Drip Castle, Vol. 1.1 Copyright ÂŠ 2012 by Drip Castle Journal. All rights reserved
Editor Lauren Shows firstname.lastname@example.org
Design and layout executed with no sense of style or nuance whatsoever by Lauren Shows. Design and layout assistance (and rescue) by Matt Minde. Cover art by Madison, age 3. Interior section art by Madison, age 10.
Dedicated to all the school-kids who are sitting down to write, and thinking to themselves, “This is gonna be the best thing anybody’s ever read. Ever.” You’re not wrong.
Editor’s notes Anthony Fife
G. A. Saindon
Last year, while visiting my parents, I found a locked wooden box in my old room. The box was sponge-painted, in the fashion of the late ‘90s, with depictions of birdhouses. After trying in vain to pick the diary-grade lock with a bobby pin, a nail ﬁle and a paper clip, I went ahead and broke the lock with a pair of pliers and my own force of will. Inside the box were all of my old journals. From my ﬁrst one, received at age 7 as a birthday gift, through high school. They contained mostly the day-to-day musings particular to whatever age that they were written, such as the names and death accounts of various hamsters, lists of boys deemed attractive, lengthy descriptions of dreams and their possible meanings. Aside from these, there were also what were clearly more serious efforts. Stories. Song lyrics. Many, many poems. There’s a track on comedian, actor and presumed manabout-town Michael Showalter’s album, Sandwiches and Cats, where he tells a story that begins essentially the same way this one does. Showalter goes home to collect old stuff from his parents’ house, and runs across a copy of a literary magazine from his high school, which he edited and to which he contributed a poem. Showalter goes on to read the poem, making editorial comments along the way, to manic laughter from the audience. I won’t reproduce the poem here, because it’s probably illegal. Anyway, Google “Michael Showalter” and “The Apartment” if you’re interested. Here’s the point: as he reads, you can hear his tone become more and more incredulous, as though looking back on his high school self and saying, “Dude, what were you thinking?” Nevertheless, though he rips his younger self a proverbial new one, his clear embarrassment with himself does not make him question his right to be up on stage, making people laugh. A writing professor of mine once told me, “It takes a
certain amount of ego to be a writer; not only do you have to suffer rejection after rejection, you also have to read every single thing you write, and still convince yourself you’re good enough to keep doing it.” This truth certainly extends to artists of any kind. If you didn’t believe in the quality of your work, why would you keep producing it? If you didn’t think it was worth it, wouldn’t you just put up your pen or brush or guitar or juggling balls for good when you remembered how achingly bad you used to be? Of course not. Michael Showalter wasn’t built in a day. Neither were the rest of us. All of this is what I had to consider as, sitting in my room, I lifted out the old fruits of my literary labor and, breathing deeply, read them. Not all of what you will see in the following pages is laughworthy. In fact, most of it isn’t. Each contributor has provided examples of past and present work, and then provided the reader with the story of her or his progression as an artist. Some are stories of craft; some are stories of life. Some are stories of skeletons. But all say essentially the same thing: it was necessary for me to grow, and this is how I did it. To quote this journal’s own web page (because I’m in charge, and I can do that): “a lifetime of making art is like building a drip castle: in the beginning it’s sloppy and it’s ugly, but the more you add to it, the more it starts to look like something great. Or whatever.” On a ﬁnal note: on the same track, Mr. Showalter mentions that he was editor-in-chief of the aforementioned high school literary journal, and in the same hilarious fashion, mocks his own editor’s notes. With any luck, in a few years, I’ll be doing the same.
Lauren Shows Editor 2
Poetry as a Medium this poem is avant garde because it uses the word fuck (look, Ma, ainâ€™t I big city) or how avant garde can something be if someone is willing? or corn grows wild where errant blown seed lands; in ditches with cattails, knee deep in cold, muddy water, with littered bottles thrown from fast cars ďŹ‚ying by (hum of engine fades away)
A Poem About Heat Not the lascivious kind, though that, too, can pounce from around any asphalt corner any old day. No, this poem is the ghost of heat of the highway that shimmies up from a spot just ahead in the road. Julyâ€™s hot breath blasts against my limbs & core. I swim this humid pool, this wet ghost thickening the air, in a soaked t-shirt stuck to my back. Your blue jeans, too, are drenched against your thighs and in your hazel eye a glint of wanting to slip that denim and stand naked before the ceaseless blow of a three-speed fan. Your I a palimpsest of every summer come & gone, but not gone: Each prehistoric blast a sweaty ghost haunting your dog days, whispering, Yes and Yes to the pure dumb sex of poetry that mistakes heat for two kinds when there is really only one.
