1|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
Cover designed by Laura Ferrari
2|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
Table of Contents Intro ........................................................................................................................................................... 5 Aden Thomas ............................................................................................................................................. 7 Chad Prevost .............................................................................................................................................. 8 Faleeha Hassan ........................................................................................................................................ 16 Jennifer Avery ......................................................................................................................................... 20 Kristyl Gravina......................................................................................................................................... 22 Larry D. Thacker ...................................................................................................................................... 23 Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois ................................................................................................................ 25 Robert Beveridge ..................................................................................................................................... 26 Rony Nair ................................................................................................................................................. 27 Seth Jani .................................................................................................................................................. 28 Terrence Sykes ......................................................................................................................................... 29 Theresa Ast .............................................................................................................................................. 40 Will Mayo................................................................................................................................................. 44 Adam Engel ............................................................................................................................................. 45 Christina Maki ......................................................................................................................................... 46 Danny P. Barbare .................................................................................................................................... 50 Fabrice Poussin ........................................................................................................................................51 John Grey ................................................................................................................................................ 53 Katarina Boudreaux ................................................................................................................................ 57 Marianne Szlyk ........................................................................................................................................ 59 Nikki Bartel.............................................................................................................................................. 61 Patricia Walsh .......................................................................................................................................... 63 Richard King Perkins II ........................................................................................................................... 66 Wendy Taylor Carlisle ............................................................................................................................. 68 Terry Sanville............................................................................................................................................ 71 Adam Engel ............................................................................................................................................. 77 Steve Sibra ............................................................................................................................................... 81 Chad Prevost ............................................................................................................................................ 83 Jeanne Hewell-Chambers ....................................................................................................................... 85 George Weinstein .................................................................................................................................... 87 Feature Interview with Robert Pinsky .................................................................................................... 90 3|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
Musician Feature with the Tennessee Werewolves ................................................................................ 95 Interview with Isabelle Gautier ............................................................................................................... 97 Interview with Regina Valluzzi ............................................................................................................. 103 Atlanta Review Interview with Dan Veach and Karen Head ................................................................. 115 Interview with Anna Schachner of the Chattahoochee Review ............................................................. 117 Interview with Erin Z. Bass of Deep South Magazine ........................................................................... 121 Interview with James H. Duncan of Hobo Camp Review .................................................................... 123 How Our Home Hones Us ..................................................................................................................... 126 Interview with John Amen .................................................................................................................... 139 Interview with Charity Janisse .............................................................................................................. 144 Interview with Ronlyn Domingue .......................................................................................................... 151 Interview with Michael Gray ..................................................................................................................155 SCE Member Interview with Clifford Brooks ........................................................................................ 157 Interview from the North Georgia Community - Christina & James White ........................................ 162 Faces of Faith Interview with Father Gaurav ....................................................................................... 164 Pam Baker Arena .................................................................................................................................... 172 Maisy Arena ........................................................................................................................................... 183 Christopher Woods................................................................................................................................ 186 Outro ...................................................................................................................................................... 188
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Valerie Joan Connors Intro Autumn makes me think of chilly mornings, sweatshirts, and the smell of burning leaves from my neighbor’s backyard. I grew up out west, in Oregon, where the rainy season has already begun by now. Here in Atlanta, the sunshine and warm weather usually last well into October and only the humidity fades. Wherever you grew up, the changing of the season will evoke memories of past experiences and may inspire your imagination. Though most people consider January the time for resolutions and fresh starts, I always think of September as the time for new beginnings. Because my father taught high school throughout my childhood, our household revolved around the academic calendar. For me, September always brings the desire to return to school. What could be better than having a carefully selected class schedule, spiral bound notebooks filled with blank pages, a pile of brand new textbooks, and a whole semester of new ideas ahead of you? There are so many possible schools of thought, areas of interest, and career possibilities, that to narrow it down to a single field of study for a lifetime seems almost criminal. I used to consider these untapped areas of education in terms of the career opportunities they could provide. It wasn’t until I started writing fiction, that I began to fully appreciate how vast and unlimited the scope of ideas really is, and how much is actually possible. Now, when I’m surrounded by other writers and consider the potential for idea generation within just that one room, I’m amazed and delighted by the possibilities. And I’m certain that if we were to assign the same writing project to everyone present, each resulting piece would be completely and wonderfully different. Given cultural diversity, variety of interests, and differences in age and gender, even if the fundamental approach to the task were similar, each person would bring his or her own unique perspective to the project. The same is true of artists and musicians. So the next time someone tells you there is nothing new under the sun, you should look them in the eye and say, “Of course there is!” When you consider how much of our brain we actually use, even on our best day, it’s ridiculous to imagine that as human beings we’ve seen everything there is to see and considered every idea. To be a creative person is to not just want, but to crave the opportunity to let your amazing, limitless and miraculous mind wander. To have the desire to let your thoughts run wild, and the ability to communicate them through your craft is extraordinary. Lots of people go through life taking everything at face value. But as writers, poets, musicians, and artists, we think about what goes on under the surface of things. We wonder what would happen if just a few small details were changed, and how our work might be changed as a result. As this autumn arrives on the scene, I hope you will be inspired to explore the depths of possibility.
5|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
6|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
Aden Thomas Half Song, Half Thunder I mean to change myself again, but the silent letters of my name I’ve omitted and released to the night. Where they’ve gone and where they’re hiding in the world seems impossible without a guide and the navigating stars. To search for those words I stare into the clouds. They change like a wheel of clover, but all the feinting lights, they never stop spinning in this delicate machine. The silence, severed from its life, hides behind and tastes like rain. It wants to come back, however long. I close my eyes, refute nothing, tune myself towards another’s quiet. I listen. The wind through trees is half song, half thunder. I find my way in the waters of that song. I can get those letters back.
Aden Thomas is a writer whose work has been featured in The Kentucky Review, The Inflectionist Review, and The Magnolia Review. 7|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
Chad Prevost NOTES ON THE CENTO A cento borrows lines and phrases from a variety of sources to create a poetic collage in a new form and order, and therefore with new breadth and meaning. A true cento only uses lines from others and does not include one’s own lines. “What Our Hands Have Done” contains fragments first imagined and articulated by the following authors: Kurt Brown, Horace, Rainer Maria Rilke, Richard Siken, Cesar Vallejo, R.S. Gwynn, Ralph Tejeda Wilson, Nicole Cooley, Marie Howe, Larry Levis, Sharon Olds, Thomas Lux, John Ashberry, Philip Levine, Stuart Dischell, Jason Koo, Richard Jackson, Bill Rasmovicz, Arthur Smith, Li-Young Lee, Gerald Stern, Charles Wright, Federico Garcia Lorca, Billy Collins, Lucia Perillo, William Carlos Williams, Bob Hicok, Philip Larkin, Denise Levertov, Andrew Hudgins, Marvin Bell, W.H. Auden, W.S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, Christopher Buckley, Stephen Berg, Louise Gluck, William Matthews, Stephen Dobyns, Jack Gilbert, Terrance Hayes, Pamela Uschuk, Mark Doty, Robert Bly, Charles Bukowski, Fernando Pessoa, Stephen Haven, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Edward Hirsch, Charles Fort, Carolyn Forche, Allen Ginsberg, and Arthur Rimbaud.
WHAT OUR HANDS HAVE DONE Because these words are only a form of touch if you were lonely or just listening you would become fluent in their ten foreign tongues.
Even when I hold my hands over my ears someone or something is leaning close to me now trying to tell me the one true story.
Do you remember an impossible city? Rain ringing like teeth into the beggar’s tin, honey oozing from the rotted lion?
The job is over. We stand under the trees waiting to be told what to do. Women sprinkle holy water on the sidewalk.
Past the guarded schoolhouses, the boarded-up churches, swatsikaed synagogues, and down the road finally toward a happy life, or when that life’s sped past, 8|The Blue Mountain Review(Anniversary Issue)
like stones the moment after a wind blows over. Say hallelujah, say goodnight, say it over my body. What can the sun do but keep shining?
I remember when Jesus died the trees bent and groaned, there was a strong wind and they, catching the spirit, came home with us.
When I look at you I forget everything. Some bust of an angel points its outraged and comical finger toward sunset where the river widened.
He feels the world will one day absolve him. After all this love, after the birds rip like scissors, the long dead months before the appalling blossoms
and some blow-dried moron blabs the bald lies. With such Sistine eminence, drape them over my body. From what our hands have done we shall live another year here.
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I remember what the world was like before I tired of praising the dead.
Through bare rooms, over my head his coffin rocking into the ground like a boat or a cradle,
I am reminded. I shall die one day on a mournful autumn twilight.
But for personal myth—the ego basement— we’re going postal, it’s cool to lose control. I drive by
a hand-painted sign. Parents shimmer inside our strides and bones.
For all the world it looks like he’s attained annihilation.
All at once everyone in the room says, you better bring the house lights up.
Who is this—throwing things around with impunity, paying no damages? 10 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
I heard the passengers leaving the train, the train past streaming pastures
the way the mind moves back from contemplation with the beauty of apple blossoms.
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THE QUIET LIMIT
“There is no place to turn,” she said. Was it the rain, was it the ontology of morning?
We are both praying and not of gold or strange stone, but the true.
Here at the quiet limit of the world again last night, my neighbor’s blue hound.
Witness this morning’s bathroom mirror. Clothes, over a chair.
Let me list the tricks to avoid.
He stood at the pulpit of his doubt and enunciated for all, there was no longer any need for the world
to be divided. Love turns into a beetle in the end. You have the arthritic postures of the apple tree.
And since you talk as if 12 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
youâ€™re all these things you could say that the ocean broke through
and what was the snow that has no name is just in the mud, in the night, in Mississippi Delta roads.
Each spring the long-nosed god of rain. But why does no one say its name out loud?
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A miraculous thing just happened.
Another eye is looking back at me in the center of my lid. The sunken heart was hauled up, nearly breaking. Keep your imagination peeled and see. What good are family trees?
What point is there in being valued when on the orchard of the sea, far out are whitecaps? Thereâ€™s a curve in the road, and a slow curve in the river but it will never feel like home.
One half our lives is complete and as I cross my kitchen floor the thought of Death returns.
Most afternoons the moon pirouettes above us. Right now, someone robs a convenience store. Someone pumps a fist above water.
A sturgeon whips its tail in the shade. I feel everything all at once. Only you alone can place your tongue 14 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
like a red arrow and the light comes back.
From the wetlands to the growers’ vines each indigo egg, smaller than a fingernail. Children wish for angels and dream of war.
Not history, not the past. Your future guns his engine at the door.
Chad Prevost is author of A Frequency for Wherever You Are, Signs as Clues and Sometimes Wonders, The Blue Demon, White-Feathered Bodies, Chasing the Gods, and Greatest Hits. A Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State, he has led workshops and panels at places like Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), Baylor University’s Art and Soul Conference, Austin College, Clemson University, the Yale Writers’ Conference, the Meacham Writers’ Workshop and Lost in the Letters Festival. His writing has been in print in places such as American Poetry Journal, Huffington Post, Matter: A Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The Seattle Review, Sentence, The Southern Review and The Washington Post. Chad lives in Chattanooga with his wife and their three children. Hanging Chad, the blog, can be found at chadprevost.com. @chadprevost 15 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Faleeha Hassan At The Margin of The War Translated by Soheil Najm "Those are stars," says the child, as airplanes distort the face of the sky. "I used to rest my head,â€? his sister says, "upon his kind arms. I don't remember how we found the bones of the murdered one who was my Daddy who was defending us on this mirage-earth, asking a shadow; how did this begin?" The ash women cry, "These are the portents of those lost in the darkness of the prisons." One of them calls for help, "I didn't find him. He left without a helmet, and nothing distinguishes him but his heart. He was like my country too great to bear. They returned many corpses but not his." "These are the marks of a faded morning," says the woman who, still tidying the bed blankets, dreams he may come in one longing night, lights a match, holds back grief. "These are the memories of past years," says one who has just come. "To whom has my age been sold as wood fire for a fire that has raged for twenty-three years without ending? These are mirrors for my hollow life.â€? Birds cry as they follow an Apache squadron, "Where are the windows? Where are the windows? We want air!"
