flyers, create advertisements online and in print, promotional videos, ticket links, online events and listings, social media content across all of our platforms, coordinate ticket giveaways and depending on the show we may seek sponsors, vendors or press. It’s all relative to what the band(s) provide, request or are willing to do to make it a successful night for everyone involved. The night of the show Amos or myself will be there from load in to close of doors to answer questions, keep the show on schedule and to settle at the end of the night. I would estimate an absolute MINIMUM of thirty emails per show. We usually have four bands a night, six shows a week. If you could change anything about your industry, what would that be? I’m often frustrated by how dismissive the music industry can be. There’s a strange callousness that comes with this business and we have to be mindful not to let it prevent the very expression that makes music worth creating. Seeing band after band day after day really changes your perception and at times it’s hard not to become oversaturated and numb. The future of our entire industry depends on nurturing artists and there’s a vulnerability that must exist to create and share one’s art. This sensitivity is often punished by the very insiders who would love said art under the right conditions. True guides don’t decide your journey; they take you were you asked to go. What career advice would you give to performing artists as a whole? A Great song is the first step Maintain a current and well written Bio Set incremental and achievable goals Always be nice and you won’t have to worry about being cool Keep assets handy on your website Ask for Press, give them plenty of time and be polite Put AT LEAST 30 miles or 30 days in between your shows 198

SPECIAL FEATURES In shorter terms, how can the artist help the venue in making a truly successful show? As a musician, promoter and bar employee my definition of success involves taking care of the Fans, Staff, Artist and Venue. With that many moving parts it is sometimes difficult to avoid every misstep but how you handle a mistake often goes a long way solving the issue. My best advice to the artist is take ownership of their show, communicate with the booking agent / promoter and the other bands. Be honest and ask for what you need and be prompt in your responses. Understand we receive hundreds of emails and we’re trying our best to make every night the best night for everyone involved. Be sure to defend your date, performing too frequently gives your audience a choice of where to see your band, as a result you diminish your draw which can really hurt touring acts / bill mates, the bar staff and the venue. Press, online promotions, hanging flyers, event invites, hand bills, email lists and attending other shows are all great ways to get the word out about your event. In addition, I’m always happy to take the time to brainstorm promotional ideas with bands, and I’ll bet other promoters are too. We want you to be successful. Simplify your setup so you’re on and off stage as quickly as possible and don’t spend the night hiding in the green room. These people came to see you, make some friends and some memories, have a great time and enjoy the show! What other projects other than 529 do you have going on? Outside of the numbers bar I’m still actively creating music. The Buzzards of Fuzz are nearly finished recording the Space Rock Opera we’ve been working on with Kris Sampson (Sampson Sound). I’m also extremely excited to be crafting a concept album with a new group I’ve been working with – it’s a long process but I think it will yield something really rewarding. Our monthly concert series Beer and Lounging still strikes the Clermont Lounge every fourth Thursday, Mass Destruction Metal Fest is back at Center Stage for the fourth edition this November and Fuzzstock III will be announcing soon. Is there a concert or event that you are especially excited about coming up at the event space? Off the top of my head I’d have to say I’m pretty excited to host Lucifer, Chris Gantry and The Atari’s on different bills over the next few months - but with six plus shows a week there’s always something rad happening with the Five Two Niners.


Haley Solomon By Clifford Brooks Give us the skinny on your backstory. What makes you, you? I grew up in a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee with my parents, my younger sister and two cats. I come from a very large family, my dad being the youngest of seven, filled with very nerdy, opinionated people. My mother’s side was always smaller, but they were some of the most loving people I have ever met. I think from them I learned two very important things: that I should always be myself and that no matter what I do, I should always do my best. Although, the more stories I hear about my childhood, the more I think that I have always understood how to be myself. My favorite example of this is one from a family reunion when I was two years old. Apparently at some point amid the festivities, I asked my mother if I could get up on one of the tables and sing a song. She responded with, “Sure Haley, but what song are you going to sing?” Unabashedly I replied, “Well I want to sing everybody wants to be a cat…but after that I think I’m just gonna make it up.” And so I did, in front of everyone I had ever known. My parents and my grandmother on my dad’s side always encouraged me to explore. My dad’s parents had travelled the world throughout their lives and really instilled in my father the importance of seeing the wide variety of cultures and people in this great big world of ours. And so I was incredibly fortunate to attend a few international summer camps as I grew up. I learned how to “zoom out,” as my sister says, and see the world outside of our daily lives here in America, that there are millions of people who live completely differently from us…and yet, those people are still people. I try to live as not just an American citizen, but a global citizen. I think this is what encouraged me to pursue a degree in French and study abroad for a semester in a French city called Grenoble, that is shockingly similar in size, look and feel to Chattanooga. There are even three mountains surrounding a city with a river running right through downtown! Growing up in Chattanooga has absolutely given me a deep appreciation for nature and spending time in the outdoors. As I have matured into my own as an adult, I have really come to appreciate quiet, contemplative time in the woods. Time to write, think or just be still. It’s hard to get that in our day-to-day, but is so necessary to stay present and content in your own skin, even through emotional turmoil and the stressors of life.


