Faith Barger Untitled Map Suite (32-36) Aaron Tennessee Benson Temporary Structure II (24) Rachel Clark Femme Mask (21) Tom Mask (21) Suzanne Devan Cropped Porn (22) Red Skirt (23) Michelle Ettlinger Booklyn Seascape (48) Doug Fraser Beautiful Distraction (6) Breaking the Silence (8) Sheldon Graham Dancing (50) Interspection (51) Jessica Kreutter The pollinator and the baby Harvest (46) Mollycoddle Troughs (47) Crave and Cradle (47) Nick McGuire Council (10) Rex Inquisitive (11) Rex Transition (11) Jordan Meyers Balloon Heads (45) Hannah Patterson portrait of my mother as she might be (4) portrait of that lying cheating son of a bitch that broke my heart and friend (5) Kati Stroud Red Rhythm (9) Angela Denise Wilson Monkey See Monkey Do (12)
Table of Contents Poetry
Andrew Booth Current Blessedness (2) Emily (2) By Myself (Good Company) (3) Jackson Culpepper Communion (Mississippi VII) (13) Phil Hopkins When She Hands Me the Envelope (49) Kaitlyn Sage Patterson Afternoon Nap (53) Imposed Upon (53) Jonathan Phillips quick, like the death of a stranger (52) portrait of a room with patterns (52) Deborah Scaperoth Scared and Profane at the Park Cove (7) Meg Wade Dream of Lost Language (41) The Poetry Spectrum at UT: An interview with Arthur Smith & Marilyn Kallet (25-31) Richard Arkwright From the Introduction in Mating Possibilities: Copulation in 21st Century America (42) Eric Blair On the Climate-Driven Garment: A Quantifiable Approach (43) David Craft Burial of Arthur Ryan (37-41) Jackson Culpepper O’ Malley (14-20) Michel Luc Tenebre On Clothing and Power [Les Pensées au vêtement et le pouvoir] (44)
Phoenix ••• 1
Current Blessedness It would be nice to write tales of St. Francis, but I don’t think I can. Instead when the petals speak, they tell of my friends’ new hats, haircuts, stacks of Coors Light boxes and scattered bits of happiness somewhere between them.
By Myself (Good Company) I don’t know why, but I thought the moon would eventually come down from the sky and settle next to me beneath the blankets, the windowsill where I had waited on and off three days for the rain to stop.
When we were kids, Nick and I mashed every Friday night into the crawl space beneath his back porch to hear his father talk to their dog, because if it ever talked back she was sure to bring news of the future. Today, I think he only wanted to hear her voice, like molasses, slow and of the body: You’re already crazy, Marty. They will have to leave you soon, but summer is coming. Love the small hands of your children while you can, those who curl on my pregnant belly. Nick is growing strong; he has taught your daughters to pray to trees and they spring from them like fresh green shoots. Maybe to exist is to be a kind of possible wonder. Yes. That is the holiness which spreads through our thirteen raised glasses in the small kitchen. To friends, one says, to vodka, another. Laughter becomes a small diffraction which spreads across the white tiles. It is something that later when Corrinne is crying on my couch will let me see her, wipe the cheeks and lift her into Logan’s arms as a vapor, those steam vents you walk over on gray mornings which fold beneath your wind breaker, reminding you of how it feels to be warm.
2 ••• Phoenix
Emily Emily, I know I haven’t been a brother like your TV shows, cute teen soaps where the family pulls together or even the sitcoms where a thought-dead relative stops by. One summer, I remember watching hay balers from the back porch, knowing you wouldn’t come down to see them. The dog was still alive then. I’m sorry. He was beautiful.
We could sit there, me and the moon, with a lamp on to glow and blossom like a pale peach – the kind sold off state highways in broad woven fruit baskets that don’t have a name, are stapled and diamond checked, stacked and smell of earth. I think loneliness is a type of crazy. It’s the story of the old man who broke his leg falling through the floor of his outhouse and was found five days later talking to moons carved out of shit. Baudelaire said, or one of those French guys said, art extends from solitude. Maybe my hands too, sensing distance, feel a need to create – days I find them bleeding pretty without remembering. It’s true, if I weren’t alone, I probably wouldn’t be balancing on the arms of my desk chair to watch a spider form a web of my ceiling. But I am. What’s wrong little eight armed wolf? Do you want to catch warmth in my high corner, or is it the moon again, being woven soft of your shell body? We look funny, balancing this way. I should get down.
Phoenix ••• 3
Hannah Patterson portrait of that lying cheating son of a bitch that broke my heart and friend
portrait of my mother as she might be
4 ••• Phoenix
Phoenix ••• 5
Sacred and Profane at the Park Cove Hopkins knew about the cliff where mourners hang. Disconsolate in the spring dawn, I wander alone in the quiet park. It’s been over two years since your death, and I have been more than half crazed with grief. In the morning haze, tree limbs and stirred-up dirt from the park mowers filter light into pattern like strips of rain seen from a great distance. The glowing outline of a fisherman bends over a hook by the water’s edge; his fingers bloody from cutting bait. You would like this, I think. You would laugh about the mother duck and her thirteen bewildered babies with buzz-cut feathers, grubbing for food. She stands guard, hissing, a pent-up steam valve. You would want me to see God here. Eternity. I can only see tender urgency.
Beautiful Distraction 6 ••• Phoenix
Phoenix ••• 7
Red Rhythm sculpture
Breaking the Silence 8 ••• Phoenix
Phoenix ••• 9
Nick McGuire Rex Transition wood / gold leaf
Rex Inquisitive ink
10 ••• Phoenix
Phoenix ••• 11
Angela Denise Wilson
Jackson Culpepper Communion (Mississippi VII)
Monkey See Monkey Do modified photography
They weren’t mission folks, they were builders. Professional, rough. Their truck was full of odd and shining tools. They took smoke breaks every half an hour. It was a welcome change. Chris and I and Bill, the leader, did as they said. For two days we sanded the walls mixed the mud papered the seams mudded the corners textured the ceilings, in rituals of muscle with liturgies of dust. The mud, primitive, spread on our arms and heads and was cool. Then one day the big husband told us his wife—“She’s real Cajun”— was making dinner. We stayed around until the reddening dusk, when the army planes flew overhead and the hammering, sawing stopped. Reverently we climbed the cinderblock steps to the FEMA trailer. In close file we heaped on rice and held our plates to receive it: gumbo in a five gallon pot on a two-foot stove, crab legs sticking out drumsticks sticking out crawfish, kielbasa, and only God knew what else, bubbling in the ruddy stew. We sat on tailgates, van seats, mud buckets in a rough circle, nodding, slurping, and groaning until the plates were clean and the dogs chewed on the bones. We sat back, sated, and listened to the owls.
12 ••• Phoenix
Phoenix ••• 13
Jackson Culpepper O’ Malley It is 10:23 and fifteen, sixteen, seventeen seconds when I walk down the hall, that Stephen King’s The Shining hall that goes on forever and has the empty elevator shaft at the end, boarded up like zombies were on the other side. Room 919 and now it is 10:23 and fifty-three seconds, almost 10:24. I still arrived too early, should’ve sat in the car listening to the talk radio for another four minutes, they were talking about Marilynne Robinson. Inside it smells like expensive coffee, like a big chain bookstore with the bistro up front. O’ Malley grinds it every morning and puts it in his press. His real name is Chris but he tells everyone to call him O’ Malley. His last name is Musselwite which may or be Irish but I think it isn’t. O’ Malley, Chris, sits in front of and two to the right of me in English 441, Intro to Southern Literature. O’ Malley wears frayed tweed pants and jackets, a vest almost every day with a watch chain snaking into its pockets. His hair is curly, an eagle’s nest over his head. I say eagle’s nest because if I say robin’s nest or blue jay’s nest you will think of something small, so I will instead say eagle’s nest, which can sway its tree back and forth in the wind. O’ Malley’s beard comes and goes between thick sideburns. (This kind of description is more or less futile. If I were good, I could sum O’ Malley up in a passing phrase, tell you he likes q-tips or something, and have a scene of him cleaning his ears ritualistically in the mirror. I’ve already ruined the one-shot description deal, but I’ll make a second attempt at it with this:) He smokes a churchwarden pipe between classes at the Humanities building. O’ Malley’s roommate, Brian, sits on the couch staring at the TV. Every few seconds it flips to a different channel, one of the four they get on rabbit-ears. Doesn’t that bother you, Brian? You get used to it. Alright. Dialogue: “Like this?” or like this? Not even capitalized, just indented. Cormac pulls it off but he makes it look easier than it is. I could confuse you, right Brian? You could confuse, said Brian. “What are you talking about?” He stares at me. I retreat to the kitchen. Connected to the kitchen (the very small kitchen) is another bedroom where O’ Malley’s other roommate, also named Chris (although the second Chris was content to be called simply Chris)
14 ••• Phoenix
lives. Chris, the second one, has his door open and is doing tai chi movements in an army green kilt with no shirt. During the day he tends to disappear. Try as we might, none of us ever noticed a man in a kilt the rest of the day, as noticeable as a man in a kilt might be. You may have the impression, after these blocky and uncreative descriptions, that I am good friends with these people. I am somewhat. I know them, at least enough to know that Brian majors in mechanical engineering but seems always unconcerned with the coursework for mechanical engineering, and that Chris the second, if you can get him to sit down, will talk for hours about almost anything you bring up and may or may not keep marijuana somewhere in that bedroom, and that O’ Malley’s real name is Chris (the first) Musselwite. They are the characters, the setting is some college apartment building for which you are substituting the creepiest example of the kind you personally remember. Or, if you’re in a hurry and reading this at a bus stop then you might mistakenly think we’re all in the hotel from the The Shining and you’re waiting for one of us to go at the others with an axe. The plot, so far, has been the initial exposition, which I have unfortunately gone about in a boring, mechanical way. Now that you know who and where, there has to be a what, why and how. The how, to get back to the actual story (or experience, or story of experience, or experience of story) is that O’ Malley sits one ahead and two to the right of me in English 441 and I had a conversation with him about writing and he said that he had been writing since high school because his high school, evidently a rich one, offered creative writing classes, and that he’d been published a few places and that he would look at my story (not this one, this story is about the experience of getting my other story to O’ Malley) and tell me what he thought of it and help me revise it. The egg timer next to O’ Malley’s coffee press is close to ending its rotation and chiming. I assume that when it chimes he will come out from the back bedroom, in his vest with the pocket watch chain, and I can hand him my story, talk to him a moment and be on my way. The egg timer clicks its ratcheting clicks. Chris the second came into the kitchen, now with a shirt on and still with his kilt. How’s it going, man?