The two poems included here —“Poetry as a Medium” and “A Poem About Heat”— share the “ars poetical” impulse. The Ars Poetica, or poem about poetry, is a poet’s attempt to turn their own concept or pet theories about the form into readable art. “Poetry as a Medium,” written approximately seven years ago, attempts to comment upon not only the craft of creating a poem, but also popular taste; hence the ﬁrst stanza that tries, perhaps a bit too hard, to turn its nose up at poetic styles that strive toward the edgy or shocking in lieu of solid craft. That ﬁrst stanza, then, mimics these poems, the second provides a response, while the third tries to demonstrate a better way. I am completely aware of the irony of the word “better” in the previous sentence because, while I truly believed it at the time, I now have a mind much more open to other forms and styles, and, hopefully, possess a better command of my own “edginess.” No, this poem does not particularly push the boundaries of the taboo, but it does, in a way I did not realize at the time, serve an iconoclastic function. For the most part, I have given up such pursuits. Or, at the very least, I have suppressed them so that they play little overt part in my mind and work. It’s embarrassing to read the old stuff, poems like “Poetry as a Medium,” and I have conﬁdence that, ten years hence, I will be embarrassed by the things I wrote today. Perhaps up to and including this essay. The embarrassment stems, I think, from trying to deﬁne the largely indeﬁnable. “What is poetry?” I always ask my poetry students on the ﬁrst day of the new term. I have an answer to this question, opting instead to point out holes in their own 6
theories. Any attempt, then, to deﬁne poetry, though it might seem adequate at the time, is inherently faulty and it takes time for the ﬁssures to expand — in the case of “Poetry as a Medium,” it has taken seven years — to where even the architect can see the obvious faults in his or her creation. It is often the architect who is the last to know. Please note that I have not claimed to be mortiﬁed by the quality of the work, merely some of the sentiment. “A Poem About Heat,” written late last year, is a better representation of what I now attempt. I cannot explain the impulse — shared by many — that encourages the poet to break his or her poem into sections. I’m not talking about stanzas, necessarily, though how those come about is often a mystery. I’m referring to, for lack of a better word, what in music might be called movements. Perhaps chapters is the equivalent in ﬁction. To Whitman, they were called cants, though I don’t think the term applies here. Regardless of name, I’ve noticed that the desire to break my poem into movements is all but abated. Occasionally the feeling strikes, but more often than not I opt for a more cohesive poem that does not attempt such a rhetorical risk. It is a risk, for me anyway, because I cannot always explain to myself why it is to be done, which is often a good enough reason to cease and desist. “A Poem About Heat” is calmer in some ways than its predecessor. And I think it lacks some of the intensity, which is intriguing, because the latter poem is, in part, about passion. It is reticent to go out on many metaphorical limbs and, unlike “Poetry as a Medium,” gives itself permission to be casual. This is not to say that the poem lacks dynamics, only that it is content to be more 7
linear and, perhaps, is contained. This is a quality I have struggled to attain. As to which poem is better, I am not and have never been able to make such determinations. I hope I have grown as a poet â€” and believe I have â€” but that does not necessarily mean that my contemporary work is of a higher caliber than that of the past. I have more balls in the air when I write a poem now than I did then. I am learning to juggle them more expertly, more subtly, but perhaps my former creative ignorance was occasionally a positive attribute in and of itself. â€”Anthony Fife
My Field As I wonder ‘oer my woodland track, There’s little more that I could lack. To marvel at the earth and sky To live and love before I die. Oh Lord, let no man ere conspire To mar this place with ﬂood nor ﬁre, And let him have no sword to wield To scar the face of this my ﬁeld.
Confusing (Fibonacci) His house he loves, protects it, while he recklessly despoils his greater home, the earth.
