Featuring John Siddique and Denise Duhamel Plus John Walsh Susan Richardson Michelle McGrane Karen Head Matthew Hittinger and more....
poetry and art
Contents Issue 3 Features Michelle McGrane interviews John Siddique Louisa Adjoa Parker reviews John Siddique’s Recital Dustin Brookshire talks with Denise Duhamel
10 17 34
poets & artists
Louisa Adjoa Parker Lorna Shaughnessy John Walsh Susan Richardson Peter Cline Kelly Cockerham Aldo Alvarez Jayne Bauling Joyce Ellen Davis James Brush Rupert Fike Heidi Schulman Greenwald Howie Good Amy George Carolee Sherwood Karen Head Robert E. Wood
Blake Leland JC Reilly Mimi Vaquer James Wilk Dustin Brookshire Matthew Hittinger Michelle McGrane Cheryl Snell Jay Arr mmSeason John Goodman Jennifer Saunders Adrienne J Odasso Korina Karampela Mike Lyne Ryan Garth Mitchell T.J. Jarrett
4 5 6 8 18 20 21 21 22 24 25 25 26 26 27 28 28
29 30 31 31 32 38 40 41 42 42 43 44 46 47 48 49 50
Artists Adrian Pickett’s work appears on page 4 James Brush’s work appears on page 24 Christopher Wood’s work appears on page 27, 30, 47 Jeff Foster’s work appears on pages 33, 39, 40, 51 Sarah Legow’s work appears on pages 22, 41, 45 Any unattributed images are from the editors’ personal collections. EDITORIAL Editors: Jo Hemmant (London) and Christine Swint (Atlanta) Associate editor: Marie Doyle website at http://www.ouroborosreview.com Please read submission guidelines at our website. Submission address: firstname.lastname@example.org Cover art: photograph “Fire Island Lighthouse” courtesy of Doug, whose work can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dougalug2005/. About the photo Doug says: “Leading up to the Fire Island Lighthouse from the parking lot. Slipping, tripping or stumbling was not an option here, it was way too cold this day and pneumonia was guaranteed if you went into the drink, not to mention the loss of any valuable camera equipment. Fire Island, NY.”
From the editors where stories unfold against a backdrop of seagulls' cries Louisa Adjoa Parker Reading a poem can renew the spirit in much the same way we find ourselves renewed by the changing of the seasons. As we enjoy the longer days, and maybe some time away from a hectic schedule, we can relax and allow the magic of poetry and the summer to restore our sense of what it means to be moving through this world. Her name is washed away With the rain Peter Cline Swimming in icy river currents on a hot, humid afternoon in Georgia, allowing the salt-spray to mist your face on a Norfolk beach, or settling into an Adirondack chair under a shade tree with a book of poems, all of these things help recharge us. Whispers light and fade like fireflies Kelly Cockerham As though our bodies are solar panels soaking up the light so that during the warm nights we find ourselves softened like butter on a counter top, receptive, open to leaps of thought, metaphor, simile, and the music of language. Watch me migrate to the blank page of the tundra, fill my lungs with sky-ink and begin to write Susan Richardson We hope you enjoy reading the fine poems we have gathered in issue 3. There are flights of fancy, confessions of intimate moments, glimpses into other times and places. Maybe these poems will help us all shore up our energy and light in preparation for the winter months ahead. He liked to leave the kitchen curtains open onto the winter dark Lorna Shaughnessy
Louisa Adjoa Parker The Town That I Ran To To Keep Me Safe The town that I ran to, to get away from someone's fists. The town that I ran to like a child running to shelter under a tree in a rainstorm. The town where I have made mistakes and no-one forgets, but they might forgive, where for some I'll always be the black woman with different fathers for her kids. The town where I've grown up, along with my kids. The town I thought was pretty with the sea wall curling round the harbour like an ammonite. The town where you can stand at the school gates and feel like a stranger after ten years, where the mothers stand in batches, hatch gossip like battery hens hatching eggs. The town where my daughter's family pass her blankly on the street. The town that holds drops of indestructible pain in its pockets like mercury, where I have buried men, where stories unfold against a backdrop of seagulls' cries.
In question, A.D. Pickett 4
Lorna Shaughnessy Winter Dark He liked to leave the kitchen curtains open onto the winter dark, lighting up the flags, the birdfeeder, a rim of wall, the shabby grass. On such evenings he became an actor on a stage of his own devising: the set was lit and the radio played up-beat tunes as he pottered, busy at the sink or ironing-board, serious about the role of self-sufficiency. And for those intimate hours, it was as if the light from the window could signal to the world, to himself, to those he missed most â€“ Iâ€™m doing alright. The music from the radio filled every crevice of the room and lent a rhythm to his chores. Sometimes he sang along, heartened by the arrival of an unexpected memory. Engrossed in sweeping the floor or peeling potatoes, his mind would travel so far from this set piece, so far into the past that he sometimes caught himself unawares, his own voice speaking lines from another play, another time. Part of a dialogue. Reminding him he was alone.
Pyre When she could no longer remember a time without pain she followed the firelight to river-banks lined with torches and climbed aboard a raft that would bear her downstream. The lumbering wing-beat of a single swan sounded overhead as she hooked the clasp of a cloak of feathers at her throat, surprised at the sudden nimbleness of her fingers, the straightness of her spine from nape to tail-bone, tang to point, like a perfectly weighted sword. When they reached the other side she took a torch from the raft to light a fire, to burn the husks.
Lorna Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in the West of Ireland where she lectures in Spanish at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her first collection of poems, Torching the Brown River, was published by Salmon Poetry 2008. One of her poems appeared in the Forward Book of Poetry 2009.
John Walsh Last Minute This year it’s Barcelona. Only you won’t be there. In the days without you, I’ll hear your voice, won’t have a clue which building is which. ‘The Lonely Planet Guide,’ you say. ‘You’ll be stuck for choice.’ I suppose there’ll be a street café you used to frequent. Nights the concierge’s eyes, as the slow lift rattles on its hinges. Street noise from below to which I feign indifference. I tell myself I’ll get through this on my own. I could have chosen Prague or Rome. Even if I know you are following my every step, your feelings crowded in the throbbing streets, the mapa turístico laid out in your thoughts. On impulse, you might regret you have not come. Had I insisted, you might have given in, your valid reasons dispelled at a whim. I am certain there will be moments I’ll feel alone, it won’t make sense. Still, I could have chosen Prague or Rome.
Gash I am the stone on the second of impact. I am the fear reflected in the eyes of my sister. I am the whimpering of my father, an old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. I am the crunch of my brother’s skull. I am the blood spattered on shivering faces. I am the thud of hungry clay. I am the gash in the earth, stuffed with bodies. I am the breath deserting the forsaken. I am the fading echo of consciousness. I am the panicking of the undead. I am the Reuters bulletin on the international news market. I am the twenty-seven words in the ‘World News’ section. I am the smudge of fresh ink on fingertips.
‘Guwahati. Villagers in India’s northeast stoned four members of a family, including two women, and then buried them alive on suspicion of practising witchcraft, police have reported.’ (Reuters June 14th)
John Walsh Del Pinto For me he was a name but my sister says she’d heard of him also. He was something my father held onto, a dream for another lifetime maybe, not this one. I think my father prayed for him at night on his knees, his back to the dying fire, bent over the settee. I imagine he thought of him at times when his heart wasn’t in his job; allowed himself a fleeting visit from an old friend who was part of him, the way other things weren’t. Maybe he was my father’s Kerouac, the alter ego of a man who never touched a drink, who put his wife and family before everything, and himself too far down life’s scale to ever stand a chance of making that trip, of hitting the road or working his passage on that ship, the way Del Pinto did. My father was three years older than Kerouac. He cursed when a watch spring broke, mumbled under his breath when my mother got on his nerves. He told me Kerouac was a bum. No real man would rat on his friends, name names just to sell his book. Del Pinto was above all that. My father’s prayers brought him safely to whatever harbour his ship docked, where he drank whiskey highballs behind my father’s back, just like Jack.
Pevensey Beach, Sussex
John Walsh is a poet from Derry, N. Ireland, who now lives in Galway on the west coast. He has published two collections: Johnny tell Them (Guildhall Press) and Love's Enterprise Zone (Doire Press). His third collection is due from Salmon in May 2010. John is the organizer of North Beach Poetry Nights, a highly-acclaimed performance poetry event in Galway.
Susan Richardson Bog Standard 1. When slanes sliced the bogflesh, the peat simply whimpered. Now, gutted by machines, its screams split the bladder of the sky. 2. I want to touch the bogblush of his cheeks, heal the skull that was cut to let the demons out and cradle his bran-brown body, stained remains of the bog’s last meal.
5. Here’s silverweed to unlock your jaw, sundew to help you breathe the truth, eyebright to make you see through lies. And here’s a stump of pine: ling heather and lichen thrive on the five thousand years of denying that saturate its wood.
3. Is that light which slinks through the peaty dark the work of the matchstick lichen? Or is it Jack O’Lantern, maker of shoes, butcher of children, colluding with the twitching ground to lure you in?
6. Bogsex is total. First, the kiss – a slight give – then, the suck, blackly, fleshly, downdowndown to that crushed organic place.
4. The bog’s tannic song pierces the fog, loops round the Vimy’s wings and yanks the two men on to the acid embrace of their landing.
7. Its blanket of composure slips. Black tears slurry down, howl into rivers, choke the sea as it hurls itself over the Cliffs of Contrition. 8. My finger’s the dibber that shifts the soil aside. The seed recoils, while the space beneath my nail tastes the pain.
Susan Richardson The Pen is Mightier What seemed like a lover’s tongue between my toes was the forming of extra skin. What my spine believed were prickles of unease were the birth-hurts of feathers. The words I found to shout and curse hardened into a beak, while the flex of my stretched neck almost choked me.
Kakapo When all that remains is the stutter of his name, he’ll stumble up the hillside, squat in the scrape he’ll make at the top, then pump himself up, suck the sky into his throat sac and once he’s wide as a football, a hot air balloon, the moon, he’ll boom his plumed nowness his nearly thenness his feathered on the edgeness his flightless on the brinkness his lonely only justness his going going almost goneness.
So now you’ve got the daughter you desired. Bride-white. Pond-perfect. And, but for this ridiculous hiss, no ability to vocalise. But listen, mother – when I appear to be gliding or serenely preening, I will shrug your fluffed-up gloats off my back and plunge my head deep underwater. I will see what you don’t see, tease out the tangles in the sub-aquatic weeds.
No she-bird will be stirred by his call. But it will bounce down the hill, rebound off the rimu trees, zing all through the island, migrate to the mainland, whirr down lines of latitude and longitude from the tropics to the poles. The soles of bushmen’s feet will vibrate with it. Eight billion ipods will throb with it. Ostriches and office blocks will topple from sonic shock.
And when I emerge, I’ll learn to run on the surface, unfold my wing-cloak, rise. Watch me migrate to the blank page of the tundra, fill my lungs with sky-ink and begin to write.
Only when he knows the whole world’s listening will he stop unfurl his wings and walk backwards towards us.