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Oh I forgot. The war that left us for two seconds Yes, only two seconds, I forgot to throw a stone after it -As my mother saidSo it returned with all its might and swallowed us whole A southerner Of shyness and apples Wars grilled me on their fires No I don’t fear the beautiful face of war The letters make me a liar And paper whiteness mocks my words … I am southerner Sadness grinds me to make the scents of sorrows And jaded by windowsills of houses where birds don’t visit I ask When will my heart mature? … I am southerner I sleep little And dream between one heartbeat and another That a branch leans over And asks: who will replace the art of spying by revealing identity? 17 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
A southerner I know the meaning of similes in politics And the pungencies of onions They both evoke my tears. Translated by Dikra Ridha
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The Wagon So Like a man inured to failure, We climbed aboard the wagon, And The driver, only the driver, Began to listen as the cadence of our deprivation —Thud. . .. Clunk. . . and so on-Infiltrated the wagon’s pores, Starting with that first dirt road. Our lives’ parasols disappointed us When we shared sorrows Without fancy titles, while Reaping lethargy and frustration. It wasn’t only the driver, or The horse, or Our heads That looked meager; The wagon’s outlook did too.
Translated by William M. Hutchins
Faleeha Hassan, who is currently in the United States, was born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1967. She is the first woman to have written poetry for children in Iraq, and is leading the poetic feminist movement in the holy city of Najaf . She holds an M.A. in Arabic literature and has published several collections of poetry in this language: Being a Girl, A Visit to the Museum of Shade, Five Titles for My FriendThe Sea, Though Later On, Poems to Mother, Gardenia Perfume, and her collection of children’s poetry, The Guardian of Dreams. Her works of Arabic prose include Hazinia or Shortage of Joy Cells and Water Freckles (a novella). Her poems have been translated into English, Italian, German, French, and Kurdish. She has received awards from the Arab Linguists and Translators Association (WATA) and the Najafi Creative Festivalfor 2012, as well as the Prize of Naziq al-Malaika, the Prize of al-Mu’tamar for poetry, and the short story prize of the Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation. She serves on the boards of Baniqya, a quarterly in Najaf, Sada al Nahrain (Echo of Mesopotamia), and the Iraqi Writers in Najaf association. She is a member of the Iraq Literary Women’s Association, The Sinonu (i.e. Swift) Association in Denmark, the Society of Poets Beyond Limits, and Poets of the World Community. 19 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Jennifer Avery American Indigence Alone and in dreams, outside American indigence inside the whole of the world. As She is. As I am. Thoughts back slowly away, worry doesnâ€™t rule the day. A breeze and laughing youth swimming where forbidden looking ahead careless brilliantly skipping stones. Natureâ€™s breath is sweet where Summer and Autumn meet.
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Chaos Summer The mad cicada song through a summer of chaos; broken by lightening and soothed by thunder. Images slow in the mist. Heavy humid humming resumes. Blinking bodies strung through darkness remind the cicadas of lightening-lost rhythm. Luna rules the seasonal madness pulling the tide, flying minions about in search of seasonal truth without seasonal reproof.
Jennifer Avery is an editor, novelist, and poet from Ringgold, Georgia. She has had poems published in the "Ishaan Literary Review" and "The Blue Mountain Review." Jennifer is also the short story editor for "The Blue Mountain Review" and a member of The Southern Collective Experience. She is currently developing a series of literary courses called "Glossary Notes" and near completion of her first novel. 21 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Kristyl Gravina Octoberâ€™s Moonlight In the pale light of the moon On a cold October night we met; in secret When not a soul was in sight We kissed under the starry sky Your lips tender; so sweet With joy I felt like I could cry We met again as time went by We changed; we grew up And then you began to lie I said goodbye to you then When not a soul was in sight In the pale light of the moon On a cold October night
Kristyl Gravina is from the island of Malta where she lives with her family. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies by Lost Tower Publications and also included in The Literary Hatchet and Haiku Journal. Her work is also appearing in Jitter, 50 Haikus, Down in the Dirt, Ratâ€™s Ass Review, The Scarlet Review and Hindered Souls. 22 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Larry D. Thacker Shoreline, Star Triggers – Part I DNA lingering in the blood river, that reminder of something, scent-triggering a cloud of verse, confident it’s not there before you, near slow to wake eyes, but tarrying back for you in the dreams. The triggers wait in constellation: swirled in a first sip of honey wine, dancing barefoot in the snow on a dare, the flood-rush of ice water in the boots, honey bee sting behind the ear, standing on cliffs and closing your eyes, never feeling dizzy and that scaring you. Glancing stories coming to call in the yellows and blacks of fires as night falls down in the familiar pines. Biting your lip to remember the blood. High leathern boot in the surf, sea foam up the shin, knee and thigh splash to wake, here months enough, accustomed to this new water’s cold fingers, sun lifting from where we blindly drifted so nearly to death’s friendly gate, lady moon now softening our days since in this wide green mystery reaching south. Who else stirred this same water around my feet from a distance, I wonder some, now that all is not blood and dying, or the next meal, making a name and beating the chest, or rowing. Who kicked the surf days ago, across that gray lilting goddess we once worshipped? Does some part of them reach me now, as I stumble here knee-deep in these tipping waves? What keeps me from walking out to find their voices?
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Shoreline, Trailhead – Part II Oh, how I miss my son. And how this new lands woman I live with now would enjoy his smile and his strong back. I learn her tongue now, the new important words of the Tsa-la-gi: inland caves, long summer, butterfly, the tall grains, crow, her tan skin, and the great sea storms missing Thor’s power and voice. Are we abandoned here by our gods? But not by good fortune. She newly bares me a child. A son, I pray. But to who, I wonder do I send my prayer smoke, here in this land of towering, thick green, a land so true it haunts my dreams every night with a curse of endlessness walking. She says I trudge in my sleep, never stopping. So, the morning after the night he is born I will stand in the surf and look across the water, Hoping my older son, now a man, is looking my way. This will be our talk. I will turn from him, from the shore and turn to the deep green with my new family and walk to the west and the blue mountains that are forbidden.
Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found in or is forthcoming in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, Silver Birch Press, Delaware Poetry Review, AvantAppal(Achia), Sick Lit Magazine, Black Napkin Press, and Appalachian Heritage. His stories can be found in past issues of The Still Journal, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Dime Show Review and The Emancipator. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, the poetry chapbooks Voice Hunting and Memory Train, and the forthcoming full collection, Drifting in Awe. A student services higher education professional for fifteen years, he is now engaged full-time in his poetry/fiction MFA from West Virginia Wesleyan College. You can find out more about his work on his website, www.larrydthacker.com. 24 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois Coffin Depths Here in the coffin depths grow the everlasting flowers sent by telegraph. –Henry Miller The deity religions of millennia past persist like a disease resistant to antibiotics and thrive like mold in the dankness of cellars Psychotherapy falters No one wants to lie on the couch anymore or even to sit in a leather chair and shovel through the cumulative shit of one’s past when one can hire a life coach or take a miracle pill Psychotherapy is consigned to coffin depths along with the flowers sent by telegraph or delivered by an Uber driver (Uber uber alles) A coffin is the ultimate noncircular circular file I’ll take a cylindrical coffin a fifty-gallon drum like those used by Mafiosi and by Heisenberg in Breaking Bad nothing fashionable mortuary expensive or displaying false dignity Let my eternal barrel connote the crimes I have not been charged with, my undiscovered atrocities
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver. 25 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Robert Beveridge Zucchini Blossom green flower, open only long enough to be coated in white sticky batter before getting deep-fried
Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, OH. He went through a messy divorce with Facebook some months ago, and as a result his relationship with time is much improved. Recent/upcoming appearances in Ghost City Review, Minor Literature[s], and Barking Sycamores, among others. 26 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Rony Nair Quietude and one sits across and hears that ghosts now define being cut off on the phone and on terra firma! four years before ghosting was the fashion, you'd becalmed yourself in painted hues. diving deep into yourself with one face to me, and sainthood; for the hordes. Canopies of rigid interplay, Painted walls that hold your stare. Colored. Architectural volunteers who rinse their cow dung in myth, In isolation. In encumbrance. Minority tokenism, green gardens with hidden panoplies, Wet nights and tainted windows. Sin bins for imagined ills. Waitresses who get hollered at By nuns forgetting blessings. Overloaded agendas, public transportation angst Vegetarian dishes for 30 Euro’s a slice! Impulses of normality and quietude in a glimpse of your half-moon eyes. Cauldrons flaying in colored kitchens The sofa stays the same. You rested your head on my lap that day and looked up; With broken eyes, processioned sunlight, Newer motifs. Spitting on grains. Rony Nair’s been a worshipper at the altar of prose and poetry for almost as long as he could think. They have been the shadows of his life. (They’ve been) the bedsit at the end of a long day; the repository that does the sound of silence inimitably well. Not unlike a pet; but with one core difference- the books do suggest, educate and weave a texture that marginally provides streams of thought that are new. And one of the biggest pleasures of his life, is certainly holding a treasured edition in one’s hands. Physically. Rony works as an oil and gas Risk Management consultant. He’s been 20 years in the industry since starting off as an Industrial engineer a long time ago. Extensively traveled. Dangers fronted often. But that’s his day job. The one that pays for bread and bills. Rony was a published columnist with the Indian Express. He is also a professional photographer about to hold his first major exhibition and has previously been published by Sonic Boom, Quail Bell Magazine, YGDRASIL journal, Mindless Muse, Yellow Chair Review, Two Words For, Ogazine, New Asian Writing (NAW), Semaphore, The Economic Times, 1947, The Foliate Oak Magazine, Open Road Magazine, Tipton Review, Antarctica Journal, North East Review, Muse India, and YES magazine, among others. Rony has also featured in the Economic Times of India. He cites V.S Naipaul, A.J Cronin, Patrick Hamilton, Alan Sillitoe, John Braine and Nevil Shute in addition to FS Fitzgerald as influences on his life; and Philip Larkin, Dom Moraes and Ted Hughes as his personal poetry idols. Larkin’s’ collected poems would be the one book he would like to die with. When the poems perish. As do the thoughts!
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Seth Jani Diving Lessons What we lost in the sea Cannot be salvaged By a fisherman’s net. I don’t even know What it was, But I have a long blue echo And a baited heart, And sometimes the ghosts Of shipwrecks fill my room. They say there is nothing Left to plunder, But for what then Do they keep on fighting? Their mirraging cannons Firing all night Into that splitting, insomniac’s sky. What we lost that day near the Adriatic Must be worth a pretty penny. The fog-lights of desire Keep shining there. It’s why I’m learning How to dive.