The ﬁrst poem, “My Field,” was written when I was a junior in high school at the age of 16, for a literature teacher I loved, having failed sophomore English with a teacher I hated. The second, “Confusing,” was written in retirement 70 years later. Sadly to say, my plea in the former seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I am an 86-year-old secular humanist who believes that it is only through the arts, poetry in particular, that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. My life seems to have been a series of ironies. Beginning with a most miserable high school experience, having failed sophomore English, not once but twice, with a teacher I hated, I began to write poetry for a teacher I loved. This teacher, Miss Virginia Perryman, moved on to Kent State University, where she most unfortunately took her own life. Years later, as artistic director for my theatre, I chose the winner of our national play writing contest. The ﬁrst irony is that in his resume, the winner noted that he had received the “Virginia Perryman Writing Award” at Kent State. I must be honest enough to say that it did not hurt his chances for winning. As a veteran of WWII, I attempted college on the GI Bill. The dean, on looking at my high school transcripts said: “You’ve got to be kidding.” I replied, “No, you’ve got to take me.” To which the dean quipped, “Yes, but we don’t have to keep you.” And they didn’t. At the end of another fateful sophomore year, having exhausted all the theatre and poetry courses, I became a college drop-out to begin a career in theatre. Unable to make a living as an actor, I experienced a series of failures as a salesman until, at age 40, 12
I was ﬁnally hired by an art institute to develop a theatre program. The irony here is that my life did, indeed, begin at 40. My theatre was a success, and I was soon recruited to teach at a small college without even a bachelors degree, and for a period of eight years, I held two full-time jobs. After 44 years, I ﬁnally retired, at 84, when I once again returned to writing poetry and a few essays. To date, I have had more than 60 pieces published in more than 50 magazines and journals in eight different countries. After being inducted into the Wheeling (WV) Hall of Fame for my contributions to the arts, there came the ﬁnal irony: I was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by the college (now a university) from which I had been a sorry drop-out. —Hal O’Leary
Sean O’Leary 15
Untitled It is raining outside, A horse is neighing outside, And I am staying inside.
Utopia I donâ€™t know if there is a Utopia, but I am certain we must act as though there can be.
“At the ripe old age of six, I composed [the ﬁrst, untitled poem] after hearing my Father read ‘The Runaway’ by Robert Frost. I am now 54, and a playwright...[the second piece, ‘Utopia,’ comes from] my ﬁrst play, Wine to Blood.” —Sean O’Leary In the years between the time that Sean sat down to write with visions of a skittish colt behind his eyes and now, he has authored a number of plays, won several awards and seen his writing played out before his eyes in many productions. He seems to have spent his whole life writing. While poetry inspired his six-year-old self to write, poets themselves have been an inspiration for Sean more than once in his career as a playwright: Pound, about the poet Ezra Pound, won the Ostrander Award for Best New Play of the 2007 Memphis theatre season and received its professional premiere at The Washington Stage Guild in Washington DC. Likewise, Walt Whitman’s Secret, an adaptation of the novel by George Fetherling, received its ﬁrst public reading in August 2011.
G. A. Saindon
Through An Open Door They Came leaves die: in them a sign of my death? cracked surface dead ﬁngers folded brown like grimaces brown like sobbing if one spoke a voice like dust a voice like worms I should listen and tremble they don’t belong in this hall yet muster across the tile ﬂoor having wont of my corner dead leaves work only in a wind a wind like fear a wind like teeth they gather around me waiting 20
Loving Wrong Curl as only python To near the prey Wend pulsing scales Pull breath from screams Hiss gentle moment Prepare a face upturned Agape unamazed Hungry to size Slide through skin Ripple in joy feign Swallow or crawl Eyes slit urgent Reword that prayer Call quietly sleep Hide in size allow Anyone near slowly Bow for pride Know this can be Happy as dolls
Dusk and Dawn Both of us, the moon and I, wax, grinning these warm days. Warm in sunlight, now the heat spilling into evening, whetting the appetite to stand and dream; listen to frogs, owls... - to be caught in the still, chill midnight by cautious deer near the pond, everyone quiet; an airy beam ﬂoating on ﬂat water. In the shadowed silence of halt deer, frogs leery, owls and the ovoid moon – a weary lover, absorbed, cold, patient for warm dawn.