Susan Richardson is a poet, performer and educator based in Wales. Her collection of poetry, Creatures of the Intertidal Zone (Cinnamon Press), was inspired by her journey through Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland in the footsteps of an intrepid eleventh century female Viking, and one of the themes is the impact of climate change on the Arctic and sub-Arctic. She is currently collaborating with a visual artist, with a joint collection of poetry and prints, Up There Where the Air is Rarefied, forthcoming in 2011. Susan regularly performs her work at literary festivals and environmental events throughout the UK and is one of the resident poets on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live. To find out more about Susan's work, please visit http://www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk and http://susanrichardsonwriter.blogspot.com
An interview with John Siddique South African poet Michelle McGrane talks with British poet John Siddique.
orn in 1964 in Rochdale, Lancashire, John Siddique worked as a welder and landscape gardener before becoming a full-time writer. He has published four collections of poetry: The Prize (Rialto, 2005) Poems from a Northern Soul (Crocus, 2007), Don't Wear it on Your Head (Peepal Tree, 2007) and Recital (Salt Publishing, 2009). Siddique has been commissioned to create a poem for the seaside town of Blackpool, which will be permanently installed by the sea. His current commission from Lancaster University involves a series of portraiture poems exploring the immigrant experience in Manchester. John is The British Council's Los Angeles Writer in Residence 2009. He lives in Hebden Bridge.
John, tell me something of your family origins and what you were like as a child. My father came to the United Kingdom from India directly after the Partition; he was a factory worker and an Indian Muslim. My mother came to England from Northern Ireland at almost the same time. She worked in hospitals as an auxiliary. Being migrants from divided worlds, I guess they found something in each other. My main memory of early childhood is running: running around the house, running in the park, of being in motion. I was always interested in how things worked, taking things apart and not being able to put them back together again. When I was five, we journeyed overland across Europe and Asia in a second-hand minibus that my father had bought. We travelled to Pakistan to see his family, who had survived those terrible times after the division. I remember running down streets in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Will you describe the Lancashire of your childhood? What were the main social and cultural influences of your youth?
Our house had no books but one of my primary school
teachers recognised my inquisitive nature and began to feed me things. I was always to be found with my nose in a book, especially books about how the earth formed, how plants grow, how things work as systems, and I loved stories too. She would bring me books from her own home, and when I was nine she introduced me to the local library and helped me get my card. Rochdale also has a great little municipal art gallery. Every Saturday afternoon I’d travel the mile and a half on my bike, read books in the magical world of the old library and go upstairs to the weird silent place full of pictures. I had no idea what this thing was, but my love of art began. The gallery is still there, thankfully. Rochdale is a tough old mill town. Harsh industrial times have created a people not unlike its workings, but something in its pressure cooker environment of redbrick terraces and industrial units tweaks the creative gene. I guess it’s whether or not one can achieve escape velocity when you’re old enough, that is the deciding factor in what happens to you. I have seen the best minds of my generation fall back in on themselves in that town. My friends and I were heavily into drugs and music. The mid-eighties were a kind of second summer of love. We spent our times on the moors above the town, wishing the skinheads would die out. We would run the right-wing gauntlet on Saturday afternoons and go into the town to hang out in the shopping centre and flirt unsuccessfully with girls. We were our own influences. John Martyn’s ‘One World,’ Genesis’, ‘Lamb lies down on Broadway,’ these are what spoke to us and kept us going. Music, landscape and friendship.
Featured poet John Siddique
Your father's departure from home when you were six has been a recurrent thread in your poetry. How has writing contributed to your inner explorations, your personal journey? The search for the father has been a major theme in my writing. My mother is a bricks and mortar Irish woman and she tried her very best to be all things for my sisters and I, but the gap left in me by the lack of a father has been profound. Fathers are necessary. Unfortunately today if you use the words discipline and manliness some idiot will soon chime in the word abuse. Good words have been made into bad words, and I’m ashamed to say that for a long time I believed in these unlivable politics. When I started writing I was glad to find that my sense of questioning what is true extended to my own beliefs and actions, and so I write about the actual aspects of what it is to be a man, to miss your father, what it is to be a father and step-father and that it's a joy to be alive at this time in the world. I hate the whole battle of the sexes nonsense. Equality is what that aspect of life is about. Being human. Power struggles and thinking one is better than another rather than enjoying the complimentary nature of being women and men will lead us, has led us only to a terrible place of feral children who are incapable of love. Of course, I write about a lot of other things too. Over time I’ve come to realise I can only be the writer and the person I am, that if I have experienced a thing, others may have been through similar experiences. So it looks like I’m writing about personal experiences, and I am but if done in the right way the writing can have an open texture that the reader can see their own life in. I always try to avoid sentimentality and write down what is real and not put myself in the frame of the picture I’m painting. Even if I use the word ‘I’ it has to be used without trying to make the reader feel something. All the writer can do is show the landscape and the rest is up to the reader. I love that a poem that means one thing to me means something different to everyone else who reads it, and there is no right interpretation of the poem. Have your Anglo, Irish and Indian roots significantly influenced your writing?
I want to say no but that would be a lie. The fact is that being of mixed heritage gives you a hell of a lot of stuff to draw on, similarities, comparisons, differences. You also never fit in with one group or the other. I used to try to be white, I used to try to be brown, but I am one person not three, and crosscultural influences on such a genetic level make you an outsider. I think this is why I can write, because I’ve always had questions about everything. I used to resist my different cultures, wished I was English, but I’m not and I enjoy the freedom of not having any flag represent my soul. In my writing I use the simple questions and observations that come to me. Some of the things I see really frighten me, especially within politics and economics – how we try to sell off love and feeling – and so I write as a spiritual act to try to make a difference on some level, find some beauty where it has been overlooked and give it to the reader. Would you talk about your work as a landscape gardener? Before I started writing (I was always a reader), I used to co-run a gardening business in Manchester. We started the business out of necessity, to make a living, but there were joys that over time have stayed with me. I still grow my own salad in summer and have a deep love of roses. I am asked for pruning advice by my neighbours and always volunteer to do it for them. I get lost in certain gardening jobs. Eating food you have grown yourself is one of the greatest joys. Preparing land and rolling out turf which is warm to make a lawn is beyond any words I could use. I love mowing. It sounds crazy but there is a Zen-like feel to turning the mower and making the lines, the smell of the grass, that makes one whole. At different ages one reads and is influenced by diverse poets. Can you compare the poets who influenced you when you began writing in your late twenties with the poets who influence you now? I still love the poets I read when I began writing. My first real poetic experiences were with e e cummings and D. H. Lawrence. Like revisiting art that one loves, time has only made me love their work more. As I’ve grown as a reader, I’ve come to know my
Featured poet John Siddique
It's the study in the old vicarage in Hebden Bridge. I’m moving as I want to walk to work each day. We need our bedroom to be a bedroom again and there are distractions at home. I have a big list of books to write on my board. I need to give more focused time to these each day.
tastes better and I’m better at seeking things out. I do take a lot of risks in reading but there are things which I know satisfy me and I am happy to commit to them. I see my bookshelves as a treasure house of human experience and each book added to it is a refinement and a challenge. What I am surprised by is how wide my tastes have become. I thought that they would become narrower. Right now I’m about to start rereading Homer and at the same time I have Sharon Olds' new book on my desk, which I’ve been dipping into. I’m trying to write poetry for the 21st century and I find myself looking at seventh century Chinese texts to help me shape my ideas.
How does a poem begin? I have no idea. There are so many ways and not one of them can be replicated. Sometimes the poem is just inside me, as when I wrote ‘Cheap Moisturiser’. It appeared fully formed and I simply copied it down. With the poems in Recital, I went to work every day for three years, turned up at my desk and wrote no matter what, then spent a long time with the help of two editors working on the material until I had my book.
The Guardian is running a series called 'Writers' rooms', "portraits of the spaces where authors create". Will you describe your creative space? My space is just about to change as I’m moving my workspace to an old house a friend owns. She lives elsewhere but uses it for her work and lets space to people she likes. For a long time I’ve just had a desk and some drawers and shelves on one side of the bedroom. My desk cost thirty pounds in a junk shop in Manchester; it is solid oak. Directly in front of me is a set of dictionaries with different uses and many source books on symbols and meanings. I have some art around the space, a bookend that is a bronze John’s writing desk casting of a horse’s head that I fell in love with, a handmade paper blackbird in a box, a small painting by my favourite French artist, Herve, I have another of his pieces downstairs. The real creative space is my notebook. I have a lovely Waterman fountain pen that I bought after a big commission as a gift to my creativity. I always write in longhand with it, then I type up and draft on my old Apple G4 12” Powerbook. I dread the day it dies, as no one has made a machine to rival its aesthetic loveliness and usefulness. Apple seems to be getting computers wrong now, so I treat my computer with a lot of love. In the new space, my desk will face into the room.
In the act of writing the poem, what transformations occur physically and mentally for you? The basic act of writing for me is an act of love. I fall in love with my subject, allow myself to see what is there, whether it is blood in the dirt on the street or the truth of a moment between lovers. The outer and the inner are essentially the same thing. We believe we are sophisticated, but everything from inside is written into our bodies and into the landscapes we make. I often explore the outer to see the inner, but I never try to talk about feelings. Describing feelings in writing is manipulative as it tries to make the reader feel. I’m with Hemingway on this one when it comes to writing about people. Writing affects me a great deal. In writing about terrorism I have to allow the terrorist to be human. To understand what is happening one doesn’t have to agree or condone, but if it exists the only way to understand a thing is to begin by acknowledging its existence. Over the years I’ve been writing this has meant I have changed as each thing has written itself into me.
Featured poet John Siddique
and delusion have been repackaged into selfassured righteousness. We feed an empty economic machine which serves no purpose except to consume. Our humanity is the price. Ted Hughes stated that poetry and shamanism create a structure that allow healing to occur. Where Hughes used animal totems, I look at who we are. If Recital is anything, it is an artistic and perhaps spiritual offering for my country. I see it as an act of patriotism, not flag-waving nationalism, but love. I can’t help responding to the suffering within which we are engaged. People reading this might think it's a crazy idea but it is the only thing I have to offer – and I know we need poetry and stories as much as we need bread and money.
What part of a poem is usually the most challenging? I don’t see a challenge when writing. A thing that has to be written will be written. Writing is easy, turning up at your desk and allowing yourself to do it is hard. Keeping out of the piece is hard, unless you are writing a column or an editorial, you have to work at keeping out of the way. Salt has recently published your fourth collection, Recital. Tell me about Recital's themes, and how you settled on the title and the almanac concept. Did you have to do much research on almanacs? Recital takes Robert Graves’ idea that the poet is a secular priest whose job it is is to provide people with words when they don’t have words for themselves. It also takes his idea that the master poet has a particular task and he clearly states what that task is in The White Goddess. I decided to undertake the job of being a poet as it seems to be the thing that has chosen me in life. I wanted to have a job description and know what I was supposed to do. Graves' study of poetry provided me with a key which finally allowed me to align the deeper currents of my being with what I was already doing in life. The title Recital came after I wrote a piece about where we get our names and what they mean. It just popped out one day and it was the perfect title for the book. The book follows a year in the life of Britain through personal stories of love, fatherhood, landscape, belonging and national stories such as the London Bombings and the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. It also uses the thirteen moons of the year as its backbone; almanac was right for the second part of the title. It harks back to my gardening where I still plant seeds in correspondence with the moon as you get better growth from your crops if you use the moon for your timings. There are many books on the subject. Recital is a shamanic book. I believe our country carries a wound, and each day we’re making it worse rather than healing it. The last thirty years in the United Kingdom have been very hard. Greed, hatred
A lunar thread is woven through Recital with the thirteen moon poems. What meaning does the moon hold for you? The moon for me is the subconscious. Symbolism plays a strong part in Recital. In the book, the moon is about reaching into the dream place, the other world and using the answers found there in the daily world of work and love and being who we are. The next book will be a solar book. It’s half-done already and bits of it have snuck out in magazines but I won’t say which they are right now. I like to keep ideas to myself while they cook and become tasty. Would you describe the 'Inside' and 'Summer cycle' sequences? 'Inside' is a cycle of four poems looking at the London Bombings and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. I had to know how someone could sit on a bus and set a bomb off, so I had to get on that bus in my mind and be inside that person and know his life. What prayer he said in order to do what he
Featured poet John Siddique
I always like to include favourite poems by poets I love in my readings. I’ve been known to not read any work of my own at readings, just share things that have me excited by the poets I love. Reading live is a different way to approach the text. The voice lets people access the work perhaps in a more direct way – however, I always hope that it leads back to the text. But poems are meant to be heard aloud. I read aloud to myself when I read poetry at home. I just love to dive in and swim around in literature and share that love with whoever has come to listen.
did, who he would miss, what he saw and smelled sitting there, what the moment of contact between the wires was like. This doesn’t mean I condone it. I just had to know. The press at the time were busy vilifying and showing us the same images over and over again, telling us what we should feel. I had to see for myself. The Jean Charles poem is the same. I went to Stockwell where he was killed two days after the event, put my feet where his feet had walked for the last time, looked at the things he would have seen as he ran down the stairs. I wanted to see what was left there by his death. 'Summer' is very much a sequence that has been drawn from the unconscious. I won’t label it as surrealist, but it does use symbolism to create a sense of something. I can’t say what that thing is. If I could, I would have had no need to write the poems. Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it is profound. It certainly tells me a story when I read it, but you may read a different story. That’s the point, I think.