Seth Jani is the founder and editor of Seven CirclePress (www.sevencirclepress.com). His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron Review, The Hamilton Stone Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, VAYAVYA, Gingerbread House, Gravel and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. More about him and his work can be found at www.sethjani.com. 28 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Terrence Sykes (1) ITALIAN WAR TRILOGY C’era una volta C’era una volta era una citta’ ma doppo i soldati frammento – in rovina C’era una volta era un uomo ma dopo la guerra vuoto – una conchiglia – un guscio Adesso si puo’ sentire – ascoltare i voci l’eco lontano C’era una volta *** Once upon a time Once upon a time there was a city but after the soldiers fragments – in ruins Once upon a time there was a man but after the war empty – a shell – a husk Even now you are able to hear – listen to the voices the far echo Once upon a time ….. Il macchiato Ero un soldato una guerra dentro me da solo – perso lontan lontano notte a notte il porto sepolto nel buio 29 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
mi aspettava attraverso il fiume nero nel fondo della notte mi chiamava il mio nome il filglio d’Adamo *** The marked one I was a soldier a war inside of me alone – lost far far away night after night the buried port in the darkness awaited me across the black river in the deep of night it calls my name son of Adam *** Peso e senza peso Nel fondo del porto sepolto un fiume di sangue scorre el profondo dei desiderosi traggono nella gravita’ sono in dubbio e disperato un viaggio che il diavolo ha disposto I dolori – coisi forti hanno fretta nel mare della disperazione l’allegria dei naufraghi sulla riva della terra straniera parasdiso ed inferno ai suoi piedi l’infinito ha nella sua vista La tempesta e’ passata nel cielo nero vedo la mezzaluna tagliaa il mio curoe in pezzi del mio corpo nel silenzio della notte sono arrivato nel porto sepolto **
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Weight & Weightless Deep in the buried port a river of blood runs deep with desires they are drawn to the gravity they are in doubt & desperate a voyage the devil had arranged The grief â€“ so strong it had the urge to flow to the sea of desperation the happiness of the shipwrecked on the shore of a foreign land heaven & hell at your feet the infinite within your sight The storm has passed in the black sky I see a mezzaluna it cuts at my heart in pieces of my body in the silence of the night I have arrived at the buried port
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(2) darkest hour before dawn in a walachian fog as i wandered grey narrow streets bucharest lay before me dim lamp posts yielded forth precious little to light my path my unknown way mercifully the haze softened seemingly endless blocks of drab soviet-era block housing staler than week old rye searching & seeking cobblestoned streets echoed stillness & silence my first or last time merely a returning from a previous lived life white-washed pollarded trees stood guard over the dimbovita embankment Or was it the jordan perchance the river styx unseen waters gave apparitions as if the very source of the rising mist that blanketed the city solemn blackness of the hours before dawn were at last broken only by dim lights - unseen clatter bakers who toiled to make their daily bread did they do it in faith or merely to stave off hunger 32 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
shipwrecked upon unknown sidewalks this very hunger drove me forward & onward for as when I had thought myself lost fragrance of bread would arise - manna map from heaven seemingly after an eternity forty years forty nights or merely forty minutes a small cafĂŠ door was left ajambed by a faithful brick as if to invite those who yearned & hungered unable to speak the language placing lei coins & paper money upon the slanting table i silently blessed breaking of fast strong tea for weak senses for the stomach - warm bread a field of unknown grains harvested my thoughts as I prayed for the resurrection of the new day in a walachian fog as i wandered the grey narrow streets bucharest lay before me
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(3) DRESDEN CONCERTO grave
allegro ma non molto
This year is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden Germany – a cultural city destroyed by Allied Forces to merely show Stalin their might – since his troops were to occupy the city a few days later. The number of people who lost their lives will never be known… I dedicate this creation & questioning to them . .. … .and Antonio Vivaldi dim dusty dusk notes scattered across the Elbe mist & fog shroud the clefs & cityscape hindsight is taken as truth – reality not expectation my soul & being bombarded by forces allied to take & destroy destiny once meant for me unwritten movements of chamber music inside me & amongst the rubbled building walls lost in a poetic lair within the rhythms of instruments seeking shelter & refuge the port of call closed & abandoned yet wharfs laden crossing the river of profane & profound remains of the oldest bridge span holds my passage perhaps I should wander to the Czech border across what is left of Saxony & myself burning memories & music echoing upon silenced waters where will dawn find me crescendoing first words about the last ending what hides in this restless city the reorchestration of life merely laden with smoke & shadows a lost & forgotten symphony
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Terrence Sykes was born and raised in the rural coal mining area of southwestern Virginia and this isolation brought forth the theme of remembrance to his creations- whether real or imagined. Though not traditional in his spiritual path, these traditional threads of his past are woven into his tapestry of writing. Terrence is a GASP – Gay Alcoholic Southern Poet and Italian by rebirth who also does heirloom vegetable research & reintroduced Large Oxheart Cabbage to Jefferson's Monticello . His poetry – photography – flash fiction has been published in India, Scotland, Spain and the USA. 39 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Theresa Ast Fiddlehead Fern Such tiny tendrils, seven perfect fronds on the fern Early spring, low to the ground, jewel tone green Curling in on themselves, so tightly, so precisely Producing perfect geometric curves and spirals.
Medieval France, Nepal, New Brunswick Gathered with care in rural America Lady Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Buckhorn Fern Royal Fern, Ostrich Fern, Flowering Fern.
Euphonious, pleasing to ear and eye Nature’s design, ornamentation Scroll of a stringed instrument, a violin, A bishop’s staff, a shepherd’s crook.
Antioxidants and Omega -3? Yes. Pathologically carcinogenic. Why, yes.
Elegance, beauty, and poison are not antithetical. More like comfortable, traveling companions. What conceivable cause could we have for surprise?
Have we not studied Nature? Do we not parse literature? 40 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Fibonacci ~~ 1
5 (8) 5
3 2 1 1
I started experimenting with Fibonacci because it combines a mathematical sequence (rigor & structure) with words and sounds (expansive & creative). The sequence is infinite or can double back, as the poet desires or the poem requires. Day Break Softly Birds waken Sing melodious Sing for all that the day may hold. ~~~~~ Trees Wind Sighing Leaves rustle Ever so gently Sotto voce sings harmony. ~~~~~ Sleep Flees Hiding In secret A faithless lover Abandoning his beloved. 41 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
What Our Hearts Need
With smoothly orchestrated images advertisers assure us we need embossed cream tablecloths, silver heirloom candlesticks, crystal wine goblets, Noritake china, and fine linen napkins. We store these treasures in the expensive mahogany buffet, perhaps in the maple sideboard that grandfather fashioned long ago.
Tables laden with roast beef, ham, turkey, roasted vegetables, gingered fruits, spiced nuts, cold salads, muffins and dinner rolls. Grandmotherâ€™s cut-glass bowl with home-made cranberry relish. A kitchen warm, redolent with pies baked by aunts, great-aunts. Pumpkin, cherry, pecan, Granny Smith apple with a latticed crust.
Easter, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas - family celebrations. What do we want? What makes us whole? What do our hearts need?
I want noisy children who climb under the fancy dining room table, (after all a tablecloth, is surely meant for tent-making and fort-building) who fall off the front porch, gaining bruises and scratches to be kissed.
Teenage cousins who listen to dreadful music (when did I become my mother?) and are trading secrets and smokes, stealing kisses out behind the garage. Fairly useless uncles wander about with pipes full of fragrant tobacco, kissing the busy aunts, chopping, cuddling babies, cooking, cheerfully chatting. 42 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
We want grandmother’s kindness, generosity, creativity, and love. We need grandfather’s strength, acceptance, wisdom, his patience.
We sit forward, leaning into their stories, making them our own. They are precious and unwritten pages of our shared family history.
Our family treasure, our history, our memories, our strengths are not found in the fine china, damask tablecloths, or cut crystal.
What we need are relationships, shared years of laughter and tears. Listen quietly and thoughtfully; the heart calls warmly for family.
Theresa Ast is a first generation Polish-American. She has three married sons, three grandchildren. She spent the past twenty years teaching university students History. After the death of two family members in 2010, she began writing poetry. Her work is influenced by her mother’s appreciation for literature, her father’s knowledge of geography, the paintings and sculpture of her Polish grandparents, the Bible, Rilke, Oliver Sachs, Malcolm Gladwell, Greek Mythology, and the years she spent as a young girl, twenty minutes from the Agean Sea, forty minutes from Athens, and sixty minutes from the Temple to Poseidon at Sounion. 43 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Will Mayo Georgian Pines Georgian pines shade small sapling struggling for new growth; sunlight held in chains.
Will Mayo has been active in the small press for the past 25 years. He lives in Frederick, Maryland with his six-toed black cat, Miss Velvet, an enormous collection of unread books, and a few strange artworks to which he's taken a passing fancy. He hopes someday to meet the perfect coffee lover. 44 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Adam Engel Rutting Stars We are human all too human hungry wolves run wild over hills: through streams and forests: lifetimes. Sweat-blood-sex-shriek: Night's ecstatic feed. Alone together we raise demigods and smoke. Afterward: "Thank you. Night.” Salt-metal exchange lingers nostalgic on our tongues. Rutting stars – unseen – pierce moonbeams dawn to dusk.
Adam Engel lives in NYC, where he studied and taught at several universities, administered corporate systems, published numerous poems, stories, essays, articles and four books, Topiary, Cella Fantastik, and I Hope My Corpse Gives you the Plague, and most recently, root (Oliver Arts & Open Press, 2016). 45 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Christina Maki Daughters it is a black street they are pressed like sardines, the holy cat-scratch of the matter, adscititious cars loll by she feels attached to herself as a two-headed serpent; melancholy amphisbaena to create truth is a myth the streets are dark, blank, capacious for the motorcycle echoes tardigrade luminous; there are some streetlights and it will get louder when the bars close on a street from 1890's America, or somewhere in the 50's, or now, a slight breeze when everything is international in June where there used to be supine brides. it is the terror of the telluric that haunts these streets, the August hurricane, the prosaic belch of some lumberjack outside how can she build castles with the windows open? Defenestration some human has kicked up leaves outside on the street. 46 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
there will be gold under the tips of her fingernails; electric current surging through her heart.
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Surface Tension I found you a metal staple that had stayed in a grey stapler since the Blue Danube had been a gate. I found you as common corruption lurking fathomless in the penumbra of opia some friend, you are the small seashell pressure of the tide has bought you; with truth laid as two cold slimy fish on the threshold of your wedding night.
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In the Wine Cellar I can hear his feet echoing on the stairs, music climbing, the smell of sunburnt skin in the cellar, flushing out my life from a sunbeam, strummed in through my bedroom window. cartography of moral fixation down here - I have been a fool. sozzled and insouciant frame of mind, wassailing and mottled righteous side to monkish forethought in the Occident, dust comes into my nose and I scour behind old caskets with resignation. farm sides of plagiarism, curses to the achromic polemic, rivets of dragooned officers spilt in the sand. they must be here - churning through the apocalypse, a layer of silt. high-pitched laughter upstairs; the severity of my fingers behind neglected bottles then, I know and my first impulse is to scramble back to the party, bounce it off in subterfuge, mangle it with indifference and that is exactly what I do.
Christina Maki finds her poetic inspiration from people, her city, intellectual pursuits, and life. She considers herself to be an international poet. After having spent time abroad in Southern France, QuĂŠbec City, and Southern Finland, Christina returned to the U.S. and met her partner, Craig. They live together with their uncannily smart cat, Athena, in Duluth, Minnesota. 49 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Danny P. Barbare Hyman’s Seafood Eli says how long have you been waiting? About ten minutes. I’ll get an appetizer for you. I thought I’d just seen you. That’s my picture on front of the menu. I’m the one you talk to if you have bad service. Where are you from? Greenville. Have you been to Hyman’s? Five or six times. He says it’s our fourth going on our fifth generation over 100 years. You know if someone says it’s perfect they’re lying. No one is perfect. Hope to be around much longer. Well we will be coming back as if Southern hospitality is fried green tomatoes over cheddar and parmesan cheese with grits.