These three poems came from three stages of my life. ‘Through An Open Door They Came’ comes from my city days, 20 years ago. “Loving Wrong” comes from college classes where, in class, people don’t pay attention to the instructor, but prattle about irrelevancies, and text to people they will see in six minutes or less. “Dusk and Dawn” comes from last year, my 18th on these ﬁve acres, northeast Wisconsin. My pond and various wildlife are almost as important as my wife, seven children and eight grandchildren. I’m out almost always, so much to see and try to learn. Being raised on a farm in the ‘50s, I didn’t know what leaves were for except jumping into piles of them or burning. Once in the city, when I was 16, they became a chore, a duty and, in that time, I noticed the scuttling, clicking sounds of leaves in hallways and foyers of school, church, home. Like urgent, thin mice, seeking something. “Through An Open Door They Came” comes from having to sit in a foyer awhile, greeting people who entered. “Loving Wrong” comes from one college class in particular. Not zoology. History. I was a bit older than the other students, having taken a vacation in the army for four years. Married, and a lot of adolescence wrung out of me. Overhearing, not listening, but unable to ignore them, the conversations, sotto voce, about who is who and with who (never whom), and does Rita know that Karl? An endless queue of pitiable stories. And being swallowed by a snake occurred to me around that time. “Dusk and Dawn” arrived after I retired from 34 years of teaching and was able to “stay up late,” as my kids always put it. The ﬁve acres I live on are not like the farm I was raised on, except I don’t rake leaves here, either. 23
Just that, the pond is beautiful, limited, in moonlight and worthy of much pondering. “Limited” in the sense that I can see the wildlife when it visits, its shores are not so distant. Frogs, of course, are invisible, but noisy. David Waggoner’s “The Poets Agree to be Quiet...,” William Stafford’s “Traveling through the Dark” and so on are coursing through my brain as I lounge in a folding chair by the pond one spring night. —G. A. Saindon
Don’t Enter Here One night, Halloween night, some people were coming home from a Halloween Masquerade Party. Most of the people rode the big van. Someone had offered to give the people who walked a ride home. As they were talking they all agreed it was the darkest Halloween they had ever seen. As they were reaching one of the last houses, a man in another vehicle passed them, and threw a glass bottle down and it shattered. The van ran over the broken glass and tumbled over the hilltop and into a graveyard. The two people left in the van scrambled out for freedom. They ran every which way through the bushes, snares and plants They saw another graveyard and when they made their way to it, what looked like a homeless person jumped out in front of them and strangely cried, “Do not enter here, for creatures beyond your most likely dreams linger here.” Well, they didn’t believe such nonsense, and just ran past, trying to reach home. Then, a bloody skeleton jumped out in front of them, threw them in the wet ground and they were buried alive. There are rarely many chances to see a ghost. But, in some places, people unfortunately see a ghost or two. About six or seven years after the car wreck had happened, there were three sisters named Stephanie, Kellye and Sarah Smith. Their Papa had died, and they were going down to the graveyard to put ﬂowers on his grave. As they were leaving, they heard an eerie noise, and started to hurry up a little. As they were passing over one of the bridges, they heard the same noise again, and then, it happened. The people who had died in the car wreck came out and buried them alive. And to this day, as you pass the houses by the graveyard, you can still hear the shrieks and screams of the three lonely girls. And now, the person who writes this story comes to THE END.