What do you enjoy about working with children? Writing for children is just as hard as writing for adults. I guess when I take young people’s workshops the thing I like best is seeing them excited by language and seeing what exposure to decent literature does for kids. They love the stuff. Unfortunately most schools teach literacy instead of John working with children literature, the belief that the mechanics of language is more important than the stories or content. I like being involved in turning that on it’s head and watching the life and excitement take hold in young people.
What feeling would you like readers to experience after reading your collection? I’d like them to love the people that they love and perhaps look themselves in the eye the next time they look in the bathroom mirror, wink at who they see there and maybe just let themselves be one tiny degree more part of all things. That’s what reading does – it makes us a part of the things we’ve read; if the writer has done their job right and told the story without making it about their own ego. Would you talk about your involvement with the Arvon Foundation? Would you describe Lumb Bank? I tutor for Arvon quite often, teaching poetry for adults and tutoring their young people’s courses. Lumb Bank is now called The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre. It's only a mile from where I live and it's where I first went after I started writing on the recommendation of my dear friend Peter Kalu. Lumb Bank is a place imbued with writing. It seeps out of the walls. A beautiful and special place. For me, it is where I stopped being a hobbyist and became a writer. I think for many people it is the place where their writing journey really begins. How comfortable are you reading and interacting with audiences?
Could you talk about your residences and experiences at Prestwich Psychiatric Hospital, Wetherby Young Offender Institute and Rainer Wigan?
There’s no easy way I can talk about any of these things briefly. They were all very big projects. I do have a basic ethos of taking poetry into places you wouldn’t think it had any right to be, and then using it to effect change. Literature by its very nature forces the reader into participating with objectivity. There is always beauty and humanity to be found in any place, our stories must be recorded, and I seem to be able to
Featured poet John Siddique
go into places and do that, so I do. Some of the work I did at Prestwich is published in The Prize and the Rainer Project material is published in Northern Soul. Perhaps, it is best to simply read the poems rather than me trying to talk about things that I can’t. I found that when people engage with literature it creates space for their souls. Television, computers, gossipy magazines, don’t give us that room. Books, I think, might be one of the most important resources for our survival. I once had experience of working with a young murderer who was very proud of his hard-man status. For me, prison should be about rehabilitation as well as punishment. I wanted this guy to become human and understand what he had done so that his sentence would mean something. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t do his time. This guy was so scary I had nightmares and daymares about him. It was as if there was no-one there at all. I worked with him in a group setting. Each week we read poems and discussed them. He always disrupted the sessions and had to be taken back to his cell. I was set to say don’t come back when he came to me at the end of the group one day and said “Sir, what have I done? The poems you showed us today were real. What am I going to do now? I’ll never have love or any life”. He then asked me to make him a reading list as he wanted to read more. He felt that reading might have an answer for him. Yes, he was still a murderer, but now he was present in his own life and the cost had started to dawn on him. It was a little poem in some anthology that caused the change; I can’t even recall what it was. In that moment I got a much deeper understanding of literature and poetry, not just as a therapy but as one of the major keys to our very spirits.
What are you reading at the moment? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway, One Secret Thing, Sharon Olds, and From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming. What are your thoughts on literary prizes? Pointless! Except that they sell some books sometimes, but the whole cabal of parties and who’s who is empty and self-congratulatory, all that mwah mwah airkissing and backstabbing. I mean, really. Where to from here? There’s the second draft of a story which is the follow up to Four Fathers. It's a completely different theme. The Solar Book has a title and half of its pieces in place, but needs to be finished. Currently I’m writing five pieces for Lancaster University’s Moving Manchester project, looking at immigration into the Manchester area, and I’m Los Angeles Poet in Residence so I’m heading out there after a few Recital shows to do readings, conduct seminars, lecture, make some poetry films and translate the work of Mexican women poets from Spanish into English. I’ll also be working on the new book while I’m there, so I’m scouting for material. I’ll probably end up in some places where I really shouldn’t be. There’s a very rock n’ roll side to being a poet sometimes. I have to admit I love that bit. I also love the fact that no one need ever know. For what would you like to be remembered? For leaving the world slightly better than I found it. It might be that I affected the smallest detail in someone’s life, but it’s always about the details.
John at the Recital launch in Los Angeles
Featured poet John Siddique
Holly Moon (alternate version) She takes his name and the black gate shuts, leaving all that out there, never returning. The woman I knew completely gone. She denies the changes; not knowing perhaps, her husband’s gate holds her in. A whole language blinked out
in a lock click. A terrible black five bar gate, its parallel road on an unspeakable hill. Forgotten things burn brightest when you don’t want them anymore. There is a beech in the valley connected by its roots to every other beech, a spider’s web of inferences, conference of impulses and touch. The planet’s core surrounded by fibrous neural networks, speed of light. Burying coins at its roots, writing wishes on cloth, banging in nails, pig’s teeth, and hanging feathers. All those prayers become part of the tree father’s skin. Fifty pence wind-chimes and unreadable notes moss up and fade – the volitions behind them moving under the soil, becoming forever’s. © John Siddique 2009
Where are you tonight Allen Ginsberg? Beyond our world that’s for sure? The minds of your angel headed hipsters collected in a few volumes on the bookshelf, the wholly holy world you promised us has been sold cheap. It’s a petrochemical world. Where are your beatific souls now, wailing your jazz blues? We’ve got the look, invented ourselves with beat attitude. Write our poems, keeping the holy in mind, on tap, Holy mind and the right clothes. Your America is dead, never existed. Petrol is dead. Take your mother’s screaming fits. The future is an ossifying Midwest, a drowned South, a smoking aftermath of Californian pine forest fire. Supermarkets are open all hours now, Allen. I thought saw you on the vegetable aisle with unseasonable avocados, force ripened apples, cold stored lemons. We remember you singing out Blake, unmade son of Walt Whitman, old hoofer, old goat, just another promiser of a spiritual revolution. I saw you eyeing up the boys, avoiding women’s questions. It’s you I follow round the store tonight, so many questions for you, skeleton balladeer. Troubadours are few and far between. There then, all the nights we were starry, now it’s a matter of the bookshelf and the road. You’re a history that hasn’t happened. Your history is history. I have seen the best minds of your generation dry and crack unknown and unloved. It didn’t happen, though you’d think it had, when your pages are bent back. © John Siddique 2009
Recital: An Almanac by John Siddique (Salt, 2009) John Siddique’s fourth collection of poetry, Recital, was inspired by Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. A series of thirteen poems that follows the lunar cycle runs through the book like a spine. Siddique uses this sequence to write about a year in his life, with poems about hope, childhood, parental absence, nature and significant events in our national psyche, such as the London bombings and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. The poems are lucid and well-crafted, precise – each word carefully weighed before earning its place. The tone is often conversational, inviting the reader in. There is humility here too, an acceptance that there are some things we cannot change, like the wind, the sea, or the people we choose to love: “We cannot tame the wind or the sea. Cannot/make them roll or blow our way. Taming ourselves/comes first, then we may laugh at them, scream at them”. ‘Facing You’ The collection opens with ‘Begin’: “and so this is a beginning (I seem/to know no other way, except the again and again/racked up on top of very other beginning/all the way back to conception” and ends fittingly with ‘The Death of Death’, perhaps an acknowledgement of art’s inability to heal: “This is what I ask of each book, / it is why each writer fails. We can but try”. Yet there is a sense of healing in the book. Like others before him, Siddique believes in the poet as shaman, as healer. He has said that he wrote Recital as a spiritual gift. In many ways, it is a gift to himself too. His father, who left when he was a young boy, is very present in Recital, as if here he were coming to terms with this absence. In ‘My Father’, he asks the questions as a child would and finds the words to express what so many of the fatherless cannot: “Where in the world are you? Did you go home?/or are you dead? I feel you in me/ but that could just be an idea in my chest.” In ‘Red Line (He Loves Me)’, he speaks as a man in pain reflecting: “His large presence when I am a small boy./The man of now wanting his father's love./The gaps between his returns, when I am full/of other stories so that I don't need him”. The language is always accessible, whether he’s describing the minutiae of everyday life, from eating cereal to things breaking, or writing about loss, death, religion, politics. Also fundamental to the book is Siddique’s mindfulness; he writes in the moment and wants his reader there with him: “and I’m going to breathe. I’m going to walk/these roads, I’m going to talk to strangers/and smile at your
children, I’m going to ask/ for a cup of tea when all my mates/say let’s get lashed. I’m going to make words/fit the pictures.” ‘Keeping On’ An intelligent, brave, witty collection, Recital will stay with you for some time, and you will want to return to it again and again – for it chronicles the uncertain world we live in, depicts humanity at our best and worst. “There is no new again. There is now and however.” ‘Ash Moon’
Reviewed by Louisa Adjoa Parker
Other people’s children He is eight and good at football. His mind flits blacker and whiter than a magpie from playstation to plastic sword, chocolate, internet, to nothing to do, to slamming the ball. He has a will of iron. Can bend his mother’s and my love for him like plasticine; when he wears his stick-on tattoos in the same place on his shoulders as I have mine, when he calls me ‘old chappy,’ as we scream through the air as human aeroplanes. I want so much to show him the world I know, make it right for him. Their Dad shows up every now and then, it blows this family sideways, the guy ropes twang off their pegs, until morning comes and the wind dies down, and he goes off again. I begin planting and parenting. Applying constancy at the thin end of myself. But here is the boy on a Saturday morning, next to me in bed, hugging his mother and I together, blowing at my chest hair. © John Siddique, Recital (Salt, 2009)
Peter Cline Flowers She sees flowers in a water-filled bowl ---Meissen pink camellia petals drift In a colorless medium Above white peonies rendered As flowering hieroglyphs edged in yellow A dodgy man with buckets on a sagging pole Walks forever across a bridge Whose perfect curve is unwalkable. But somehow the translation is perfect, And what the eye craves to fail The heart forgives
Envoi On her final bed Hooked and opened by pain, Spread and renewed, Ida thinks The world’s become a bowl Filled by brown noise That looks like water But moves like smoke.