SPECIAL FEATURES I would also say that something that makes me, me, is my empathy and compassion for others. I know for a fact that my mother and father are almost entirely responsible for this. My mother always recited the golden rule to me and my sister as we were growing up, “Do unto others, as you would want done unto you.” I live my life by this rule, and although it sometimes leads to me getting burned by those who don’t live with this principle, I will never stop letting it guide my life. One of my favorite things that I do each year is coach a swim team of kids ages 5 to 18 years old. I love how weird and unfiltered kids are. The kids reinvigorate my kid brain, and I really appreciate them for that. I also love getting a chance to be there for them and encourage them and watch them grow so much in such a short span of time. The summer of 2020 will be my 10th year on the swim team, and because of that I have had the absolute pleasure of watching some of these kids grow up, and the honor of getting to be apart of it. How did you get into the radio business? Well, the short answer is that I LOVE music and I got LUCKY. My senior year of high school I volunteered at WUTC. One day that sent me into the studio to “chat” with Richard and I guess I made it pretty clear how passionate I was about music because that day he offered me a one-hour Sunday night music show! I absolutely fell in love with curating playlists and sharing the music that shaped me and from then on, WUTC couldn’t have gotten rid of me if they had wanted to!! Tell us about life at WUTC? So, I was hired in January of 2019 and I have never enjoyed a job more. I’m in charge of various things here, such as the Mocs Mix student programs and DJ for an Hour. I even have my own 3-hour show every Friday night! My favorite part of the job is that every day I get to help others share what they love with the community either through DJ for an Hour, Scenic Roots, or by teaching them how to produce their own music shows. I also really love working with the student interns and the students who make Mocs Mix shows. I never really realized that all those years of producing music shows for WUTC had given me a useful skill I could share with others, so I’m really enjoying that! What’s your roll in Scenic Roots? What makes that show special? I am one of three individuals who developed the concept for Scenic Roots and one of two lead producers for the show. This means I have my hand in almost every aspect of the show from researching potential stories, to booking interviews, to engineering the interviews, to putting the show together in Adobe Audition. My favorite way to describe our show is that we focus on the people, places and innovations that shape the Chattanooga community. Hopefully it has and will continue to act as a way for the community to get in touch with itself and learn how to get more involved! I think this is the most special aspect of the whole show, because it means that the people we’re interviewing are real-life, regular people who have voluntarily made a noticeable impact on the way people in Chattanooga live their life. 201

What do you do to relax when you’re off the clock? Honestly, I love TV. Usually when I get home the very first thing I do is put on comfy pants…but the second thing I do is sit my butt on the couch and turn on whatever show I’m binging at the moment. This gives me time to cuddle with my cat and be super antisocial and I absolutely love it. I’ll do this all week long and then force myself to go explore the city and the wilderness on the weekends, so I get a good dose of nature therapy! The Nature of Lies (Another Response to Tom) Even though they’re lies they still shave a bit of you like your grandfather as he whittles a new pen for his breast pocket with a plastic pocket protector in case ink spills Like how Katie’s mother’s words were heavy enough to tip my father’s worry bucket. with a crash I could hear through the phone, his bucket lapped silvery tongued words all over the basement of his mind They stained distrust on those basement walls and crickety wooden steps and even the Mr. Clean Magic Erasure I scrubbed those concrete slabs with couldn’t put the words back in his bucket couldn’t take the distrust out of the floor


Movie Reviews: The Best of Road Trip Movies By Tom Johnson Well, we made it through another holiday season! Many people look forward to them as the time for good food, family and friends while others feel a bit down around this time of the year. But whichever way you lean, I think we can all agree that ‘tis the season to avoid long road trips. From Thanksgiving to Christmas road rage becomes the true spirit of the holidays and merging evolves into some new age gladiatorial event. So, to relieve a little tension and recover from your traveling travails, let’s explore five classic movies where people desperately try to get from point A to point B with their life and sanity intact. Eurotrip (2004) I don’t understand the hate some people have for Eurotrip. It may not be highbrow entertainment but sometimes we just need to laugh. It’s a teen comedy similar to American Pie but funnier, with likable characters and a central protagonist that you really want to see succeed. It starts with Scottie who has just graduated when his long- time girlfriend breaks up with him, only to find out that she was militantly unfaithful throughout the relationship. To the point that one of her recent conquests (Cameo by Matt Damon) writes a song called “Scotty Doesn’t Know” (Pull it up on YouTube, it’s catchy) and the song follows him over the course of the movie as it hits the pop charts and gets various remixes. Scotty comes home drunk and talks to his longtime email pen pal “Mike” who to his chagrin, makes romantic overtures that Scotty has to shut down before he passes out. When he wakes up, his little brother explains that “Mike” is

actually Mieke a common German girl’s name. Scotty actually blew off an interesting girl that he had a lot in common with. So, he and his best friend Cooper (Jacob Pitts) who may be my personal hero, decide to get on a plane and find Mieke. The duo starts in London where they are attacked/ adopted by a group of soccer hooligans led by Vinnie Jones. They then head to Paris and meet up with their classmates, Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Travis Wester). Together they go to Amsterdam where they are robbed by Diedrich Bader and sexually assaulted by Lucy Lawless. They hitchhike to Berlin but accidentally end up in Bratislava where the few dollars they have remaining get them the star treatment. The group just misses finding Mieke in Berlin and makes their way to Rome where Scotty may or may not have been elected Pope. But from the Pope’s balcony, Scotty manages to spot Mieke in the crowd and finally makes his true feelings known. Sex Drive (2008) Okay, there is no getting around this. The movie is raunchy! Shockingly so in parts but that’s what makes it funny and the filmmakers know exactly what they‘re doing. I mean, the unrated version has a warning to watch the theatrical version first because the unrated just adds multiple unrelated strippers standing around in various scenes with no motivation. The unrated version isn’t very good for that reason but it is funny that they went that far for a joke.


Sex Drive is basically a coming of age movie. Ian (Josh Zuckerman) is tired of being a virgin and has decided to do something about it. He meets a girl online calling herself Ms. Tasty but he leads her to believe he is a buff football player who drives a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge. She seems interested but there are a few problems. 1. He is not a buff football player, 2. She lives in Tennessee while he lives in Chicago and 3. The GTO Judge actually belongs to his homophobic older brother Rex (played by James Marsden and he steals every scene he is in!) Ian decides to “borrow” the GTO from his brother and drive out to meet Ms. Tasty with his best friends Lance and Felicia. They run into all sorts of unexpected situations driving cross country and even get help from some Amish auto mechanics when Seth Green comes to the rescue. Finally, Ian meets up with Ms. Tasty but he quickly learns that she is the bait for a team of car thieves and she was only interested in the GTO. If I’m being honest, the movie is carried on the shoulders of Rex and Lance. Rex is a standard bullying older brother until the GTO gets stolen and then he becomes truly unhinged. He chases down his brother with intent to kill but in the end shows that he still cares for him in his own way and even has a twist ending for the character. Lance is the true standout though. He is a slightly doughy, plain looking boy that you would expect to be the unpopular loser who can never get the girl. Instead the character is supposed to be a charismatic stud that no woman can resist and the actor, Clark Duke, completely pulls it off and makes you believe every minute 204