Fine, you? Hey, I’m doing good man, doing good, gonna go by the climbing wall some today. You been by there yet? You should come one day, just show them your ID and they’ll let you in. Wear some good tennis shoes though, you can’t do that shit in flip-flops, you’ll bust your ass. I mean, they got padding and all that under you and you never get too high unless you do the really crucial stuff but it still busts your ass. He sees my story. Hey man, you a writer too? O’ Malley writes, did he tell you? His stuff is crazy, I read one of his about this guy that goes to the library, only it’s this crazy library where he takes this book and when he keeps it overdue these guys in suits come and beat the shit out of him. I don’t remember the whole thing but it was cool stuff. Hey Chris, you sent the check yet? asked Brian. No, when they need it, Friday? Wednesday, you better go ahead and get it. Alright, they might have to wait a few days before they cash it. If Cindy’s down there she’ll be cool with it. Chris the second, kilt swaying, exits. He’s the kind of man you would expect to have dreadlocks. Brian watches the ever-flipping TV as it cycles through local news, Regis and Kelly, a preacher in a particle-board pulpit, an ad for an ab-sculpting machine. News, Regis, preacher, ad. Two dead in a local wreck, What is going on with Obama, Sometimes the Lord gets angry, Six weeks to your best shape in years. Heartland’s coming on in a little bit, says Brian. The egg-timer chimes, its ratcheting ceased. I turn to watch the back bedroom door open, expecting frayed tweed, a chain jumping with his steps; his flashing eyes, his floating hair. Weave a circle round him thrice, says Brian, and close your eyes with holy dread. I look at the label of his coffee, Honey-Dew brand, and the milk in the fridge, unopened, is Paradise Co. Thus enters O’ Malley. He goes first to pour his coffee. He smiles his crooked smile and says good morning, Andrew. (Except that knowing my
name, the name of the first-person speaker, psychically distances me from you, the reader, which I have done enough already with these asides, drawing your attention always away from the story and into my own premature critiques of it, it (the story) not even halfway written. So forget my name, forget the face you may have thought of for me. I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger. I am no one at all but your perception of this story.) I tell him good morning. Is this your story? He asks, seeing it on the table. Yes, would you look at it for me? Sure, sure. O’ Malley sits and reads, flipping the pages over their staple gently. I look over at the TV where Brian is watching Heartland between the channel flips. Once every six seconds or so he hears a measure of mountain dulcimer music, a respite from the grating Regis and Kelly voices, the fuzzy audio of the preacher, the bright synthesized music of the ad. On Heartland, the mountain dulcimer plays, strummed under the brown, crooked fingers of a woman who must have grown up from the Appalachian soil below her cabin. Between flips, I think about her long pattern dress hiding not legs (they might once have been) but gray taproots, digging down, millimeter by millimeter each day through the boards of her porch into the black, wet soil until they strike the bones of the mountains, the black and huge tectonics covered over by a million years of loamy dust and photosynthetic activity. She draws the soul of those bones, their age and veneration, up through her deep deep roots and with each gathered nutrient, with each hydrogen-bonded drop of clear mountain water she presses her fingers down on the strings, on the boards, and strums a chord not heard since God or fate or Grandfather Buzzard of the Cherokees pulled the mountains up from the ground. I like it, said O’ Malley. I ask him if he liked the part where the woman with the gold tooth told her daughter-in-law that her abusive, alcoholic husband had died. I liked it. That was an interesting idea, he says. He sits cross-legged, his decorum never interrupted, his posture matching his vest, chain, pipe, literariness. What about the part where she drives off furious and almost goes over the bridge, did that all make sense? Yes, I knew what was going on. I liked the description, your descriptions were very good.
Phoenix ••• 15
Did you like the- Is this one of the first things you’ve written? Yes, how could you tell? So you’ve only just started writing. Yeah, we didn’t have creative writing in high school and I got into it after I took English 364. When’s your next class? Not until one, but I wanted to- Come with me. Just let me grab my things. His things are his jacket and a leather briefcase that smells like old tobacco. I follow him out the door, say goodbye to Brian who sits transfixed by the ab machine, the highway report, Regis interviewing a baseball player, the preacher telling him about how and why God gets angry. We take the stairs down, O’ Malley’s leather sole brogues slapping the steps, chack chack slip-chack. Outside it has been raining and we hear cars gulping through the puddles. From somewhere he produces a fedora. Fiction, or writing in general, is made up of three things (he says): observing, percolating your observations and then writing them. Observation is the most important. Flannery O’ Connor said that anyone who lives to eight years old has enough material to write about for the rest of their lives. That is true, but I don’t remember much about being five, six or seven. So observe. Observe settings, the crazy things we do when we build our environments, the concrete we pave over everything, the birds that pick out food from the cracks in that concrete. More than that, observe people. If you write fiction long enough, you will be able to look at someone, interact with them once or twice and know, generally, their insecurities, their hopes, what makes them happy, how they felt about their fathers, whether they were only children or have siblings, any number of things. I’m personally at a disadvantage for that last one because I never had any brothers or sisters, but you get the idea. Then you percolate, you absorb other stories, you read a shit-ton, you talk to people, get them drunk and interview them. People like talking about themselves and you can dig whole novels out of people if you get enough alcohol in them. You must become a prism of experience: the whole world, yours and everyone’s, goes into you and comes out in the colors of your choosing. He pauses and digs in the briefcase, drawing out his pipe and a leather bag of tobacco. We are on the athletic area of campus, the area with a million dollar gym facility and many of the freshman dorms. We are in the thick of crowds heading to their 11:00 classes. They walk hunched-over, weighted down with backpacks. Many
16 ••• Phoenix
have headphones in their ears, white cords winding down into their pockets. Girls wear galoshes. One man walks by with a slim boom box held against his leg, beating out an 80’s song to fit his mode of listening. O’ Malley continues, between puffs: Right now, for instance, you are observing these freshman, these sophomores, these halfway-formed young adults and your observations are mostly about external things: their clothes, their heavy backpacks, their physical characteristics. Those descriptions are fine to a degree but they went out with the Victorians, with those people who thought for some God awful reason that explaining how a character’s nose was shaped would give his readers insight into the character, or that describing their queer (in the Victorian sense) mode of regional dress would do anything to create a real, three-dimensional human character. No, you must dig deeper, you must look in their eyes, dig into them and find their souls. You must draw their whole being into yourself, let it drown in your mind and then drag it up from the depths. You must compact it, reduce it, see a whole human life and experience in one sentence that your readers can instantly recognize. A man trips, says shit and walks straighter. O’ Malley’s pipe pours out a cloud around his head. Smoke curls through his wavy hair, making it smolder. You must also learn dialogue, he said. Was my dialogue bad in the story? You must learn dialogue. You think that dialogue must match everyday speech and that the closer you can get to a particular dialect the better it will be, but you are wrong. Dialogue is an illusion: it appears to be everyday speech and is everything but. It is the writer’s careful calibration of character, it is a thousand chemicals mixed together in a single, clear vial. Hemingway could reveal as much character in a singe line of dialogue as others could in five pages of nose and clothing descriptions. Because it’s not about appearance, it’s about the soul. It’s not about what they look like or how they act, but who they are. You don’t know a character unless you live in their left ventricle, unless you write in the darkness of their aorta. I get queasy thinking about veins and blood. Skateboarders roar past us, pulling wind. Puddles form around the plaques set in the walkway, the ones carved with former college president’s names, dates when the newspaper started. Ahead, ornate buildings loom over the hill, gray in the stormy sky, their clocks banging the hour. I don’t know where O’ Malley is going. We turn by the humanities building, past the spot where he sits and smokes under a tall fir tree on cool days. Do you have any questions so far?
Where are we going? To the river. Why? Do you have any questions about what I have told you? Is it hard to keep that thing lit? Are you listening to me? I was listening. I would listen more. I observe as we walk. I percolate my observations. I type a hundred pages in my mind, lengthy descriptions, struckout paragraphs about noses, the facial expressions of a hundred college students whom I am not an iota closer to understanding nor dwelling in the cardiac arteries of. You must listen, he continued, because there are certain truths about writing, certain glimpses at the soul of the world which you will need to understand in order to truly write. You will have to look at all of the ugliness of modern society, dissect it, show its abuses and violences, and write them in large, bold figures to show the terrible cruelty of it all, in hopes that people will read your work and change that cruelty. In hopes that people will read my work and change. Walking past a freshman all dressed in black, I wonder what O’ Malley was like when he first came here. I wonder what Chris Musselwite had been like. Did he trip on the sidewalk? Did he watch people reading under that fir tree months before he finally took the spot for himself? Was he afraid like me that someone might look at him and think he was a complete buffoon for the things he did? When he first sat down under that tree, clad in his vest and smoking his pipe, did people in the amphitheater chuckle? Then again, there are people like Chris the second who can wear a kilt around all day, who could probably comb his hair into dreadlocks and no one would notice. Or no one would realize that they noticed. Someone plays a banjo claw hammer style outside the communications building. Far off I hear the river. We cross a parking lot and go under the road through a walkway bearing a mural of the rowing team. We see water lap below us, brown. Styrofoam cups, bits of paper and a dead carp float there. Broad arches of bridges and trestles span the river. Floating, some ducks call to one another. I do not look at O’ Malley. He might be talking but I don’t think so. I try to listen to what he says but my mind is excited just by thinking about fiction, by talking about fiction,
by this interaction which is based around fiction. Seeds of story after story bob in my mind, first one duck and then another. They call to one another, striking strange chords where they correspond. O’ Malley says too much for me to take in, too much to process at this point. I try to listen, I really try, but one wisp of story beckons to me from an out-of-sight corner, calls me away to see how far the story can go. I may have to sprint back to a pen and paper and write down a page—no, just an outline--and then keep writing all day and all night. I will pledge my body to that paper until the story is out and I, the husk it had outgrown, blew away on the wind. Or, those fleeting ideas could be misfires, half-cocks, single images not containing a thing in the world but a character trait, a blemish that I would probably delete in a fourth draft. The question is, would I know the difference? Surely if I didn’t I would fade, unknowing, and fall away as a husk that had given away its metamorphosis. By the river, we pass the old train. Blazoned on the sides of the cars are names: “Intrepid,” “Clinch,” “Tuckaleechee.” The fountain ahead is dry. O’ Malley sits at one of the benches, crossing his legs. I sit beside him. You used flashbacks a lot in your story, he says. Did you like them? You don’t need them. More characterization of the woman—precise characterization—would go farther. Some writers use flashbacks for characterization but more use them for a plot twist. Some writers use them as a quick, cheap way to deepen a character. Oh look, they say, her father beat her when she was a little girl and that explains why she set fire to the nursing home on Christmas Eve. It’s a cheap trick, sometimes. There was a girl in room 616 of the dorm whom they said could tell fortunes. And none of that weak tarot shit, they said, but she can honest-to-God tell your fortune. She knew about that carjacking twelve hours before the police reported it, knew the guy and the girl were dead six hours before the cops found them. She’s the real deal. It was one of those Friday nights in the dorm when I had nothing to do and no one around to do it with. I suppose I could have drank if I had any liquor, beer. I sat at the desk with the computer where I switched from games to porn to news to porn. I moved to the TV and flipped through channels. I watched CSI for a while but the commercials distracted me. Next I was in my bed picking out the shape of a skull in the ceiling texture. I needed to get out. I walked along the sidewalk smoking a Black & Mild I had saved back.