Of a Sunday evening, there are a handful of people in the pews: one young couple, a few old, the widowed untethered at the edges of the sanctuary. As a brittle photograph left between pages, the sanctuary is washed in beige and aging lights. Brother Boaz no longer stands behind his pulpit. Now that his bones have bent with age, he sits in a velveteen desk chair in front of the altar. When the potluck conversation lulls or there are no more prayers to offer, Brother Boaz will unfold and rise, and with a phonograph’s crackle in his voice, retell the best story in his arsenal. This is the one that can’t be told in the quiet light of Sunday morning, and which even Brother Boaz himself sometimes says may not have really happened. “The mind,” he says, “doesn’t always know what door it’s opened after so many years, so maybe I dreamed this beautiful and terrible thing. Or maybe it was really so, just the way I will tell it to you.” Mt. Faith Congregational Methodist Church did not sit on a mountain, but rested, bright-white as a beacon, on the crest of the largest hill in Mainey County. In 1963, Mt. Faith was full to its edges every Sunday in summer time, and even in the morning, heat radiated from the backs of men’s necks, from the bare arms of the women. In mid-June, the men of the church dragged folded chairs into the grass outside and hoisted a white tent, which would help them all escape the swelter of the indoors. It was coming on dusk and Brother Boaz, fresh from 27
Bible college, said, “I don’t want that pulpit out here, though.” He drove a tent stake into the earth. “I need room to move around tonight.” A warm swell of cicada song pressed close around the tent that evening as the service began. “Hallelujah, thine the glory,” sang the congregation, the mosquito’s whine in their ears, “revive us again.” A thrum of speculation had been making its way through each person present since they’d all gathered. They were back, it was whispered. The two of them sat alone in the very front row of chairs; her hair was pinned under a hat, and her dress hung loose from her body. He looked straight ahead, daring a word from anybody. It was too soon, decided the traveling whisper. The grass had not yet begun to grow over the little mound behind the church. Brother Boaz could see the thread of unease that was spindling through the amassed. He had intended to start his preaching with a joke, something about the hot weather and hell-ﬁre, but the yarn fell apart on his lips. The trepidation wound its way up and around the couple in the front row. The woman looked down at her folded hands. The man sat straight as though chained, and Brother Boaz could see that his jaw was set fast, a blockade. Brother Boaz himself was not free of trouble in this moment: not a soul among them could feel anything but worriment and watchfulness when they passed by the woods on the way to town, calling up visions of cold clay and a quiet little form. Nevertheless, he couldn’t go on without saying some words to address the heaviness that had settled under the tent. “We are so blessed,” said Brother Boaz, “to have back 28
among us Brother Aaron and Sister Lucinda this evening. God knows the troubles that are in our hearts, but he is the Great Comforter, and will lift all our sorrows if we let him. Amen?” “Amen!” cried the assembled in chorus. “Amen,” said the two voices in the front, and this admission allowed Brother Boaz to breathe easy now. He began to speak of the treasures that await the faithful in glory, and of eternal joy and peace. He felt the grip of apprehension was loosening as he continued to pontiﬁcate on the various pleasures of the world to come; he felt the young couple in the front row release themselves a little into the whole, now that general ruminations on their attendance had ceased for the present. So rapt was Brother Boaz in the dulcet cadence of his own words, his efforts to becalm the aggrieved, that he did not notice a new rumble of alarm sharply swelling at the back of the tent. It was not until demure old Sister Lula Bea sitting along the aisle shrieked that Brother Boaz looked up, leaving his talk of Beulah-land hanging in the air. All bodies were turned toward the back of the tend, and from his position at the front, Brother Boaz saw the small boy standing at the apex of the aisle. His hair was sun-bright and lay as if freshly combed; his clothes showed no sign of wear nor smudge of earth. He had the pallor of early morning, his eyes dark but shining, and he stood with his hands at his side, his palms turned out. Brother Boaz looked on. His tongue was thick in his mouth, and his mind, running a beat behind the shock in his ﬁngers and toes, could not help but ask itself, “Where was this in the Lord’s book?” 29