She has found that though life Is thin and short, death goes on, Sustained by the bullion of memory ---Someone whispers; drops a fork; Chicken salad with tarragon On butter lettuce is brought in, And luncheon begins.
I was never here. I am always here.
She coughs, drops her fork, Pretends to be lost, And memory and thought go on. Her name is washed away With the rain.
This thought is caught In the orange folds of organdy drapes That are caught In the warm wind moving Over the browning lawn An inhalation Mistaken by the watchers For a breath that starts, pauses, Stills, is gone --- withheld.
“These four poems are all pieces of a cycle of 36 poems about a marriage that today would seem unthinkable but that placed in the context of its time was, in the most important ways, inevitable. The cycle is titled Emory & Ida.”
Peter Cline The Cricket Crickets rasped in the dust under dried, half-dead boxwoods; an August, the lady in the rental place had remarked, not felt in half a century, not since he was a boy. Stepping from the royal blue rental car, he saw the Funeral Home, door painted judicial black, two slim boxes joined at abutting ends, a ranch home, a train wreck, a diagram from a traffic court. Into mechanical cool, jostled by the heat of mourners --uncles, aunts, cousins --a cloud of voices like the cloud above Sinai, repeating one ancient word. A corner to be turned and there was the mahogany box full of crisp pillows and his mother propped, her glasses impeccably clean shielding shut eyes --He thought for a shifted second of the faded jack-in-the-box he was given at three, a spring-driven clown that popped when the weasel popped and laughed while he screamed.
Bedtime Tooth brush, tooth glass, Seconal --The diagnosis In abbreviation It is time to leave While the sheets Are clean, The smiles are Clean and Emory Can remember Who and where he’s been. A tumbler Of 2nd best scotch; A scratchy record Of Callas. Best pajamas And lights as low As lights will go And still cast A glow.
Turning, he greets a face like his own, receives words, returns them, and tries not to turn.
Peter Cline is a native of Atlanta who grew up with red clay and mosquitoes. A relative of the writer Flannery O’Connor, Peter lives in Cincinnati where the architecture is great and the chili not. Peter studied, briefly, under Coleman Barks, and was a member of the Gang of 400 poetry collective in Athens, Ga. in the 70’s.
Kelly Cockerham Dandelions It’s the yellow I can’t stand. Holding so deep, I can’t even look out my window at them. They close their eyes to the dark and wave their fists in the breeze. Their resilience shames me. Their yellow hurts.
The Golding For Johnie Cockerham Sr.
Even in death they dream. Damn them.
Whispers light and fade like fireflies and we sit in the half-dark stringing daisy chain memories to carry after, something yellow to hold onto.
I am tired of their company and mine. There I am at waking with my same empty vase.
All night I dream my grandfather’s breathing— how slow and deep, as if he is gathering enough breath to break the surface of heaven.
Dandelion, teach me to reseed. You know nothing of begging, but spare me your yellow today, your willingness to make the most of sun.
And me here praying he will go and he will stay. Time slows and tilts forward in blossom.
Just this once—in peace— kneel for me
Tonight, a moonflower, to open years of empty before me, to climb high enough
like a lover returning in defeat
to reach the golding edge of morning out the window before it sleeps.
Kelly Cockerham is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. She lives, with much joy and gratitude, in Maryland with her husband and two children. Her work appeared in issue 2 of ouroboros review.
Aldo Alvarez Diary poem, September 20th for Ron Pestana A medication for suffering has been discovered. I feel translucent, like a paper gown from a caring hospital. I am full of language; peccadilloes transform into analytics, superbia into embraces, judgments into ambiguous mirrors. Not so much a passing fancy, it's a moving feast for saints who leave you wanting more without you wanting in emergency rooms or city halls or weather stations. I want to float balloons for holidays and business plans, and not recall them.
Jayne Bauling Lunch from Akhalwayaâ€™s We get lunch from Akhalwaya's on Kitchener, flavour-layer rainbows that we take home to eat at the end of a scrapbook Saturday morning studded with small treats: Soweto and back to Jozi, secret shortcuts through weekend-desolate canyons with bereft buildings still seeping a sweating week, relentless pavements oozing the greasy sheen of anxious passage; noon back-city emptied out morphing into central frantic with leisure's urgencies, the busyness of on the way, going to, getting there, hurrying to meet the ripening rest of Saturday with security of Sunday for getting over, thinking through, sobering up or down, ducking/reaching/shutting out, doing family, going home and trying not to think.
Aldo Alvarez is the author of Interesting Monsters: fictions (Graywolf Press). He teaches English full time at Wilbur Wright College and, on occasion, creative writing at Northwestern University's MFA program. He has a Ph.D. in English from SUNY Binghamton and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. He loves to get e-mail at ADAlvarez@aol.com
Jayne Bauling has spent the last three years reinventing herself as a poet and writer for young people after a career in women's fiction. She lives in South Africa and her poems have been published in the journal Ons Klyntji and the 2008 People Opposing Women Abuse anthology Breaking the Silence; others have appeared on Litnet. She has been awarded poetry prizes by SAFM and POWA. Her novel for teens E Eights, publication date April 2009, won the Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa and she has had short stories selected for two collections to be published in 2009.
Joyce Ellen Davis Seeing Eve I once saw a woman, Call her Isha, heart and bones Formed, in fact, chosen, like Eve In Eden, by the breath of His mouth, By a rib in the sweet dough Of her flesh. Before she emerged Was it like a fire, then? Like coming Out of some great silence Not dark, not light, but out of some Infinite blank page set so suddenly Aflame: No Thing, igniting some dust, Some tinder, with sparks, bonfires, conflagrations Of particles created, colliding, decaying, Like everything she knows as real? And After Word, under a harmony of Constellations, after the naming of animals, Those beautiful beasts in the rumbling seas, and In the seeded fields, knee-deep in grass, or Above her, touching the air like God Walking on water, like men and caribou In marshes, planting rice, like women Dancing under trees, like children digging For treasures, like the painter with his Oils and brushes, like the doctor with his Medicine bottles and his pills, like the soldier With his rifle and his helmet and boots, like the Boy with his book, like the murderer and His victim, like the drowned, and the saved. It is so hard to be chosen; to be The Beginning of The Rest of the Story Is to divide and expand forever outward In a sequence of possibilities, growing greater With each division. We are mere followers. As simple as that.
Passage, Sarah Legow
Joyce Ellen Davis Ceres If you are lucky you will carry one night with you. ~ Michelle McGrane Tomorrow is a very long time away. Above you Cassiopeia boasts of her arrogant beauty. Below you the dust of some night-blooming flower clings to your feet as you walk among pedestrians and bicycles across the Pont des Iles toward Ville-Marie. This is how you come to the end. If you are lucky you will carry one night with you. You may forever after lie awake in the dark, hour after hour as if you had died, and time no longer matters, precise in its disbelief that tomorrow will be better. Think of it this way: pretend that you are walking toward someone who waits for you in fog, just across the bridge. If you are lucky you will carry one night with you. When you come to the other side, and the fog lifts, you find a tavern that sells Maranges, and an old woman sells flowers that smell of some night-blooming thing you can almost recall; for that moment, standing on the edge of memory: something that might really have happened. If you are lucky you will carry one night with you.
Joyce Ellen Davis is a writer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has published a poetry textbook, On Extended Wings, a book of poetry, In Willy's House, and a novel, Chrysalis. Pindrop Press is publishing her collection, Pepek the Assassin, in 2010.
James Brush We Talk of Trains Road signs, riddled with bullet holes, executed for the mathematical precision with which they spell out isolation, define and witness the desert loneliness. We talk of oceans, beaches beyond horizons, valleys hidden in the mountains, extinct volcanoes, ruins and the railroad tracks following the highway. A crumpled taco wrapper flutters up from the backseat. Someone grabs it before it escapes out the window. Dust devils swirl outside, wrestling earth and sky, spinning proof that everything only wants to escape. We talk our dreams in circles, always winding up at the same rest stop, a teepee-shaped gas station, the movie weâ€™ll make when we get home.
James Brush is a writer and teacher living in Austin, TX. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility, and was once a James Michener Fellow at the Texas Center for Writers. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. His poems have appeared at Postal Poetry and A Handful of Stones, and his essays have been published in The Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing and Good Gosh Almighty!. He can be found online at Coyote Mercury (http://coyotemercury.com/blog1).
A train rumbles alongside us; sharp-edged graffiti decorates boxcars. We wonder about people who painted their anger on a train in Saint Louis only to watch it disappear into the desert.
Train in Round Rock, James Brush
Rupert Fike On the Stonehenge Bus It’s October so there’s plenty of room as we board outside Salisbury’s rail station where Hardy allowed Jude (the Obscure) to shiver in its “fireless” rooms with Sue, so repressed, so mixed-up, yet she was his. Today though, another couple’s in crisis, German backpackers who halt at the door of our logo-ed, speaker-filled transport and ask for, zee local . . . vid no tour-ests, which produces instant camaraderie among us, the seated, as the driver laughs, explains that the local will take them only to Old Sarum where they would still face a four mile walk plus the site admission included in the ticket we have bought, we the easy-way-takers, a spread out comfy unit of Euro-Asian-Yanks unwilling to even consider hiking half the day across a windy plain to what surely would be more appreciated, more cathartic were it to be first sighted from stone-tired legs, a trade-off the couple now appears to debate with the passion reserved for moral choices. And as the door closes, as the tape loop starts, Our journey begins in the medieval city . . . this is when they’re rapping for entry, paying, moving with heads down to the back as though to meet any of our eyes would be a taint, an admission of compromise – and there on the long row they sit as far apart as possible, each with a window, yet neither bothering to look as we near the impossibly tall cathedral where Jude, denied Oxford by love, instead chipped stone.
Heidi Schulman Greenwald Braids Fits of inkjet strands feather through fists and hardened hands life wrung with a tug into a line that runs the course of her granddaughter’s back. Light reflects lithe as fish skimming the surface a river in the sun she crossed rock bottom gnawing her toes hot air coarse on her tongue a trek west against a corseted life whalebones on her waist laced finely but cinched too tight she forded rivers foraged mushrooms grew a life with what she found – stones, lots of stones and pines and a sand floor to lie on. A daughter was born and a granddaughter who sits before her looking past firs and pines to the river that weaves over boulders fallen trees her granddaughter’s shoulders braids downstream black arrowlike and malleable like the night sky.
Rupert Fike’s poems and short fiction have appeared in Natural Bridge, The Georgetown Review, Borderlands, Rosebud, storySouth, The Atlanta Review, and others. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in fiction and poetry and has a poem inscribed in a downtown Atlanta plaza. His nonfiction account of life on a spiritual community, Voices from the Farm, is now available in paperback.
Heidi Schulman Greenwald lives with her husband and two children in Portland, OR. She recently received two honorable mentions in the Oregon State Poetry Association Spring 2009 contest. Her poems have appeared in VoiceCatcher2 and Verseweavers. This year, she is on the editorial collective for VoiceCatcher.
Howie Good SONG #4 But on a morning when my wife
so softly dented stands naked
in front of the closet still deciding
Mr. Waters comes in like the morning fog each day, drifts through my office door looking for a cup of coffee.
between the dark blue and the black I feel as the last calamitous emperor of Rome
His voice echoes thunder left over from some storm that drenched a rice paddy in Vietnam, rain still falling behind dry eyes.
mightâ€™ve felt writing with a red can of shaving cream love is
In a few moments, he will go to his kitchen here at the facility, prepare eggs and grits for juveniles with gang affiliations, drug charges.
and without quotation marks
None of these cocky boys know this cook has killed a man with his hands, knows about death as some of them do.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of seven poetry chapbooks, including Tomorrowland (2008) from Achilles Chapbooks in print and The Torturerâ€™s Horse (2009) from Recycled Karma Press online. He has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for the Best of the Net anthology.