Phoenix ••• 17
It was stale and burned my tongue. That night dragged me down, exposed my isolation and isolated me further. I hated everyone and damn near everything. I pulled in the tenebrous, sick smoke and let it roil with the equally tenebrous and sick soul that rattled in my chest. When I blew it out it multiplied and filled the air, polluted the ecosystem. I hoped that somewhere close by an endangered species of rare frog or maybe, as I really hoped, some soul then working on its seventh or thirteenth beer would catch a whiff and the smoke would rise into their ozone, bounce off their upper atmosphere and block the sun’s rays so that they became hotter and hotter, boiling in their insecurities just as I boiled in mine, and that by the end of the night an environmentalist would present a chart, “Global Warming and Its Inverse Depletion of the Soul,” which showed an ever-rising line, far above the stage and above the chart, rising ever more as that one sickened soul plummeted ever further into its own damnation. Thoughts that required foul smoke. After I walked all the main paths on campus, I thought about the fortune teller and went back to the dorm. The sixth floor was a girl’s floor but no one cared at this hour on Friday night. No one was in the hallway. Room 616. I knocked. Inside there was a double-double grumbling, the flapping of bodiless batwings and a faint echo of a cry from a ditch. The handle turned, roaring, and the door slid back, bubbling on its hinges. Cloth, Hecate black, hung across the door and, I realized once I entered, all over the room. Something’s spine held up a light bulb in the skull of something else. I recognized two lofts, the micro fridge, the sink and air conditioner return (just like my room), but they crawled with blind black things that left trails of rust and red, maybe blood, I wasn’t sure. In the center of the room was a person-sized and -shaped lump under a red cloth. She was sitting lotus, if indeed that was her. From under the red cloth hands emerged, pale as shell-less crabs, scuttling on nails marked (burned) with symbols, maybe pagan, unintentionally Lovecraftian. Sit, said the thing under the cloth, hold out thy right hand. I did. The claws scuttled over them, pulling my fingers, popping them one way or another, too quick for me to protest and drawing those burned (yet smooth) nails across my palms in a way that sent my mind to places other than apprehension. The hands pulled and cracked my arms and hands. They drew across them gently, only to grip them as though my fortune was told not from the lines of my palm but from the sockets of my bones. My arm was chum in a shark tank, the goat from Jurassic Park. Cruel manipulations, scratches. The cracking traveled from my hand
18 ••• Phoenix
through my veins. When they got to my shoulder they turned it back and forth in its socket, dislocated it and relocated it, then traveled further, to my throat, where I thought I would choke from the space they took up. They left me no room to breathe. They traveled to my lungs and scuttled to every branch of alveoli, each tiny sac of oxygen, and they crawled through the pores into my blood and rode the arteries to my heart, where once again the hands spread out, wings around the cardiac lump. First they caressed as they had my hand and similarly my mind went away. Then they prodded and squeezed, forcing blood to my brain to feed the fantasies beginning there. When they let go it drained back out and I looked down at my hand and the other hands (the hands from under the red cloth) were above and below it, sprawled like dying spiders, the nails showing their white bellies. Saint Brigid and Saint David bear thee, said the thing, on waters they will bear thee . Thou will there float with hundred arms and pick the driftwood rolling down the stream, the surface and the deeps. And carry stones thou will, for build ye must an altar as ye go, from driftwood and the stones, from fish and from the worms. Rise it will and if thy saints have mercy thou shall not be crushed until thy time. But thou wilt build it all thy life, until ye drown, and drown ye will, more soon than most. Take heart: thine altar will float down, full half-score miles and will be seen by wandering eyes. They will see the driftwood and the stones, the fish and worms, and know them they will, all. For twice a thousand years thine altar shall be borne before it floats down to the sunless sea. There burst it shall in flame, but flame not to consume. It shall burn with thy face forever upon it. The hands recoiled, slithering, under the red cloth. The thing underneath it sank, exhaled. I did not see it move again. I left five dollars on the pillow where I had sat, unsure how these things were conducted. O’ Malley taps ashes from his pipe with the heel of his hand. Symbolism is important too, he says, if you don’t overdo it or make it too obvious. You had the lake and the rain in your story. Water is good. It’s a new beginning, washing away your sins. Sometimes it’s a flood, washing away a whole town’s sins, all the pride of the upper classes and the inequalities between them and the lower classes and the vices of both, leaving them paddling canoes with equal panic. This river (he gestures to the river before us, wide and swift-moving, littered on its edges with Styrofoam detritus and mossy sticks. It comes together from several rivers to form this one big one that goes for hundreds of miles through three states before it empties into the ocean. Davy
Crockett once canoed it, and Cherokee people before him, and proto-nations before them. Trout seven evolutionary stages back from the present trout and carp, about the same as they always were, swam the river before the proto-nations, ever since a single raindrop fell upon the mountains and trickled down their sides to the valley and there met other rain drops who had done so.) could be a metaphor for life, its changing scenery, its unstoppable movement. Have you read Norman Maclean? The Road? You should if you plan to talk about rivers and water. How many stories have you written? I ask him. He pushes back his fedora. Many, he says, about half of them only for myself. The other half I’ve sent out to literary magazines, book publishers. How many have gotten published? A few. Several. Were you paying attention when I told you about observing? See this man and woman, obviously homeless, both looking like they’ve done meth for the past five years? A few. Several. I expected more, volumes. I expected O’ Malley, writer of a dozen novels before he graduated college. O’ Malley, the creative prodigy, who quit college when he invested the advances from nineteen novels (three of them Pulitzers) and lived off the interest. I expected nothing less than a Platonic form of the author enfleshed; a man with a mind like Le Vieux Guitariste, woven around its art, inseparable from it. O’ Malley, I say (Chris the first, I should have said), how many novels have you published? He shifts his legs, re-crosses them. He says, I’m still working out my novel. It’s very complicated and may take years to fully develop. How many short stories have you published? I told you, a few- How many? Several. Here, come down to the landing, I need to show you something. Those tweed pants are too short and show his bunched Argyle socks. That vest is stretching over a belly, his habit of expensive beer. I am sure I have seen a fedora like his in Wal-Mart. I observe him, his put-on air of a Bohemian literati escaped from halfway-Victorian times and plopped down in a state school among the polished hegemony. He looks like an individual functioning in the university as one can nowhere else, stretching his personality to its utmost limits. I see it beginning to happen, the Newtonian pull that would snap him back one day from being O’ Malley to being
simply Chris Musselwite. Maybe he would publish and have a career writing, but only if he could die to himself. Only after his dark night of the soul, only after he took that damn shiny watch chain off. O’ Malley (Chris the first) walks down to the landing. It is an impressive structure, the kind of thing that some architect contemplated putting a colossus above. O’ Malley stands on the lowest step, watching the ducks swim to him, expecting food. His jacket is off and he looks like someone from 1891 Dublin waiting for a steamship. Did I mention that he sometimes curls his mustache? We hear a bicycle go by behind us. O’ Malley speaks: Although it isn’t necessary for a writer to have many strange and exotic life experiences (for instance, Flannery O’ Connor spent most of her life between the house and the chicken coop), it is beneficial sometimes to do things one would not normally do, or to explore the reaches of human wildness. Cormac McCarthy rolled boulders down hills, Hemingway lived (and drank) all over the place. Wildness sometimes goes with the territory, he says. I wonder where he is going with this particular speech. I have forgotten most of what he said in the others, by now disgusted by him and his expensive coffee. He is the kind of person who would order crepes at IHOP and complain that they were not as good as the ones from Belgium. He kept on and on about experience and I finally found a situation to put to the word sophistry. In fact, I found a whole person to put to that word, a tweed-covered sophistic ethos. Even now, his ethos is failing as he walks with his hands shoved in his pockets. I will try later to forgive him. After all, he must’ve had a hard time through childhood for him to be so needful of a new persona. At the same time, I knew that he would percolate in my mind, mixed in with his own stale coffee grounds and churning into a black tar-like substance, until one day I would sit down to write and sink a drill into my mind, searching for an idea or a memory to get me started and out he would come, a spray of black oil, spilling over me and the drill and the paper and the pen. O’ Malley was the fossil, the dead thing that would break down and be lifted out again by a derrick one day years from now. He is still talking. Yes, he says, sometimes you must endure strange things to later write about them. You must immerse yourself, you must . . . We stand looking at the river, its wide swiftness, the ducks paddling around in front of us. I think about the kinds of stories I could write about him, all the jokes I could make about his queer mannerisms and I wonder if anyone would think they
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were funny. It is thinking such things that causes me to miss his silence. I miss the few steps he takes towards me, looking off downriver past the rower’s shed. I miss his nervous chewing on the pipe stem. I am still making up a joke about ascots when he pushes me into the river. The water is cold. That is my first sensory detail and only once my body begins to accustom itself to the cold do I begin to think about the garbage and dead things floating with me. The water feels thick, saturated with filth, and I am uncomfortable in it. After those two realizations, the idea of survival kicks in. My flip-flops are long gone and I am fairly sure my keys dropped out of my pocket and sank to the silt. I remember once on a rafting trip they told us to put our feet downstream and I try to but sink anyway. With great panicked flaps of my arms I keep myself above the surface. Waves that looked gentle on the shore come over my head, into my eyes. A piece of thin, mossy driftwood floats by and I’m not sure why I grab it. Something bumps into my leg below the water and swims away. My body panics but my mind thinks about rafting. In fact it is still looking for that ascot joke. I am tired, weary. Bit by bit I relax into the current. Soon I float under the surface, feeling the gray sunlight fade above my eyelids. I hear a loud noise, see a flash of army green, and the darkness between worlds comes upon me. * * * Some say you go to heaven when you die, although there is debate over exactly where or what heaven is and what the criteria are for immigration. Others believe that karma directs your being into a better or worse reincarnation,
20 ••• Phoenix
Rachel Clark into a godly paradise or a gray world of hungry ghosts. In my space between worlds, there were distant bells. Far off at the edge of the universe was gravity, only instead of pulling me it pushed me, held me centered. It was familiar, but I only realized it was there when all else fell away. * * * My throat burns with river dirt. I feel myself vomiting. Someone hits my back, says Come on man, get that shit out. I am like a baby, pissed off by bodily existence so much I don’t realize what is going on. When I finally look around, there is Chris the second, his kilt dripping wet, pounding my back. He asks me what happened and I tell him I tripped, fell in. Man, he says, it’s a bitch swimming this thing. I came two hundred yards downriver getting you and bringing you back. I didn’t know if you were gonna make it, you were back-up in the water and that’s a bad damn sign. We sit by the river. He talks and I listen. I look out at the river, its deceptive lethargy. I don’t think about him, about Chris the first. I hear his leather soles walk up behind us, but he doesn’t say anything. Thinking about him feels cruel, like swatting a ladybug or kicking a cat. I am cold in the fall air, soaked, but I don’t really shiver. Among other things, I think about the reading assignments I have due this afternoon and the next day. I think about what I am going to have for supper. Far back in my mind stories float on the ether. They sound like wind chimes in a garden. Chris the second and I sit on the bank, watching the river roll by, its top waves masking the inertial power of the lower ones, and I notice I still have the stick of smooth driftwood, laid like a long-stemmed rose by my side.