Sister Lucinda’s voice broke through his reverie. The woman, her head raised for the ﬁrst time this night, let out a wail, though whether of fright or despair or joy, he couldn’t know. Her husband laid his hand upon her shoulder, as though to save himself from falling. Even so, the shade of the boy didn’t shift his bright gaze toward his mother or father. All the eyes among them now turned to see where the young spectre looked. Brother Andrew sat in the aisle, two rows behind the boy’s parents. He was a fair and slender man, whose eyes were always damp at their edges, and who forever seemed to be shifting his weight from one foot to another as he stood. Like everyone else, he was standing now, but there was no discernible movement about his frame, besides the feather-light shudder of his mouth. The lily-white hand of the small boy moved, his ﬁngers curling as though to fashion a cat’s cradle. He began to advance up the aisle. Several of those present moved back in alarm; Sister Lula Bea fell faint in her seat. There could be heard a wan gasp and a hiss, like air through a bellows, as the boy passed. All the while, Brother Andrew stood watching the approach, still as stone but for the whisper of a tremble on his lips. Those surrounding Brother Andrew could espy the sheen of perspiration gathering upon his brow. As one, they began to move away, toward the corners. They allowed the boy to pass as he walked, until the young couple in front and Brother Andrew stood alone on that side of the tent, with Brother Boaz still watching from his place at the head of the fold. The boy walked until he stood right before Brother Andrew. His gleaming, black eyes were wide and upturned upon the man’s face. All breath seemed to have 30
been drawn out of the tent, save for the low, phantom whistle that surrounded the boy. For moment upon unending moment, it seemed, man and boy watched one another. Brother Andrew, only once, allowed his feet to move. The little wraith, with a movement swift as death, reached out and clasped his bloodless hand about Brother Andrew’s wrist. The man’s face changed, gnarling with fear, and he uttered a ghastly, animal sound. The boy let go. Brother Andrew fell unwieldy into the grass, his face still like the evening air. Brother Boaz always goes on to tell that the boy, his task complete, stumbled once more into his parents’ waiting embrace, a ﬁnal goodbye before departing to his home above. But when he locks up the church at night and gazes out at the hallowed burial place beyond, or when he passes those woods even now, his old mind once again calls up visions. He reminds himself that his mind is not what it once was, and that surely the boy’s eyes ﬁnally brightened and his face fell into a smile, that his parents wept tears of joy; that unquestionably, he did not turn his starless eyes upon his parents and stare, allowing his head to loll to one side. And his parents did not shudder and withdraw from him as he moved closer, before opening their arms to his chill. Most certain, the old man says to himself, is that he does not still sometimes see the yellow glint of a young boy’s hair, bathed in the summer moon.
In 1994, when I wrote “Don’t Enter Here,” I was 10 years old and really into a trilogy of books titled, simply, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. For those unfamiliar with the series, or who haven’t already Googled them, they were simple, sometimes traditional horror stories written in fairly plain English by Alvin Schwartz, accompanied by masterfully grotesque drawings by Stephen Gammell. The stories opened up a new and dark corner of my imagination, where the natural order of things was not always adhered to. I decided to try my hand at scary stories. What was the scariest thing I could think of ? Skeletons, obviously. And car wrecks, I guess. Also ominous warnings from people who look like they might have fallen on hard times. There are a few parts of this story that I really love. For example, I love that, of the two groups of people who are killed in the story, only the Smith sisters actually get names. Likewise, their “Papa” has died; I have never called my own father “Papa,” and so I can only assume this was some novice attempt to distance myself from my characters. It also seems like the death of the ﬁrst group of people includes some sort of tacit moral that too much partying (at Halloween Masquerades, no less) will get you buried alive by a bloody skeleton. Also of note is the fact that the death of the Smith sisters occurs “six or seven years” after the ﬁrst group of deaths. This has always amused me to no end; I mean, I was writing the story, I was allowed to decide how many years had elapsed. The line makes the story sound like it’s being told at a party (a Halloween Masquerade?), by someone who’s a little fuzzy on the details. The thing I most genuinely love, however, is that it’s a story written by a kid, and kids acknowledge that, when 32
it comes to the ﬁctional, absolutely anything can happen. There are no rules. Why are the ﬁrst group of doomed people killed by a bloody skeleton, but the second group killed by ghosts? How did the shabby guy who administers warning learn about the bloody skeleton and live to tell the tale? Furthermore, why wasn’t he around to warn the sisters Smith? Did he, too, ﬁnally meet his end at the hands of the bloody skeleton? Why is the skeleton so bloody? If you’re a kid, the answer, of course, is: “Who cares?” The second piece, written especially for this issue and as an answer to my younger self, is a ghost story of another kind. As an adult, I am no longer very afraid of skeletons. I mean, I’m not going to invite one to my birthday party or anything, but I have a general sense that I probably don’t need to check under my bed for any. However, there are still notions of things unseen that unsettle me: not only those that have gone before, but thoughts unspoken, truths untold, mysteries unsolved and ﬁnally lost. —Lauren Shows