He shuffles to the door, thunder fading, past hanging out of his back pocket, dragging along the floor.
Amy L. George holds an MFA in Creative Writing from National University, where she serves on the editorial staff of The GNU. Her poetry has been published by journals both online and in print, including Poesias, The Foliate Oak Online, and The Toronto Quarterly and is forthcoming in Pennsylvania English and WestWard Quarterly.
Carolee Sherwood Riding a horse in circles around the marriage, the actress tethers herself to her husband The dusty path made by the hooves confines you forever. You have vowed never to leave this tight orbit. The leading man snares you, lassoes your horse, holds both of you within a steady radius of him. But you are complicit when your lover ties you to him. You can dismount but you don’t climb off your horse, don’t leave him with the man and the noose. The rope. The rope. It’s just a rope. You and your foolish imagination loiter around the perimeter looking out over the desert, squandering wishes. In this endless loop, it is no use spitting and raging. Use all your skills as a woman, finesse and flatter. Go to the center of him. Get into his blood like a virus. Dispense poison from your lips to his skin but withhold more of yourself than he can tolerate. Blisters erupt on his face. Abrasions result whenever someone touches him. Tremors develop in his hands. He stumbles, vertigo from watching you, watching his world spin around him. The only cure is to let go of the rope. He will have to release you, realizing no woman could want him like this. Except that now you do. Your guilt billows in the quiet wind that crosses the plains, scattering weeds and crumpled cowboys. Here is where the new chase begins, here as he tumbles across the prairie. You follow after him on your horse, catch him, draw a string tight around his waist. Without you seeing, he digs his heels into the dirt, anchors the rope in this tug of war, becomes the one in control again, your center of gravity as you ride ’round and ’round, galloping, galloping, more entrenched with every lap.
Night Comes to the Empty House, Christopher Woods
Carolee Sherwood is a painter, mixed media artist and poet. Her poetry has been published online at qarrtsiluni, Literary Mama, juice: a journal of the ordinary and Womensynergy and in print through Ballard Street Poetry Journal (which nominated her poem “How to let wild birds out” for a Pushcart Prize in 2008), The Tipton Poetry Journal, The Albany Poets’other: _______, and ouroboros review. Two of her poems were selected by The Arts Center of the Capital Region (New York) for inclusion in its 2009 Memoir Project. In addition to editing her first full-length poetry manuscript, My Spirit Kamikaze, she is assembling two chapbooks which are refusing to tell her their names.
One Writing Group, Four Poets, Twelve Months, 48 Celebrations in Occasional Verse: Following are four selections from a project we undertook in February 2008. It began with a request from a colleague for us to post a set of Valentine’s Day inspired poems in our department mailroom. For the next year, we chose likely and unlikely occasions and set ourselves to the challenging task of writing occasional verse. The results were often surprising because each of us was forced to break away from established patterns and familiar approaches—making this project both motivational and transformational. These selections (from May, June, July, and August) are part of a new instructional anthology, Yearbook, designed to help other writers make the most of this interesting writing prompt project. Included with each selection is a short commentary about how we considered our topic.
Karen Head The Holly and The Oak They greet with the usual formalities, slight bows as each whispers the other’s name: Tinne. Dair. Ancient Ogham spells. Her carnelian hair blazes in sunlight, his eyes look hard as diamonds, a field of meadow-sweet and late coltsfoot blanket the Druid hilltop. His white stallion becomes her unicorn, transformed on the Summer Solstice, a responsibility each must bear. The inevitable ceremony set in motion
Karen Head, Blake Leland, JC Reilly, and Robert E. Wood work in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech. Each Friday afternoon they meet for a writing group that has become affectionately known as the Not Dead Yet Poets’ Society.
long before either took root.
Robert E. Wood Picking a June holiday was problematic for our group, so we opted for any kind of June connection. Two of us chose the Summer Solstice; the other selections are about June Bugs and June Cleaver. I stumbled on a reference to Celtic Astrology, something about which I knew nothing, and used the imagery as a foundation for my interpretation. The names for trees, animals, plants, gemstones, as well as the Ogham names for Holly and Oak, are those associated with the June and July astrological signs. Personification isn’t a technique I use much, but this poem seemed to lend itself to that approach.
Mayday Sun lights the Einstein window at Grace Cathedral. Godspeed. The last Chinese butcher shop before North Beach plays “Vesti la Giubba” from speakers over the street. At least the chickens have kept their heads.
Mayday suggested the weather, alarm, and Left Coast culture. San Francisco’s strange juxtapositions came to mind, memories of early days in California.
Blake Leland GEORGE & MARTHA (7/4/08) IN THE ATL They pull the car off to the side of the highway At the top of a rise where there are already Cars in clusters, and folks sitting on top Or standing beside them. And they’re all looking Into the distance beyond darkened tree-lines Where here and there fireworks go up Above shopping centers that are so far away They see the rising trace of sparks, The sudden silent blossoms of light, Before they hear the miniature whoomp Of the mortars, the patter of distant explosions Like a handful of hail on the roof. And after a while, the wind Carries a tang of smoke. Arms around each other’s waists They watch the compact Grand Finales, Kiss, then, quick, back to the car To beat the traffic home. He’s put his wooden teeth on the nightstand, He’s hung his wig on the wig-hook, He’s gone to bed and now dreams come. He dreams of fireworks, up close, Stiff-necked gazing skyward Locked in a dense crowd of oooooooos And aaaaaaaaaas while unseen canisters whistle High into the air and BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Brilliant sphincters open in the body of the night And out of their fire-rayed irises Come tumbling multitudes of Goods and Services, Rivers of Buffalo hide and sun-bleached Bones, Shiploads of shackled Africans, timbered Trees, Dead soldiers in Blue and Gray and GI tones, Blankets folded with smallpox, Strange Fruits, Immigrant millions, Walt Whitman, Santa Claus, Bands of bright Brass playing light marches, Oil rigs, Apple Pies, Babe Ruth, Babe the Blue Ox, John Coltrane, Crazy Horse, couple of A-bombs, the rest Of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, golfing Astronauts, Abstract Expressionists driving goddamn Big Cars, Flaming crosses, Golden Arches, more Cars, more Cars, Movie Stars, an acrid tang of choking smoke and One last big bang to rattle bones and windows So that he starts up from his bed Thinking it must be thunder, Hoping it might mean Rain. This paean to bombs bursting in air, this half-Beat epideictic celebration of noise and fire, may be my most nearly traditional occasional poem. The situation in the first stanzas is specific to Atlanta. The shape of the poem was not intentional, but when I had finished the primary draft, I suddenly saw that it might be indeed a bomb.
JC Reilly The Tears of St. Lawrence Every year, in August’s pre-dawn, Earth passes through the meteor shower of Comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseid cloud, cosmic debris a thousand years old. In 1008, what the world must have been like: the Islamic Golden Age flowers, empiricism its stem.
Robert E. Wood teaches at Georgia Tech. His poetry appears in Blue Fifth Review, and Umbrella. His chapbook, Gorizia Notebook, is being published by Finishing Line Press. Karen Head is the author of Sassing (WordTech Editions, 2009), My Paris Year (All Nations Press, 2009), and Shadow Boxes (All Nations Press, 2003). Blake Leland, of Georgia Tech's School of LCC, has published in The New Yorker, Epoch, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, Commonweal, and Maryland Poetry Review.
We know the father of optics, Ibn al-Haytham, invents his camera obscura, feigns madness as he writes his Book of Optics—
JC Reilly has had a slew of poems published in print and online journals. Her newest book is only in her mind.
these same optics that would clarify the Perseid meteors, though anyone might see them well enough with eyes’ imperfect lenses. They’re called the Tears of St. Lawrence because they appear brightest two days after his feast on August 10th. Martyred in 258 on the gridiron for hearing voices, still he found humor in gravitas, declared, “This side’s done. Turn me over, have a bite.” But heaven cries for him in remembrance. At their peak, 60 meteors per hour dart across the sky from their radiant in Constellation Perseus, vaporizing into spots of light that we in younger days might have wished upon, but now, can’t even get out of bed to see.
On NPR I heard about the annual appearance of the Perseid meteor shower. The best opportunity for viewing it was around 3 or 4 a.m., but it could be seen by the naked eye. While my night-time hours are better spent sleeping than watching stellar phenomena, I was still interested in it, and found out that in the middle ages, the Perseid meteor shower became associated with Catholic martyr, St. Lawrence of Rome, who was grilled to death on the gridiron, allegedly declaring Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca. I also discovered that the dust in the Perseid Cloud is about 1000 years old, which made me think about what was happening a thousand years ago in science studies, particularly optics. (Though I have since found out that the meteor shower itself has been observed for at least 2000 years.)
Dawn Porch, Christopher Wood
To the West
Annual 4th of July Bucket Brigade Race, Georgetown, Colorado
Follow me down to 34th and Broad on the tail of a souped up whale wagging
The goth girl ended up with the split bucket and water had poured from its rend
sidewalks aside where there ain't gonna be no
like a mastiff pissing, drenching that thick fire-plug of a woman.
highstep lunch lady finger in the air.
Pariah of the Volunteer Fire Department, the leaky bucket is cast aside.
Drive us way Her T-shirt is still clingy; breasts stretch the fabric like two tattooed loaves, rising.
out where roams a train track round going industry wide and the trash baggers hide in the shade
A few kids and women stare. Men don’t. Not with the diaphanous wet shorts of the Loveland blonde girls’ ski team now clambering up the ladder.
cause it just grows just keeps piling on up on the side
She screws on a porkpie hat as if juicing an orange and I glimpse a pale forearm,
of the road where a leaguing junior miss for sure won't go.
glistening wet, tattoos corrugated, rent by overlapping linear scars.
Watch the men spill out spill their beer on the bill dollar bill for the girl on the bar.
She leans against the flaky paint of an old wall, scratching her back,
To the bridge under pass playing cards playing hot on
plants a Doc Martin square against the brick, forming a number 4 with her legs.
a concrete seat leaning lean-to spot sits the
This is my sixth year, she says, lighting a Camel, I met my husband doing this;
dirt bathed brown with a five dog alarm and a pack on the
but the ski girls get me wetter, if you want to know the truth.
back lying low till it’s time soon to go to a town far James Wilk is a physician in Denver, Colorado, specializing in medical disorders complicating pregnancy. His work has appeared in Measure, Snakeskin, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Blue Unicorn, The Alabama Literary Review, The Raintown Review and others. His 2007 chapbook, Shoulders, Fibs, and Lies, is available through Pudding House Press.
away on the back of that train where even there, the faces and the time don't change.
Mimi Vaquer is from Savannah, GA. She studied English at Georgia Southern University, is pursuing her Masters at Armstrong Atlantic State University, and teaches 8th-grade English. She has appeared or is forthcoming in Willard and Maple, Foliate Oak, Steam Ticket Journal, and others.