Femme Mask oil on canvas
oil on canvas
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Suzanne Devan Red Skirt oil on canvas
Cropped Porn oil on canvas
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Phoenix ••• 23
Aaron Tennessee Benson
Temporary Structure II
clay / mix media
It is important for young writers to be taught from various writing perspectives. For poets at the University of Tennessee there are two full-time poetry professors, Dr. Arthur Smith and Dr. Marilyn Kallet. Dr. Smith has published three books of poetry, The Late World (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002), Orders of Affection (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1996), and Elegy on Independence Day (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985). He has also published poetry in the finest literary magazines in the nation and has been the recipient of numerous awards. Dr. Kallet is the author of fourteen books, including poetry, translations, anthologies, criticism, and children’s books. Circe, After Hours (BkMk Press, 2005) is her most recently published book of poetry, and a new collection, Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, will appear in 2009 from Black Widow Press. Though both professors are accomplished in the realm of poetry, they bring different aspects to teaching poetry, which serves to influence their students. These differences are what I concentrated on when I sat down with them both in the Hodge’s Library Starbucks to discuss the differences in their lives, poetry, and teaching.
The Poetry Spectrum at the University of Tennessee:
24 ••• Phoenix
An interview with
Arthur Smith Marilyn Kallet
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The Poetry Spectrum
Briefly, where and how were you raised? Arthur Smith: My family is from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I was the only one in the family born out in California, in Fresno. It turns out Philip Levine lived there and taught at Fresno State. I remember thinking, My God, this guy’s a living poet; you know you never see living poets. That was really instrumental for me. The thing that turned me on to poetry was not that necessarily, but a high school teacher. I hated poetry, hated English. He read us “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” This is the truth. It was like a mystical experience. Lights, music. From that point on, there was no turning back, like I was smacked in the head or something. I didn’t know anything about poetry, didn’t know what I was getting into. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. Marilyn Kallet: I had a teacher like that too. I went to Tufts as an undergraduate and my freshman teacher of French Literature was a tragedian, an actress. She was stunningly beautiful. She would read the French poems. She read Baudelaire to us. I physically got dizzy. I had to go outside with the poem and ask, What is in this poem that is making my head spin? That was really a decisive experience. It took me a long time to utter anything myself on the page, but I fell in love. I was confused about what I was loving: Was it Baudelaire? Was it the language? But I grew up in a working class family on Long Island. My mother was from Montgomery; my father was from Brooklyn. They fought and that created the feeling of being in exile. I was born in Montgomery, and my mother never forgave my father for taking her to New York where it was cold. She was always cold. That conflict between the two of them was productive for me, I think, as a writer.
between the mother and the father in this fight they were having, and how does it happen that language becomes a place where you can live, at least temporarily? Various poets have defined poetry over the ages. How would you define poetry? AS: I always ask my students this question during the first class we have. I say don’t worry about it if you can’t answer it, people have been trying to answer it for 2600 years. And I would be in the same place the students are in. You almost have to quote somebody else; probably the Wordsworth definition is close to what I believe. The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings after the writer has thought long and hard about the subject matter. You sort of reenter the subject matter as you sit there and then you kind of get into that emotion. To me that’s one of the definitions that works. MK: I think that it is language made musical and language that shows musical invention and coherency in some ways. Sometimes that coherency can be difficult to perceive, but I think it’s the language of every day speech made musical and compressed, emotion within that is compressed. SM: Is that why you were so interested in William Carlos Williams? MK: You know I happened onto William Carlos Williams when I was a graduate student at Rutgers. I became interested in his late love poems. I was just interested in how beautiful and simple they were. I went in to explore what it was that seemed simple yet had complexity at the same time, and I ended up writing my dissertation on Williams and Paul Eluard, probably the most important poet for me.
AS: Can you say more about that? That was kind of interesting. MK: Well, there was always the question of where did we really belong, always feeling like somewhat of an outsider. My mother had such a rich Southern accent, and the longer we stayed in New York the deeper the accent became. It was her own. She could find her place in this drawl. I would hear her on the phone with our relatives, and every time she would talk to them, the accent would just get deeper and thicker. And this had an impact on me. Where did I belong
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AS: Let me add something. I told you I grew up in the valley of California and Phil Levine was a teacher out there at the time. And once I got turned onto poetry and shifted my focus to him, I said this guy is a shmuck just like me. He uses English language and writes these incredibly powerful pieces. How do you do that? So you try to imitate that. I know these words too. How do I put them in a certain order that makes me go wow? Williams is a great model I think to see how to do that.
Who/What are your major influences in writing? AS: Dylan Thomas, but that didn’t last as long as it does for some people, and then Phil Levine because he was right there. I mean he was a human being right there. You could see he was alive. And then you branch out from there. William Carlos Williams was one of the very next people I discovered. I was like wow this is better, I like this. There’s a real sense of discovery in Williams’ work. From there it just branches out to everybody. I went through some very definite models where I was trying to learn how they worked. MK: Well you don’t have to write like someone to be influenced by them. I got from Williams that language didn’t have to be uppity. You didn’t have to be British. You could use the language we hear. I think our models change. We get influenced by different people as we go along. I would definitely put Williams on the list. In the last ten years, I would say Yusef Komunyakaa for the tightness of the forms and the range of subject matter, for tackling difficult subject matter, Galway Kinnell because his language is so gorgeous, Sharon Olds for her bravery of subject matter, and Brenda Hillman for her willingness to break traditional forms. And then Art Smith for his… Honestly I teach his work so often, I find myself getting closer to it and thinking this is damn good stuff. It has the beautiful compression of language that we want in poetry. No matter what kind of poetry it is we can’t have anything extra. What do you focus on while writing? AS: One always hopes the muse is in the building. I always try to sit down at a certain time everyday, just to be there. I start writing freeform and sometimes get really lucky and some stuff kind of ties up, like a discovery of material. I pursue that and find out if it’s something that’s been eating at me for a while. MK: I think what Art said is very important about being there and having a certain ritual and trying to be as open as possible to whatever it is that is going to happen. And having done it for a long time there is a sense that something is going to happen, an expectation. We’re in the habit of writing; this ritual is an invitation to the muse. Sometimes I will give myself a task. My husband and I were
in London this summer. We went into the natural science museum at the Darwin exhibit and there was a poster that said Darwin had inadvertently eaten a new species. I was like well wait a second now: what did he eat, what happened, what does that mean, inadvertently? So I went, and I started researching Darwin and came across all these wonderful things to write about. I came across this journal entry where he had actually eaten a small ostrich thinking it was a baby ostrich, realizing, after it was all roasted and eaten except for the skin and bones, that it was some sort of miniature ostrich that he hadn’t chronicled yet. That opened the door for other poems, give it a title and see what happens with it and thus, “Eating the New Species.” AS: It’s so hard for me still to figure out ways to surprise myself on the page, so that I don’t keep saying what I’ve been saying for a while. That’s one of the real difficult things. Do you have a writing routine that you follow? AS: Only in the sense that I want certain things out of my psyche, like walking the dog, doing the dishes. I throw all that out of my psyche so I don’t have to sit down and jump for anything. A lot of times I read some poets, new poets or somebody’s work I know that inspires me and then you just see what happens. And a lot of times you write and write and three weeks go by and you don’t find anything interesting but you do the next time. So it goes back and forth that way. It really is just fishing for stuff. MK: I’ve gotten into the habit of going to artist colonies. I do it because when I was a young mother, it was impossible to get anything done. I simply abandoned the child, got in the habit of going, and I found I get my best work done there. There really are no other distractions. You just go and that’s what you’re there for. You’re nobody’s mother; you’re nobody’s teacher; you’re just a writer. AS: It’s scary when you do that at first. MK: Very scary. In fact, last time I went to the Virginia Center, which is probably more than twenty times going, I tried to write about making the transition from
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The Poetry Spectrum
the secular to the sacred because it’s busy, busy, busy, busy and then there’s this whole other thing that’s going to happen and it’s frightening. You don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not, but that’s not the issue; you just want to be doing it. AS: That’s what I found. I started writing when I was about seventeen years old, haphazardly. It’s still a mystery trying to uncover what it is or listen to the voices in your head. They happen all day long and some of them are very important. If you don’t get them out, they’re just gone. For me it’s never gotten any easier; you’re just more used to looking at it, like oh it’s you again and you just start writing. You just listen to the material, like oh this might be in quatrains. I sit down and write. I never know what’s going to happen; it’s a type of anxiety. It’s not for the faint of heart. What’s one thing you struggle with in your own writing? Maybe something you do that you’re aware of but you wish you didn’t do. AS: I don’t really know the answer to that, but I’ll give you an example. You know you write and write and you get something with some sort of substance. Then you look at it the next day and you’re like oh my god that’s terrible. I’ve become more self-conscious of the voice in the poem, like well that’s just somebody talking to me. It’s not really that interesting or whatever. When you get in the zone, everything you do is just fine, but it’s really hard to get there. It’s usually when the poem is close to being done, you read it and you’re like that’s terrible, no one would want to read that. MK: I think I need to try to be patient. Sometimes I’ll need to write six or seven poems about something that I’m trying to write about to get one that’s viable as a poem. So patience, and also, I’ve written some clunkers that I would put next to Art’s any day and win. I do this exercise in my classes where we bring in bad poetry then we cut them up and make collages. I have a wealth of material for this. There’s this one poem I wrote about Heather having a zit in the middle of her nose, and we went to the dermatologist. Why did I think that this could be a poem? There it was, and I remember it because the refrain is “Heather has a zit in the middle of her nose.” It belongs in the Stuffed Owl, which is the anthology of bad poetry.