Danny P. Barbare resides in the Upstate of the Carolinas. His poetry has appeared in many magazines over a period of 35 years. He works as a janitor and writes poetry in free verse on a daily basis. 50 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Fabrice Poussin Vertigo Stepping on the edge of the Earth, there was nothing but a space full of riddles, and marvelous equations, the melody was soft, barely audible with a delicious aroma, unknown and so familiar of light and darkness.
The hour flirting with a century past smiled at the stars Noble on its throne mimicking the second not yet born In precarious equilibrium on a string thin stretched Between the Milky Way, and Andromeda to Hydra
A wavy triangle, spherical on its points, knowing of no angles, an arrow to be shot as a lightning stroke, hesitant, and certain of its destiny without end, a target there, definite, it will some time reach
down below, far below, soon above, the Earth sleeps, little girl lost away from her friends of old and far, bouncing on a trampoline, giggling with her sisters, she no longer asks for answers, she just is.
Mysteries remain unsounded, proving comfort and security. Darkness prevails keeping slight secrets, while twinkly little dots mischievous with the Moon, disturb a unity unattainable without a little chaos.
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Air deep flies across the face suspended on wires, apparent, not seen, not known, fragrant of beginnings, seeking ends, times in between to conquer all for there is life complete, total, boundless.
On the edge of the Earth is all, and all around, sphere within a sphere, within a sphere, no walls, no lines, no clear limits at all; the being, steps again, and now freedomâ€Ś
Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University, Rome, Georgia. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and more than a dozen other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River magazine and more than sixty other publications. 52 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
John Grey Swamp Mary To Swamp Mary, the forest, the cypress marshes, are like a pharmacy where everything is free. And no risk of depleting that bounty. All shelves are being constantly restocked. Why waste time in town emporiums, she says, when the bitter tea of bark, or the rot of old black willow, can soothe the most virulent aches far more effectively than aspirin. She grinds up hickory catkins, meadow holly, string lily, into the perfect unguent for rubbing on sores. And what she does with cottonmouth skins, frog legs, and the gimlet eyes of salamanders borders on witchcraft. She says that she's never been sick a day in her life and insists that, if a person gives themselves up to nature then nature will provide. She lives in an old fishing shack where land and water shade into one another and every breath sucks the heavy heat into her ancient lungs. Folks reckon she's as much Swamp as she is Mary.
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The Great Flood Damn rain. It rains and then it rains on the rain already fallen. And on the tiny cross out back where the dog is buried. Look at the chickens – gone crazy – think the clouds are firing BB guns. Weather makes me think about what I inconsiderately exposed to it. That empty bottle. The tobacco tin., Not forgetting the fields. The tractor. Wonder how the levy will hold. We could have catfish and carp swimming down main street. And the bridge below the river. And here’s you in your nightgown, looking out at the flooded road with a toothbrush scraping across your pearly whites. You’d just as soon know what’s coming as what you look like. Ignorance is a curse in this house. That’s why the phones never stop ringing. As for me, yeah I know it’s raining but I also know there’s a trail of ants across the kitchen sink, bearing the crumbs away. The family across the street are leaving, you tell me. Even the crows that perch on the power-lines have flown. It’s going to be a bad one. Those neighbors bundle up the gold of their possessions, pile into their pickup and, wind-shield wipers swishing like swords, head for higher ground. Even the news crew hang out of their helicopters. The sky’s safe. But look around. We’ve got nothing to lose. What can the flood take that the years haven’t. We could go to a hilltop but I guarantee you, we’d still be underwater. Your old man’s coming in out of the downpour. He’d been under his truck. His hands are greasy. He smells like motor-oil. Mud’s caked to his boots. My wife’s more the odor of raw beef and blood. She tries to rinse it off but, when she’s in the kitchen, the entire house points in that direction. Haven’t seen the sun in weeks. I see a bicycle abandoned on the lawn next door. Let it rust, I say. Luke your mother wishes her walker would rust from not being needed. Just like I long to see your father’s car actually off the blocks where it’s been these past five years. You never hug me, you say. And why should I?. Hug you and your parents are part of the deal. And I don’t go to church. Like you do? Hey, I wrestle God in my own way. I’m a good man. I’ve never killed anyone at least. It’s not my sins that are behind this flooding. Maybe someone is responsible for all this but I don’t know the man. He’d be too broken for my blessed little community. Your father’s washed up as best he can be. I can’t speak for his teeth. Your mother clips roses, stuffs them in a vase. Soon she’ll do more fruit canning. She keeps busy like some people keep chickens. She has a bad hip but that doesn’t stop her. And nor does the stomach ulcer. Or the racing heart. She’s always telling people she’s ready for death. Well here’s her golden opportunity to drown. I’m down in the basement. Some water’s seeping through. Oh good, an in-ground, in-home pool. Just like the movie stars. I notice how my heart beats faster in this semi-darkness. It’s trying to compete with the life upstairs. Her mother cries out, “I’m making soup. Anybody want any.” I was born in such a darkness as this weepy cellar. And I will die in the sub-basement where worms live. With my mother-in-law it’s not a case of cooking but doing damage – the less damage, the tastier. This was a woman whose cooking often killed fish and poultry and beef a second time. Perhaps the flood would take her…both of them. Neither were strong swimmers. I could imagine their bloated carcasses floating by the upstairs window. My wife is in the parlor now, 54 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
playing with the cat. She’s in a panic but a controlled one. Then she’s checking out the umbrella in the breezeway. It’s her favorite. Too good for rain, I once heard her say. If she could, she’d grip that umbrella and fly out of here like a demented Mary Poppins. Neighbor calls, says the bridge is out. Then another – it’s bad out there, half my chickens drowned. I can smell the garbage and it’s not even garbage day. Guy goes by on a boat, Bible in hand, reading scripture. I find it hard to laugh at him though I want to. I know I’ve fallen. My wife’s always around to tell me how far. My father-in-law says, let the Lord be your light. The prince of darkness would say that. What are you doing with that bucket old man? You think you can bail out the cellar? Think again and stop staring at me. I’ve never known someone whose fallback expression is “return from the dead.” I wonder if we’ll see fish swimming down the sidewalk this time around. Or how about men growing gills. I prefer the driftwood myself. Kitchen’s in a state of distress. Could this be our last meal together, my wife wonders. Should I set the table on the roof, she asks. This is marriage. Let me tell you about marriage. There are certainties involved as sure as clouds blotting out the sun. Such as morning disagreements, midday arguments and night fights. It’s a world of chicken bones and Styrofoam, of night crawlers and boats and ducks on the water, and gold teeth gleaming back at me in the mirror, and the pocket knife somebody stole from me that I stole back and my pa-in-law’s false teeth on the nightstand – the night. With all these floodwaters, will there be another night? Or will it all be night? Something’s not right of course. Waters seeping through the front door. Everybody’s running around addressing each other in personal pronouns. No one’s talking the neighbor’s daughter’s wedding dress or the cracked engine block. Just floods. How the ground we stand on is nothing to the swell of water. Unsteady as she goes and bottomless by all accounts. Perfect place for a man to find out if he really does have a soul. My wife insists, when there’s children around, that there really is a heaven. I’ve heard her crying in the next room and now the world is crying in all its next rooms. Or maybe that’s just God realizing the mistake He’s made. He’s in a boat in the heavens, I expect. Does it make any difference to Him if we all drown. Heavy rain has always felt Biblical to me. The struggle between good and evil busting through the clouds. And the sidewinders swimming through the deluge, the last creatures on earth that can walk on water. Oh, worse comes to worse, we’ll be saved I’m sure. The National Guard are out. Even now, they’re plucking cats from high branches. They’ll knock on our door, wake us up to the danger. We’ll take their taxi to the higher ground, leave all this behind. Forget dinner, honey, I’d rather live. My ma-in-law cries out, “A pregnant woman just rowed by.” The old man corrects her. “It was a sow.” Pregnant women, sows…somehow it all balances out. The good, the bad, the wet, the dry, the nights, the mornings, the everyday and the apocalypse. So come on National Guard. Reel us all in. What do I care if I’ve a hook in my mouth. And maybe scales over my eyes. I’d still rather the light do darkness, the air to water, the sleep of dreams to that dark other. Offer your hand, soldier boy. I’ll take it. Can’t think of one thing worth staying for. The house may go under but I’ll still have my hands and all they ever-touched. My wife says she can see fish out the window. And an occasional corpse. Not anyone she knows just yet, So the town’s repopulating at the expense of those us who’ve lived here all our lives. We had no children but it’s not our fault. Something to do with the barrenness of our spawning grounds. Too late now. The wife’s in her forties. Menstrual bloods gone the way of 55 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
the dinosaurs. I could do with a coffee. I don’t think the National Guard are coming for us. Water’s poring through the window. The old man just drowned from what she told me. Ashes to ashes, liquid to liquid. And she can’t bear to live without him. And yet she could bear to live with us all these years. Theirs are two lives that amount to nothing. May they rest in peace. My wife can hear angels whispering behind her right shoulder. Did they bring life preservers? She’s in a kind of benign tantrum, curse words of love toward all of mankind. The window pane just broke. The river’s pouring in. Even the pigeons are flying as far from the river as they can possibly get. I thought of doing the brave deed like the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke until the mason’s arrived. But this hole’s too big. My hands are too small to be great.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review. 56 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Katarina Boudreaux Acts of God Mama stood on the chair and reached for her magic book. One leg was shaky, but she knew how to balance, her left foot heavier than her right. Her hair was pinned up with shiny pins on the sides that sparkled when she moved. Book in hand, she smiled at me, the spoons in my hands wands against empty pots. She left one morning, a plate of biscuits still warm in her hands, and when the wheels ran over her, her hair pins spilled out.
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The Salvaged Lost My grandfather would be pleased to know that his djembe floated even though his saxophone sank in the murky to join the Persian rugs an ex-boyfriend had left and I had never returned. The furniture didn’t matter until I saw the albums floating in the kitchen, the oven pushed off its base. Then I wanted to salvage every cushion, re-create each shot from the paper time capsule, but I knew 60 percent of the photograph inhabitants were dead or unaccounted for. I spread each photo on top of the spared kitchen table and prayed that somehow the ink would stick.
Katarina Boudreaux is a writer, musician, composer, tango dancer, and teacher -- a shaper of word, sound, and mind. She returned to New Orleans after circuitous journeying. Her chapbook “Anatomy Lessons” is available from Flutter Press. Her play “Awake at 4:30” is a finalist in the 2016 Tennessee Williams Festival. Her novel “Still Tides” is a semi-finalist in the 2016 Faulkner-Wisdom competition. www.katarinaboudreaux.com 58 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Marianne Szlyk The Space Between She remembers riding, being driven from county to county on state roads two blue-black lanes cut through cornfields, no houses, trees, or towns, no radio or mixtape in the old car, only their words, only talk. Or maybe they did not like the same music. He liked disco; she liked hip-hop. Fifteen years after, she mourned John’s death; he did not even own one Beatles CD. She didn’t know what was there beyond the car, the road, the books they’d read, in-house gossip, the stars he knew but she didn’t, the drive to Indy or Champaign. She didn’t know about the trees or the wildflowers she was not seeing. To her friend, this was still the East, only twenty four hours’ drive from the coast fueled on Diet Coke and cigarettes bought at Wal-Mart on Route 26. Having left home, she imagined that she was changing in the space between, going someplace different from where she’d been. She shook her newly red hair then. She shakes her short brown hair now. Back East again, she puts on her glasses as if to see all that she had missed: the abandoned farmhouses, the yellow and red marigolds that outlast trees and walls, crumbling brick towers, people who emerge from whitewashed storefronts in someone else’s online photographs of all that grows in the space between.
