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CALL + RESPONSE IMAGES ANSWER LANGUAGE HAMILTONIAN GALLERY 1353 U St. NW Washington DC 20009 1.23.2010 - 2.13.2010







INTRODUCTION CURATORS: WILLIAM JOHN BERT, KIRA WISNIEWSKI It’s common to hear complaints that there aren’t really any artists and writers in Washington, DC. We’ve heard it; we’ve even, perhaps, said it, back in those days of 2007 after we’d just moved here, Kira in September, William in December. But is it true? In June 2009, we both attended the opening at Civilian Arts Project of a show of rock concert posters created by artists from all over the East Coast. The crowd was large, friendly, and animated; the posters were sharp and imaginative and a thrill to look at; the atmosphere crackled with possibility and


experimentation. At some point during the night, we said to each other, Let’s do this. Let’s make an art show of our own. Kira had done it before, once, in Miami, and a notion to pair writers and artists had been kicking around in William’s head for years. Other than that, we would work from scratch. What started as an idea buoyed only by an attitude of Hey! Let’s curate an art show! is now, sixth months later, a reality. Sixteen writers and sixteen visual artists from Washington, DC, and beyond have paired to create artworks that resonate with each other in natural or strange but always exciting ways. For each pairing, the writer has provided the call and the visual artist has created the response. Call + Response’s participants have, as we hoped, given a new twist to the term the show is named for, traditionally referring to musicians playing off of each other. We believe the resulting paired works help to build a bridge between two distinct, fertile, and very much alive communities. Artists and writers do live here. Many people wiser than us, with more years in the District, already knew it, but we had to come to it anew, in our own way. On the surface DC may seem to be more a bubbling cauldron of bureaucracy than

creativity, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing going on that a deeper look can’t reveal. In the process of pulling together artists and writers, we tapped a rich vein of creativity that could supply many more shows like this one. This show simply wouldn’t have been possible without generative grounds for creation. Beyond the thrill of bringing Call + Response to life, we hope that the show expands the dialogue between two creative communities right here in our backyard and beyond. (And we hope that you enjoy it!) Start a conversation. Create something. Make it happen. XO WJB + KW


GORGEOUS EVASIONS CALL: ELEANOR GRAVES RESPONSE: LAM VUONG 1. July pontoon draped in night water hair green-lit beetle in the dark lake of cupped hands I refuse to be afraid 2. of eggplant at the bottom of a blue bowl tangy soup with silken tofu in the summer or explosions that 3. red orange plastic beads on the hem of the morning newspaper said 4. pulled some people’s clothes off


5. not afraid but I have to cry a little a. through death desperate unconscious b. like trying to be awake c. after scrambled eggs tortillas sea salt morning 6. money 7. and things slithery 8. we understand murdering lightning bugs spit out hard bits of their mate 9. because we think beautiful the illuminated banks lakeside rituals of acquisition and avarice 10. there isn’t even a question why explode.

+ ELEANOR GRAVES’ poems play with the tension between words and image: words tell us what we can’t see; images show us what we can’t put into words. How do they work together without cancelling each other out? Professionally and as a volunteer, Eleanor has been teaching poetry, literature, and composition to people of all ages since coming to the Washington DC area in 2003. She received an MFA in poetry from George Mason niversity in 2006. She is a recipient of the Mary Rinehart Award in Poetry as well as the GMU Thesis Fellowship the same year. Her poems have appeared in Phoebe, Practice, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Eleanor also teaches yoga in the workplace at various businesses, non-profits, and government agencies in Washington DC.

LAM VUONG was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to Vietnamese refugees. His photography, karaoke-works, performances, watercolors, and installations deal with the nuances of loneliness and confusion in dating and Asian American culture. Heading towards California, he started his MFA at CalArts last fall.


SUBURBAN ECLOGUE CALL: GERALD MAA RESPONSE: JON BOBBY BENJAMIN Volgar succede... Again, the streets empty this early hour, Sunday evening, except those two walking their pugs before the work week starts, there in the middle of the widened streets as the occasional car passes by. With the girl next door called for dinner and homework, the lone dribbling has ceased. My summer break, this visit home, the internship, my room... And dusk turns on the porch lights; yards make sure that facing windows here are far apart.


While I’m de-veining snow peas (with enough to save for lunch tomorrow) and boiling water, I wait for deer to gather on the lawns and driveways as they nightly do. And soon parents will close their windows just as Mom, between work and dinner and her lonesome bed, did for the room which Matt and I bunked in. With tongue clicks, we, as kids, would beckon the deer set in our driveway, anxious, seeking to be looked at with another kind of sight.

• epigraph from La Sera del di’ di Festa (The Evening of the Holiday) by Leopardi

+ GERALD MAA has translations appearing or forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Circumference, and Chinese Writers on Writing, as well as an essay forthcoming in Studies in Romanticism. He has earned a translation grant from the International Center for Writing and Translation, a Florence Tan Moeson

fellowship from the Library of Congress, and work study scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. An editor of The Asian American Literary Review, he lives in Washington DC. and teaches at the University of Maryland.

JON BOBBY BENJAMIN’s Artist Statement: The ghosts of an industrial past linger in our present, leaving a permanent footprint, an afterimage that can never fully be razed or removed. My recent work focuses on these architectural remnants - defunct houses and barns, weathered structures, and disintegrating object-artifacts. It draws on the urban landscape of Philadelphia and Washington DC, as well as on the scenery of my hometown, a small working-class coastal city in Massachusetts. I present massive, impersonal decaying structures lifted from these locales as delicate and intimate spaces by recreating them on a minute scale. Benjamin is a Hamiltonian Arts Fellow.


ON TAPE I’M FAST, SLOW CALL: CASEY WILEY RESPONSE: KATHERINE MANN The shot is of a ski hill, high green grass blowing in the wind, and then I’m in the shot, sort of me, running fast on flat ground, shirt off, back pasty white, running awkwardly like how a tall person runs except I’m short, elbows pumping high. I slow as I hit the slope, but continue. Running hard until I think I’m out of the shot (but I’m not), I stop, turn, hands on hips. I’m breathing hard, but could be yelling. My father had given me the video camera as a high school graduation present. It sat in my drawer for a year. But that summer, a reprieve from the social-insanity of college, I worked at a marina in my hometown and videotaped my life.