The background story to these pictures is that I was (okay, still am) one of those horse-crazy girls. Wall posters, clothing, stickers, pencils, ink stamps, dishware, Trapper Keepers (remember those?), toys. It all had to be horses, horses, horses. For English class, my teacher would ask what Walter Farley book I would write a report on next. (She was probably just glad to have a break from reading another Goosebumps essay.) Most of the class would be talking about Saved by the Bell and 90210; my friends and I would be talking about The Young Riders and The Black Stallion Adventures. So if you’re a girl who loves, lives, collects, plays and demands all things horses, is it possible to squeeze in yet another form of devotion? Of course: through art. When I learned to draw, I started with things that didn’t exist, like unicorns. This way, no one could tell me the drawing was wrong or bad, because it was of something from my imagination. My unicorns started getting pretty good, so I stopped adding the horn and started drawing horses. Drawing wasn’t satisfying, but it was a way for me to study realism and form an eye for detail. When I was 16, I had quite a large collection of plastic Breyer model horses, including a few in very “wellloved” condition. I bought a book on oil painting and some paints and practiced on those poor old plastic nags. After a little while I became pretty good, but I’d run out of horses. As luck would have it, this was around the time of the dot-com boom, and I started ﬁnding people online with the same hobby I had. In fact, I found a lot of people online who painted model horses, some of them professional artists who made a living doing it. That led to a lot of new information, 37
techniques and creative inﬂuences. Most importantly, it hooked me up to a source of cheap models for painting. I didn’t have to pay $40 and wreck a brand new horse when I could buy a box full of beat-up models for that price. That’s the story of how I got started. There’s not much of a coda to my tale; it’s ongoing. I will describe the pictures now that I have some context. The ﬁrst is of one of the earliest models I painted that I was satisﬁed with. She’s a chestnut tobiano pony, and has a really cool, metallic sheen that the picture doesn’t catch. I sold her on eBay and used the proﬁt to buy more plastic models to paint on. I even made the halter she’s wearing. The tail is mohair, not horsehair, which comes from angora goats and is sort of like wool. The other pictures are of a more recent model. He is an appaloosa mustang. The main differences between that early work and this one are the small details I add now. Look at his neck, and you can kind of see where almost every hair is painted. I learned to use different kinds of brushes and very thin layers of paint to make illusions like individual hair growth. The early horse pretty much is just one color and one layer with some shading. I also use other media for detailing, like colored pencils, acrylic paints, metallic powders, inks and dyes, Exacto knives, airbrushes and who knows what else. There is one ﬁnal note I want to mention about my art, a sort of tradition I have that I started around age 10, for reasons I can’t even remember. Like some authors who use a nom de plume, I have a sort of artistic pseudonym. First, I sign my work with my real initials, but also with the letter “W,” which stands for “Whirlaway.” I use this 38
name as my artistic identity. You can probably guess what the name relates to, but if not, you can Google it and ďŹ nd out. â€”Georgia Stone
Hayley Werth 40
Best Friends (2000) Hand (2002)
Owl cake, school birthdays (2010) The Neverending Story cake, Ianâ€™s birthday
I remember when I ﬁrst became interested in art. I was 5 years old, and noticed that an audience would form whenever one of the boys in my kindergarten class brought out his sketchbook. We would stare in awe as he labored over his latest depiction of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember being a little jealous of his talent, but mostly just being totally fascinated. The rest of my childhood memories on the subject are a bit hazy, but just imagine a montage of me drawing on every available surface, set to the song “Walking On Broken Glass.” That’s pretty much exactly how I remember it. About three years later, at age 8, I entered a crayon drawing I made of my Grandfather’s dog into the county fair art competition. It won a blue ribbon. This validation alone was enough to convince me that art was my calling well into my tweens. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school, in art class, that I realized I was not as skilled an artist as I had previously thought. According to my teacher, Art was learning and perfecting a long list of unexciting techniques, and what I had been producing all along was garbage. My ego shattered, I abandoned that dream, and have spent the last decade or so trying to ﬁnd anything else that makes me as happy as my childhood doodling did. In the meantime, I still ﬁnd excuses to create “art,” usually in the form of gifts for my family members, who are obligated to say nice things about them. I don’t get paid to do it, but doodling still makes me happy, whether it be on a birthday cake for my husband, or a ceramic saucer for my baby niece. —Hayley Werth 43
Many thanks are due to the Yellow Springs News, which provided a place for this journal to gestate and be born. Also for some use of the copying machine. We’ll pay you back if it’s a big deal. Thanks to Matt Minde, who taught us how to use Photoshop, and to The Internet, who taught us everything else. Special thanks to the Spalding University MFA in Writing program and all its faculty and staff, without whom this would certainly never have come to fruition. Yes. It’s your fault.