of it. We’re the Millers (2013) This movie is filled with a great cast and funny writing but the thing I like most about it is its message, especially around this time of year. It shows that the family you create for yourself can be just as important as the family you were born to. The story starts with a drug dealer named David (Jason Sudekis) who gets his stash stolen while trying to help a runaway girl. His drug supplier (Ed Helms who is at his over the top best) tells him that he won’t kill him if he will go to Mexico and pick up a ‘smidge” of drugs for him. To avoid drawing attention from the cops he decides to get an R/V and recruit a family as cover. So he hires a local stripper named Rose (Jennifer Aniston), the runaway from earlier named Casey (Emma Roberts) and his neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter). At first things are pretty tense between the group of strangers and it gets a lot worse when they arrive in Mexico to find that a “smidge” actually means 2 tons. To make matters worse, they learn that the drug supplier lied to them, he doesn’t own the marijuana and they just stole from Pablo Chacon’s cartel which is usually a fatal mistake. David forces the drug supplier to cut him in for a much larger reward or he will keep the drugs. Then David offers to split the larger payout with the rest of his “family” if they stick with him. They agree to continue on but quickly experience engine trouble. Their bad luck streak holds when Don, Edith and their daughter Melissa stop to

SPECIAL FEATURES help them because Don just happens to be a DEA agent! They manage to get away but a funny thing starts to happen. The constant stress is causing them all to bond and they start acting more and more like the roles they were hired to play. In the end, David is given a choice to take the money and run or turn himself in to save his family. He decides to sell out his drug supplier to Don and they all end up living together in witness relocation somewhere in suburbia. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) This is for you, millennials out there because I am going to generalize and say that anyone over 25 knows the name Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and the story of his fateful family vacation from Chicago to California. Clark just has one mission in life and that is to spend some quality time with his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), his son Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and his daughter Audrey (Dana Barron) at Wally World, “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park”. Ellen suggests they fly but Clark wants to spend the maximum amount of time with his family so he decides to drive. Keep in mind; this was before tablets, cell phone games and portable video players. Clark even buys a new car specifically for the occasion but it isn’t ready on time, so he is stuck driving a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, the stereotypical ugly station wagon. Clark experiences countless mishaps along the way including a recurring distraction in the form of a beautiful woman driving a red Ferrari (Christie Brinkley). When they get to Kansas the family decides to stop and visit Ellen’s cousin

Catherine and her husband Eddie. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) is one of the standouts of the movie and he plays his role of annoying, possibly inbred hick to the hilt. Before they leave, Clark agrees to take Aunt Edna and her dog with them but then things get real. On the way to California the car starts to break down, Edna’s dog dies, they lose their money, crash the car and to top it off Aunt Edna passes in her sleep (It’s all a lot funnier than it sounds). The family finally drag themselves across the finish line at Wally World and hopes that their time there will make the trip worthwhile. But the park is closed! So, Clark does what anyone would do at that point... he buys a BB gun pistol, takes the security guard (John Candy) hostage and forces him to accompany them on a “fun” trip through the park. If you have ever been on a family vacation, back in the day with nothing to distract you except road noise and counting cars, then this movie will resonate with you on a deep level. Plaines, Trains and Automobiles (1987) At first glance, this seems like a typical buddy film but it has a few things going for it that others of its type do not. First, it stars John Candy and Steve Martin who have great chemistry together and they each turn in one of their best comedic performances. Second, it is one of the only movies that take place during Thanksgiving instead of the more common holidays of Christmas and Halloween. Third, as funny as it is, it has a surprising amount of heart and manages to hit you in the “feels” more than once. 205

The story kicks off with Neal (Martin) returning from a business trip, on his way to his family’s Thanksgiving in Chicago. After his business meeting ends, his trouble begins. Neal tries repeatedly to flag down a cab unsuccessfully. When one finally stops for him, Neal is held up by a jerk while someone else takes his cab. We find out later that it was Del (John Candy). They meet up again at LaGuardia airport on a plane to O’Hare that gets diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard. The two decide to share a room and get started looking for alternate transportation in the morning. They soon find that they have nothing in common and Neal loses his temper with Del. Neal tells him off, saying exactly what he thinks of him. Del responds by telling Neal that his wife and clients like him and he likes himself so if Neal doesn’t, it’s because he is a cold, cynic. They finally go to sleep but wake up to find that all their cash has been stolen. The pair decides to take a train and luckily for Neal, they are seated separately. But when the locomotive breaks down, they are again thrown together. At this point, Neal has lost it and is hilariously insulting to everyone he comes into contact with. After a memorable scene at the rental car desk, Neal finds that he is out of transportation options. Del sees his plight and offers to drive Neal in his rental car. Soon, a dropped cigarette causes the car to burst into flames along with all their money. The horribly mangled car is impounded by the police and the pair finally makes it to Chicago in the back of a refrigerated truck. The movie ends with Del revealing some things about his home life and his wife which prompts Neal to invite Del to Thanksgiving dinner.


Alicia Brooks, Literary Agent JVNLA, Inc. By Clifford Brooks What moves you? What made you? Where did you grow up? I grew up in the Encino Hills right off of Mulholland Drive in Southern California. From our family room and living room, we had a tremendous view of the entire San Fernando Valley. As a child, I used to take in the glittering view at night and I felt like life’s possibilities were vast. My parents set no limitations on me in terms of the kind of career they wanted me to seek. As long as I succeeded academically, they trusted me to soar. My mom’s only mantra was, “Books are our friends.” Both of my parents used to cradle me in their arms, spending long, patient hours teaching me how to read from a very young age. Our Jewish religion was important to us; it also taught us the infinite value of books. My parents did not spoil me or heap presents on me for the most part, except when my dad would take me to the nearby independent bookstore and let me get all of the books I wanted. I was a kid in a candy store. My parents also did not believe in allowing me to watch television. Instead, they took me to theater and musicals in Los Angeles. I grew up hearing the soundtrack to “Evita” and “Les Miserables” on infinite repeat over the house stereo system. Please hold our hands and take us through your professional history? During the summers of my sophomore and junior years at Wellesley, I was an intern at UC Press in Berkeley. I liked it, but I wanted something more glamorous. The summer after I graduated, I was an intern at The Virginia Barber Agency. I got to work with Alice Monroe, Jennifer Egan, and Anne River Siddons. My boss Ginger was terrific; she gave me a lot of opportunities to shine. While I was an intern, I noted that Jennifer Egan’s publisher Nan Talese had an amazing list. She had Margaret Atwood, Pat Conroy, and Ian McEwan. I harbored a wish to work for her someday. I joined a networking society called The Gotham Publishing Society. Two years later, I became the President of Gotham. In the meantime, I met a friend who told me about an opening at Penguin. I was an editorial assistant for Penguin for a year. It was a great experience, but I was working on cookbooks, and I really wanted to be working on literary fiction and serious nonfiction. Another friend in Gotham was leaving her job with Nan Talese. There was my opportunity. When I interviewed with Nan, we discovered that we shared a mutual admiration of George Plimpton who was one of her authors. I got the assistant editor job. After three years of intense mentorship and 208