My father would often ask what I was taping. “Just the guys sitting around,” I’d say, which was the easy, mostly true answer; I’d hit record as we loafed on the boardwalk in Lake Placid—the nearby resort town—waiting for girls to talk to us (never happened); capping long nights in coffee shops and never drinking the coffee; watching movies in a friend’s garage. Most of the shots were continuous—camera on picnic table or a rock, nearly forgotten, trained on a lake or on five, six friends and shadow and campfire. The more complex answer goes like this: that summer, a sort of limbo, filming felt natural; college had sparked questions and ideas that didn’t yet feel like my own; I sort of had a girlfriend who lived in Montana and sort of had a boyfriend there; I had no major; I was meeting new people while trying to preserve old friends. It all sounds silly now, generic, but everything about me felt like it was floating and all I wanted to do was clamp it down. In the ski hill shot, I retrieve the camera, trudge back up the slope, film clouds, grass up close, then a tight shot of my sweaty face. I talk to the camera as if I’m talking to an audience, like these shots would become something, a raw

documentary about guys who had absolutely nothing happen to them. One of the guys offered to edit the tapes at the end of the summer. I’d tell him that I’d get them to him, but never did. After that summer, I never watched that version of myself. Maybe the images would be too lonely, too awkward, the confused reality of a kid existing. Is that me? The tapes sit in a drawer at home with the camcorder. On tape, I’m running awkwardly up the slope like a marionette. On tape, I’m fast, slow. On tape, I’m halfway there. On tape, I’m alone at the bottom. On tape, I’m talking to the reflection in the lens. On tape, I cannot stop. On tape, it’s sort of me. On tape, I wonder if I ever thought that I’d be thinking of those tapes in the way that I do now.


+ CASEY WILEY, 2009 Emerging Writer Fellow at Penn State Altoona, is a 2009 Creative Nonfiction MFA graduate of George Mason University. His nonfiction and fiction has been published, or is forthcoming, in Pindledyboz, Emerson Review, Monkeybicycle, Word Riot, Fringe, among others, and was selected for a Finalist for Glimmertrain’s Short Story Award for New Writers. He is working on a book about Social Humor, comedy and why he’s not very funny.

KATHERINE MANN is a Hamiltonian Artists’ Fellow. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and her Master of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has held solo exhibitions at Hong Zhuang gallery in Yilan, Taiwan; Guandu National Park in Taipei, Taiwan, Pressiton gallery in Miami, FL, and the Scott Center gallery in Westminster, MD. She is the recipient of a Fulbright grant and the Toby Devan Lewis Prize, and is a fellow in the Washington, DC SoHamiltonian Fellows program. Mann describes her work as an immersive fantasy world interspersed with moments of poetry, mutation, growth and decay.



After my mother and I moved away from my father’s eighteen acres in Western Pennsylvania—the only acreage on Dobbie Lane that didn’t produce something, not even coal—he bought a fifty-five-inch flat screen television. He placed it in the west side of the living room, in front of the window where my mother used to have her piano. Something about the blue flicker of the new television filled the spaces that she left behind. Something that the natural light couldn’t do. It made him forget that her side of the dresser was empty, and the master bathroom was still a shell of 2x4s and exposed wiring. On the every-other-weekend rotation, I came back to visit


his brick and siding split-level house as a guest. There were new house rules that came with the television, which included more naps in front of the television and meals of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies and cans of Royal Crown Cola. There was no one to tell him that he couldn’t smoke at the dinner table, where he shot at the deer eating the dogwood trees that lined the red clay road. The walls eventually saturated to the color of nicotine. The dust behind his bed grew like ivy. The dandelions held siege on the lawn. He stopped cutting his hair and the lawn. The springs on the gold velour couch had loosened where he and I took naps, a glass of Wild Turkey on the end table. Pressed against his cotton shirts, I fell asleep to the Errol Flynn’s sword clashing and Maid Marion screaming in the background. When I demanded bedtime stories, I got the entire catalogue of John Wayne instead: El Dorado, True Grit, Donovan’s Reef. I asked for a lullaby, and he put on Blue Hawaii. The blue flicker deceived him into thinking that he wasn’t alone. I would often awake at 2 a.m. to a snow pattern on the TV and my father’s sunken eyes twitching and his Indiglo Timex illuminated. Seventeen miles north, in my mother’s house, the rules

became vastly different. I had to sneak around the television. I had to lower the volume so that she had no idea when I was watching more than my allotted one hour a day while she graded papers in her study. My mother believed in the negative effects of television—obesity, violence, sin, impractical real estate expectations. It wasn’t so much an argument over high vs. low art, but that television was an impractical thing. She pushed sensible activities—learning Chopin’s “Op. 27 no. 2: Nocturne” on the piano, reading the Bronte sisters, a good night’s sleep. I missed MTV in the ‘80s and early ‘90s because of her dogma, something for which I never entirely forgave her. I equated her dismissal of television and all contemporary forms of media to her paranoia of milk containing too many hormones. When my mother started going out in the evening—men with whom I couldn’t make eye contact—I left the television on while I warmed up leftovers, while I read in the other room, while I took a shower—I timed it so that the Seinfeld theme song would be playing by the time I turned off the water. It eliminated silence from the equation. I sometimes fell asleep in front of the television, rolled up in a blanket that smelled so much like static, waiting for these men to bring her home.


My biggest fear was not waking up before she got home, and forgetting whose couch I was sleeping on. I was afraid that I would mistake the blanket for the sleeves of my father’s shirt, imagine the smell of cigarette smoke and the pinch of whiskey, and think that it was okay to have the dead-air pattern on the television flickering as a night light.

+ JEN GIRDISH is a newly-minted MFA from Lesley University, where she worked with Post Road Magazine. She is the project lead for the 826 DC student anthology. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Washington Post, the AV Club, the Washington City Paper, Venus Magazine, and has an essay forthcoming in Salon.