28 ••• Phoenix
How have you both been influenced by one another? AS: I admire tremendously her fearlessness of material, what she takes on in poems. You really have to test yourself in some ways through writing to find out if you’re getting close to the quick. Plus, I’ve never mentioned this, but Marilyn, over the years since I’ve been here, has been incredibly productive, not only in her own poetry and other books, but in editing. I’ve lost count of her work to be honest with you. I’ve always admired that; details are very difficult for me, and to be able to do all of that in the midst of teaching and everything. MK: Thank you very much. With Art’s work, everything he does has integrity, very high standards. His poems have been paired down, transformed to music. His writing teaches me to not go long, and Art himself teaches me to not go long. One time we did a poetry reading together; it was in the stairwell of the university center, another really bad idea. I don’t remember where it came from. I was up there declaiming, and it was this long poem, some epic thing I’d written, and he looked at me. I don’t remember if he was just saying it with his eyes or whether he actually said to me I will not speak to you again for a very long time. He taught me in those situations that you don’t read your long poem and you need to learn to be compressed, be concise. AS: That’s hard. God knows we don’t have any audience then when you do have an audience, you think this is my most ambitious poem, I want to read it. MK: Yeah, No NO, Can you say no? We discuss this in our classes before we do readings: don’t read your epic now. I just picture myself at the top of that stairwell, and I picture the look on your face. How has your writing style evolved over the years? AS: After each book, I have found that there is a long fallow time in which I’m still writing but it sounds like stuff that would have been left over from that book, like it’s not good enough to go in that book. I’m always trying to change that voice some how, like where it is coming from or the contributing factors, i.e. opening the poem up more, bringing the world and history into it.
MK: I’ve gone to Squaw Valley a few times. I went the first time when I was fifty years old. Brenda Hillman had an impact on me there and has ever since. The experimental quality of her work really irritated the hell out of me to begin with. I was like what is this? why is this happening? I hate this. She was pushing about form. She didn’t care what the content was. In the workshops, Sharon Olds was all-confessional. It was wonderful; she gave us permission to say what we needed to say. Brenda Hillman didn’t care about any of that. The only thing she cared about was the form. She was looking for some kind of innovation. You know, what would that be and what would that be that felt necessary not just splashy. I write narrative lyrics and always have, but the narrative lyric now is bitten into at the edges by this other thing that is the question of how experimental, how edgy, how many poems can you have going on at once, that sort of thing. AS: We were just talking about that in class earlier today about how form, traditional and experimental, is one way a poet can surprise themselves. It makes you change the way you think, changes your brain waves. If you know you have to rhyme in two lines you start thinking ahead. You might have to say something in that language that you never thought of before. The whole point is to say something new about yourself that you haven’t realized. When do you feel you do your best writing? AS: Marilyn knows this. I can only work very late at night. I’ve got a menagerie of a house, which I love, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got three dogs, a parrot. My wife goes to bed early, sooner or later the dogs settle down. I’m alone in my house, like that William Carlos Williams poem when he’s doing the dance; that’s the only time where I feel like I’m free to say stuff. MK: I do my best writing in the morning. I’m a morning person. I go for a short run and then write. When I was working on these Darwin poems at the Virginia Center this summer, after I’d run and clean up, there was this path between the house and the studio. Walking down that path, poems would start to come to me. I read that Darwin had a thinking path. He would walk on the path and the ideas about the evolution of the species came to him on the thinking path. I’m not comparing myself to Darwin, but I was writing about Darwin and I was walking this
beautiful path and ideas would come to me. It was quite lovely. There’s a certain state of mind which everything seems to be poetry. It can be a mistake, that state of mind, because you think it’s all poetry then you look at it later and its not. When I said to people at the Virginia Center that everything’s poetry in this state of mind, one of the professors said, “What about this pimento sandwich?” Well, he’s right, point well taken, never mind. So I started a blog to write about the transition into the Virginia Center, it’s like a journal you know. I wrote that not everything can be a poem because of the pimento sandwich then suddenly people were writing in pimento cheese sandwich poems. Some of them were very good. So the only limitation is the poet’s brain, probably. What elements do you try to stress while you’re teaching students to write poetry? AS: Well, when I teach the lower division class, the three-hundred level, I try to teach about form and those things. Not that I want them to write those poems, but because I don’t know if they’ve heard it anywhere else. I talk about it to give background and history otherwise to them poetry was discovered fifty years ago instead of 2600 years ago. You just want to give them a sense of the enormous background. Then, of course, what you look for is that authentic moment in somebody’s poems. What I’ve been doing, I’m getting sophisticated now, every day on blackboard I make everybody write six lines. Just the student and I can see that material. They can be braver, riskier. They do the six lines for a week or two then boom this thing happens, and that’s how you find that material. That’s what I concentrate on: how do you find that authentic material that you didn’t know what was in there? When lines come to you while you’re doing dishes or driving, you have to capture those lines. If you don’t they’re gone because they’re coming from a part of your brain that doesn’t know language. You see an image or a phrase comes to you, you want to get that because it passes right on through. MK: I start out the three-hundred level class with books by Lucille Clifton and Arthur Smith. I’m trying to get rid of students’ preconceptions about poetry that aren’t any use to them in the writing and show them how to be spare and let the emotions and intellect lead, a lot of it has to do with the pairing down. They’ll
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The Poetry Spectrum
have an assignment, write poems and I make notes on the poems. They learn by doing, essentially. It’s like learning to swim. You can’t do it unless you’re in the water. They have to put up with those little annoying notes on the poems for awhile. Often it’s a question of cutting down and giving more because people will be too private, they won’t tell enough. They’ll hint at something but you don’t have the feeling that something is being revealed or even glimpsed. Students get annoyed at me for wanting more and less at the same time.
sort of the TNT of poetry. Then Andrew Najberg, he would already have a metaphor or an image, and he would follow that out in a poem. So two very different poets, but they’re both very good. Those are two different ways I see oh wow that person’s onto something, both with the juxtaposition, metaphor, the surprise, the exciting stuff. Then, somebody else might not have that ability so they’re going to get a metaphor and work it on down the page. So both of those poles, if you will.
MK: When I read that worst poem, I said in class that this poem is terrible. The class rallied on behalf of the poem. People started saying “look this has this good line and this good line”, and suddenly it was me against them and suddenly this poem was the best thing that had ever happened to anyone. So I’ve never done that again. You make think it’s terrible but you keep that to yourself. What do you perceive as the future for the creative writing department at UT?
Does teaching and being in the classroom environment help you with your writing? AS: I think so. At the same time you can overdo it. If you taught two full classes that day you might be talked out, have nothing left to say. At the same time, I get inspired talking about the poems. You’re always looking for that way in and providing a way in, the opening. MK: Teaching takes a tremendous amount of energy. When we’re in the classroom, we’re here for the students, so in that regard, it doesn’t let you write a whole lot. But sometimes I’ll give the assignment of a poem a day, and I’ll do it myself and out of that something may be born. I did a series about Circe, and Circe became the Circe of Circe, After Hours, and it became a book. One little poem from that series got into that book, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have done that right along with the students. But by and large I’d say that the teaching and writing for me are separate activities. AS: Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. What are some signs of potential you find in your students? AS: You know, it’s really tricky. At the poetry reading a few weeks ago, two very different poets, who were students here, read, Matt Urmy and Andrew Najberg. Matt Urmy, what I found in his work was that he was very into the essence of poetry, metaphor. And that was where he said “Don’t be afraid about what you’re going to say, leap if you have to”, that sort of thing. That’s
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MK: In the last two or three years, twelve of our former students have had books published. Sometimes students come to us, now that we have the doctoral program, with books in hand and they’re already fine writers. Hopefully we can help them develop and do unexpected things in their work. Sometimes you think students are hopeless, and they turn out to be real writers. So I’ve learned not to discount anyone because it has to do with whether the person is disciplined and motivated and stays working at poetry. I had one class that I felt was the worst class I had ever taught. I read the single worst poem I had ever read, but several of those poets went on to publish books. One of them went on to run a publishing company; one owns a bookstore in San Francisco. It taught me a lesson, you just can’t tell. You encourage everybody. There are certain gleams like someone has a good ear or well turned phrases, but you see some of those people don’t pursue it and others will. And I think I was like that as a poetry student. I wasn’t the one in the class that the teacher thought would be the star. I had a few lucky poems, but I stayed with it.
AS: We’re getting all sorts of things organized around the MFA right now. In the years I’ve been here we’ve had a great resurgence in the number of people writing. Marilyn and I are the only full-time professors teaching poetry writing. In ten years we’ll be retired, so what happens next is up to the other people who take over the programs. We have worked to put down the PhD with creative dissertation and the MFA. Marilyn has done most of this work, by the way. We have graduated poets and fiction writers who are appearing in the finest journals in America, and we’re very, very proud of that. MK: The MFA doesn’t seem to be going away. When we first started thinking about putting an MFA in place years ago, our colleagues thought it might be a fad, but the demand for the MFA seems to still be very strong. The PhD has been a great magnet for us to attract really fine writers here. Now we’re going to try to bring the MFA into shape. The MFA is a different kind of degree than the PhD. The PhD is similar to other degrees we offer, so it wasn’t hard to get
that here. The MFA is a free standing degree; it has to be approved by the state, so it’s a bigger deal. It’s really not any different than what we’re doing now, but technically it’s different, so it’s a project. What are you currently working on? AS: I was adding this up the other day. Sometimes you write and write and write and a year goes by, two years go by, then you look back and you’ve got twenty-seven poems you want to use as pieces of a book. I’m about at that age where I’ve got two-thirds of a book, but I don’t see the organizing principal yet. Many of the poems are opening out more, but because it is a territory I don’t know yet, I’m sort of in a state of uncertainty over the manuscript. I’m working towards it, but I don’t know what it will be or what it will have to say. MK: I have a new book coming out in January; it’s a collection of new and selected poems. I’m trying to avoid the temptation to keep looking over the manuscript and changing it and fixing it. There are things in there that are screaming out to me this is awful, but I’m trying to leave it alone, let it go. I’m working on the Darwin series. I’m doing the blog, which I enjoy. I’m doing translations of the French surrealist poet Benjamin Peret, who was an uncompromising surrealist. He was never political he was just wild. He hasn’t been translated into English very much, so I’m doing a book of his. (Dr. Kallet’s blog: http://www.redroom.com/blog/marilyn-kallet).
AS: Yeah, let me pick up on what you’re saying. I’ll use the example of Theodore Roethke. If he could become a great poet as he did, anybody can. His first book was so pedestrian. I love the man’s work and I’m telling you this. It was so pedestrian, so expected. Then, he wound up at the end of his life writing some of the best free verse that has ever been written. So I think Marilyn’s point is really good. You don’t count anyone out. You just see maybe there’s a real rhythmic quality to that person, and you recommend them these three poets and say maybe these could teach you something. You don’t know who’s going to develop in time and who will be bitten by it.
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Untitle Map Suite rice paper, printing ink
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Phoenix ••• 35
David Craft The Burial of Arthur Ryan We buried you in the sand. The tide was out and we thought we might have buried you too close to the water. We dug you up and buried you again, well past the high tide mark. Kevin took D’Arcy’s portable CD player and we listened to the radio with the seagulls singing along in the background. It didn’t take us long and we sat on the beach drinking Stella when it was finished. There was no one around. It was February. Frankie wanted to be there, but it was just Kevin and me. saying.”