SPECIAL FEATURES tons of book parties, I decided that I needed to go to a house where I could grow more as an editor and do more acquiring of my own. That’s when I contacted George Witte, the publisher of Picador. He met with me based on my cold call and hired me. I loved my job at Picador/SMP. I was given a lot of creative freedom and wound up acquiring 39 hardcovers and many trade paper originals. My editorial career ended with a family tragedy that I will tell you about later. I reinvented myself after coping with that loss and became a literary agent at JVNLA or The Jean Naggar Literary Agency, which I knew from the submissions that I got from them at Picador is and was a superb agency. How does music play into your daily life? Music is as important to me as breathing. My writing has a certain musicality to it—probably because I am almost always listening to music when I am alone. I play certain music daily for various reasons. I wake up to the soundtrack of the musical “Head Over Heels” because it is such a blast and it reminds me of my Paradise City (LA). When I edit, I listen to the soundtrack for the musical “Hamilton.” It keeps my mind sharp—I hear something new and precious every time I listen to “Hamilton.” Will you describe your role as a book editor and literary agent? My role as an editor was to be my authors’ advocate. I was their cheerleader, their writing coach, their publicist, their design advisor, and their marketing strategist. Sometimes I was a bit of a therapist. My relationships with my authors were sacred to me and for that reason, they continue to this day. Several of my authors joined me when I became a literary agent at JVNLA founded by Jean Naggar who is well-known for the Clan of the Cave Bear books and for representing the bestselling author Philip Margolin who is now represented by the President of our agency Jennifer Weltz. As an agent, I half- jokingly refer to myself as a yenta. I love match-making and it is great fun for me to pair up my clients with the right editor at the right house. You’ve said that the theater helped you into the shoes of the woman you are. Please tell us how acting brought out the best in you? I think relishing theater and the courage of great performers taught me to be fearless. As a literary agent, I do not hesitate to make a cold call or develop publicity and marketing opportunities for my authors. I plunge right in and the payoff makes my heart swell. What inspired you to make that career change from editor to agent? I needed to reinvent myself after my career as an editor came to a halt. My father got pancreatic cancer, which was devastating to me since I lost my mother to lung cancer on the first day of my sophomore year at Wellesley. I had a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that I would be an orphan. But I felt like book publishing was my calling since the age of 17, so I figured out a way to come back. 209

I reached out to my former authors and sought out clients on Facebook and LinkedIn. I did a lot of word-of-mouth outreach. Tell us the specifics concerning your working at The Jean Naggar Literary Agency. I love working at a smaller agency. There is a sense of camaraderie and you can run your ideas by one another. I get a lot of support and mentorship. Tim Peltason, my thesis advisor at Wellesley College in the English Department gave me sage advice when I was a senior. He told me that I should try to be a big fish in a small pond. He understood my personality very well. What advice can you give for young writers who may be interested in finding a literary agent? Do your research. Subscribe to Publishers Marketplace and learn about the business. Look at agent’s deals. Pick up your favorite books and see who the agent is for that title. Besides submitting a good query letter, are there other things that make a writer more appealing to you as a client? A writer’s commitment to their craft and passion for their subject matter are crucial. Also, they should have developed a platform. You need to be marketable because so much of publishing is about marketing. Potential clients should make a strong effort to publish short pieces online or in print publications. Will you talk a little bit about the process of trying to sell a book to a publisher? You need a great pitch letter, a charismatic phone manner, a great verbal pitch for the phone pitching, and an author with a platform. You need to feel behind your client 100%, so that you can genuinely express enthusiasm. What philosophy do you live by? What compass do you trust to point the right way? A large part of Jewish teaching is about treating people with kindness. Jewish law commands us to love humankind and not to wrong anyone verbally or in business. In fact, acts of kindness are so much a part of Jewish law that the word “mitzvah” (literally, “commandment”) is informally used to mean any good deed. I strive to be a moral person and make moral choices. 12) Are there any professional mistakes that in hindsight you could’ve avoided or any difficult truths of the publishing industry you wish you’d known when starting out? When I was an editor at Nan A. Talese/Doubleday and Picador, I worked extremely long hours. I loved my jobs so much, that I had no work/life balance. It was fulfilling, but exhausting. What advice do you have for those out there who are thinking about becoming an agent? You should fall in love with a potential project. I take notes when I do a first read, but I always do a second, intensive line edit. Building a client list is loads of fun. Consider yourself a tastemaker. Agenting is creative and entre210

SPECIAL FEATURES preneurial. You have to seek out your clients and find ways to pitch them effectively. So much of this business is about personal relationships. Networking is key. You should love networking if you want a career in publishing. An agent has to push very hard. Editors are usually overwhelmed with manuscripts and an agent has to ensure that their submission makes it to the top of the pile. Ultimately, it is your job to be on the front lines fighting for your clients’ visibility and peace of mind.