LEAH FRANKEL’s Artist Statement: My work deals with the organization that man has projected onto nature, such as the theoretical study of mathematics and the physical manipula-

tion of natural material into man-made forms and ideas. I make delicate arrangements of natural materials to create seemingly arbitrary but logical structures. I also observe natural phenomena and make studies which invite natural effects to take their course. I choose to collaborate with the earth. Most importantly, I am interested in what will remain and what the natural systems of the earth will destroy. Leah Frankel is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow.


THE ACCOUNTANT CALL: MATT GAJEWSKI RESPONSE: GIORGIA LUISA HORRELL When I was five years old, I was convinced that an accountant lived beneath my bed. I could not see him, but could hear him, the moment the lights went out: “Mathilde,” he whispered. “Two copies of the income statement for the third fiscal quarter.” Who is Mathilde? I thought, trembling. And: What is a fiscal quarter? My parents were of no help. They peeked beneath my bed, announced, “No accountant,” and flicked off the light, leaving


me alone with the sounds of his typing, faxing, invoicing. I was on my own. I slept with a knife beneath my pillow. I taught myself the rudiments of Tae Kwon Do. I tossed leftover baked beans onto the carpet to dissuade the accountant from hungering for my blood, flesh, and bones. “Mathilde,” he said. My fingers gripped the hilt of the blade. In time, my parents discovered the baked beans. They discovered the Tae Kwon Do manuals, and the knife. They were not pleased. “Stop being ridiculous,” they said. “There is no accountant beneath your bed. And even if there were, accountants are not dangerous. They take care of our money. They are our friends.” But they did not hear his whispers. They did not hear his rasps. They did not hear him call out, “Mathilde,” again and again in the night, demanding bank statements, expenditure reports, subsidiary ledgers, balance sheets, accounts receivable, his voice dripping with wantonness and lust. The accountant was no friend of mine.

+ MATT GAJEWSKI was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1984. In 2002, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he earned a degree in music engineering from the University of Miami. In college, Matt created a radio program called Pure Imagination which featured his darkly comic short stories and improvised narratives set to music by Miami-based composers. Pure Imagination has aired on Miami’s 90.5 WVUM-FM since 2005, and selected stories from its third and fourth seasons were recently compiled into an illustrated book with drawings by artist Zach Danesh.

GIORGIA LUISA HORRELL is a collagist and illustrator currently living in Washington, DC. She was born in 1984 in Los Angeles, California – where she lived before moving to San Francisco. She received her BFA in Visual Arts at the University of San Francisco in 2006. Her works are a development of her captivation and childlike fascination with her surrounding environments. She has shown in several group shows in San Francisco and fairs in Los Angeles.


DARK RIDE CALL: DANIKA STEGEMAN RESPONSE: MICHAEL DAX IACOVONE * We lift tattered plastic and glass shards. Our backpacks fill in an hour. You avoid shotgun shell casings. I kick them and their sound returns against stone the river smoothed before the water all disappeared. * We don’t have adequate images for what’s left. I want to place


a Ferris wheel beside a dead river. You say a man must eat his shoe in one of the wheel’s seats while his lover pulls a tree down leaf by leaf. * In a salvage yard of spidered glass and wire nests, we exchange hubcaps for cash. What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is reflected in aluminum and chrome. Each material its own weight and place. Amid gutted machines I tell you nothing pleases me like a Ferris wheel revolving. * Houses talk chimney smoke to each other across the river bed. I think to myself ‘the river had a mouth and you hold water at home under your tongue.’ Green traces a path where plants and animals decompose.

* Each second is a new plane balanced on its predecessor. A gust of wind abandons the junkyard and we must listen to its long decay. I press my ear against cracked fiberglass; it makes a scraping sound. * Someone left photos with scorched corners in a makeshift fire ring. All the photos show the same woman. She gestures at places on her head where clusters of hair are missing. I feel for the matches in my jacket pocket. * We trace our names in the dirt skirting the river mark. We give to the dirt what we give to each other and what we give to the trees: a cross between toxin and bone. The trees shake giving their leaves.


* The pleasure of light is to succumb. A Ferris wheel revolves. From above, I mark the ground where you wait. I mark you again standing in the same place. We are soldered joints. The carnival searchlights scatter and slip into one beam. They build our deja vu. * You are my witness. Your eyes follow me. But what we can’t see takes, and I’m afraid that like the things we don’t need each other. * The forest floor is carpeted in leaves. The quiet holds our mouths closed. We listen to the trees eat themselves. * Metal rusts alongside tree roots.

Is this one shade or many shades compounded? A handle gleams like water. If a handle, then surely a door. You hand me a shovel and we dig a deep hole. The dirt smells cold because it is.

+ DANIKA STEGEMAN graduated from George Mason University’s Creative Writing MFA program in May 2009 and co-edits the journal Rooms Outlast Us. She currently lives and works in Bethesda, MD. Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Cimarron Review, and Juked.

MICHAEL DAX IACOVONE is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, and this is his Artist Statement: Hamiltonian Artists Fellow Artist Statement • I am interested in urban landscapes. • I am interested in formulas. • I am interested in rules.


• I am interested in mapping. • I am interested in experiencing spaces. • I am interested in experiencing familiar spaces through unconventional means. • I am interested in demystifying the role of the artist by revealing the processes. • I am interested in redefining documentary photography, by bridging it with fine art photography.