Dustin Brookshire Mercy This is the poem I have to write: The poem where I tell you I'm driftwood too wet to be burned, yet want to be cleansed by fire, to burn to ash and dissolve into the ground, to become part of many. The poem where I confess of tears: my tears and his tears, each weigh the same. His tears cause my tears. My tears dampen the page. Our tears make this poem flow like river waters over its bank. How therapeutic. You wonder: which, the tears or the poem? The poem where I ask you in good faith to believe me when I say I carry guilt but can't tell you why or how. I won't even give you a metaphor to explain. Dear reader, you must trust me. I can't give you the three letters, only the three words I gave him. The poem where I tell you I am sorry is neither medicine nor magic, simply the mouth remembering childhood, providing the blessing of one's soul, an admittance of I have done wrong, and all I can do is offer these words. This poem is where I have buried my secret. I see it in every letter. He will see it every few lines. I dig deeper with each line, leaving a bit of pain with each line break, hoping with the final period the pain will end.
Dustin Brookshire is a poet and activist. In 2008, Dustin founded Limp Wrist and Quarrel. In 2009, he launched Project Verse, the self-proclaimed Project Runway of the poetry world. He has been featured at poetry readings in Atlanta as well as Savannah, and his work has been published in numerous online magazines as well as in Atlanta's DAVID magazine. Besides writing poetry and 'cooking up' poetry projects, Dustin enjoys serving on the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival Committee, and keeping elected officials on their toes.
Dustin Brookshire The List I want a man who'll sweep me off my feet on day one but wait weeks before easing me on my back. I want a man who'll know monogamy isn't a type of wood, who'll smile when he sees me approach and meet me in the rain for a kiss. I want a man who'll like my friends for their personalities instead of liking them for me, who'll surprise me at work with lunch before I surprise him. I want a man who'll take me home to meet his parents, tell me his mother and sisters will love me, and for once a man will actually be right, a man who'll grin when he hears me singing Dolly's "Here You Come Again" and sing along for a line or two, who's graduated high school, attended college, and still has a desire to learn, a man who'll give his brutal opinion on my poems instead of blowing smoke up my ass, after all, that's what family's for. I want a man who'll make love to me three times a week and fuck me a minimum of four, remember Anne Sexton is my favorite poet accept the fact I don't eat grits or gravy, and realize the obsessive sensitivity I have regarding my weight and not comment on the topic in English or any other language. I want a man who wants two children and would rather have his dick caught in a blender than to name them after a season, who'll understand I love to talk, live to talk, talk a lot, but listen just as well. I want a man who'll take me dancing and never take his eyes off me.
The Watcher, Jeff Foster
Denise Duhamel Queen Colleen The term “fag hag” is tactless, demeaning— suggesting a pathetic, worn down gal. What if we instead call her Queen Colleen? Charles proposed “queer peer,” genderless, serenely inoffensive to the tender ear canal. What about Queen Jean? Queen Maureen? Queen Christine? A woman may court Miss Thang on Halloween— she needn’t explain her rationale. What if we instead call her Queen Colleen? Margaret Cho and Madonna know it’s routine to dish with the boys to keep up their morale. What about Queen Eileen? Queen Kathleen? Queen Maxine? My first boyfriend was a straight-laced marine who covertly coveted my L’Oréal. I couldn’t help being a Queen Colleen. I was drawn to men who ran between the salon, the pool room, and the corral. What about Queen Irene? Queen Arleen? Queen Celine? From now on please call me Queen Colleen. © Denise Duhamel 2009
Denise Duhamel’s most recent books are Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), Mille et un Sentiments (Firewheel, 2005); Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001); The StarSpangled Banner (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999); and Kinky (Orchises Press, 1997). A bilingual edition of her poems, Afortunada de mí (Lucky Me), translated into Spanish by Dagmar Buchholz and David Gonzalez, came out in 2008 with Bartleby Editores (Madrid.)
An interview with Denise Duhamel
Here poet Dustin Brookshire talks with prolific poet Denise Duhamel whose work has been translated into many languages as well as earned her a Pushcart Nomination and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. DB: Denise, thank you for agreeing to yet another interview. The University of Pittsburgh Press published KaChing!, your eleventh book of poetry, as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. You have two other books in this series too. Did Pitt solicit you, or did you have to shop Ka-Ching!? DD: I'm really lucky to have had three books published with Pitt, that's for sure. And I don't ever take that for granted. I've submitted all three manuscripts to Pitt; they didn't solicit them, per se, I'm just very persistent. DB: There is definitely something to say about being persistent. You are a hot commodity in American poetry. You are also a prolific writer. If I had to bet, I would bet you are probably at least half-way finished with your next collection. Am I right?
DD: “My First Book was Like My First Baby”, “Snow White’s Acne”, “All the Dead Grandmother Poems”, “Skeleton Song”, and “Variations on the Partridge Family” are the titles of a few poems that have been anthologized but never put into books. I also have a whole series of Maiden Form bra-inspired poems, but only one made it to Ka-Ching! The rest have appeared in magazines. DB: Your poems in the first section of Ka-Ching!, “play money”, are all written as block poems. You were inspired by play money you found at a thrift store, right? How long did it take you to write these poems?
DD: Yes, it's true. I found a stack of $100,000 play money bills at a thrift store. I'm interested in visual poetry and have made quite a few sculptural poems. I had the idea to use the money as “frames” for the poem. My experiment was to fill the back of each DD: Thank you, Dustin, for your most kind words, play bill with words. All the poems are the exact but I don't think it's possible to be a hot commodity same size, with no left over white space, except for a in poetry, since there's not much commerce in verse. border. I figured out a way to print the poems by But I graciously accept your compliment. Yes, I am putting the money into the printer. It was a lot of very prolific and working on new poems. Unless I'm experimenting, as you can imagine. I wrote the developing a themed book (Barbie poems, fairy tales, poems in the fall of 2006, when I was on sabbatical. etc.), I don't really write “collections”, meaning that I think it might have taken me a month or so to write it's hard for me to think in terms of a “book”. I just and re-write all ten and get them to fit. write a lot of poems and then after a period of years gather up what I've written and try to find the DB: What started your interest in visual poetry? themes to put together a manuscript. It's probably What other visual poetry projects have you been not the most efficient process, but I enjoy writing— involved with? and it keeps me sane (or saner than I'd otherwise be...). I like having a lot of work to choose from DD: My interest in visual poetry began when I when I sit down with my good friend Stephanie worked on the Möbius strip poems, two of which Strickland, who’s helped me put my manuscripts appear in Two and Two. I'm really interested in the together. I have also helped her shape her books. I shape of form and poems that somehow can be built have a lot poems that are in journals but don't make or pop off the page. This led to experiments on it into the books. pinwheels, typewriter ribbons, and venetian blinds. If I had the know-how, I'd love to put the poems from Ka-Ching! in a slot machine. Instead of DB: Can you share the names of some of these cherries and lemons, the player would get poems. poems?
An interview with Denise Duhamel
DB: David Trinidad wrote, “I don't know where we'd be without Denise Duhamel's funny, touching, and inventive poems”. I agree with Trinidad. KaChing! made me laugh, smile, ponder life, want justice, and most of all, it made me want the collection to never end. My favorite section from Ka-Ching! is “one-armed bandits”, which contains the poems dealing with your parents’ freak accident. These poems blew me away. How did you prepare yourself to write poems on such a horrific event? How long did it take you write the poems, and are there poems on the topic of your parents’ accident that didn’t make it in KaChing!?
there’s no way to prove a wound exists or not). Of course, just because a poem is therapeutic for the writer doesn't mean it's a good poem, but I think many good poems come from a place of pain. DB: Did your mother or father read any of the poems addressing their accident? Or, has your sister, who makes appearances in the poems, had a chance to read any of the poems? DD: I didn’t show my father the poems before he'd passed away. But my sister just read the book and my mother will at some point. I told her to skip the accident section if it's too much for her at any point. My sister liked “Repeat”, the pantoum I wrote about being a bully, but she said the speaker wasn't repentant enough. She was very funny. It was hard for her to read the accident poems, but she wanted to.
DD: When I was taking care of my parents after they were released from the hospital, I was quite an insomniac — part hawk, since I was listening for their every move. I had a notebook with me and just started writing down everything as a way to process DB: “Repeat” stole my heart with “She learned what what was happening. I wasn’t able to go back and “repeat” meant / from a hostile kindergarten read what I had written until a year or so later and comedian”. The poem made me laugh out loud! then I used some of that journal to construct the poems. I also wrote a canzone, “The Accident”, that DD: Thanks! My sister just read this poem, which I made it into Two and Two. That was the only poem told her I wrote as a peace offering, but she said the I felt was ready by then. I used the form of a apology should have been more overt, so I think I canzone (which Nikki Moustaki has dubbed a owe her another poem. “sestina on speed”) as a way to deal with the material. The metaphor of Jack and Jill (who went up the hill) DB: On the topic of people appearing in your poems, also was a way to enter the poem. The poems in Ka- I was giddy like a schoolgirl at the mention of Dolly Ching! are meditative prose poems and are more Parton in “Lucky Me”. My mind immediately went direct in terms of the subject matter. to Kinky because Dolly gets a mention in “Barbie In Therapy, Part II”. DB: In a conversation we had about the difference between poetry and poetry as therapy, you said, “As DD: I feel a kinship to Dolly Parton and hope one poets, I think we write from a deep wound.”. Can day to make it to Dollywood. As you probably know, you relate this statement to the poems found in the Dolly has a great song “Backwoods Barbie”...”I'm just “one-armed bandits”? a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair...” DD: I can. I remember thinking that the accident was so awful that I would never be able to write DB: I love “Backwoods Barbie”. Some time ago, I about it, but, truly, the accident was all I could write read an article that quoted Billy Collins as saying about. The poems you are referring to are about there isn’t enough humor in modern poetry, like literal, physical wounds — and that takes my quote Collins, you definitely have a talent with humor in in a different direction. But what I mean is I believe poetry. It is seen in Ka-Ching! as well as in your that there is some wound (early perhaps?) from other books. Do you have a philosophy for humor in which many poets write. This is not a scientific fact poetry? For those who want to use humor, what do by a long shot, and I believe this to be true from you recommend? anecdotal experience. Why else would we write poems? (Many poets would disagree with me and DD: E. B. White wrote, “Humor can be dissected, as
An interview with Denise Duhamel
mid-thirties, just not even dealing with the fact that I would, if I’m lucky, get old and hopefully retire one day. She wrote something so feisty it resonated with me. I didn’t think I could afford to put away money for an IRA and in the book she wrote that if you think you can't afford it now, think about what it will be like when you have absolutely no money coming in. I know it's simple and many sensible adults already knew that, but not me. I had to read it. I haven't sent her a copy of Ka-Ching! but I think I will now...
a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to anything but the pure scientific mind.”. Still, I do have a few recommendations for people wanting to try humor.......Use line breaks the way a stand-up comic uses timing. Read a lot of Frank O'Hara and Nin Andrews and David Kirby to put yourself into the groove. Steve Allen has a great quote: “Tragedy plus time equals comedy”. And the Irish poet Peter Kavanaugh, with little patience for the maudlin, has written, “Tragedy is just underdeveloped comedy”. I don’t necessarily agree that funny poetry is superior to earnest poetry or vice versa. But as Charles Harper Webb says in his introduction to his anthology Stand Up Poetry: "Ours is an age in which Aristotle’s ranking of tragedy as superior to comedy becomes more and more suspect".
DB: Assignment time: Write a sestina for Suze Orman. I know you’ll write something great like you did for the challenge that resulted in “Queen Colleen,” which is also in this issue of ouroboros. Many thanks for talking to me, Denise.
DB: Ka-Ching! was reviewed in Entertainment Weekly and received an A. Congratulations! I didn’t even realize EW reviewed books of poetry. You must be stoked.