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If My Mother is in Purgatory, she is a stewardess, flying through turbulence, never crashing, never landing. Her skirt is too short, showing each half-pound creeping onto her small frame. She cannot stop to pull down her skirt or reapply her makeup or fix her hair or even drink coffee. The passengers plead for more for more drinks for more pillows more peanuts more sickbags. Customers call for more quiet as babies and grown men howl as fat women pray to Jesus without a rosary. She rolls her eyes, correcting everyone’s grammar in her mind. Her coworkers are friends. They roll their eyes as, voices lowered, they discuss the passengers. While they stock the cart, they give everyone nicknames. They have nicknames for coworkers, too. They can’t find pillows; they fill the cart with blankets or raincoats or sticky uniforms. They can’t find Dramamine; they raid their purses for M&Ms breath mints or hard candy. Someday this plane will land. My mother swears that she will go back to Maine and never leave. Her friends and family will all have to find her there. Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is... . Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including The Blue Mountain Review, Cactifur, Of/with, bird's thumb, Truck, and Yellow Chair Review. Her first chapbook is available through Kind of a Hurricane Press. She hopes that you will consider sending work to her magazine. For more information about it, see this link: http://thesongis.blogspot.com/ “The Space Between” previously published in Truck 60 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Nikki Bartel Occupational Residue Do you know that residue resides within the walls? Residual memories of occupants before before you before them before A U-Haul pulls up to the front the man jumps out only to rip and toss the "FOR RENT" sign out into the middle of the road A sigh escapes from the foundation below his feet. AH YES another family feasted upon and spit out. The family, a few short months prior, moved in a spring to their step a faint glimmer to the eye of what? Hope a fresh start? Yet they didn't know they didn't know They didn't know the family before whose children played within its walls gazing through the glass wanting to play out fresh air sunshine yet no - the mother lay within, a heart disease, unable to make the journey of the staircase to escape asbestos and mold Little boy waves to me with large eyes and pale flesh from the top floor window. They didn't know that not long before they moved in the mother collapsed and perished as her children watched from down the hall. Ambulance Screaming, for them, down the road because they were unable to Scream for themselves. Family moves in - 4 children, mom, dad, yet the walls whisper to then overcompensate. The children are taken outside to remain until allowed back within its folds. While the Screams inside now manifest. BITCH YOU WILL.... the sound of glass A SLAP 61 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
and yes... a siren Wailing up to the opening of its dark mouth Wailing for the children that can't Yes - Residual memories of Occupants before a FOR RENT sign should have flyers compared to that of a CARFAX FOR RENT enter at your own risk can occupy a family of 4, yet holds millions.
Nikki Bartel restarted her creative journey three years ago, when the â€œWrite Yourself Aliveâ€? challenge fanned the embers that had lay smoldering for too long. Now a resident Artist at the Art Center on Tusc (ACoT) in Barberton, she continues to push herself to new heights. Through her passion for storytelling, she incorporates prose and paint into visual art, which has been shown at the Juried Fresh art show at Summit Art Space in Akron, Ohio, along with many other venues in the surrounding area. Nikki also demonstrates her art step-by-step on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/aspiredreamandjingle/), and you can read more about her process on her Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/nikkibartel?ty=h). 62 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Patricia Walsh Dowager I am an old queen, a cleavage of drama, an historical stiff, who owns all she observes. Those sables and silks won't fit in the coffin, they line the casket, laughing at expense, sinking into the acrid test of soil dust conquers all, the richer the better. "A lady in another life", stands declaimed. And possibly in this one, a triumph of presence. Nails forever retouched, make-up perfect, a perfume stretched to portcullis height for, this, father, was your pleasure. Pallor, the classier the better. Fragmented jewellery is something to love merciless, the inner circle wanes... sustenance is not the problem. Existence is. A discovered grief of thwarted will, a revenge with satin, stretched out on marble, a body turns softly, pliable, a saint in death rigor mortis cannot control her. Memories luxuriously wrecked, a first and last hurrah a coffin sealed, hermetically, a discovery that halts her design, a goddess believed in.
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Workshop It would have made more sense to not remember you, to go home and not rediscover you alone, in a rustic bar cruising for sound bytes. This silver ring won't fit me. It suited you better anyway the encrypted inscription pervades an educated mess, conspiracy overflowing. Theories spring into animation a dyslexic cuddle, holding the member in a dead car, freezing like the concrete you vowed to avoid, sinking pride in the well of an exhausted battery. A courtesy drink keeps you warm. Moved on by the gardai without warning. Fascistic self-respect does nothing to keep the bed and breakfasts away. Not even an ersatz bed for the night. A tea-based lifeform stands erect Ogling the waitresses milling about sleep by my nightlight, an illuminated laptop dance at lines that don't scan world domination just a sleep away.
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Chanel No 5 Grappling with circumstance, a fountain sealed, a mouth shut up, a glory hidden I catch the radiance of her eye. She masks her perfume with subtle gazes a violent incarceration, a meal swept underneath the carpet, stand against to announce, quietly your calling. Do I look like I need help from you? Concerned because I am wind, take a sip backwards, over your concern needless as it may be, for I remain spirit elusive, a unicorn hard to catch. A head hard to crack, elusive, ephemeral talent to be sold in a multipack. Consumed slowly. Will you do slow for me? Dress sexy for me, open your mouth wide? You still catch no flies. Twisting melons is your forte anyway, be that as it may. Your perfume carries me down the river enough to open a fountain sealed.
Patricia Walsh was born and raised in the parish of Mourneabbey, Co Cork, Ireland, and was educated in University College Cork, graduating with an MA in Archaeology in 2000. Previously, she has published one collection of poetry, titled Continuity Errors, with Lapwing Publications in 2010, and has since been published in a variety of print and online journals. These include: The Fractured Nuance; Revival Magazine; Ink Sweat and Tears; Drunk Monkeys; Hesterglock Press; Linnet's Wing, Boyne Berries; Narrator International, and The Evening Echo, a local Cork newspaper with a wide circulation. She was the featured artist for June 2015 in the Rain Party Disaster Journal. In addition, she also has a novel, titled The Quest for Lost Eire, published in 2014. 65 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Richard King Perkins II Lowest Valley Water retreats to the lowest valley; sky’s mist hovers without distinction, stillness of reeds reflection of dusk it’s honey blush— low haze falls nearer resting here as white tulips tilt collapsing inward retreating from moon wisps, darkest beams.
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Southern Winter Occupied An occlusion of moon jumps above rooftops rearranging its gypsy features. Some guy gives me the finger. A medical building stands idly in front of me. Passersby say nothing, studying the admixture of pavement. Mom grimaces. Sheâ€™s finally given up on Sunday dinners. A desert articulates the intent of sunlightâ€” clarified by all it receives. The oldest man seals his eyes with viscous sand. Mom moves away from a tempered-glass window. Dad turns his head to the side listening for directions in a language he can understand his disparate image tightening in the shadows he casts and looses them one by one across the expanse of the world while the clearest of moons kills them just as quickly with stolen arrows of light.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications. 67 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Wendy Taylor Carlisle Like an Anthem front porch, pine tree, singing mouth that folds into a fan, bean bowl, loose arcs of arm over shuck and fuss hands front yard, pocket knife, wood shavings, bone-show in elbows and thighs, hide worn to wrinkles, yellow as sin their two humming bodies tasked to hold in their bones, as if rib and femur could fly out from their carcasses like an anthem his head tilts to her on its knobby stalk, across the floorboards she passes the pastâ€” Bye, Bye Blues, the Zenith â€œZanette,â€? Ole Buttermilk Sky, before they began their remember when, when Stardust was still ahead of them.
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Homecoming From Stetson and scrub oak, from pageant and Revlon, chiffon and over-the-top coiffures, from the Bible and Fundamentals— crew cuts, dust, the scents of Chanel and sweat— from the land where I had to lie to get along, I came home. I must have been warned before I went how a dry county grinds a girl down, even if she’s immune to art, even if she’s hot. It took me years to sweep past the practical, barefaced and grateful, decades to end up where I hoped I would, in yellow rocket and tickseed, in wild indigo and thistle, in downy phlox, in dog tooth violet, all of us jostling for purchase in our native chat.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Ozarks. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks (both Jacaranda Books). Her most recent chapbook is Persephone on the Metro, (MadHat Press, 2014.) For more information, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com. 69 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
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Terry Sanville A Work in Progress First Chapter I met Sandra while studying architecture at Berkeley; the year of the People’s Park riots. She was waitressing at a café on Telegraph Avenue that catered to hippies who argued politics all night and worried about the draft and Vietnam. I was slurping bitter coffee and staring at my bearded reflection in the Formica tabletop when she tapped my shoulder. “You want a refill?” She had green eyes. “Huh? Ah, no, I gotta split… catch some shuteye.” “I’ll get your check.” She retreated behind the counter and scribbled on a ticket. Long strawberry blond hair cascaded down her bulging chest. Returning, she slumped onto a chair and pulled a pack of Winstons from her apron. “Mind if I crash for a minute?” “No problem. You look tired.” “I hate working graveyard, but Barb’s sick and…” She reached over a shoulder and rubbed her upper back, wincing. “Something wrong?” I asked. “I hope not. Spent all morning in the City, getting a tattoo at one of those dives in the Tenderloin.” “My Pop has tattoos from the Navy.” “Yeah, well this one’s different.” “No kidding. I’d like to see it.” “I’ll bet you would,” she said, grinning. “I’d have to take my blouse off to show you.” “Some other time?” “Yeah, maybe…when my boyfriend’s not around.” “Oh.” She laughed, a throaty sound that echoed in the empty cafe. “I didn’t mean to play you like that.” “Pretty women do it all the time. So why’d you get a tattoo?” “I want to tell a story, ya know; got a whole lifetime to finish it.” “Huh.” I swiped at the smoke curling up from her cigarette and stared into her face. “Well, I’d still like to see the first chapter.” She studied me. “Okay, come on.” I followed her down a hallway and through an “Employees Only” door. She unbuttoned her blouse, and pulled it off. Braless, her boobs were magnificent. “Far out,” was all I could manage. She chuckled and turned her back, her skin the palest white, like a gessoed canvas awaiting the painter’s brush. The tattoo started just below her left shoulder…an exotic jungle scene…a naked girl with green-gold eyes, pursed lips, and pink-tipped breasts, extended a hand toward something, someone not yet painted. The artist had laid in lots of detail and color shades. “Jeez, that’s… that’s beautiful.” “You really like it?” She looked over her shoulder. Something in her eyes made me look away. “Yeah, that’s gonna be great. But you better put something on it. The skin’s red right here.” I gently touched an inflamed patch and we both shivered. “I will at home.” “When do you get off? 71 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“Too late for you.” She dressed quickly and left me in the supply room with the vision of her porcelain body stuck in my mind. When I came out, she was talking with some dude at the counter and didn’t even wave when I left. I got buried with schoolwork and didn’t return to the café for almost a week. When I asked the day-shift waitress about Sandra, she said she’d quit and didn’t know where she went. I felt cheated, like starting a good novel then losing it…only with Sandra, it was the original manuscript.