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“Michael? Mike, honey?” “Huh?” “Are you okay?” “Huh?” “Mike, you okay?” “I’m awake! What’s wrong? Did you hear something downstairs again.” “You’ve been talking in your sleep. You okay?” “Yeah. I’m fine.” “I thought you were talking to me but I couldn’t understand you.” “ I was talking?” “Yeah, you were talking but I couldn’t understand a word you were “ I’m sorry. Go back to sleep, Grace. I’m fine.”
The night you left Nashville you told everyone that you were going home. We were in your room, standing around while you were getting ready to go. Frankie was telling jokes. He told your joke about the Irishman, Englishman, the Scotsman, and the Genie. The Scotsman was from Aberdeen and wished for his nets to always be filled with fish. After he made his wish he disappeared. The Englishman wished for a giant wall 500 yards high to be built around England to show how powerful the nation was, and then he disappeared. The Irishman asked how high the wall around England was, and, when the Genie told him, he asked for it to be filled with water. You laughed and then you said, “I’m going home, boys. Don’t worry about anything.” It wasn’t until later that I knew what you meant. There were a lot of people there that day. Mom cooked a roast and we ate like kings. You were the elephant in the corner. You’d left already, but we
acted like you were still there. Ireland played France in a friendly at Croke Park while we were in Skibbereen. Kevin and I decided we’d watch the match at Uncle D’Arcy’s pub. It was the first full match I’d watched since we stayed up late to watch Robbie Keane score against Spain in the World Cup. You danced around the living room and woke Mom. You told her not to get mad at you. You told her if she was going to get mad and blame anyone for waking her up she should blame God and Robbie Keane. You told her to blame God because he was the one who decided America should be a million hours behind the rest of the world, and Robbie Keane because he scored a cracking goal. Back then I thought you were an idiot. D’arcy gave us a free round and poured an extra pint to be left untouched. He said it was for you. You would have been proud, Dad. Ireland won.
“Michael? What’s wrong? “Huh? What?” “You’re talking again.” “Are you sure?” “Of course I’m sure.” “I’ve been asleep.” “You’ve been keeping me awake.” “I’m sorry, Grace.” “It’s fine. Are you sure you’re okay, though?” “Positive.” “No bad dreams?” “Nope. Go back to sleep. I’m fine.”
The night that you left was the first night we’d been together under the same roof for years. Steve and Kate brought little Megan down from Raleigh, and Molly brought her new boyfriend. Kevin and Sarah came with the kids. I’d only been dating Grace for a few months. I didn’t think she’d want to get thrown into the family so soon. She asks about you sometimes. She helps mom keep things together. I think they talk about us. The twins were crying their heads off as usual that night. We know how you wanted to see the kids before you left, but you just missed them. Kevin
Phoenix ••• 37
The Burial of Arthur Ryan
said he was pushing 90 all the way from Atlanta. Sarah said he was nearly stopped by the police twice. The kids miss you. They asked about you for a while and we told them the truth. You’d gone away. Kevin says it’s a shame they didn’t get to know you better. Frankie says it doesn’t matter. When they’re older they’ll have the most important thing you gave them and that’s their name. After you left, Mom didn’t want us to touch anything. “I know he’ll be back,” she said. “I just know he’ll come back.” It took her a while to accept the facts. She denied them for so long before she got angry, before she got depressed, before she accepted them. The night after you had gone Frankie, Kevin and me were sitting with her at the kitchen table. Frankie had his cigarettes and Kevin had his beer. Mom had her tea. We were starting to tell stories about when we were kids. Kevin told the story about how you were arrested for cutting down a Christmas tree when we lived in Germany. He said that you went out on a Tuesday morning and didn’t come back until Wednesday night. He said you didn’t know it was illegal to cut down trees, and that when they took you away you forgot the telephone number to call mom. He said mom gave you a good smack but then kissed you on the mouth right in front of us. I don’t remember it. I was a baby. Mom laughed at the story but never said if it was true. You know how Kevin likes to exaggerate. “Michael, seriously. What’s going on?” “Nothing is going on except you must be hearing things.” “It’s the third time tonight.” “Do you want me to go sleep on the sofa?” “No.” “What do you want me to do then?” “Nothing.” “Look, I’m fine. Grace, I swear it, I’m fine. I’m not feeling dizzy; I’m not having a dream; and I’m not talking.” “But you are talking.” “What am I saying?” “I don’t know.” “I’ll let you go to sleep first then, okay? You can get to sleep so if I am
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talking, I won’t wake you. Okay?” “Okay.”
“Michael?” “Yeah.” “It hasn’t been that long since…” “I’m fine.” “Okay.”
Frankie started to talk about how you taught him to play football, but the phone rang. No one picked it up and it went to the answer-phone. Your voice came on. You told the caller they had reached the home of Arthur and Katherine Ryan. You asked for the caller’s name and number after the beep. You thanked them for calling and told them you’d get back as soon as possible. It was a lie though. You’d left. When you stopped talking Kevin ripped the machine from the wall and threw it out the window. The next day mom called for a man to come and take some things away to the charity shops. Before he came, she told us that we could take whatever we wanted; anything that was in your closet was fair game. She only wanted us to leave her a few photographs: the wedding pictures, the picture of you playing football when you were young, the picture from when Frankie was christened. Kevin took your tools from the garage. Molly took the tweed hat that you used to wear to church when it was cold. Frankie didn’t take anything. He said he already had everything he needed.
“How was the doctor, Grace?” “It was fine.” “Just fine? What’d he say was wrong with you?” “Are you cooking?” “I’m making Spaghetti. What’d he say was wrong with you?” “When do we eat. I’m starving.” “Grace.” “What?”
“What’d the doctor say.” “Michael, I’m pregnant.” “Pregnant?” “Is that a bad thing?” “No. It’s just a shock.” “Yeah, I know.” “I thought you were on the pill?” “I was.” “How’d this happen then?” “What do you mean, ‘how did this happen?’ You sound angry.” “I’m not. It’s just…” “It’s just what?” “Soon.”
I’m not sure why we went to Skibbereen. We hadn’t been in years, but Kevin had the money and I had the time so we decided to go. We weren’t looking for you. We didn’t expect to find you. It’s obvious that it was going to happen though. It’s obvious you’d be there. t-shirt.”
“That was your mother on the phone.” “Who?” “Your mom, Mike.” “What did she want?” “You can’t go like that?” “What did she want, Grace?” “You can’t wear jeans and a t-shirt, especially those jeans and that “It’s not like it’s a funeral or anything.” “But still, show more respect. It’s the first time you’ve been.” “What does that have to do with it?” “Just wear something nice for your mother, Mike.” “I’ll let you pick out my clothes then.” “What did Mom want, anyway?” “Oh, she said she decided she would meet you and Kevin there. This
blue shirt or this striped one?” “I hate them both. Does she need flowers?” “Fine, the blue shirt it is. She didn’t say anything about flowers but it’d be pathetic if you turned up without any.” “Why? He hated flowers. He could have cared less.” “It’s what people do, Mike. Can’t you just do what people do?” “No.”
“How old would he be today?” “72.” “I wish I could have met him.” “Me too.”
I found you at Uncle D’Arcy’s house. I saw you smiling at me in the corridor, hanging on the wall looking young and athletic with Uncle D’Arcy. I told Kevin. It was his idea to go back for you. He said it was what you would want. He said you would want us to leave you in Ireland. You never wanted to be gone forever. Kevin hid you in his laptop case. We didn’t ask D’Arcy if we could take you. We thought that he might not understand. We buried you in the sand while the sun was shining. You smiled up at us as we placed you in the earth and poured Ireland back over you.
“I was thinking of baby names today.” “Grace, come on. I thought we talked about this.” “I know, I know. I’m sorry.” “I thought we said we’d just wait until we found out the sex.” “We did. I know you want to wait, but I was just thinking about it. That’s all.” “Okay.” “Well?” “Well what?” “Don’t you want to hear what I’ve come up with?” “No.”
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The Burial of Arthur Ryan Ryan.”
“I was thinking we’d call him Arthur.” “What?” “What’s wrong with that name.” “Why do you want to name the baby Arthur?” “Why not. Arthur Leonard Francis Ryan.” “That’s an old fashioned name.” “Maybe.” “Grace, you don’t want to name our child Arthur Leonard Francis “We could name him Arthur Michael Francis Ryan.” “We don’t know the sex yet.” “No.” “The baby may be a girl, Grace.” “But what if it is a boy.” “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”
It’s been a month since we went to Skibbereen. It’s been six since you left. I talked to you all the time after you went, but you rarely had anything to say to me. It’s been one sided and I couldn’t handle that until we went to Ireland. You left so soon. You never met Grace and you’ll never meet my kids. Some people might get angry with God, but I’m not. God let you leave for a reason. I don’t understand why, but what’s the use in being angry with God? I’d rather not waste my time. I ran into someone from your old office last week. I didn’t catch his name, but he told me he used to work with you. He said that he knew I was your son because I look just like a younger version of the Arthur Ryan he used to know. I hadn’t heard that for a long time. Do you remember how people used to say that? They used to say, ‘Oh you must be Arthur’s son. You’re like a clone or something.’ I remember when we went to visit D’Arcy and the rest of the family when I was a kid. Cousin Rory and his girlfriend were making out in the back yard and I caught them. Rory got me in a headlock and said if I told anyone he’d kill me. I elbowed him in the gut and then hit him across the face. You gave me a
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smack me for it, but then told me I threw a mean hook. “Michael, what do you want our son to be like?” “You act like we can choose.” “I know we can’t, but if you could choose, what would you want?” “I don’t know. I guess I’d want the same as every other father. I’d just want him to be happy and successful at whatever he does in life.” “Yeah, but some dads want their kids to do things, you know? Like some dads want their sons to play baseball, so as soon as they’re big enough to hold the ball they’re teaching them how to throw.” “I don’t know if I care much about that stuff.” “Did your dad do anything like that?” “Like what?” “Did he want you to be good at a sport?” “He wanted us to play football.” “You mean soccer?” “Yeah.” “Did he play with you in the park or take you to games? All of that dad stuff.” “Sometimes. He always used to say that one of us would grow up to play for Ireland in a World Cup. He used to say Frankie was going to be the next best thing.” “So Frankie was really good?” “That’s what Dad says, but then he got his job in Nashville and the family’s been tainted ever since.” A few weeks ago Kevin helped Mom clean out your desk in the spare room. He said he found some pictures of you from Christmas a few years ago when you dressed up as Santa Claus and passed out the presents. You looked so young in the pictures, Dad. You looked like you could conquer the world. You were happy. You didn’t look like you were going to leave anytime soon. I guess the thing I never really understood was why you never told us. Why’d you wait until the end? You knew you were leaving for years but you hid it from us. I just wish I’d known sooner.