Lazy Villanelle DD: Stoked is the right word! The first person to call me about the review was my friend Gregg Shapiro who accepted my first poem for publication in 1983 for The Emerson Review, the school’s literary magazine. Gregg gets a subscription to EW. He was screaming. I was screaming. I remember telling Gregg I wanted to be a famous poet when I was 22. Little did I know, there really is no such thing as a famous poet. DB: In the EW review, the reviewer makes reference to “Delta Flight 659”, which is dedicated to Sean Penn. Wouldn't you love for the review, then your poem/book to find its way into his sexy, bad-boy hands?
It’s no fun to have sex with a lazy man who lies there so still he may be asleep as you prime his well with your tired hand hoping, in fact, that he has snoozed off so you can read the last chapter of your sad book and weep. It’s no fun to have sex with a lazy man though it might be fun with a surfer, his tanned muscles and sea-smell on your white sheets as he primes your well with his tireless hand. Or what about that guy in his Grand Am who cut you off, but then smiled when you beeped? It’s no fun to have sex with a lazy man
DD: I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about it! but maybe that cute careless driver who ran the red light is careful with his kisses, deep and primal, well worth giving a hand.
DB: I hear you also have a slight obsession with Suze Orman. When/where did this start? Have you sent her a copy of Ka-Ching! ? DD: Yes, it’s true. I love Suze Orman and the way she’s made it OK in our culture to talk about money within families and with friends. It is because of one of her first books, Nine Steps to Financial Freedom, that I bought my first IRA. I was in my
After you move out and you’re finally off Xanax, you hope to meet an energetic Sam or Filipe. It’s no fun to have sex with a lazy man so you treat yourself well with your tried and true hand. © Denise Duhamel 2009
Matthew Hittinger Aunt Eloe Schools the Scarecrow As the crow flies, you say? Come now you god of the crossroads, I'm talking ravens here. Corvids are corvids, yes, but like a dog compared to a wolf you can't call a crow a raven and have the word “nevermore” mean the same thing. Now, two facts: ravens mate
for life, but this raven, let's call him Caw the raven husband, he lived with the wolf wife Howl. You didn't hear? It was the lead
One Mother's Day I pinched tissue paper into a bouquet and when the teacher said give to your mothers or to she who was most like your mother I hung the basket from our neighbor's back door. The phone rang. Sent to retrieve I tied one green pipe cleaner to the doorknob, fluffed the crumpled pink sheet.
post on “Fuck You Penguin” during interspecies week. Anyway, Caw and Howl hunt together: Caw scopes, Howl clamps, bloody beak and talon after tooth and claw. They have lived like this for ages: after the flood it was not the dove but the white raven (Apollo later turned his feathers black) who found the wolf and helped found Rome. Go back before these stories were writ, before your tar and straw and wood and you'll find Caw loved Howl even then, there where their forms had yet to settle into fur and feather. Why do I tell you this? Next time you measure, say corn husk doppelgänger pumpkin shell twin. Point left, howl. Right, caw. Sing tin, wind, spin.
There is a legend in my family that when my mother was still a baby my grandfather allowed a traveling gypsy band to stay on his land. Their laws state Romany never steal from a host but the family jokes she was swapped out, exchanged like a Faer folk's swaddled changeling. My mother like a ruby, the wives' tales her lips spun: step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back; play with matches and you'll wet the bed; drop a knife a fight will brew; if your ears burn someone's talking 'bout you; eat pork at New Year's as pigs snout forward; avoid poultry as chickens scratch backward. Sayings like incantations, artifacts to bring luck: turkey wishbones dried, broken over the kitchen sink; bayberry wicks on Christmas Day which must snuff naturally; mornings spent scouring the yard's clover for four leafs, pressed in Uncle Remus, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe. But magic? Escape? What would Houdini say? My mother appeared one October opal day, he disappeared on the eve of saints. After ten years, when his wife Bess ended the séances, blew out the flame, did she wish one last performance, to swap body, soul? Return in a glass sub trunk.
Matthew Hittinger Two Men on a Bed sounded erotic : affix homo and you qualify desire not bodies : but suggested a plot a scene and that word history : so let me invert sequence and dispense three facts : Francis Bacon’s 1953 composition echoed an 1887 photo by Eadweard Muybridge : and I write, type this rather : in early 2003 : one hundred thirty four years since homosexuality came to be : forget history: its language bores me : let’s trace memory : first time I was one of two men on a bed : July 1997 : want details : our bodies blurred where they met in shadow : the spine’s arc of light slight swell of dimpled glut inner line of thigh the calf’s tight half : who’s on top : well that depends at which point you enter how the body bends and how you decide to plot bodies and bed if you feel anchored by a room’s rectangle or a sphere’s gravity : side to side cheek on cheek elbow hooked under knee
Spirit at the Gate, Jeff Foster
the crossed leg pointed foot : should I pull these shapes out of focus mute the palette : would you rather words like mount slime teeth baredlike-an-animal : I draw lines : two diagonals one horizontal two verticals : and create three walls and a ceiling : but must I say perspective recedes
Matthew Hittinger is the author of Pear Slip, winner of the Spire Press 2006 Chapbook Award, Narcissus Resists (GOSS 183, 2009) and Platos de Sal (Seven Kitchens Press, 2009). Shortlisted for the National Poetry Series, the New Issues Poetry Prize, and twice for the Walt Whitman Award, Matthew's honors include a Hopwood Award and The Helen S. and John Wagner Prize from the University of Michigan, the Kay Deeter Award from the journal Fine Madness, and three Pushcart nominations. His work has appeared in many journals including American Letters & Commentary, Center, DIAGRAM, Memorious, Meridian, Michigan Quarterly Review, MiPOesias, OCHO, Oranges & Sardines and elsewhere, including the anthology Best New Poets 2005. Matthew lives and works in New York City.
scene weighed down by a white double bed as it cuts across a black foreground : if I describe two bodies as ashen pasty ghostly must I also urge words like sinister wail and should I pursue bars or can I exit through streaks that rise fall fold and splay like a thin but shimmering veil
Michelle McGrane The Island Following our arrival on the island, we lunch at the Country Club, backpacks stashed in the dusty boot.
The Bridal Robe Tonight the isthmus city floats on waves of apple blossoms. Temple prostitutes dream of husbands. Sailors swim towards sirens' songs.
Hypnotised by whirring ceiling fans, the palm grove glimpsed through latticed windows, we lounge in teak armchairs sipping gin and tonic while dusky uniformed waiters hover navigating the labyrinths of expatriate desires, the ghosts of Lawrence and Kipling drifting through the panelled dining room on the balmy south-eastern trade wind.
I wait at the window, coaxed to life in Medea's hands, soft folds draped on a willow stand lit by the Aegean moon. Tomorrow is the wedding feast and I, sheathing her skin in fine pleats, scalloped hem grazing sandaled feet, the talk of Corinth.
Encircling Yasmini's bony wrist, three gold filigree bracelets tinkle. “Be careful while you are here,” she warns, her voice low, hooded eyes gleaming. “The local women like foreign men. They practice fanofody. Black magic.”
Spurned by Jason in favour of Glauce, the daughter of King Creon of Corinth, Medea, sends the young princess the gift of a beautiful enchanted bridal gown. On her wedding day, as Glauce dresses in the poisoned robe she bursts into flames and burns to death.
Unseen, techtonic plates heave. The benign island disappears on its vanilla, cinnamon and ylang-ylang breeze, a mythic destination of lemurs, chameleons, yellow-bellied sunbirds, bluefin kingfish, volcanic lakes and spirit caves. Shifting uneasily, I drink in your olive skin, sinewy torso, dark curls that skim broad shoulders. The bitterness of juniper and quinine ambushes my mouth.
Michelle McGrane was born in Zimbabwe and lives in South Africa. She has published two collections of poetry, Fireflies & Blazing Stars (2002) and Hybrid (2003). Her next book of poems, The Suitable Girl, will be published by Pindrop Press in 2010.
Pretty Things, Jeff Foster
Cheryl Snell Inspiration At first, it’s got no manners, eats with its fingers, slurps the soup, kisses with too much tongue. It thumbs through my foolscap of false starts, rolls its eyes and lies down with a cool cloth on its forehead. All night, imposters ring the doorbell, darting away like Halloween.
Reinventing Radha The gallery is a box filled with gold thread and mirrors. It frames the same old story: Krishna gets his girl back.
I do not notice when inspiration leaves. When it returns, Sunday hat in hands, I ask for some ID. I am your ambulance, it says. You are my car wreck.
Radha in her cloak of lotus, stunned in bronze, face turned away. Follow her down the brass river of her hair, or color her with beetle-wings. Is she one, or is she many? No one is grateful for betrayals she already knows. Throat slaked with the syrup of forgetting, Radha sizzles in my cells like disease, though my hair is gold, and my eyes gray as the headstrong sea.
Cheryl Snell’s most recent books include Shiva’s Arms, a novel, and an art and poetry collaboration with her sister Janet, entitled Prisoner's Dilemma (www.lopsidepress.com/win/).
Jay Arr The point of vanishing let’s be clear, is not to become invisible or not to be seen, or to become transparent or disappear. Oh! There is a point to it but with not with a backward glance like Janus on the hinge, facing another year without you. The trick is deception, get them to look the other way, mirrors help, can make left right, smoke too but it’s got be to blue and you’ll need a hat. The rabbit must be white. And gloves. I remember you wore gloves but they were long and black. You know I always wanted you to be found, to be seen like Janus coming back to look forward but you did the rabbit thing, played the smoke and mirrors too. Right? Left me wondering had you really become invisible, just to make the point, that the point of vanishing is to mark the vanishing point.
Jay Arr is a Wiltshire Poet who publishes under the pseudonym Jay Arr. He's been writing poetry for the past two decades. John is a founder member of the Swindon Writer's Cafe and, along with three other local poets, has recently launched the BlueGate Poets Society. His poetic preoccupations include love poetry (he's given Valentine Day workshops on the subject) and an interest in using mathematics and scientific themes in his poems. His work has been published in Pulsar, The Bristol Omnibus and Swindon's Festival of Literature annual, CommonHead. Ezrlier this year BlueGate Books published his first collection, A Machine for Measuring Blue. Now retired, as well as writing poetry, he designs websites for fellow poets and artists. You can find his website at www.thepoetryexchange.com.
mmSeason Kiss Would you kiss him, this dirty grey tramp with his cottony off-white hair, his half-buttony old coat, once-tough boots, would you? Lay your lips against that pilled cheek – will it be cold? Withdraw then from the startled smile that may be lascivious or merely shy, explain away the impulse, withdraw your touch.
Point Liking to make love with the lights on he has views of me that I have never seen. If I’d looked at my centre this way up would I know myself better or worse? Maybe he discerns me worse maybe better overturning me turning the dark out of the night…
mmSeason is in Wiltshire, UK. She is a poet, fabulist, blogger, mother and survivor. A little of her work can be seen on the Travel Hopefully Blog at http://travelhopefully.wordpress.com. In the past few years, one of her poems was a runner-up in the Wiltshire Libraries Annual Poetry Competition, and another cherry-picked42 by ABCtales. mmSeason does not know her future.