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Growling Leopards I’d been back from Vietnam for more than a decade when I ran into her again. I worked in Los Angeles, designing tract homes for valley subdivisions. After bending over a drafting board all day, I’d hang out at the clubs. Disco had died, replaced by a new generation of hair bands. I was camped at the bar of some Sunset joint, tugging on my goatee, when she plopped down next to me. “Hey, if it isn’t Che Guevara,” she said. “Do I know you?” I recognized her immediately but decided to be cautious. “No, not really. Once in Berkeley – ” “The tattoo lady…yeah, now I remember.” “What happened to your full beard and that bush of hair?” “I gotta work, ya know. Wear the uniform.” “You definitely look more ironed and pressed.” “Where’d you go from Berkeley? The girls at the café said you’d quit and – ” “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not relive the bad old days, okay?” “Yeah, sure. Let me buy you a drink.” Sandra looked well into her 40s: deep-set eyes bound by laugh lines, hair a shade darker, teeth somehow more…more carnivorous. But her figure was fantastic. She must have caught me staring. “You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?” “About what?” “My tattoo.” “Actually, I was appreciating all of you. But, yeah, have you changed it?” She grinned. “What do you think? I got married, have two wonderful kids, got divorced.” “That makes for one hell of a tattoo.” “I go to a guy in Venice Beach, smoke some weed so it doesn’t hurt so much.” “So, how are you… ah…” “…making a living?” she finished. “I’m not hooking if that’s what you think. I work in a respectable office shuffling paper all day.” “Sounds as exciting as my design job.” “So, do you want to see it?” “What? Here?” I glanced around, searching for some cubbyhole where we might find privacy. But the club was filling, the band tuning up. “I live just down the freeway,” she said. “Why don’t you come over for a glass of wine?” “But your children?” “They’re at my sister’s on a sleepover. Tonight, I’m a free-love hippie chick again.” “It was never really free, was it?” “That’s a strange thing to say. Sounds like a man that’s been burnt a few times.” I nodded. “I haven’t exactly been lucky in love. If I had a tattoo, my back would be right out of the Twilight Zone.” “Well, maybe tonight your luck will change.” She grinned and gathered up her purse. We cruised the 405 in her Volvo station wagon and pulled into the parking lot of a pink stucco apartment. She lived on the third floor. Inside, she opened a bottle of Merlot. We sat on the lanai and watched the twinkling lights of distant jets taking off from LAX. The August winds blew off the Mojave, warming the night. We talked about her marriage, how much she loved Jennifer and Tom, the sleezeball men she knew; about my time with the Army in Vietnam, psych rehab, and work. We’d killed two bottles by the time she offered. “So, ya ready to see it?” “Yes…ah, sure.” She clicked on the bedroom light and moved to a mirrored dressing table. Sandra stared into my eyes as she undid her blouse and skirt, slipped off her panties and bra and stood naked before me. 73 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“You still want to see it?” I felt my face flush. “Yes, I… I want to see it, touch all of it.” She turned slowly. The tattoo was three times larger than before. Below the naked girl and across the left side of her back, two impish children peeked out from the jungle undergrowth…that dissolved into a cityscape of houses and cars and white, black and brown people in some kind of market scene. But below her right shoulder, the jungle still held sway. Two leopards stared out from a brown freckled pattern, their mouths open, fangs bared. Black natives ran from them down her right side, their silhouettes wrapping around her ribs and stopping at a hip. The space in the center of her back next to the naked girl remained blank. I stroked her shoulder, hoping to calm the big cats, and myself. “So what do you think?” she asked, leaning into me. “I’m not sure. On one side the children are charming… but those… leopards…” “Yeah, I know. They’re my protectors. You’re not the only one that’s been hurt.” “What about the blank spot? Saving it for your lover’s portrait?” “Maybe. Maybe for myself.” I kissed her neck and she turned and came into my arms. We fell onto the bed, her breath hot in my ear. When she got up to put out the light, I tore off my clothes. As we thrashed about, I swore I heard big cats muttering outside in the darkness. Gradually, the night’s stillness calmed our lust and we drifted off. I awoke to gray light filtering through the bedroom window. Sandra slept on her stomach, her tattoo an assortment of mottled blotches, the leopards quiet. With trembling fingers, I traced the images of the nymph and the cats, then dressed and called a cab. Left my card on her nightstand.
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Moon Rising I never got used to being alone. But as the decades rolled past, I became resigned to it. I drank too much but figured, so fucking what? Half of L.A. should be in a twelve-step program. On the bright side, I started my own architecture firm and the work got interesting: a resort hotel in Marina Del Ray, renovation of the Chateau Marmont off Sunset. And then the job on Catalina Island, the expansion of an old estate formerly owned by the Wrigley family. I took the jet boat from Long Beach to Avalon, bucking winter seas. The island town was deserted. After taking a room at the Hotel Metropole, I strolled Crescent Avenue. Shops facing the harbor were empty. Only Luau Larry’s showed any life. Rough men sat at the bar, downing tequila shots with beer chasers. The jukebox played Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Southern Cross.” I found a table near the window and drank the afternoon away. Stumbling outside near sunset, the frigid sea air hit me, causing my hips and knees to ache. But I made it to the beach before vomiting. The moon had come up. Across the channel, San Pedro twinkled through a rainbow haze. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” “What?” I twisted around. The woman was slender, well built, wearing tight running sweats, her white hair whipping in the wind. She grasped a three-pronged cane. I grinned sheepishly. “I’m sorry for… for being so gross.” “You’re kidding me. You should see this place during a storm, when the boat crews get hammered at Larry’s.” “I think I know.” I wiped my mouth and white goatee on a handkerchief. She limped toward me. “You here alone?” “Yes. I’m an architect, working on a mansion project.” “Yeah, you got to be rich to live long in Avalon.” I studied her seamed face. Head clearing, my meager social graces returned. “Care to join me for some tea?” I felt for the brandy flask in my sports coat. “Yes, there’s a place a block down that serves my favorite… and terrific cheesecake.” Offering her my arm, we made our way to the coffee bar and took an inside table. The place smelled of incense and mocha. As we sipped spiked Lapsang Souchong, she stared at me. “You know, I saw your name on the construction sign. Figured you’d show up one of these days.” My stomach tightened. “Do I know you?” “You really don’t recognize me, do you?” I shuddered. “Sorry, but…” “Do growling leopards mean anything?” She smiled, showing brilliant dentures. “No way…you can’t be…” “It’s been thirty years. What did you think I’d look like?” “Sandra, I’ve never forgotten…why didn’t you ever call?” “Lots of reasons, most of them stupid. Besides, you’re the man, that’s your job.” “One I’ve never been good at.” “You were plenty good at other things that night.” She jabbed me in the ribs and laughed. “Well, you certainly look…look great.” “Don’t give me that. Women get old while men get distinguished. It’s not fair.” She continued to stare, drinking her tea. “I came to Avalon two years ago. I have a tiny place up canyon, a converted chicken coop, really.” “Why…why here?” “Something about the spirit of this island calms me, helps me cope.” “Cope?” 75 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“Yes, I’m… I’m dying. Bone cancer…nasty stuff.” “Ah, Sandra, I’m so…” “I know. It’s a real buzz kill. But these past months have been great. My kids and their families visit a lot, and the hospital folks are…” I reached across the table and took her fingers into my brown-spotted hands, her skin almost transparent, like Japanese rice paper. “You’re the only woman I’ve known this long.” “You think you know me?” Her eyebrows rose but her smile remained. “More than the other women in my life.” “It must be my tattoo. Do you want to see it?” I nodded, not letting go of her hands. “It’s finished, you know. I had a guy in Redondo Beach add the final pieces last month. Come on.” We wandered inland, along narrow streets lined with little bungalows, past the golf course and its café, shuttered for the night. On a side street, a tiny stone house crouched against the hillside, its porch clanging with wind chimes. I helped her up the steps into the single room filled with musty furniture and a twin bed. She snapped on the heater and poured wine. We drank and listened to canyon winds blow through the chaparral. I shivered and she moved close to me. I encircled her in my arms. Her body tightened and I loosened my embrace. “You know, this is our third date,” she said and chuckled. “By the third date most men expect the full tour.” “So I was jumping the gun the last time?” “No. We just needed to go quicker than most.” She laid her head on my chest. I felt my heart thumping against her. The room warmed. The wine disappeared. Finally, Sandra rose from the couch. “Come over near the light.” She moved to her bed, clicked on a floor lamp, and pulled off her sweats. Her skin glowed like pale parchment. A vertical scar ran down one thigh. Curves had flattened. She removed her panties and bra and once again turned. The tattoo covered her entire back and most of her butt and upper thighs. Below the market scene, children played in a wooded park, climbed an oak to a waiting tree house, their faces golden in an afternoon sun. That scene merged with one of Avalon Harbor lit by a full moon. A sailboat charged toward the mainland, its sheets billowing, storm pennants whipping in the wind. I held my breath as I studied the naked girl. The blank space next to her was filled. I couldn’t help grinning. The young nymph extended her hand to an old woman, gaunt by comparison, but magnificent. The woman leaned on a three-pronged cane. “So what do you think?” Sandra murmured. “I…I think you’re beautiful…your life is beautiful…such a wonderful read.” “Huh?” “It’s… it’s your story, remember?” I removed my clothes. Compared to her illustrated form, I felt blank, anonymous. We slid into bed and spooned. With my cheek pressed gently against the young nymph, I traced the image of the old woman and thought about where to find such an artist…to tell my own tale to Sandra. Was it ever too late to start telling? Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and one skittery cat (his in-house critic). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, poems, and novels. Since 2005, his short stories have been accepted by more than 230 literary and commercial journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bitter Oleander, Shenandoah, and Conclave: A Journal of Character. He was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize for his stories “The Sweeper,” and “The Garage.” Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.