Jacquece Jennings, CEO of NuLeaf #1 By Clifford Brooks Give us a few details about you. What’s your story? What makes you, you? I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA where my mom raised me and my two brothers. I attended Booker T. Washington high school. After high school I decided that it would be best for me to join the Army and I enlisted in 2010. I spent most of my time in Seattle WA. My journey in the military was quite interesting. The military taught me how to be a leader, understand team work, and how to have tough skin. As time went by, I started to really see how passionate I was about helping others and being a voice for what was right. Growing up I never dreamed of having a particular career I just knew I wanted to have a positive impact on others and be able to help others through their journey in life. Towards the end of my enlistment I went through a period of uncertainty, depression, and anxiety. That’s when I started my journey on mental health awareness and natural ways of healing myself, that didn’t consist of taking several medications that you typically get from the doctor. Who is Jacquece Jennings? I am a spiritual woman who defines her life as power and strength. Part of the symphony you live is as a life coach. What drew you to that? Why should someone seek you out as their life coach? My passion for results and happiness is why I chose to be a life coach. Life Coaches help individuals through their journey in life, helping clients identify their goals, and develop an actionable plan to achieve them. Someone should reach out to me because not only do I have experience in this field, I am relatable. I don’t judge individuals because we all have our own perspectives. My goal is to create an environment of positive energy where people feel comfortable unloading and finding the power that already exists within themselves. How does music factor into your peace of mind? My love for music is undeniable. Music has kept me together during some of the most trying moments in my life. It allows me to connect with my deep thoughts without me actually having to always verbally express myself. No matter what I am facing there has always been a song that allowed me to feel joy 212

SPECIAL FEATURES again. Music is my “Turn Up” and I am thankful for all of the amazing artist that have allowed me to experience their unique creativity. What are you reading now? I am reading Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter (AGAIN LOL) What books have motivated you most? Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think & Grow Rich, Keys to Success, and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose just to name a few. You are a full-fledged entrepreneur. CBD oil factors into your business. Give us a few details about what makes your brand special. Each product selection has a personal story behind it. All of our CBD products have organic ingredients we take pride in our brand and integrity. We also carry vegan Shea butters, exfoliates, interactive healing journals, and crystal water bottles. Nuleaf #1 is the only dedicated premium CBD store that uses organic and vegan products in Roswell Ga. We carry CBD Pain cream, CBD Edibles, CBD Tinctures/Oils, CBD Pet products, CBD Water Solubles, CBD Skin care, Life Coaching, and more. Nuleaf #1, is driven by our dedication to offer a superior, personalized solutions. We take pride in providing authentic health awareness to the people around the world. Nuleaf #1 is here to bring our customers alternative ways of holistic healing. Our products are Premium Broad-Spectrum THCFree, USA- grown hemp, Gluten free, Farm Bill Compliant, and organic. All products can be purchased without a prescription. Nuleaf #1 is a veteran owned business that offers discounts to military and first responders. CBD oil helps you take on a new life. What moved you to first try it? At one point in my life I was stressed out with anxiety. I went to the doctor and was told I had a pituitary gland tumor and that is when I had to immediately change my mind set! I started to learn more about herbs, terpenes, and CBD. Does it work? Yes, CBD is amazing! I will say it is important to make sure you are taking authentic Cannabinoids, once you are using good products the benefits are tremendous. That is why I recommend everyone to give Nuleaf #1 a try!


You struggled back from a dark place, and now thrive. From your hard days, will you write a book about beating depression? Absolutely, I think it is important to share my story so I can be a light to someone current dark moment. What does that look like? I plan to come out with a book about my journey in life and how I was able to kick depression’s butt! The book will also have an accountability section that allows individuals to unload and pick their power back up so they can get back on track. What makes you happy? Having a peace of mind! Sometimes I look back at what I have been through and smile because I got through it, so I just remind myself as must as I can, that I am POWER! Special pricing of products: Military 15% off First Responders 15% off First Time Customer 10% off Nuleaf #1 4750 Alabama Rd NE Suite 116 Roswell, GA 30075 404-632-6111


Hemingway’s Dog Editor’s Note: This month, readers sent in a large number of questions for the coolest canine advice columnist. We decided to do a rapid-fire, lightning-round style Q&A session with @doghemingway. We hope you enjoy. How do I get over the grief I feel since I lost my dog / cat? Pets become part of the family, part of us. You’ll never really get over the loss, but what you can do is give love to another animal in need. I think if you can rescue a dog (or cat if you must) from an animal shelter, you may find it helps you deal with the pain of your loss. Think of the animal you lost when you love on your newest family member. What is the meaning of life? Many have sought the answer to this question. In my own estimation, such questions are best considered in the warm company of people you care about, over a meal you enjoy. That or being curled up with a book by a fire, or a long walk in the woods. What could be better? Oh yeah, doing any and all of these things with a dog. Oranges or apples? Oranges, obviously. Hemingway’s Dog, how can I make my mother-in-law like me? Your mother-in-law will never like you. This is a fact of life, as fundamental as gravity is to the laws of physics. Why, you may ask, what’s wrong with me? Maybe nothing – but you’ll never be good enough for her wonderful son or brilliant daughter, so just smile, praise her cooking (however poor), and be good to her kid. That’s going to help you get as close as you’ll ever get. My friend’s baby is ugly. What do I say when she says “Look at my baby! Ain’t she cute?” We’re all taught that telling lies is wrong. But in some cases, a white lie that saves a friendship is the morally right thing. Just nod your head and if you feel bad about lying outright, say something ambiguous like “I hear ya!” or “I feel you.” What I do when forced to look at someone’s ugly offspring is picture someone else in my head. Usually, and I can’t explain why, I picture Morgan Freeman. Everybody loves Morgan Freeman. This makes me smile and keeps me from becoming a social pariah. Follow Hemingway’s Dog on Twitter @doghemingway where you can @ your questions for the world’s most sophisticated canine advice columnist. 215