SPAGHETTI WESTERN CALL: CHRISTIAN HOWARD RESPONSE: IAN MACLEAN DAVIS I couldn’t sleep after seeing you in the hospital that night, so I stayed up next to you watching television instead. A Spaghetti Western was on, one you’d have known the name of for sure. But, since we both know I’ve never been good at trivia, I watched it all night long. Desert town, deserted. Something about banditos, borders, about two men settling old debts amidst clouds of dust, and burning saloons. Same ol’ same ol’, I thought. And then the final showdown: the spectacle of gritted teeth, of filling the silence with steady breaths, a sigh, a swoon, chest clutched and eyes turned upward, bulging out toward heaven. One shot hits, maybe two, and then both men left kicking at dust,


kicking at air. Is that death, I thought, is that really how it’s supposed to be? I have heard more or less romantic stories from friends. Shakti for instance, the woman I was seeing when you were about seven and I had just been fired again, works as a nurse in an Intensive Care Unit now, one over on the West Side, between the art district and Polish Town. She told me that when her patients die it is utter release: the eyelids flutter, limbs grow stiff; a cool paleness sets in all over. She said sometimes, with the older patients who have already lost control of their muscles, the smell can be unbearable when everything empties. The blood sinks down to the lowest points in the body upon death. And, she said, when you try to move them, when your fingers press into the baggy fluid-filled flesh of their backs, they groan and grunt like sleeping lovers. But it’s just the breath pushing past cracked lips and bright red gums. She said she’s seen other nurses scream and drop bodies this way. It is less glamorous than you might think. There is no moaning for salvation, no reaching for oncoming angels or swatting away demons. But, she said, everyone’s different. Everyone has their own spectacle. So when I found you in your bedroom, mouth oozing with things you’d tried to swallow quickly (because we both know

you’ve always hated the bitter taste of medicines), I ache thinking what it had been like for you to come so close to death and be pulled back. In the hospital you were tired, looked it, and I let you sleep most of the time. Once, I offered you a sip of water even though the nurses told me you weren’t allowed any, but those drips of clear liquids had you doped out of your mind, babbling about nothing. I wondered if you felt obligated to some final performance. How you would have loved seeing the heaving of your chest then, the bright sounds and paramedics rushing past me into your bedroom, them lifting you up and driving you away. The long, silent car ride I made to the hospital, and the way the fall leaves looked in those last few moments outside. But then in the hospital, it was just my eyes on you, and your eyes on the window. And after you fell asleep I was sure if only I could remember the name of that film you would tell me how this is all supposed to end.


+ CHRISTIAN HOWARD was born in Buffalo, NY. Growing up he spent much of his childhood writing form letters to companies soliciting free merchandise. To date he has received crates of soft drinks; a trip to the Bahamas; free clothing; a signed letter from Socks, Bill Clinton’s cat, and coupons for everything from free cases of wine to a one month supply of Snapple. A graduate of the University of Miami, he is currently a student in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Cornell University. Christian is working on a collection of short stories incorporating themes of race, migration, and transmutation among other things.

IAN MACLEAN DAVIS is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow. He holds his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. His works have been exhibited in Washington DC, Los Angeles, CA & Baltimore, MD. His artwork is collected internationally. He is currently represented by Hamiltonian Gallery, Washington DC.


ASHLEY CALL: CALVIN GODFREY RESPONSE: AMANDA SHEPHERD Ashley lumbered down the aisle, hefting a Marlboro duffel, his pillows of sunburned fat wrapped in a blousy shirt and roomy jeans. If not for two long, cultivated pinkie nails he could have passed for a small-town sheriff’s deputy. He hated lawmen, I found out, as much as he hated cities, taxes and crowds. There were no need for any of them, where he came from. Ashley sat next to me for the last leg of his journey, the two hours from Philadelphia to Lancaster. He had come up from Savannah that morning. And he would have driven, “’cept I had a wreck.” I didn’t ask, but the way Ashley said it, the wreck sounded like it might have been fantastic, even death-defying. He was on his way to a job. He


worked as a welder in “hot rooms,” he said— trash-burning facilities, nuclear power plants. “You work in groups of five,” he said. “Each guy goes in for 12 minutes and then spends the next forty-eight recovering.” He didn’t imagine that the work did him any more harm than my microwave did to me. “That stuff’s just out there,” he said. “It’s in the air.” We talked about deer. He killed deer so easily that hunting had become boring to him. “If I see a deer,” he said, raising his hands before him, clutching an imaginary rifle, “it’s a dead deer.” As he made this pronouncement, his pupil shivered in his eyeball. The shiver seemed to me proof of his marksmanship, the development of some obscure ocular muscle. I, by contrast, could hardly shoot. My only gun, a small plastic .32 caliber pistol, sat disassembled in my bag. I planned to stash it in my grandmother’s house in Lancaster after a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn burned down with her gun inside it. Firemen found the charred remains, and she went to jail. Ashley had 70-some guns. They would never leave him, he said, not without a funeral or two. This bit of information made

the people sitting across the aisle shift in their seats. I found the idea of 70 guns cool, while daunting. A large gate guarded the road to his rural neighborhood in Eden, Georgia—Hogzilla country. Whenever the spirit moved him, he could step into his backyard and just start shooting, and “nobody would say nothing.” It was raining in Lancaster and I wondered how my father would feel if I presented him with this chunk of woodsman: self-reliance and shivery eyeballs. Would my dad—all pudge and fidgety hands—give Ashley a ride to his motel? I wanted to do Ashley this favor because I wanted to show up in Eden, Georgia, one day and learn how to kill a deer just by looking at it. My father had recently moved back to Pennsylvania, to the house he’d grown up in, without my mother, because he couldn’t stand Los Angeles anymore. Now he seemed intractably lonely. Ashley didn’t know loneliness, or so he claimed. He loved living alone, he said. He barbecued deer and made a homemade wine from spoiled apple juice, fresh air and sugar. It seems lonely, I persisted. Isn’t it lonely?


He scoffed. His best friend was his dog, he said, and he never had any trouble finding women. “It’s quiet,” he said. “So quiet that, after three weeks, you’ll wonder how you fell asleep anywhere else.”

+ CALVIN GODFREY descended to earth in a meteorite. Young Godfrey crawled mysteriously from the depths, and was adopted by a doctor and politically savvy nurse in a hamlet known as Los Feliz. In fall of 2001, he enrolled at Cornell University. He spent his junior year at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland studying pasta, beer, and the theater. He graduated from Cornell in 2005 with distinction in all subjects. Somehow, he ended up in Daytona Beach, Florida. He learned how to shoot guns and write daily news stories. By the spring of 2006, he had moved to the Magic City. He took up work as a staff writer for a weekly publication known as the Miami New Times. During his time there, he saw many strange and ter-

rible things. The weight of this weirdness drove him back to the frigid north, where he can now be found patrolling Central Park—communing with the birds and squirrels there as an Urban Park Ranger.