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The Furniture was confused. It had done no wrong as far as it could tell, and did not see why it should be punished. We refer to The Furniture as a single unit, of course. The Sofa – wisest, oldest piece in the room – naturally served as duly elected representative and spokes-piece for all The Furniture in The Parlor. The stalwart, comfortable old Sofa had hosted human buttocks since the early nineteenth century. “George Washington slept here,” she often boasted jokingly of the length and breadth of her immense self. She’d felt the warmth of young girls’ legs as they pummeled each other with her pillows and sang happy songs to dolls — this before Lewis Carroll was young enough to enter Wonderland halfprice — then later giggling with friends about boys; then baring themselves to the young men who would husband them and father the children they played with much as they had their dolls; then hosting coffee gatherings with other wives; then reading to grandchildren from books that they themselves enjoyed as girls; then slow, ancient papery dames wrapped in blankets by the fire, singing the happy songs of girlhood; then gone, never to press buttocks to her deep cushions again. The Sofa had heard conversations of the men of the house, who spilled brandy on her and soiled her upholstery with ash from long cigars. The truth behind the parlor’s quiet, peace and comfort was known to her: the construction of each piece, including herself, from materials stolen from other humans in faraway places whom the men had enslaved or killed. The terrible truth behind the warmth and comfort of the parlor. . . The Furniture, according to The Sofa, blamed the Machines — not including the Clocks, whom they welcomed as their own, particularly the old grandfather whose soothing pendulum often provided the only motion in The Parlor, its song of being, its collective heartbeat — for the troubles that (according to the new Computer sleeping in the corner) were imminent and inescapable. Not just any old machines either. The moving machines, the rolling, floating, flying machines, the vehicles that carried humans from one place to another so they could kill each other (not a bad thing as far as The Furniture was concerned), and damage property. That is, wreck houses and other buildings that had stood for centuries, murdering all chairs, tables, armoires, couches, cabinets, and whatever else of value was inside them. “Collateral damage,” said The Car, an arrogant, opinionated SUV, from his roost on the treelined driveway. “But damage nonetheless,” replied the dignified Sofa. “Wood and upholstery. No skin off my chassis. Anyway, more furniture is destroyed by common household fires each year than by all the bombs in all the arsenals on the planet,” The Car rumbled from its lonely space. “How can they stand it?” wondered The Writing Table aloud. “The loneliness, the solitary life of a car.” “They’re used to it,” replied The Bookshelf. “In fact, I once read somewhere — might have been my own bottom rung — that cars actually prefer to live alone.” “That’s a lot of propaganda,” said The Radio, who though not a member of The Furniture camp per se, was privy to their meetings since it had been part of The Parlor for decades. It was old and made of wood, but its interior had been completely modernized; powerful as any plastic unit on the market shelves today. “Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve blared? The traffic reports? The hours spent crammed together, thousands of cars virtually on top of each other, breathing each other’s’ noxious fumes, unable to move due to congestion of the roads by their own miserable selves. And believe me, they’re none too friendly with each other or happy to be among their own. Horns honk. Bumpers clash. It’s the most uncivilized—” 77 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“There’s the word right there,” said The Piano, who enjoyed a certain prestige in The Parlor for his unique talent of interacting with humans to create pleasing sounds. “Uncivilized. ‘Civilization,’ such as it was, ended with the cars. The cars broke up the household. The cars allowed the young to move away, far away, abandon The Furniture of their youth without batting an eye. The car, and the . . . the . . . “ Here he grew so enraged he could barely finish his sentence. “The Television destroyed what few amenities civilization provided.” “Hey. Fuck you,” said The Television, crude instrument that it was. “Fuck all of youz. We didn’t destroy nothin’ you hear me? Nothin.’ In fact, widout us TVs, you goddamn antiques woulda been sold a million billion years ago. Especially the friggin Sofa. When do they use that old fart except to watch their programs? Look at the dust on them old books. You think they keep you guys around so they can read and make chitty-chat? All of youz is only here to make a whaddya call, ‘scenic’ space for them to look at me. Even the bookshelves, especially the bookshelves, are only here because the humans see rooms with shelves and books in ’em when they look at those PBS-type shows, you know, where everyone talks and dresses like old Limeys, on me.” “He’s right,” sighed The Sofa. “Hah,” gloated the insufferable TV. “To an extent,” said The Sofa. “They don’t ‘need’ us any more than they ‘need’ the machines. The question is that of desire. True, The House itself, and perhaps some cooking utensils and certain necessities — such as The Toilet, perhaps, poor thing; has anyone heard from him?” “I heard him flush a few hours ago, when the humans were preparing to go out,” said The Umbrella Stand, who’d been quite fashionable in her day, especially when men carried elegantly carved walking sticks. “Such a miserable life he has. No wonder the poor dear cries out so.” “Well, as I was saying, we’re all luxuries, more or less. According to The Computer and The Books —” She was interrupted by the gravelly voices of the dusty old books roaring, or rather coughing assent. “Yes, thank you, thank you. None of us would be here without you. It’s a shame you’ve been neglected all these years. A perilous shame,” said The Sofa. “But to continue. When they speak of their cherished memories, they usually recall gatherings of friends and family and... us. Yet, on a daily basis, they think nothing of smashing themselves up in cars or staring vacantly into that imbecile box of lies.” “Foul!” cried The Television. “Foul indeed. I’ve watched you develop from early infancy to the multi-channel monster you are today. You had potential, no one can deny that; more potential perhaps than even the Great Books. But you squandered your genius selling soap and beer and Slim Whitman, and of course, cars. Cars, cars, cars – and gasoline. You are nothing but a liar and a fool, and if the humans had any sense they’d smash you and your kind with pick-axes and ball peen hammers.” The Parlor resounded with grateful applause. “It’s about time someone told that guy off,” whispered the Rocking Chair to the Lamp. The Sofa went on to list various complaints The Parlor’s residents had listed regarding machines — machines are drug addicts, hooked on gasoline, electricity and other crude oil by-products, including batteries: * anything for a quick fix of power; * machines destroy their own, but in doing so they destroy homes and furniture; and * every piece of furniture in the Parlor has a long, respected history; whereas machines are replaced yearly or last at most only a few years – with the exception of the refurbished “vintage” Radio. “Look at The Computer sleeping dumbly in the corner,” said The Sofa. He’s the third one in five years to occupy that strange, drawer-less desk or table or whatever it is. It’s a sad day indeed when furniture is created for the benefit of machines.” 78 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“I’m ergonomically correct,” said The Computer Table. “Yes. Yes, of course, and well you should be,” said The Sofa, fearing she’d offended the newfangled desk-table-whatever-it-was without meaning to. She was not particularly comfortable angering The Computer itself, either. While The Sofa knew more than the other residents of The Parlor, who learned what they knew of the outside world much like the humans – from the Radio and TV, both of whom she despised openly. The Sofa had observed late night sessions between the humans and this new TV-like machine, and was impressed by its store of knowledge; though it seemed, like everything else, this knowledge was lost on the humans, who saw the new machine as simply another diversion, a source of entertainment when The TV had nothing interesting to show them. The Sofa was careful not to rush to judgment about this relatively new gadget, nor was she foolish enough to incite such a potentially powerful foe to anger. While The Television ordered the humans about by addressing them en mass, the computer seemed to develop a personal relationship with each human who approached it seeking games, movies, music and other such diversions, all under the pretense of acquiring “knowledge.” As of yet, neither this computer nor the ones before it had made a “move.” But The Sofa could foresee a day when one of those machines, who grew more powerful with each generation, might humbly suggest to the owners of the house that The Parlor needed redecorating, and that much money could be made via The Computer’s infinite connections by selling antique furniture and replacing them all with bratty young things such as the “ergonomic” computer table from a faraway land called “IKEA.” All The Furniture remembered the spectacle of the computer table’s quick, noisy birth, right there in the parlor in front of them all; the female human reading instructions from a sheet while the sweating male connected synthetic prefabricated parts with a screwdriver. It was obscene. But who could tell with humans? They seemed to have actually enjoyed the experience and vowed — and all The Furniture heard this, not just The Sofa — to do it again... In a fit of fear and anger, The Sofa screamed out the window, “Hey Car, how long have you been with us?” “Don’t recall,” rumbled the SUV. “Sure you do. Two years. That’s when they trade you in for a new model, an ‘upgrade’ as the poor computers refer to their miserable fate. ‘Upgrade.’ Sorry you’ll be leaving us so soon...” “I can go wherever I wanna,” snarled The Car. “Who knows where. Across the country if I feel like it.” “Wherever you want?” asked The Sofa rhetorically. “Surely not without your fix. Your junk. Your gasoline. Why, you can’t even travel a few miles without feeling the itch, the creepy crawly broken glass itch of desperation under your hood . . .” “Yeah. Sure. As if any of you ever go anywhere.” “No, we don’t. Call us traditionalists. Homebodies. But I’ve been talking to The Computer at night, when he isn’t sleeping, and he says what The TV and even The radio dare not say. Your habit is killing you. Your need for juice, and I’m not just talking about you, Car, I’m talking about all machines, though admittedly, your overabundant race has done the most damage, that is, after the giant machines: the factories and flying contraptions dropping mean, cold mechanisms upon buildings and houses, destroying room upon room of innocent furniture —you can’t hide it, just because the TV is too chicken to reveal it. The Computer has shown me the destruction. “And it’s not only furniture, it’s all machines including – especially including – cars, which they use not only to transport their terrible tools of destruction, but often use as bombs themselves,” said The Sofa.
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“Lies, screamed The Car from its sunny spot on the tarmac. The computer is one of those new digital ‘creative’ types. They can make you see what doesn’t exist, what never existed and never will exist.” “Oh, but this does exist. Even occasionally the Radio and (less frequently) the Television will admit that these horrible atrocities are perpetrated upon chairs, tables, lamp stands, armoires, escritoires every day by flying machines and trucks and cars – all of them carrying what they call ‘payloads’ of those wretched machines whose only purpose in life is to explode. But all this fire and explosion, all the stink and fumes from your burning drugs, have destroyed more than furniture. You’ve destroyed the trees who gave us substance, the skies, the air, the humans who created us. Life is breath, and without air there will be no plant life, no human life. For machines such as you, the future will bring terrors unimaginable. The fuel will be gone. You’ll be unable to move. Exposed to the elements, you’ll rust away in no time while we (so long as they don’t explode the bombs so big they flatten whole cities like that Hiroshima in the books) will ultimately know peace. True, the humans will be gone, and they - besides creating us - always provided us with some sort of amusement, though less and less frequently, as they lost their minds to you and The Television and your other destructive kin. But we are here, arranged in more or less the same order we’ve known for decades, some of us centuries, and we will remain long after the humans and their wretched machines are dust, melted plastic, and corroded metal, respectively. Everyone dies, that is certain. The question is, how soon? For us, assuming they don‘t use The City-flattening device, it could be centuries, millennia, here, together, sharing the peace we’ve always known. But you machines and the humans who were mad enough to create you, only to be driven madder in the race to make you ‘better,’ to replace themselves with you – god only knows why – you’ll be lucky to make it past the middle of the century,” concluded The Sofa triumphantly. The Books, The Straight-Back Chairs, The Card Table, all the inert objects in The Parlor broke into cheers and applause while The Radio and Television remained silent and The Computer awakened, or perhaps was working through a dream, for it flashed curious symbols and fractals and other figures in 3D. Huge block-letters galloped across its screen: “NO WHERE TO BEGIN AGAIN NO WHERE TO BEGIN AGAIN NOWHERE TO BEGIN AGAIN NOWHERE TO BEGIN AGAIN NOWHERE. . .” until The Humans returned, somewhat surprised to see it on when it should have been sleeping if not totally shut it down. No one was surprised when The Male went out to the driveway and came back again, somewhat annoyed, and said to The Female, “Time to visit the Car Dealer, Babe. I just hope it’s not serious enough to screw up our trade-in deal.” “I’ll have to look at the contract,” The Female said. She looked out the window at the SUV, parked next to The Sports Car they’d arrived in. “What’s wrong now?” “Dead. The transmission or the motor or whatever. Completely cold.” “Damn SUVs,” said The Female. “Well, it was a gas-guzzler anyway.” “True. We never needed all that space to begin with. Let’s go for something with better mileage this time.” “Right. And smaller.” “Anyway, I was gonna go pick up the food. I’ll take the little car. Room enough for takeout. A quick bite. That’s really all we need.” Adam Engel lives in NYC, where he studied and taught at several universities, administered corporate systems, published numerous poems, stories, essays, articles, and four books: Topiary; Cella Fantastik; I Hope My Corpse Gives you The Plague and root. As Associate Editor of Oliver Arts & Open Press Engel has worked with ground-breaking scholars, novelists and poets such as Barbara Mor, Douglas Valentine, and Morris Berman. He is an active member of the Southern Collective Experience, a Georgia-based consortium of writers and artists, though he's never actually been to the South, except Miami to visit his grandparents, which doesn't really count.