“Michael.” “Hold on, Grace. I’m on the phone.” “Michael!” “What is it? This call is pretty big.” “Bigger than your wife having a baby? I think I’m going into labour. I’ve brought my suitcase down from upstairs and…” “Come on, Grace! You shouldn’t be carrying anything. Just get in the car. I’ll call the hospital. Are you sure this isn’t another false alarm?” “Michael…” “Okay, okay. Let’s go!”
I don’t think I can talk to you anymore. I don’t need to. It’s been over a year now. Grace had the baby. We named him Arthur, but we’re calling him by his middle name, Eoin. He’s beautiful. He’s got these tiny hands with tiny fingers. He came from me. He’s amazing. I know he’ll never know you, but he’ll know me. Mom was there when he was born. She drove down from Nashville at two in the morning when Grace went into labour. She was there before he arrived. She was in the room right beside the bed. Grace made me leave; said I wasn’t helping. Mom cried when she saw his dark hair and giant green eyes. She said she knew he was a Ryan when she saw those eyes. Grace told her his name and she cried even more.
Meg Wade Dream of Lost Language Here is a map. The south spreads wild fields filled with ears of corn sown from human teeth, stalks grow high as sycamore trees, surround me like door frames. I will forget cities. The smell of sweat on cracked cement in September, neighboring screams of sirens, darkness and all light. The edge farthest west shoulders impossible mountains. Trees speak ancient dialects, tangle chains of daisies in their branches believing themselves to be kings. Earthquakes give boulders feet and eyelashes, they roll like wet melons in purple clover. In the east hangs three moons, all glow below silvery tufts of petals suspended in breathing space. Desert blossoms carpet slippery sand – I call them applejacks and they call back, bird. North is not far. Here is shake hands with fiery sunlight, golden pears perfume the evenings bitter candle wax, covers my soiled footprints. This is not Eden. In the center of the map I envy Tantalus. I know desire greater than eternal hunger, a more desperate thirst. A forgotten well patiently waits for me to drink, to call it by name. Bring up the bucket, sit closer, listen – Phoenix ••• 41
Historical Fiction — Richard Arkwright From the Introduction in Mating Possibilities: Copulation in 21st Century America At the time nearly everybody wore garments for two reasons: (a) to make friends and enemies without talking to one another and (b) for mating purposes. They wore clothes at all times except briefly when bathing and even more briefly when releasing liquids and solids, and this only from necessity. Surprisingly they left their clothes on even when alone and with those they trusted most (it was not a matter of having them stolen). The most persuasive explanation for their use of clothes extrapolates on mating, arguably the most widely and highly valued of all practices. It may seem beneficial to the copulative pursuits of everyone if all people were rid of garments altogether, except of course when climate requires it for comfort and survival. Although garments prevented people from seeing one another properly, it had its advantages: It made the unveiling of the body more pleasurable. It is common knowledge that in the 1920s one was considered lucky to glance through the space between two shirt buttons, revealing abdominal skin, as well as to glance at someone’s gaiters. It made themselves more colorful. To enliven the monotonous sight of skin, they carried any variety of colors to look better. Like other species of the time, certain colors attracted each other more than others. One particular shade of orange seems to have been especially divisive, having the effect of either repelling the viewer immediately, or of drawing the viewer in as if by compulsion. It accentuated certain body features. Some parts of the body were valued higher than others, and they would use clothes to, for example, detract from one’s being
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Historical Fiction — Eric Blair overweight, or maximize/minimize the chest, or amplify one’s arm muscles. There is an interesting comparison of people in Knoxville, United States to other people’s fashions. There appears to have been a high percentage of people wearing athletic clothes, mostly a casual running outfit consisting of: tennis shoes, white socks, unlengthy shorts, underwear, and a t-shirt. The percentage of people wearing running clothes was much higher than the percentage of people who actually ran. It seems to have been a fashion like any other. Initially, this may seem confusing, provided that: (a) this fashion was, by their standard, absolutely tasteless, (b) they offered hardly any protection from the elements, and (c) they were designed for sports utility and were rarely accommodating to regular pocket items like a wallet, an ID card, a pen, or a telephone. The sole advantage of athletic clothes was that they fit tightly on the person and could be made with very little material without bordering on the socially inappropriate. I.e., whatever was left veiled by the short sleeves and short shorts (in some cases), one could outline the body through the garments. This approach was not limited to bland athletic wear. It also extends to fashions of more honorable items like the oxford shirt, the blouse, the dress, the khaki shorts, and also jeans. In all of these there was an increasing trend toward excess compared with the fashions of previous decades: excessively short, tight, casual, and boring. This was a sharp change from the concurrent fashions of other peoples. In Paris, for example, it was almost universally fashionable to wear regular fitting trousers, button shirts tucked in, and dresses below-knee-length. Garments were a way to display oneself while revealing oneself for the pursuit physical satisfaction through sight and touch. […] This is Eric Blair’s explanation for all usage of garments. While he makes a strong case, my research shows that this approach ignores certain social factors.
On the Climate-Driven Garment: A Quantifiable Approach Although it has been said, yet not proved, in the case of my prestigious colleague, Richard Arkwright, that the purported purpose of garments from the Late Techno-Industrial Era was ostensibly, but not limited to, “copulative pursuits,” I aim to propose a more heavily empirical, that is to say, calculable and quantitative, explanation for garment use, namely: comfort and survival in the face of the elements. However, though not entirely in contradistinction, I would like to recognize (indeed, it would be absurd not to) some limited role of the sex organs, which on the other hand is not socio-copulative, but instead entirely copulative in the most direct sense. Winter, the coldest of the seasons, that climate in which survival is most unnatural and death most naturally results, presents the clearest correlation, which once compounded with other seasons clearly is causation, between the elements and the garment. While indoors are, it may be said, conditioned, outdoors are not, and having to pass from one indoor haven to another, the Late Techno-Industrialized consumer found the two situations dangerously juxtaposed. Upon faring the ante-building, post-building space, the harsh clime, that is to say snow, hail, chilled rain, sleet, sun, sun reflecting off the snow, slush, etc., necessitated warm raiment, meaning pea coats, sweaters, blue jeans, and especially, arguably most importantly given the risk of frostbite, shoes, boot, and wool socks in order to avoid the numerous threats of hypothermia, flu, cold, and consumption. While spring and fall present a different menace, not the constant looming death of winter, but a less certain and thus all the more lulling anxiety of
daily, at times hourly, dramatic weather alteration. The fundamental necessitation became not one of depth, but one of breadth, or rather range as opposed to specialization, resulting in thin, yet tiered garments of flexible unending, interchangeable commodity value. The sudden “April shower” may, in more distinct terms, induce hypothermia if such exchangeable clothing stood not by; by the opposite token, a hot, humid, sweltering, warm, or otherwise balmy day in only warm winter raiment would provoke certain heatstroke. We see, then, that summer is a distinct, yet not altogether different, case in which weather necessitates not garments in excess but in shortage while increased willful, intentionalized contact with hazardous surfaces compels some level of protection. For example, even if the sun seemingly leads one to believe that he or she should go shirtless and bottomless due to excessive heat, the sun would also destroy one’s buttocks if he or she were to sit on an aluminum bleacher or other like metallic object. Additionally, but not in contradiction against, one may note that sensitive body parts, the copulative organs, including, but not limited to nipples, penises, vaginas, anuses, and testicles, remained covered annually, nay, almost constantly. Yet, this bore no direct connection to socio-copulative measures of social construction, but only direct connection to future copulation in the sense that these sensitive regions more acutely experience cold and heat and may, therefore, render the holder of such organs, upon confronting a unpleasant clime, incapacitated or at least worried about his or her future chances of copulation. Thus, we see, therefore, that given the strong causations from climate to garment, we can safely relegate my distinguished colleague’s archaic theory to the history books, while this analysis may serve to further explain other, more complex social phenomena. See Mating Possibilities: Copulation in 21st Century America.
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Historical Fiction — Michel Luc Tenebre translated by Ariel Ford On Clothing and Power [Les Pensées au vêtement et le pouvoir] It is hard to decide which is worse, the fool saying clothes are landing strips or the one ranting about nipples. Clothing is worn by people for a host of reasons, among them both mating and protection from the elements, but is this all that novel? Can we think of some facet of the clothing phenomenon which provokes thoughts more enticing than pubescent Americans ghoulishly purchasing rags to expedite the loss of virgin clumsiness or entire business classes in Boston protecting their genitals in the lunch hour streets? What a pitiful use of the imagination. Try this: narcissists everywhere exercise power upon each other through the manipulation of clothing. That is, clothing is fashioned on bodies by narcissists and they, caught up in the great diffusion of power that is a modern society, cannot help but manage power in the process of dressing and undressing themselves. If this seems absurd, consider most of the people one manages to know in a lifetime. They are narcissists, like you. For this discussion then, we shall assume that most people think about themselves first most of the time. Now thrust an essentially selfish mankind into modernity, where democracy and capitalism-- bloated ghosts of earlier theories, but more corporeal than ever--have drunkenly entwined themselves across the planet to produce an essentially hedonistic global map of power relations in the pursuit of profit and freedom. Enmeshed in this world’s affairs, modern human activity, that is: your activity, bears the mark of its sociopolitical context—in the grocery, the movies,
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the bedroom. And in all these scenes there is agonistic energy, true power play [le pouvoir en jeu]. We find that there is no universal signification for clothing, for however homogenizing the effect of mass culture on social construction, particularity still shines through. Looking out for oneself first, each person selects the colors and lengths and cuts of so much various fabric to present themselves and their shifting theories to the world. On the one hand, he associates cotton pull over dresses with a power transaction in his favor on the hood of a car; on the other hand, she sees her dress as a flowing confidence and display of gaiety, a real aesthetic reinforcement of her feminine agency when she bears upon him on the front hood of another car. Both imagine they have fucked the other, while indeed both got fucked. From the realization that you and each individual subject exercises and discovers power with a private, mutable theory, the comprehension of the issue becomes more nuanced: limited correlations drawn from similar cultural and social backgrounds to style of dress can be made, but specific humans demand specific sociological attention—we cannot claim any universal truth about this social performance with clothing. Nevertheless, a general observation is possible: however strangely the game is played, it is the playing of it at all which is most important; playing the game must be the dominant mode of presentation in public space. Were this not the case, were you to challenge the game by refusing to play, that is, to suggest the absence of power in your nakedness---you would risk exile and absurd delight.