Mark Gottlieb, Literary Agent at TMG By Clifford Brooks What moves you? What made you? Who are you? I am moved by deep and expert storytelling. A master storyteller can write a book that is not only entertaining in terms of its plot elements, but also important in terms of character development and perhaps even poetic in terms of the quality of the writing on a line-basis. My parents both named me Mark Owen Gottlieb. Mark means “Of Mars, warlike, warrior.” Owen is a traditional Welsh name meaning “young warrior” or “well born,” “noble.” Gottlieb means “God loves.” So, I guess the prophecy hanging over my head was to always be a noble warrior that God loves. From my parents I learned the good fight was to fight for knowledge and wisdom so I resolved that my name would come to mean “God loves a warrior of wisdom.” I have taken that into my professional life as a literary agent working within major trade book publishing. Please take us through your professional history? After graduating with a degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, I began working in production at Penguin Books in New York City. I handled production for Tarcher, Perigee, Riverhead, Ace, Berkley and a number of other book imprints. From there, I moved to the Trident Media Group literary agency, also in NYC to work in the area of foreign rights where with the Director of the Foreign Rights department, I worked with international rights to books in translation. From there, I served as Executive Assistant to Trident Media Group’s Chairman, before going on to run the Audiobook Department. I then became a literary agent at the agency where I now oversee a client list of my own. How does music play into your daily life? How much does visual art add to your peace of mind? I find peace in listening to music. Oftentimes, while I am reading, I begin to picture the soundtrack or score to a novel as though each chapter or scene had its own tune. In fact, I have seen authors assemble playlists to their novels on Spotify for their fans. In terms of visual arts, that is perhaps similar to the way that a film has a soundtrack to accompany visual imagery. Quentin Tarantino envisions his films as soundtracks before the screenplay is even written. I had read that in an interview about him and found it to be fascinating that he could think both musically and visually in terms of storytelling. Will you describe your role as a literary agent? A literary agent exists to provide services to authors. This includes but is not limited to: Book Sales, Editorial, Film and TV Sales, Foreign Rights, Contract Negotiation / Business Affairs, Accounting and Information Tracking, Audio Books, eBook Sales and Marketing, Publishing Management. 216

SPECIAL FEATURES What are myths about literary agents you’d like to see burnt to the ground? I think that a lot of people view literary agents as being highly transactional by their nature. A lot of literary agents are interested in getting in, doing the book deal, and leaving the next morning before the coffee is brewing. While this may be true in many cases, it is not so in every case. Personally, I like to help in the book publishing process itself, beyond the deal-making stage, wherever an author may feel that my help is wanted or needed by them. This could mean making sure the jacket copy and book cover are precisely to an author’s liking, or helping in the audiobook narrator selection process such that the voice actor feels right for the characters of the novel. Other times, I have reviewed and improved upon the marketing and publicity plans of book publishers. What books influenced you most as a person? Which books persuaded you to be an agent? Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN had a profound impact on me as a person. In Ellison’s novel, the aspect of what the individual can often face when up against group think spoke to me on a very deep level. A deep love of books has always resided with me so it would be difficult to select which books in particular steered me toward book publishing. Some of the authors I have enjoyed reading over the years include Aravind Adiga, Tom Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson, John Fante, Cormac McCarthy, Edith Wharton, Jamaica Kincaid, Kiran Desai and many more. Tell us the specifics concerning the writers you represent. I tend to like to work with a mixture of commercial fiction, upmarket fiction, platform-driven nonfiction, children’s books and graphic novels. So, my tastes tend to be spread out across genres and reading age groups, but most of my list tends to focus around books in the commercial and upmarket fiction space. Fiction is really our bread and butter at Trident Media Group. In terms of my working style, I like to be accessible to my clients, whether they want to reach me by phone, email, text message or social media. I try to be there for them when they need me. The rest of my work style is to keep the client informed of the submissions and deal-making process, as well as the publishing process itself. What advice can you give for young writers who now look for a literary agent? Persistence: Don’t be discouraged by rejection, even if it happens again and again. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough—it means you’re just not there yet. Learn from constructive criticism and grow from it. Patience: This is a “hurry-up-and-wait” sort of business, since reading and editing can take time. So, it’s important to be willing to be patience for agents to decide whether to take you on and then wait some more once the work has been submitted to editors and publishers. There have been instances when I’ve sold a project in as little as four days. In other times, it has taken months. Participation: Authors who want to write their manuscripts, and then just check out, rarely experience successful publication. Self-marketing is crucial for authors working with publishers. And if you go the traditional route, a great starting point is asking your agent and publisher how you can help leading up to publication and in the months thereafter. ​ 217

Besides submitting a good query letter, are there other things that make a writer more appealing to you as a client? Relevant writing experience and writing credentials can sometimes go a long way in convincing a literary agent that an aspiring author has a strong background in writing with important connections within the writing community. That can mean a writer having an MFA or having publications in prestigious literary magazines and journals. When an author comes to me with endorsements from bestselling or major award-winning authors, that also goes a long way in convincing me to take a writer on for representation, since those blurbs can help get a manuscript sold to a book publisher. Will you talk a little bit about the process of trying to sell a book to a publisher? The process of getting a book sold to a publisher is that we first receive a query letter for a manuscript. If the manuscript is good then we offer the author literary representation. If the author accepts, then we craft a pitch and a submission list of various editors at different publishing houses. I then go out on submission by pitching editors in calls and meetings before following up in email with the written pitch and manuscript. The submissions process can take a few months on average. Hopefully in that timeframe we receive an offer, or multiple offers, as the case may be and the offer(s) get negotiated to the best of terms. I then present the offer(s) to the client for their final review and consideration as to whether or not they would like to accept an offer. Once an offer gets accepted, we then move to a contract stage with the publisher where we review their publishing agreement and negotiate the contract before presenting the agreement to the author for their final review and signature. What philosophy do you live by? What compass do you trust to point the right way? There are so many good pieces of wisdom that it is hard to choose. I try to take every bit of good guidance onboard. I have always enjoyed this quote from Abraham Lincoln since it is a simple mantra to live by: “When I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad, and that›s my religion.” Are there any professional mistakes that in hindsight you could’ve avoided or any difficult truths of the publishing industry you wish you’d known when starting out? I wish I could have predicted many of the unexpected trends that came about in book publishing, such as the illustrated pop poetry book craze such as Rupi Kaur’s MILK AND HONEY, the religious conspiracy theory fiction craze such as Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE, or even the billionaire erotica craze that brought about E.L. James’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Of course, we had some close runner-ups to these books, such as Fariha Róisín’s HOW TO CURE A GHOST, Charles Brokaw’s THE ATLANTIS CODE and Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. What advice do you have for those out there who are thinking about becoming an agent? A literary agent needs to be highly self-driven and willing to hold themselves to a high level of success since a talent agency will hold them to the very same standards. Agents really eat what they kill so that hunter mentality is important to have. As a salesperson, it is important to be like a flame to the moths in attracting new clients to the agent or agency. People tend to be more attracted to a bright and cheery person that appears to be well put-together. Keep all of this in mind because literary agents will 218 ultimately live and die by the sword.