John Goodman Hidden Identities The wind told the moonlight, moonlight told the snow, snow told no one tracking frozen footsteps into drifts follow the path the path
John C. Goodman lived in British Columbia and Ontario before settling in Newfoundland & Labrador. He has published a novel, Talking to Wendigo (Turnstone Press). His stories, poems and essays have appeared in The Fiddlehead; Otoliths; elimae; pax americana; Counterexample Poetics and other magazines in Canada and the US. He is the editor of ditch, (www.ditchpoetry.com), an online poetry magazine and editor of Trainwreck Press.
of resistance of least resistance
everything is the same but different â€œwill you become a song for me, the music that beguiles the tides?â€? dancing bloodless on the shore (the wish of every sailor is to die on dry land) different path of resistance follow the least same everything same the different least everything path song dancing never walk on ice too thin to bear your weight N
E VER W
D AN C IN
Double Take, Sarah Legow
Jennifer Saunders Royal Coachman He drifted a fly-line downstream. The brook trout laughed at his faith but he heard only water over river rocks, saw the coming dawn that tasted of mist and yesterday. He felt the pushing current, smelled river grasses and dirt. Back home theyâ€™d be sleeping on their Sealy Posturpedics and pillow tops but he was here, not there. He tied on a Mickey Finn, told the brook trout the story of his life so that they would rise to him. They broke bread together while she slept through it all but it invaded her dreams, dug in like a barbed hook and held. Held so that twenty years downstream she would cast her own line, hook her father, reel him in and lay him glistening on the bank. The brook trout would laugh. The river grasses would cheer.
aloft crossing empty fields to the old barn you slightly ahead me lagging behind as always into the cool with the packed dirt floor and dust motes sparkling in the slash of light from the window to play Settlers and Indian Raiders crouching behind rotting straw and throwing rocks in battle then retreating up the rickety plank to the loft where we disturb the mice and you dare me to jump so arms outstretched eyes closed I step landing hard to see on your face that you never dreamed I would.
Jennifer Saunders Seasons. Change. The four seasons have turned since we learned of your coming and it is almost spring again. I pull back the curtains, check the sky in this uncertain season when I cannot mask my impatience for the turning.
Jennifer is an American living in Bern, Switzerland. Her prose has appeared in BluePrintReview (issue 19), and her poetry has appeared in Asphalt Sky (issue 1 vol. 2) and is forthcoming in Literary Mama.
You are blind to the seasons. You measure weather not by your distance from the sun but by your distance from me. You live these days in eternal summer. Soon you will force the seasons. You will discover how your orbit curls away from me and changes our weather. Summer will bring blades of grass to tickle your bare legs and the equatorial constant of me. In autumn there will be acorns I take out of your mouth and cool slivers of apple I put in. Winter will bring a boyâ€™s pleasure in snow and in making tracks that lead away from me, only slowly turning back. The four seasons will turn and it will be spring again. You will offer me fistfuls of snowbells before running off.
Morning, Sarah Legow
Adrienne J. Odasso What I Can Get Don't ask me to visit here in winter. It doesn't exist before the season when the land, stretching, breaks the icy fever of sleep. The graves and gardens dream of spring; the dust and roses
sing of dawning in the darkness of unbeing. At this time of year comes the breath of change, the waking
Some wildness in the wind, some chance says we've come to it. As I sit shivering down to my splintered bones,
to pain. The pleasure of being
the house havers, weathered by the slightest of storms. My lip splits with the knife-edged chill,
in a place is precisely
unguarded in one soft moment of hope. These grave gusts cannot save my life or my breath, but these hands
the pleasure I take.
parched and pinning this paper to the trembling floor will surely for our captors mean nothing
What It Is
short of death.
The town's what it is because they're in it, because of the blueberries in the brush that my grandfather planted one summer before they took the fox and shot the thrush, which ate my grandmother's jam-making crop off the brambles, because night on Summit Street seethes with firefly-streaks above the drop down to where my father swam the river while they tamed the fox and named it Lady, my uncle played jazz and shot pool down the ditch that almost had his brother when a deer crossed his path in the splendor of the half-moon on my mother's white face, the babe she caught that night on the water
Adrienne J. Odasso is currently completing her Ph.D. in English at the University of York (UK). Her poetry has previously appeared in publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including Strong Verse, Sybil's Garage, Farrago's Wainscot, Aesthetica, Succour, and Mythic Delirium. Her short fiction has appeared in Behind the Wainscot and in the Ruins Terra anthology from Hadley Rille Books, with new work forthcoming in two anthologies from Drollerie Press (Needles & Bones and Straying from the Path). Her first print chapbook, Devil's Road Down, will be published by Maverick Duck Press in September, and her first book-length collection, Lost Books, will be published in Winter 2010 by Flipped Eye Press.
because the town's what it is, what we are.
Korina Karampela Associations On our way to Padova to see Giotto's frescoes you want us to play a game. â€œI'll start with a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind,â€? you explain. I nod. Man Woman Attraction Dance Drinks Sex Concerts Dinners Movies Love Ring Wedding Honey Moon House Car Kids Dog School Sports Languages Mortgage Overtime Couch TV dinners Sunday Roast Boredom Misunderstandings Fights Middle Age Crisis Secrets Betrayal Lies Tears Lawyers Divorce Hate
Yellow Brick Road, Christopher Woods
Korina Karampela was born and raised in Greece. She has been living in the UK and US for the past 14 years. She has devoted a lot of time, energy and education to her career in the pharmaceutical industry. However, her interests are not limited to the corporate world. Korina started her writing journey five years ago. Her work will be published in a Cinnamon Anthology in September 2009.
Mike Lyne Stranger stories Inside, a want that was not known as such. Outside, a train perforated the familiar blackness. The iron tide of my childhood. Behind every window a life. To watch the instant of passage and feel sadness fill the vacuum of other lives not known. There is no living another life. To sit among them is only to change perspective and to wish to know instead the stories of every house pinned to the guessed-at hills. To feel the loss of tales it was never mine to know. Who can answer when you do not trust the question?
Time's origin My father kissed my cheek and held a farewell handshake too long. As awkward as any girl. A warning plead to look after those left behind. His stubble wirebrushed soft moss from the slate hard truth of his fear. The date is a dry line in a rubberbanded diary. But no matter. The harsh pinpricks of his beard mark time's begin and childhood's end.
Mike Lyne was born in 1967 in Ireland, survived the Irish education system almost intact and moved to Germany where he works in IT. Approaching the point where half his life has been spent abroad has raised the question where his influences come from and how they mix; the search for the answer continues. His poetry appears online in his blog http://motorgyre.wordpress.com/ , in Issue Three of Angelic Dynamo and in ancient heart magazine.
Ryan Garth Mitchell Filet Mignon My father’s mantra. When it’s smokin it’s cookin, When it’s black it’s done. His barbequed meat unbearable, Unchewable; his own hide As tough as welding leathers. The darts I threw at him Clattered to the ground; I divorced my father so I could Learn how to eat steak. After I left he lived in a one-man Tent and Wyoming winds Froze him to the center— No one, especially my mom, Dared stick their tongue to him So she divorced him too. A million miles away I learned To swirl merlot in a long-stemmed glass And then my dad started to thaw. A few years ago he airlifted a new family Out of Denver and they must have Packed spring in their hasty bags Because now when I talk to dad On the phone I can cut him with a Fork like custard and I sometimes Get the urge to cuddle up in the grey Of his beard and whisper in his tender Ears the secrets of filet mignon.
Ryan Garth Mitchell was schooled at the University of Wyoming and at UNLV. He currently lives in Las Vegas, where he teaches English. His poetry is also forthcoming in Owen Wister Review and Oak Bend Review.
Mayflies in June The mayflies fell like clouds On the reservoir in June. They were so thick We couldn’t step out And you slapped me With stern silence For not knowing. You made me Boil my own hot dog, Fetch my own Keystone, Stow my own pole. The mayflies drummed our Thin camper like April rain, Trying to get at the lantern That glowed on the flimsy table Between us. The mayflies played out their short lives Like fattened battering rams, And we prepared to sleep in separate Zippered bags like stiffened corpses. I knew by the end of the Weekend they would all Be dead, And I wished For their sake And for ours That someone would Put out the light.
Suspicion, fear and paranoia, Jeff Foster
T. J. Jarrett Waiting The Dark was neither formless nor void. The Dark held everything, and waited. Do not imagine the body separate from the Dark. No.
B’reshith Know the body as a vessel for the Dark.
Forgetting returns the self to the Dark.
Because She could, She cleaved the Dark into a thousand pieces, gathered what She could in Her arms and smuggled the Dark into Herself.
The Dark begs you to ask. You need only ask of the Dark: move.
At night, the Dark goes marauding, gathering himself as he goes.
Dark rearranges itself when asked.
B’reshith There is no antecedent. There was God and there was the sea. To hear us tell it, there was an earth built for us. But listen— For a long, long time, there was nothing but God and the wine-black sea. His voice against Her waters. Always. Don’t you know what it’s like to love in the dark? The way the beloved moves in sleep against you— reaching for hip or hands? A body can love another body through proximity alone. For the beloved,
T. J. Jarrett is a current MFA candidate at Bennington College and has much too little time with all that literary stuff to huckster her work. Tanya Jarrett also has decided that this year, she is going to do just that. She also has affinities for certain words, like 'akimbo', 'numina' and 'huckster'. Her work is most recently published or forthcoming from Linebreak and DIAGRAM.
someone could be convinced to build anything. Someone could be talked into making a thing like light. Firmament. I could see Him giving the earth its bounty and the sea crying out: I need you inside me. I need to carry you inside me. God would reach down and give Himself to Her, and She would smile, rub Her belly, say: Look, my beloved. Look what we have made. For a time, they were quite happy.
About the visual artists
Christopher Wood has published a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a collection of stage monologues, Heart Speak. His photographs have appeared recently, or shall soon appear, in Anderbo, Bap Quarterly, Public Republic and Narrative Magazine . He shares an online gallery with his wife, Linda http://www.texanareviewgallery.com/ “I am drawn to houses, windows and doors, and to the countryside. Fewer people are there, as opposed to the city. There is silence in the fields, in old houses, in the wide space itself. Structures take on an added significance when there are fewer of them dotting the landscape. Sometimes they have personalities, all kinds, I suppose, to makeup for the lack of people. The quiet and sometimes lonely landscape provides a sense of tranquility, an oasis from the urban environment.”
Jeff Foster is a digital artist/photographer specializing in abstract, antique retouch, collage and fantasy. He lives in Missouri where he runs a cleaning business and is raising a teenage daughter. His influences are Bosch, Saudek and Klimt. He has work upcoming or currently in: Kenagain, tatoo highway, Dantes Heart and Ruminate. His website is: www.dormantphotography.embarqspace.com
Change wanders the ruins, Jeff Foster
Sarah Legow is an aspiring photographer and animator previously published in Redivider and The Grinnell Review. She has a degree in Art History and is currently based in Hyde Park, Chicago.
Adrian Pickett has held small scale exhibitions of his work in London including: Lines that sing the song of form (1999), Seen between two unseens (2000) and Image. Imago. Idea. (2002). From 2004 until recently, he lived and worked in Colombia.
“I strive to make the invisible, visible. My art is about emotion and spirituality. Everything I create I have experienced. I tend to lean toward the dark side trying to form a synthesizer-like mood of music, touching and feeling. A nebulous contortion.”
*All unattributed photographs are from the editors’ personal collections.
ouroboros review http://www.ouroborosreview.com
‘There is a beech in the valley connected by its roots to every other beech, a spider’s web of inferences, conference of impulses and touch. The planet’s core surrounded by fibrous neural networks, speed of light.’ John Siddique
‘What my spine believed were prickles of unease were the birth-hurts of feathers. The words I found to shout and curse hardened into a beak, while the flex of my stretched neck almost choked me.’ Susan Richardson