AMANDA SHEPHERD is a fashion designer, custom clothier and freelance graphic designer living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. She received a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Kansas State University, after which she practiced graphic design professionally for 5 years, working for several advertising firms. In 2009, she entered an intensive 1-year degree program for at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, which led to her being selected to design and construct clothing for a volunteer project with Tim Gunn, host of Project Runway. She currently splits her time between classes in New York and her Baltimore studio.


AT DONNA’S, THANKSGIVING 1992 CALL: MATT KLAM RESPONSE: ANTHONY DIHLE/DIRTY PICTURES We flew to Denver and took a bus to Colorado Springs and borrowed a car and drove into the Rockies. It was a little red shitbox from a lesbian friend of Donna’s from her days at the University. On the long mountain switchbacks you had to hold the pedal to the floor and be patient. Closer to her house it got green, lakes and rivers, pastures and valleys. We came to a mining town called Creede, pop. 340. She’d brought me home, for the first time, for Thanksgiving. Who was I? I think I preyed on her.


Her mother, Annette, would die without warning a few years later, from a heart attack at age 52. A heavy smoker and drinker, though thin and stylish, she had her hair pinned and wore cute jeans with sequins stitched on the pockets, and had knotted her T shirt and pulled it through a decorative silver buckle that played jauntily on the hem. She wore eyeglasses on a librarian’s onyx chain. “The dog’s muddy,” she said, holding its collar, looking up at me. The people in that family were short. Her dad was a lineman for the county, just like in the Glen Campbell song. He ran and repaired power lines, and drove the volunteer ambulance. In the living room he’d hung a moutain ram skin on the wall he’d shot. The house was small and white and so rundown, with green trim and a tin vestibule nailed onto the back. The place was so tiny guests slept in the camper in the yard—a thing you climbed up into, on the back of a maroon pickup truck. I threw our stuff inside the camper. It smelled of woodsmoke and mildew. Inside was a potbelly stove. Though it was November it had been a balmy week across the American West, the ground was squishy, the yard was snowy, a madly weird sixty plus thaw. We’d arrived at noon. Lunch that day was a picnic, on the grill, a local brand of hot dog, at the green

painted picnic table in the backyard. Homemade relish, cold foamy beer. I smiled nonstop. I pitched in. I’d concocted a fever of hysterical excitement to fend off reality. I didn’t love her. What can I say in my defense? In my twenties, I don’t know why, every woman I met had been sexually abused. Maybe I had a neon sign on my forehead that only abuse victims could read. It gave these things a certain gravity. The intimacy forced me to participate. Although the men who did that stuff, they were trying to hurt something. In my defense, I was trying to fix something. They were trying to take something. I was trying to put something back. Because I’d been raised in a ritzy rural suburb in the east, where people rode horseback and were passionate about tennis and golf, I acted classy. But my parents had grown up poor, and my family had no money until I was almost out of high school. I knew what I was. I was living in Virginia then. I’d quit my job in New York. I was waiting tables and totally lost. Logging trucks roared down the two lane road and shook the


tiny house. Soon, the sisters arrived with their kids. The older one took one look at me and knew I would not be around next Thanksgiving. The other one was Born Again, and so I could read her mind, ‘look at The Jew drinking water,’ ‘look how The Jew wipes his feet.’ We made preparations for the glorious meal. The husbands arrived. One was an EMT. The other worked the power lines alongside the father. We played catch with their kids in the yard. I was the one without a moustache or beard. I wanted to help. The father asked me to carve the turkey. He was glad to hand me the knife. He’d recently embraced some aspect of his Scottish lineage, and had in his possession a red tam-o-shanter with a big white ball on the top, and kept flipping it on his head all afternoon and evening. He had whitish yellow hair and a red face. He told me about hunting game in these mountains. He told me his rifle company had been overrun in Vietnam. I remember popping the arm off the turkey and looking at that luminescent white ball of the shoulder socket, strange interior magic and mystery, and thinking, “This is the wierdest fucking trip.” But he’d failed to protect her. He knew that I knew. I felt so s-s-s-stoned. We ate. Because the parents were unexamined drunks, it was a late 90’s family dynamic of chiding, rebuke and remorse.

The kitchen table had white spots worn through the original tan color at each seating place. Above the sink hung a 1960’s electric clock made of plastic wicker. From out in the yard, their undocumented dogs stuck their noses through a hole in the kitchen door. We cleaned up. The mother put her hand on my back when she kicked me out of the sink. The house felt soft, plywood patches in the living room floor bowed beneath my feet, couches were fully broken in, the recliner was flesh-colored velour, stained, frayed and sweatmarked. Even the walls were soft. The town stood at 9000 feet, the temperature had dropped below freezing, and in the camper that night we lay on soft, old quilts with a bleached out moldy smell and it all was likeable, not from pity but from a thousand things. This family’s rules were different, their coping. You could hear the rest of them in the house, laughing at volume, it sounded like Jerry Springer. Our fire burned and lit my heart.


+ MATT KLAM is the author of the short story collection Sam The Cat, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Esquire Best Book of the Year. A correspondent for GQ Magazine and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Klam is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and a PEN/Robert Bingham Award. He is working on a new book of fiction and a story for GQ on the Jewish Haredi in Israel.

ANTHONY DIHLE/DIRTY PICTURES Born in Washington DC, and raised in Frederick, MD, Anthony earned his BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. His formal design training is paired with traditional illustration and printmaking, and is heavily influenced by the schizophrenic Providence / DC art and music scene. He is a strong believer in the process of making being as crucial (and satisfying) if not more so than the result of the final piece. Anthony has a DIY methodology and prints his posters in his living room on a former air hockey table using a variety of production methods including silkscreen, letterpress, linocut, xerography, and gyotaku.