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John Pence & Erwin Jamandri Arroza By Clifford Brooks John Pence is a high-functioning graphomaniac and recovering sorcerer from Athens, Georgia.He started publishing with a “literary” dalliance around the turn of the century, and became founding editor of The Blotter Magazine. He’s had haiku published in The Blue Mountain Review, essay in Drunken Boat, and speculative fiction in a long-forgotten Romanian sci-fi magazine. Previous comics work includes The Ballad of Brighid of Atlanta (Creative Impulse) and The Surgeon (Unlikely Heroes). Up from the Skies will be on Kickstarter until Feb.5, seeking funding for a luxurious print run. Erwin Jamandri Arroza (born 1973) is a Filipino artist/illustrator based in Manila, Philippines. His notable works include graphic novels such as: “Grinidon Volumes 1 and 2” by J.Miles Dunn; “Inferno City Firehouse” and “Staunch Ambition”,by Brian E. Lau; “The Stalker” by Travis Huffman; “Manticore” by Jason Cantrell, etc. Aside from working on interior artwork, Erwin draws covers, pinups and posters for comic books and board games.


Andrew K. Clark


By Clifford Brooks How do you see yourself in life? What events shaped you? I think the goal of my life is to create. During the periods of my life that I’ve been creating something (poetry, music, prose, etc.) I’ve been happy and thriving. The periods in my life when I didn’t have that creative outlet were marked by depression and unhappiness. I would say the geography (the southern Appalachian mountains) in which I was raised is a factor in my work, and also the fact that I was raised in a dogmatic religious tradition rife with camp meetings and revivals shaped the way I think about the world and the characters that make their way onto my pages. What are you into now? I am drafting a second novel while shopping my first, and promoting my first book of poetry, Jesus in the Trailer, which came out in late 2019. Beyond that, when I am not focused on prose, I am working on a series of persona poems I am tentatively calling the “Appalachian Clown” series. I also contribute to The Blue Mountain Review, and I am editorial reader for 85 South, Barren Magazine, and The Asheville Poetry Review. How has your background in financial education help you dodge the starving artist cliché? What sound financial advice would you give serious artists? I think for a new artist, one of the most important gifts they can give their art is a day job, or some other source of stable income so that they can create without worrying about paying the rent. If you think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if I am cold, have no shelter, or I’m hungry I am certainly not going to be writing. I think you find stable income so that you can create, until ideally at some point your work can either shoulder part of the burden (or all of it if you’re lucky). Beyond that, I would say a good rule of thumb is that you need a year’s worth of monthly basic expenses saved prior to making that type of leap (“quitting your day job”). What motivated you to write JESUS IN THE TRAILER? I’ve written poetry and prose since I was in middle school but became serious about trying to publish my work about four years ago. I felt I had something to say in my work, and once I had a sufficient number of poems, I worked with creative partners to edit it until I thought it was time to send it out. 226

SCE MEMBER SPOTLIGHT I think the best work in the collection came about when I allowed myself to be brutally honest and to write from a place of vulnerability. What’s the significance of that title? The title is pushing back at the doctrine of prosperity that is common in much of modern religion, especially Christianity. This is the idea that if one is sufficiently pious and has enough faith, he or she will be materially prosperous. The title pushes back against this, as does the title poem, which puts Jesus in a trailer park in Appalachia. What are a few unexpected curve balls that publishing threw you? I think trying to decide on things like the cover of the book can be a challenge, especially if you know the feel of what you want, but you can’t necessarily articulate it to the publisher. What’s your process with editing your poetry? I like to print poems out and edit them by hand with a pen. I want to strip all the unnecessary words first, and then focus on the power and sound of each line. I am always looking through the poem for other possible endings than what I originally drafted. Sometimes brevity can give a poem a kind of richness. I see poetry as a call and response between the reader and the poet. Sometimes the ending can create a spark in the reader, if it is not overdone. How does music play into your creativity? Without music, I wouldn’t be a writer. I played piano when I was younger, and also played the violin in a symphony. I see the two art forms as completely intertwined. Even in prose, if the words lack rhythm or do not incite a sonic pleasure in the reader, it will feel flat. What philosophy do you live by? Personally, my Christian faith is part of who I am – my faith leads me to a passion for justice for the oppressed in our world (man and beast), as well as the health of the planet. Beyond that, I think my basic philosophy is to try to help as many people as I can in this writing journey and acknowledge those who’ve helped me. It can be summed up as: if you see someone ahead of you along the road, give them a push; if someone is behind you, reach back and pull them along. How do you judge yourself? My goal as a writer is to constantly improve. I won’t stop improving until I am dead. I read as much as I can, in different genres with an eye toward how create better work. If I am creating, and improving, I am happy. If not, I try to break down which pieces are missing, and dip into the art of others – music, movies, books, art, to look for inspiration. Website: Twitter: @theandrewkclark Instagram: @theandrewkclark SCE Website:


Joel Goddard


By Clifford Brooks Give us a piece of your story. Where are you from? What stirred your imagination as a child? What do you recall first about life? I’m from a small town about 45 minutes NE of Atlanta, GA called Dacula. I don’t remember having much of an imagination as a child but I do remember that we lived across the street from a small gas station owned by a guy we called Red Mitchell. It was one of the only ones in town so everyone came to it and I remember sitting on the counter and talking to all the customers and helping him stock shelves. I’m really thankful that I grew up in a small town. I see myself as a person who was raised by a community and my parents needed all the help they could get! Do you remember the moment you felt lit up by God? How do you find that connection in everyday life? I was 9 years old on the front row of a little Baptist church singing hymns. We had what they called “all night singings” which meant no preaching and that was my favorite. I remember that the words we would sing would stir my heart about God and who he was. It also ignited my passion for music. My connection with God is like a relationship with anyone else. I have to cultivate it. My relationship with God doesn’t feel like a responsibility and I pray, talk to him and read the bible. I spend a lot of time talking to others who do the same. I understand you went to Shorter University. What was that life? In what did you get a degree? Shorter is actually where I learned to cultivate a relationship with Jesus. After being there for two years, I was kicked out and that’s when I had to decide who I wanted to be. I went back to Shorter and finished my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and minored in Piano. That’s where I learned to be a worship leader. I started out sitting in a practice room singing songs to the Lord and people just started showing up. One of my favorite memories is a time where they opened the window of that room and there were people who came and sat on the lawn to listen. That’s when I realized that maybe this is what I was supposed to do. It’s a hard thing to learn to be a worship leader while getting a degree in Opera but somehow that was my path. 228