Balloon Heads oil, acrylic, marker, paper
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Crave and Cradle The pollinator and the baby Harvest
Mollycoddle Troughs ceramic
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When She Hands Me the Envelope I do not recognize the address. My mother Tells me what the letters MCCC stand for. Morgan County Correctional Complex. Put the birthday card in the mail two days Before, she instructs, as careful as always. She even writes his name on the envelope For me, as though I would forget. Unnecessary, Like most things involving my brother. It was summer when last she saw him. The morning Sky was clear, and the inmates and their visitors Were let out into a clearing of round picnic tables Made of battered wood and surrounded by a series Of chain-link fences topped with barbed wire. She could not believe how good he looked. He was so thin, his skin unblemished. He showed Her the belt he made, his name stamped Into the leather in large, gothic letters. He once told me, You can learn a lot in prison. Like how to ferment alcohol using old fruit and a sock. Like hot to roll your own cigarettes and light them With the sparks from a faulty outlet. Like how to be alone.
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Brooklyn Seascape mixed media
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watercolor, coffee painting
Interspection watercolor, coffee painting
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Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
quick, like the death of a stranger the first grays of a long storm blew in whips across the brown grass braved by meek fists of green, the distant thunder stopped the hammers pounding shingles to black tracking on the roof above me. the men with their gloomy muscles under drunk beards ducked into truck-cabs to smoke weed while a storm they’ve seen before soaked the site and they wondered if they were half-dead. I stood on the porch in my socks listening to her coughing inside, drops came at first like days: mutable, forgettable – then the downpour years.
Portrait of a room with patterns All of my allotted flesh, small situated on the brown couch. The kitchen floor linoleum warps as a gesturing hand within the kitchen, a smeared impressions of me on one face-hinge of the stove’s side: the pattern-problemed life with me inside. innumerable gray-crossed patterns on the plastic tile populated by the legs of roaches, apart with backhoe spines on the graded brown, worthless parts with no sum; nothing to move – yet somehow they are as intriguing and delicate as a violin in an empty swimming pool.
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I see myself affixing villanelles to iron fence posts wrapped with poinsettia vines. I hold a writhing black and white baby whose onion eyes cling to me, while fingers made of worms search for your square knuckles. She is an amalgamation of our features. I pass into a room, child in arms, our limbs clasped in lilacs and silk. I cannot find you among these walls papered with churning vines. Menacing fairies, teeth bared, fly overhead, holding torches of burning hair, luring the unsuspecting to dark corners where sirens lurk. I find you, finally in the seventh corner stomping on the keys of a gargantuan typewriter, sweating with the effort of syllables, printing each letter ten feet tall on paper made of spider webs. I steal to a booth made of cold human bones, feed our child my sweet fingertips, one by one, trying to stifle her screams. I wipe my blood from her mouth with my hair, trying not to disturb the telling of our story.
Imposed Upon I am writing around my cervix. (what an awful word) I avoid pen and paper moving the word cancer around my mouth like hard candy. Trying to dissolve it. Trying to bring back the knowing (possibility) of white picket fence two point five kids dog and gold ring. Which Trace promises I will still have. (maybe not from him) (maybe not my children) (perhaps no fence) (maybe cats) I asked him in my sleep if he could magic these cells away. Phoenix ••• 53
z Contributor Biographies
A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, balances his days cycling Maryville back roads, making pancakes, and crooning through trashy library-bound novels. He is a senior in literature and creative writing.
Jackson Culpepper grew up in south Georgia and later moved to the Tennessee hills. His work has appeared previously in The Siren and on his Mom’s fridge. He likes fishing, bluegrass and old blackand-white samurai movies. He tends to write about isolation, fear and loathing, but ultimately about joy.
Born and raised in Morristown, Tennessee, Philip Hopkins has lived and worked in Knoxville since 1998. “When She Hands Me the Envelope” is his first published poem, and his short story, “Den of Vipers,” was included in the Spring 2008 edition of The Phoenix. He is a Creative Writing major.
Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
Kaitlyn has been writing poetry for longer than she’d like to admit. She’s thrilled to be included in the Phoenix this year. When she’s not writing poems on the edge of her Astronomy notes she makes crazy flavors of ice cream and rides small horses fast over large jumps. 54 ••• Phoenix
Jonathan Phillips is a six-foot tall Anglo boy from middle Tennessee, endowed with typical physical features (fingers legs eyes) he writes poetry to observe and relate. He is a junior in Anthropology / Creative Writing, a deft weaver of lies about self worth (see above). Thanks to parents, friends, shirts and hats.
Deborah Scaperoth teaches in the English Department at the University of Tennessee. Her poetry has appeared in New Millennium Writings, Number One, Yemassee, Knoxville Bound, and several of the Knoxville Writer’s Guild anthologies. In 2002, she won the poetry prize for Yemassee Magazine for the spring issue.
Meg is a Senior in creative writing with a concentration in poetry. This is the first of her poem’s to be published. She plans on attending grad school next year and receiving her MFA in creative writing.
David Ryan Craft
David Ryan Craft was born on Raglan Road where Ronnie Drew sang about the fields of Athenry. He grew up with Paddy Clarke and Jimmy Rabbite Jr. before moving on to spend some time with Nick Hornby and Ernest Hemingway. He loves the rain but hates raincoats.
Richard Arkwright is a lecturer of psychology at University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He lives with his son and two daughters in Maryville and commutes daily. In addition to research and teaching, Arkwright pursues woodworking, poetry, and educational events at the local public library. His essay is reprinted from Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.
Nick McGuire is currently receiving his BFA in Drawing at the University of Tennessee, and he plans on attending Graduate School in Drawing or Painting. He was born in Nashville, TN, the second of three sons. He would like to thank his family and friends for their continuing support.
Michel Luc-Ténèbre works at the French Consulate in Atlanta. A French expatriate since the early 1990’s, Luc-Ténèbre’s essay was originally printed in The Southern Socialist, to which he regularly contributes.
Hannah Patterson is a Junior at UT studying Photography and French Art and Culture in the College Scholars Program. You can pretty easily fit her into one of the many stereotypical college sub-groups. Frequently confounded by the perverse and often baffling State of Things, she may do something unexpected from time to time.
Eric Blair is a current interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate at DeVry University. His articles, including the one reproduced here, have appeared in Clothing and Textiles Research Journal.
Aaron Tennessee Benson
Aaron Tennessee Benson is a Sculptor pursuing his BFA in Ceramics. His current work uses architectural elements to discuss his interest with permanence and impermanence. He uses permanent structural elements like stone (portrayed through clay) to create architecture in combination with impermanent modern objects using materials like rubber, plexiglass, and metals.
Faith Barger is a sophomore Graphic Design major from Huntingdon, TN. She works for the Daily Beacon and is a member of Delta Zeta sorority. She loves using and creating maps and installations to show interest in the concepts of distance, space, time, and relationships. This work is dedicated to Shane.
Jessica Kreutter is currently a graduate student at the University of Tennessee. She graduated from Lewis and Clark College with a degree in Anthropology/Sociology. Before graduate school, she worked as a ceramic sculpture artist and art teacher in Portland, Oregon. Her work can
be found at Guardino Gallery, Beet Gallery and Mary Lou Zeek Gallery. Her website is: jfkreutter. googlepages.com
“I’m a Senior from Chattanooga majoring in Studio Art and Psychology, planning to earn a masters in Art Therapy. I’m interested in mostly drawing and ceramics, fusing psychological interests with visual interpretation. I am a follower of Christ and believe this is the center of all I create.”
He is a senior studying creative writing. He loves writing, but photography is a way of expressing himself in a moment what would take hours to express in words.
Angela Denise Wilson
She is a Communications Studies major. She enjoys photography and graphic design. Her style or influences stem from various elements of pop culture and ideas which she likes to refer to as “Randomonium.”
Red Rhythm was motivated by my desire to change and use glass in a different way. I drew inspiration from Elton John’s famous “red piano” and my love of music. I enjoy intertwining elements of my everyday life into my art.
Suzanne is a junior painting major on the Bachelor of Fine Arts track. In her artwork she aims to present alternative perceptions of common experiences. By translating images of women from the media she hopes to raise questions about censorship and violence in the fashion realm as well as the social phenomenon of beauty.
Rachel is currently an MFA candidate at UTK. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004 and is originally from California’s North Bay. Her series of paintings, that include both “Femme Mask” and “Tom Mask,” deconstructs the formal qualities of the head or face, while exploring the complexities of the psychology within.
The concept of the “balloon people” is meant to represent man’s disconnection from reality and lack of self-awareness through their obsession with a fast paced mode of life, which is dictated by technology, where instant gratification and mindless entertainment seem to be the primary concern of our age.
Sheldon Graham B.F.A. Painting 2006, I am currently studying ceramics as a second major. I am interested in working with chance, and the depiction of feelings. I use coffee as a stain, grounds and watercolor. Phoenix ••• 55
Editortial Staff Editor in Chief ••• Jessica Pollock Managing Editor ••• Jessica Neal Poetry Editor ••• Sean McDougle Fiction Editor ••• Willoughby Parker Art Editor ••• Abigail Hammer Design Editor •••• Erin Hatfield Public Relations Director ••• Will Barnes Support Staff: Copy Editor ••• Molly Rigel Web Design ••• Linda Nguyen Web Content Assistant••• Jenn Stinnett Video Editor ••• Aaron Simon Video Assistants ••• Ellen Larson Molly Rigell Advertising Manager ••• Jaimie Updegraff Advertising Assistants ••• Rebecca Dixon Kelsey Roy Distribution Coordinator ••• James Hauge Distribution Assistant ••• Douglas Johnson Faculty Advisers: Jane Pope Eric Smith 56 ••• Phoenix
I never know what’s going to happen; it’s a type of anxiety. It’s not for the faint of heart. -Arther Smith You don’t know if it’s going to be any good or not, but that’s not the issue; you just want to be doing it. -Marilyn Kallet An art professor once told me the most important part of the creative process is acceptance. Acceptance requires no skills, ideas, or materials. Whether committing to a word, metaphor, line, or form, the artist cannot see beyond the most immediate choices in their making. They never know what’s going to happen. They never know if it’s going to be good or not. Yet, the artist accepts these risks and consequences of creating. It is their Ethos. It is their starting place. This ability to live in the space of the unkown is at the heart of acceptance. Knowing you just want to be doing it and putting out the other voices–the “cannot’s”. This publication marks the completion of my fifth and final semester working with the Phoenix. Never have I seen such quantity and quality of work submitted for consideration, which is a testament to the growing interest in our magazine over the past year. It was truly an honor to sort through all your work and agonizing, at that, to make the selections. Unfortunately, being an editor of a literary art magazine is like being one of those other, discouraging voices. But accepted or not, it is more important that the artist continue with their work. Bruce Nauman, a contemporary artist, said that the point where language starts to break down as a useful tool for communication is the same edge where art occurs. Thus it is through art, that we are able to communicate what language fails to and understand what language cannot easily explain.
Published on Jan 31, 2011
The Phoenix Literary Arts Magazine is produced by students every semester at the University of Tennessee student publications department.