2.19 CALL: JOE HALL RESPONSE: TATIANA SUAREZ If this is weeping, it isn’t; it is The gated mouth of a flooded subway It is bees iced in their hives, a crocus’ Spears shaking from soil; goodnight Goodnight, I love you, I love you too, Ok Sleep well; it’s the man who draws maps Of non-existent continents, naming cities After corrupt and dead popes or linebackers From the twilight of his second favorite football team It is a web page of clumsy pornography Waiting, hopefully, for its very first hit Svmer is icumen in, sing cuccu, I miss you


Goddammit, you’re like an actor with a gorilla Head and an elephant head and all the animal heads There’s no need to go to the zoo and I’m Already walking on all fours, to give it A name, to give it anything; I know This isn’t weeping, but it has the same rhythm

+ JOE HALL is the founder of the Washington DC area reading series Cheryl’s Gone. In 2010, his first book of poems, Pigafetta Is My Wife, will be put out by Black Ocean Press. Individual poems have appeared in Versal, Phoebe, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, and others. His words have also seen gallery action through the filter of Alyssa Pheobus’ (tremendous) prints.

TATIANA SUAREZ (b.1983) is a Brooklyn-based Miami native. This emerging artist is an alumni of the University of Miami’s Graphic Design program, and also works as a freelance illustrator. Her charming style is distinctive — first, the trademark eyes that draw the viewer into a beautiful and surreal world. Suarez takes full advantage of the oil paint’s ability to create creamy, soft images on canvas. Rich with symbols that stem from her Brazilian and El Salvadorian heritage, subjects appear as if they are under water, frozen in lovely stillness. The doe-eyed figures look childlike, but also exude sexual overtones, ornamented with plants, insects and other unsettling accompaniments. Beauty is presented concurrently with exotic — even creepy — creatures to create enchanted narratives.


WHAT HAPPENED CALL: DAN BRADY RESPONSE: RACHEL CROUCH You accused me of consuming too much with my calm, sad face. I couldn’t stop, so I didn’t feel remorse. I began to rot from the inside. I understand what happened. To save yourself you came to view me without care or doubt, another bug closed in on the porch, dead against the window. To go back, even one step, is impossible and imperfect. Beyond love is mercy, and beyond mercy, oblivion. You look at me now as a project turned unrecognizable to you,


just as God cringes at the bitter taste of the rivers and the seas.

+ DAN BRADY is the poetry editor of Barrelhouse and the former editor of American Poet, the Journal of the Academy of American Poets. He is also the editor and founder of Growler (, a website devoted to reviewing debut collections of poetry. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Beltway Quarterly, Specs, and Circumference. He holds an MA in Arts Management from George Mason University and works in Washington DC as an arts administrator.

RACHEL CROUCH Chicago native Rachel D. Crouch produces work in varied media using color, texture, movement, and flow. Her pieces are about the impossible and the discovery of promise. Music, life, limits, and change are just a few of the themes prevalent in Crouch’s work. Recently, she and her twin

sister painted a live mural in eight minutes at the 24th Annual Mayors Arts Awards in Washington DC.


RELIGION CALL: MARK POLANZAK RESPONSE: ALISON HANOLD My apartment’s right across from a church whose main design feature is the color red. On the day that I moved in, there was a sign out front: JOIN US FOR THE HIGH HOLY DAYS. Men wearing yarmulkes milled about on the sidewalk. It was Passover. This confused me. The following Sunday, hundreds of Koreans poured out of the main door. One day, I saw a woman leave by the side door, and figuring that this was a special door reserved for people in the know, I asked her: “What is this structure’s deal?” She informed me that it was indeed a Christian church, but they let out the space for all sorts of things. Jews surrounded by crucified Christs. Sader plates rotting in the back room during sermons. Matzoh for communion. A hymn harmonizing with the Kaddish. She told


me I could definitely come by. I am half Jewish (Mom) and half Catholic (Dad). I told her I might just do that. Tonight, the church fills up my window while Rich and I turn on the Celtics game and crack beer after beer. God is in my window, watching me drink, smoke, write, have sex. With myself. I try not to make much of it. I’d like to believe that I am spiritual. That writing is my spiritual act. But it isn’t. It is not spiritual. It isn’t even a passion. Writing is hard. It is stressful and rarely transcendent. But the difficulty of it helps me feel that I am alive. The pain that it begets helps me feel that I am part of the human race, because I am not working. I am not having to do the annoying commute. I am allowed to do whatever I want, and what I choose to do is be in pain most of the time, worried about not writing, and stressing out while writing. It is a penance. The real spiritual part of my life is the Celtics. This year, the team is amazing. Last year, they won the whole thing. I watched the finals on Martha’s Vineyard. Alone. Rich watched it at his mother’s place. Alone. My brother watched it in LA. Alone. My dad couldn’t see them win again, and this is why it is spiritual. He is most with me during the Celtics. Which sounds kind of pathetic. But I am not alone. In this belief.

Rich and I cheer. Rich and I drink. Paul Pierce hits a three. We say: “YAH.” Kevin Garnett gets a block, we say: “RAH!” Rondo splits the D, and we say: “OOO!” We speak in tongues when the shot clock’s low. We meditate during time-outs. We imbibe heavily when the victory is ours. And more heavily if it is not. I stand up and replay a crossover and fadeaway for Rich in my living room. Rich mimes a behind-the-back. There is no ball, but we believe in it, even if we can’t see it. I rise up, fade away. Look: there’s no ball! 73

+ MARK POLANZAK’s fiction has appeared in Pindeldyboz, Adirondack Review, Third Coast, and The American Scholar. He has written for and edited several magazines in Boston. He recently completed his first novel. Mark lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is interested in sports and death.

ALISON HANOLD is a documentary filmmaker and the Associate Director of the Center for Social Media in Washing-

ton DC. She is also the VP of Membership for Women in Film and Video DC and is pursuing a masters in Arts Management from American University.


SMELLING MR. ROGERS CALL: MIKE SCALISE RESPONSE: BRYAN ROJSUONTIKUL Mister Rogers stepped out of the passenger side door of a white sedan that had pulled up in front of the building where I stood. I was smoking a cigarette at the top of a concrete stairwell, staring down below at a struggling bird that had broken its wing. It was my third day as an intern at Pittsburgh magazine, which shared a building with the studio that filmed Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As I took a drag on my cigarette and looked down at the bird—which flopped on its side in circles like a half-lit firecracker—I thought, “Someone should really do something about that.” Then I heard a car door slam, and saw Mister Rogers walking toward me. He wore a bow tie, not a long tie, and there was no cardigan. Just a long, fleshy flap that drew a droopy line from his chin to his collar.