FACES OF FAITH How does music play into your peace of mind? What does singing bring you that nothing can take away? Music helps me through any emotion. It can help give me peace but is also a weapon at times so I fight with music and I rest with music. I believe singing is a gift God gave me to help break chains off people. What projects along your Christian path still bring a smile to your face? What new things are you into now and/or in the near future? I have fond memories of every album. My first album was paid for by some of the Atlanta braves players that I did a bible study with. My favorite one of all is my hymns album because I got to be in a studio all day with a huge choir. We had the best time and it didn’t even feel like we were doing an album. We just had church. Another one of my favorites is my “It’s Time” album. I put a hidden track on it and that’s how I proposed to my wife, Stacey. Something in the future I’m looking forward to is the new album that we are putting out in February at Bethlehem Church. What do you do outside your work to disconnect from the world? I work out with a friend of mine who’s done a lot of tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s to two-fold because I get to work out with him and I also get to hear a lot of really cool stories. I do it really early in the morning and that’s usually the time of day I spend for myself. Once everyone starts waking up, it’s about serving them. What is your favorite book of the Bible, and why? The book of John. It’s all about God’s love What musicians and bands make your top 10 favorite list? Michal McDonald, Vince Gill, Journey, Pavorotti, Franco Corelli, Chris Stapleton, Keith Green, The Doobie Brothers, Any and all the musicians I get to play with on Sundays, What’s the philosophy you live by? What scripture gets you through hard times? My philosophy is if I’m going to be guilty of anything it’s going to be of loving people and at the end of every day, did I do what God wanted me to do? I don’t have one specific verse and that’s why I love the bible. Every circumstance has always had an answer Who do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t even know how we actually arrive to being grown up. But there are a lot of people who start strong and don’t finish well. I want to finish strong.


Clifford Brooks

Clifford Brooks ( was born in Athens, Georgia. His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published in 2017. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued in August 2018. Evergreens, his second chapbook, will be released by Lucid House Publishing in 2019. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience (www.southerncollectiveexperience. com), a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application. Clifford Brooks has been published in The Crab Orchard Review, San Pedro Review, Dead Mule, Eclectica, Gloom Cupboard, Otoliths, The Smoking Poet, Red Fez, Asylum, Hobo Camp Review, Prick of the Spindle, Porridge, Contemporary American Voices, The Cartier Street Review, The Mayo Review, Prachya Review, Pit Magazine, American Microreviews & Interviews, Gobbet, The Blue Pages, Riverbabble, Tallow Eider Quarterly, Carve Magazine, The New Southern Fugitives, Deep South Magazine, Voices de la Luna, Alba, Clutching at Straws, Zygote in My Coffee, The Rye Whiskey Review, and The Local Train Magazine.

Carolyn Kelso

Canadian born, Carolyn Wilding Kelso is a mother and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served ten years on active duty as a legal administrator. She holds B.S. in Nutrition Science, and is completing a M.S. in Health & Wellness from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. Carolyn is currently the content editor for the Southern Collective Experience’s journal of coulture, The Blue Mountain Review. An emerging poet, her voice was pressed into the open by debris traveling the currents of life. Her work aims to memorialize human emotion and experiences; highlighting moments of awareness that fill one’s heart with positivity and hope. Her spare time focuses on family, friends, hiking, cycling, and riding her Harley. Follow Carolyn’s Instagram feed at KelsoPoetry.

James Duncan

Terence Hawkins James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and the author of Feral Kingdom, Nights Without Rain, and We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, among other books of poetry and fiction. He also reviews indie bookshops at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit

Terence Hawkins was raised in Fayette County, PA, a former coal hub later distinguished as the setting for the original Night of the Living Dead and American Rust. He graduated from Yale, where he was Publisher of the Yale Daily News, and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. In 2012 he became the founding Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, which he developed and managed through 2015. He is now the Director of the Company of Writers and Prose Editor of Blue Mountain Review. His first novel, The Rage of Achilles, is a realistic and sometimes brutal account of the Iliad based on the theory of the bicameral mind. Tom Perrotta called it a “genuinely fresh take on a classic text.” In naming it a Year’s Best, Kirkus Reviews called his second, American Neolithic, “a towering work of speculative fiction.” He lives in Connecticut.

Casanova Green

Casanova Green is a writer, singer/songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of The Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.

Dusty Huggins

Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.

Robert Gwaltney

Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting children with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree.

Meri Wright

Meri Wright earned her BFA with a concentration in painting and drawing from UTC in 2016. Since graduating, Meri has worked as a freelance designer with a focus in Non-Profits. In 2018 Meri partnered with Cempa Community Care to establish the brand for STEP TN, a harm reduction program that offers a one-for-one syringe exchange and other services. Currently, Meri is the Business Manager at Almanac Supply Co. Meri is also the graphic designer for The Blue Mountain Review. When Meri is not working she is hanging out with her son, Cash and their cat, Warner at home in North Georgia. She loves plants but is not very good at keeping them alive. She is an avid fan of all things True Crime. meriwright.

Holly Holt

Tom Johnson Holly Holt is an undergraduate Creative Writing major out of Southern New Hampshire University. She was published in “Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems” alongside former president Jimmy Carter. In her spare time, she enjoys being immersed in creative ventures.

Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.

David Peoples

David Peoples’ music has been heard around the world; he writes for jazz bands, orchestras, soloists, and narrators. His albums have won many awards, including several Global Music Awards. He is a teacher of music composition, theory, and history at the University of North Georgia. David writes with a ginger ale in hand on a balcony surrounded by forest. It’s from here, surrounded by nature, that all of his writings begin – before being released into and around the world.

Hemingway’s Dog

Everybody talks about Hemingway and his cats. Hemingway did like cats, to cuddle on his lap when he was feeling sensitive or depressed. But the man also hunted, sailed, fired rifles, drank whiskey, and was constantly shirtless. Think about it, would you rather be bare-chested with a cat or a dog? I have decided to write an advice column to help people. The Blue Mountain Review is a great venue for me because there aren’t many dogs are as well read as I. The people I hope to help most are cat people.

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