“Hello,” he said as he came up the stairs, and I quickly blew out smoke and flicked away my cigarette. I might have said hello back. “What are you looking at?” he asked as he approached. “That bird down there,” I said, pointing down. “It’s injured.” Then he curled his arm over the railing and leaned forward, slowly, to see what I saw. “Well, there’s not much we can do about that,” he said, and he was so close to me I would have been able to smell him, if he’d smelled like anything at all.

+ MIKE SCALISE’s essays and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Ninth Letter, Post Road, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He has recieved scholarships from the Bread Loaf and Southampton Writers’ Conferences, and in fall 2009 he was Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University. He lives in Washington DC.

BRYAN ROJSUONTIKUL was born in Washington DC, and grew up in the central and northern Virginia area. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from George Mason University where he studied Art and Visual Technology with a concentration in Sculpture. He is primarily known for his duct tape works and installations that show influences of Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, The Washington Color School, and Hard Edge Painting where he creates psychological color fields considered Hard Edge Sculpting. Rojsuontikul is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow. 79

KISS CLASS CALL: WILLIAM JOHN BERT RESPONSE: BEN SAVAGE GARDEN Tonight’s the last class. Good. Teaching a kiss class is a terrible idea. How many times have you done it? Twenty? It hasn’t turned out the way you wanted. It never does. Not your fault this time. People yawned, skipped, passed notes, smoked during breaks. Smoked! Why are you here? you asked the first night. Silence. You looked at the raven-haired girl carving into her back-row desk and asked again. She stared back.


Let me tell you, you said. Because someone told you, or hinted, or otherwise made you believe you’re a bad kisser. Most classes look sheepish but also relieved—everyone else looks sheepish too. This class: defiant. You made your first mistake then. Told them, Know what? That person was right. Tonight, surprise, everyone is here. Drop your briefcase on your desk. A gift from someone long ago, before your teaching days. How beat-up it’s gotten, rips in the leather, two broken clasps. Right at home among the adult center’s scratched institutional doors and flickering fluorescents. There’ve been moments, of course, even with this class. Chad and the lipstick. When quiet Lorrie made the pucker-up joke and, for a moment, everyone forgot themselves. One lesson has them say which of their PG-rated body parts they like best, then practice brushing it with their lips. The arrogant ones say, My face—the ones who insist they shouldn’t be here anyway, who walk away with a D. Forearm, said the desk-carving girl, Denise. No one says forearm. There’s no lesson tonight. Last week you went over the sexual harassment stuff, sitting on the desk in your we’re-all-adults-

let’s-talk-for-real manner. They signed the consent forms. They know what’s coming. Final exam. Scan the room. Say, First up, Denise. She approaches. Basic, you say. No saliva, tongue, or teeth. What you got? Lips pursed, she hesitates. Your eyes inform her it’s nothing personal, just a job. She glares. Who made you an expert? she says. Everyone takes up her question. This class! Even Jesus, eager and clueless, who learned the terms ‘making out’ and ‘smooching’ thanks to you, asks, Why you know about kissing, Mister Statue? Fine. Mention the internships with actors, with students of facial anatomy, dentists and plastic surgeons. The years in Paris. The pitiless seductions of untold women (and occasional men), transfixed by the authority of your lips. Denise’s face all questioning: But why? Why are you here? Enough. Instruct her: Kiss me. Her face slackens. Your mouths meet.


Evaluate the mechanics: pressure, alignment, responsiveness. Wait. Something’s wrong. The sensations are all smeared together. Open your eyes. There’s the briefcase. Empty your mind—too late, the questions already coming: where is she now, the one who gave it to you all those years ago? Is it still there, that deeply-buried knot pulled tight by her departure, flattener of every kiss since as punishment for your mistake? But if not, what comes next? Pull away, heart pounding, Denise’s cheeks flushed, pupils big as olives. You want to feel something so much. Feel it.

+ WILLIAM JOHN BERT’s work has appeared in Colorado Review, pacificREVIEW, Sonora Review, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In 2007, he graduated from the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program, where he was co-Fiction Editor of the Sonora Review. He was a founding board member and now serves as Secretary of the Board of 826DC (formerly Capitol Letters Writing Center) in Washington DC. He enjoys house music and sometimes being alone.

BEN SAVAGE GARDEN Once upon a time, in a crescent center along the coral sea, Little Baby Ivy (LBI) and Little Baby Connie (LBC) exchanged some words about a popular female rap group. LBC noticed LBI’s dazzling heart earrings and peacock good looks, and thought, “She could be my best friend. For life. They traveled together to lands of children with tattooed eyeliner and metallic teeth, painting rainbows and flamingos wherever they could. So you can imagine what happened when those minds drifted to Argentina, and found the perfect third mind for their compound molecule. Little Baby Andres (LBA) was a furry critter with a wild soul, and a desire to nibble on candies–any kind, really. When LBA, LBI and LBC were together, it was like the best ketchup, and the best mustard, and the finest ground beef all happened to gravitate to the center of the earth, and, because of the flavor pressure, they’d all burst into delicious little nuggets; delectable palate pleasers raining from the sky one by one into every person’s and animal’s mouth. These three artists, based out of New York and Philadelphia, have combined their passion for photography, video, silkscreening, and drawing to form Ben Savage Garden. Individually, their work has been featured in publications, installations, and shows around Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York.


FIVE WITHOUT IMAGE CALL: WADE FLETCHER RESPONSE: MAGNOLIA LAURIE the curious case of E is that we stand near inscription rifles bound as claim to there’s little point here zero transfer corporate then boundless suppose the thing and it claims treatment for an object one directly asunder an other these sort might take patterns different set to whole


now not standing or speaking numbers build probable anchor back space to unmeld once put a dot here a series then all speaks all tried or if it’s the case of G then another matter scrapped entirely what it meant to organize fields into void counting upwards again alongsides now

what is thought as word chance for it all to line up correctly chance for let’s ought of assumption a joke made now and

+ WADE FLETCHER lives in Falls Church, VA with his wife and their wonderful new son. He teaches composition, literature, and poetry at two of the George universities: Mason and Washington, and also serves as assistant manager for Fall for the Book, a yearly literary arts festival. He completed his MFA in poetry in 2008 at GMU, where he held the Heritage Writer Fellowship. A former poetry editor for Phoebe, he now cocoordinates Cheryl’s Gone, a monthly multi-genre reading and performance series in Washington DC. His chapbook, Snitch Culture, was published with Dusie Press in 2007, and recent poems have appeared in Barrelhouse and Versal.

MAGNOLIA LAURIE is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, and here is her Artist Statement: In my paintings, vast, often desolate, spaces are depicted. Referencing the arctic or the desert, they are invented environments posing the question: where do we go from here? Structures appear within the landscape, some proposing a possible system of communication, others referring to a vulnerable and perhaps futile attempt to create shelter. The structures and systems created are illogical; they


are delicate and makeshift in a way that may not endure their own weight, let alone the impending disruptions. Yet, they are made, and to me they reference the sustained need to try, to build, to create, even in the face of complete futility. My paintings are of invented architecture and imagined ruins, they represent the instinctive, sometimes manic, and desperate act of building, and within them I am thinking about the cyclical rise and fall of civilizations.


BLISS FERREL, PIRATE IN THE AGE OF REASON CALL: SEAN CARMAN RESPONSE: MALCOLM MAJER His father was a bookkeeper for an iron trader. His mother died bringing him into the world. From the attic window of his childhood home he gazed across the English Channel, dreaming of the distant shore. When he was 15 a press gang apprehended his father, who was in his study reading Locke. Vengeful and abandoned, the young Ferrell devoured the family library, starting with the open book his father left behind. He had always been a terrible reader. Now he became a voracious one as well. The following spring he shuttered the house, renounced his loyalty to England, and boarded a sloop for Hispaniola. From


there he sailed to Nassau, the refuge of the pirate republic. The year was 1717. “I’ve seen enough of the so-called rule of law,” he said to the pirate Blackbeard, when he found him in his jungle hideout. “So you want to become a renegade, then?” Blackbeard asked, his eyes black like obsidian. “No,” Ferrel replied. “I already am.” The pirate life came naturally. Its violent plundering balanced Ferrel’s introspective tendencies and calmed his abiding rage. He quickly gained a reputation as a ruthless and inquisitive marauder. He marched the captains of looted galleons to their quarters and, under the shadow of his raised cutlass, insisted they relinquish their prized volumes. At nightfall, with the burning galleon listing heavily behind them in still water, Ferrell would pass the bottle and lecture his fellow pirates on natural law and the inalienable rights of man, concepts they intuitively grasped but lacked the schooling to articulate.

He led fortnightly lectures and discussions, and kept a journal. Always he returned to the same question. “Why,” he asked, “are we pirates?” Even as he helped shape the traditional pirate narrative—a band of rum-loving brigands plundering the wealth of empire—he sensed its limitations. “What we need,” he wrote, “is a philosophy of piracy.” “Are not merchant ships plying the open seas as guilty of plunder as we pirates?” he asked. “Their robbery of tea, minerals, and slaves is sanctioned by royal decree. Ours is managed by hooligans for whom sobriety is death. But it amounts to the same thing.” The pamphlet of his shipboard lectures, “The Pirate Cause,” was carried by the Avenger to Paris, and circulated there to minor acclaim. He dreamed of retiring to that city, and the life of its street cafes. But it never came to pass. There was always another armada on the horizon, another galleon to plunder, another treasure to carry home.


He met his end on the bowsprit of the trading sloop Rembrandt’s Honor, in a sword fight with its first mate, their dueling silhouettes half-shrouded in smoke and back-lit by the ruby glow of cannon fire. It was, Blackbeard later reported, the most surreal tableau he had ever seen. “So beautiful it was,” he said, “I chanced to think it but a dream.”

+ SEAN CARMAN writes regularly for the McSweeney’s website and the Huffington Post. He has contributed to three McSweeney’s humor anthologies, and he wrote the fake introduction to Stumbling and Raging: More Politically-Inspired Fiction, an anthology of politically-oriented fiction edited by Stephen Elliott. He has also written for the Comedy Central website and has contributed stories and articles to Bridge, Hobart, The Exquisite Corpse, and ReadyMade, among other publications. In 2009 he was awarded a residency at the Norton Island Writers’ Colony. He lives in Washington DC, and works as an environmental lawyer.

MALCOLM MAJER is a practicing furniture designer/ maker with a studio in Baltimore, MD. He received a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005. His work has been exhibited in Baltimore, Brooklyn, Providence and Richmond. He has worked as a craftsperson professionally for five years, and he currently runs a studio where he designs and builds furniture and architectural metal work.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and foremost we would like to thank all 32 wonderful participants. Your creativity and work is inspiring. Thanks to Sean Logue and Angela Goerner at the Hamiltonian Gallery, and especially thanks to gallery director Jacqueline Ionita, who was incredibly supportive from the beginning and did so much to take our little idea and bring it to fruition. Thanks also to Paul So, owner of the Hamiltonian Gallery, for creating such an incredible space. Thanks to Anthony Dihle for creating the iconic (in our minds, anyway) can + kitty posters for the show. You can see more of his work at <>. Mike Scalise deserves a big hand for designing and redesigning the chapbook and putting up with WB and KW quarrels on typefaces. J.T. Smith was extremely helpful and generous with the delicious beer of Flying Dog Brewery. Thanks to Mark Wisniewski for putting up the fancy Flash component of our Web site. Thanks to Allyson Rudolph for making copies of the


writings for the opening and for an afternoon of wheat pasting fun around U Street. Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about the show and to everyone who came to the opening or wished they couldâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;you have no idea what your support means to us. And to you. Yes, you reading this right now. Thanks! We love your face.


Call + Response: The Chapbook  

Compliation of visual and textual works from DC-based writers and artists.