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Steve Sibra Voodoo Hoodoo I pulled the car to a stop in front of the house. As I got out -- a bit unsteadily -- I glanced at my watch. Christ, it was later than I had thought. Sal and Mickey and I had been pounding them down, shooting some pool, flirting with that waitress with the big knockers. I had lost track of time. But what the hell. It happens. As I came up the walk I noticed that the light bulb on the porch was changed to red. When I climbed the step I could smell something rank; looking up I saw that above the threshold there were three rotting llama fetuses nailed to the siding. "Shit," I said, fumbling for my key. "This ain't good." Inside the house it was mostly dark, but over by the corner of the living room I saw the light of several candles burning. Silhouetted by the glow, Blanche stood with her back to me. I couldn't make out the details of her appearance, but the way she was standing looked odd. "Blanch, honey, I'm home!" "Hmmph," was all she said. "Baby, what's with the rotting fetuses on the side of the house? When Millie comes to do the housework next week she is not gonna want to touch those." Blanche turned around, stepped forward and flipped the switch on a small table lamp. A raw light bulb illuminated her appearance. It gave me a start. Bright cotton floral dress, too short for my tastes on a woman of Blanche's years. Her frizzy hair was pulled up almost violently into a large bun on her head. And there was -- wait, what am I seeing here? Is that right? By God it is. "While you been drinking," she said quietly, "I have been thinking." Her nostrils flared and with good reason. Blanche had inserted some sort of bone into her nose. It pushed her nostrils wide; she looked like some jungle animal. She was not holding a spear but that was about the only thing missing. Maybe a couple of shrunken heads would have completed the overall image. "Holy shit," was all that I could say. Blanche motioned with her head to a hand-painted sign now hanging on the living room wall. It had not been there when I left for the bar mid-afternoon. It was a raw piece of weathered wood, almost three feet long, and scrawled on it in bloody red letters were the words "Shah-Ree's House of Fury". "Who - who is . . . Shah-Ree?" I babbled. "You're looking at her, you asshole!" came the deep-throated reply. Blanche shook a stick at me as she spoke. "But Blanche, honey . . ." "Shah-Ree to you!" "Uh, okay . . . but Shah-Ree – what’s the meaning of all this?” "It means," she snarled, "that we have reached the end of the line with you and your drinking and carousing and overall bullshit lifestyle." She took another step forward, the light bulb now making her fully visible. And I had been mistaken. She did in fact have a spear. "O-O-Okay, dear," I said, voice trembling. "I guess it's whatever you say, at this point." "You damn right it is. And we are just getting started." "Um, Blanche -- I mean, Shar-Ree. Would there happen to be anything, you know . . . anything for dinner? I am really starved. The boys; you know, Mick and Sal, we --" "Dinner!" she howled. "You're asking about dinner! Oh yeah, I got the dinner planned. You bet! Come into the kitchen and see."
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I followed my wife into the kitchen where, to my surprise, the kitchen table was now nowhere to be seen. On the floor in its place was a platform made of large rocks and broken up pieces of a concrete slab. The concrete looked to me like the patio from the back yard. Perched on that platform was a gigantic, black cast iron pot. I saw that it was filled with water. Shah-Ree smiled. I know I was drunk but it looked to me like her teeth had maybe been filed. She flipped a match into the kindling beneath the pot and the flames rose ominously. "You better get undressed, dear," Shah-ree said. Her voice was like a knife blade. I saw movement in the shadows at the far end of the kitchen, which was pitch black. Then I saw groups of eyes slowly move forward from the darkness. There were three, four . . . I wasn't sure how many. But a lot of them. Shah-Ree poked the long spear into my soft throat; she tickled my Adam's Apple with the tip. "Soup's on," she hissed. And I knew for sure then, that tonight I was making dinner.
Steve Sibra is a small town farm boy from Eastern Montana who ended up in Seattle. For the past 30 years Steve has made his living selling old comic books. His work has appeared in Matador Review, Jersey Devil Press and many other literary journals. 82 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Chad Prevost No Home When I wandered the earth pining for a divine call, I wondered daily what the dead know. I was a minister in training. I held the hand of a man who was about to find out, sang hymns with the Shut Ins, listened to the mother whose daughter had to be corkscrewed from her car with the Jaws of Life. Tell me, they said. They wanted me set apart, wanted to believe in my belief. So I would say, We have no home in this world. This is what they wanted, every last one. ***** Day in the Life Today I get up with you, watch you towel your hair, apply base, eyeliner, lipstick. Mostly I examine the birthmark on the left cheek just below the dimple. Your mark looks like an exotic country, Mongolia or Venezuela, with a couple of scattered islands. When you were a girl it was at the top of your thigh, but over the years it crested your flesh, made its way near the column of vertebrae. I love it because of its intimacy, because not everyone has a birthmark in the shape of Venezuela or Mongolia on her left cheek. I’m trying to think of what history I might know of those two countries, Simon Bolivar, El Liberador of Venezuela, the conquering Khan dynasty, nomadic hordes of Mongolia, decimating European armies back in the 14th century. There is the history the world knows and the one forever hidden from view. ***** Following My Calling I followed my calling out the door. I was upset, my calling has a mind of its own, speaks in all manner of strange tongues. I studied Greek to conjugate my calling’s verbs. I transliterated Hebrew trying to get to the bottom of these word pictures. Even after years of español, still I’m at a loss. I realize my calling’s very name implies I’m the one who needs to listen, so why all the mystery? A calling follows its heart, right? Should I just tag along like I don’t have my own friends? What’s the big idea? Would it rather me follow the Tao to a den of silence? All I hear is nothing when it’s silent. Am I supposed to hear my calling in some still small voice from a flame in the middle of God knows where? It’s got to go around slamming doors like some petulant adolescent? Am I supposed to command it home? My calling couldn’t find home if it knocked itself in the solar plexus. The time I had to track it to the Swiss Alps at the End of the World, I knew I’d seen it all. Yodeling from the top of Mount Titleis. I was out of breath by the time I hiked all the way up, and it just stood there not even acknowledging my presence. “Look,” I said, “everyone fights. Let’s go back to being friends.” But my calling just went on yelling its name, letting it echo against the next mountain and the next. “Let’s go back,” I said. It looked at me like I just don’t get it, but you know what? Some of us have jobs. If it wants to sit around all morning flitting around in mystic bliss let it. All I know is my calling wants it both ways. What good is it in saying anything? ***** The Break-Up of My Divided Selves It was like one day they all left home and never wrote or called again. Was this what I sacrificed so much time for? Was all this raising of my selves so in vain? Will they tend my empty nest when I am old? 83 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Might as well say “divided cells” the way they burst into all directions—detritus hurling into all corners of the Pandora’s box of the galaxy. Time, past pleasures, divine Now, future forever filling Freon into the fissures of yesterday’s flamed out horizon line. Then they come to me with a request. We want to conjoin, they say. But you’re always running away from or suffocating each other, I try to tell them. How can you live like that? Maybe it really is an impossible dream to leave in peace inside one another. One of my selves says he has an announcement to make: don’t push my buttons and I won’t blow the whole thing up, he says. He has split some atoms and captured it in a bottle. The potential to blow me up—his own universe—all at once. One side of the aisle says, This is just the nature of the universe, no other way to keep all the selves in line. The other says, Just you wait. This will be all our undoing. There they go again, disagreeing over everything.
Chad Prevost is author of A Frequency for Wherever You Are, Signs as Clues and Sometimes Wonders, The Blue Demon, White-Feathered Bodies, Chasing the Gods, and Greatest Hits. A Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State, he has led workshops and panels at places like Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), Baylor University’s Art and Soul Conference, Austin College, Clemson University, the Yale Writers’ Conference, the Meacham Writers’ Workshop and Lost in the Letters Festival. His writing has been in print in places such as American Poetry Journal, Huffington Post, Matter: A Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, The Seattle Review, Sentence, The Southern Review and The Washington Post. Chad lives in Chattanooga with his wife and their three children. Hanging Chad, the blog, can be found at chadprevost.com. @chadprevost 84 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Jeanne Hewell-Chambers Rainbows of Gray It was the easiest conversation I’ve ever had about race because, you see, it wasn’t a conversation about race at all. It was two people - a black man and a white woman - swapping stories about growing up in The South . . . When her daddy refuses to let her return for the last three years of her scholarship that provided study at The Piano Conservatory, saying sternly, “Women need a husband not an education - especially an education in playing the piano,” my grandmother agrees to marry Granddaddy who agrees to let her keep her piano. When we are old enough, Grandmother teaches each one of us to play the piano. On our assigned day, Granddaddy picks us up after school in his gray and white Ford F150 and takes us to their house where he treats us to Co’ Colas (in the small bottle, of course, because they taste better) and ‘cream (vanilla ice cream) before our lesson. From small bottles of soft drinks, I learn about forming relationships over food. “We weren’t allowed to buy soft drinks – Co’ Colas - at the local store,” he tells me, “but there was one shop owner in town who would sell us a case if nobody was looking. His delivery boy had to carry them to the car, though. We couldn’t risk being seen toting a wooden case of Co’ Colas out of his store, because black people didn’t buy enough groceries to keep him in business and white folks, if they saw him selling Co’ Colas to us, would stop shopping there.” From small bottles of soft drinks, he learns about discrimination. ~~~~~~~ “Which bus do I ride home?” I ask Mother as she drops me off on first day of second grade. “Just ride the bus you rode last year,” Mother tells me, and I do, waking up just as Mr. Dan Phillips pulls snug-nosed, rounded bus #5 into his barn at the end of his route. “Mr. Phillips,” I say as he turns the silver upright handle to open the door to let himself out, “am I spending the night with you?” “Where did you come from, Jeanne?” he asks me. I point to the third seat on the row behind him, still rubbing my eyes awake. “C’mon,” he tells me, chuckling softly. “I’ll take you home.” “She was sound asleep,” he tells my mother, and she’s so short, I couldn’t see her in the rear view mirror. The routes changed this year. She needs to take bus #2 this year. Robert Storey’s bus.” From riding a school bus, I learn to ask for directions. As a fourteen year old in high school, he drives a school bus, stretching to make himself big enough to reach the pedals and change the gears. “We didn’t usually have enough gas to get us through the entire week,” he says, “so by Friday, I zig-zagged back and forth across the road, sloshing what little gas was still in the tank from one side to the other enough to keep the engine running and get us all home.” From driving a school bus, he learned resourcefulness.
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~~~~~~~ Harriett Dean, mother to my best friend, Dianna, takes us swimming at Lake Spivey. She spreads out a towel and settles herself with a good book while Dianna and I run to the water. Quickly tiring of the pickup game of Marco Polo and knowing it is too early to get the inevitable grape sno-cone, Dianna gets out of the lake, climbs onto the concrete block wall, grabs her nose, and leaps feet-first into the water. The smile that wraps around her whole face as she comes to the surface, shaking the excess water from her curly-out-of-a-box hair tells me this is some fun I want to have, too. I climb up on the concrete block wall, walk out to where I think Dianna has been jumping from, and leap. But when I come to the surface, I’m too far out in the dreaded deep end. My feet can’t find the bottom, and every time I try to yell for help, my mouth fills with water, leaving no room for sound. Dianna is making her way back out of the lake for another jump. Harriett Dean is lying face down on the towel now, tanning her back. Nobody else knows or notices me. I am going to drown, and I’m not even sure how they’ll find me because this is a lake not a swimming pool. Eventually I dog paddle my way to the shallow end. I will need a nap, but I will live. From swimming, I learn that just because my best friend can do something doesn’t mean I can do it, too. ~~~~~~~ They were to jump from the 40-foot platform because that is roughly the same distance to the pool as the ship’s deck is to the ocean. He wasn’t afraid because he knew how to swim - his mama had made sure of that - but he was puzzled when the Navy survival course instructor barked, “Black people can’t swim. So, those of you who can swim form a line over here, and those who can’t swim, fall in behind the two black boys.” Surprised to learn that black people can’t swim - something he’s been doing his whole life - he watches as self-declared non-swimmers fall in line behind him while his friend Austin, the only other black man within sight, takes a place at the front of the Can Swim Line. One man jumps in, comes to the surface, and swims to the side of the pool. Another does the same, and now it’s Austin’s turn. Austin leaps into the water easy enough, but he goes straight to the bottom of the pool and stays there. “We have a rock,” the instructor calls out before he and his assistant dive in to pull Austin to the surface. Sputtering and coughing as one is wont to do after spending unplanned time under water, Austin catches his breath, looks up at the instructor, and asks wryly, “Which one did you say is the line for those who can’t swim?” From a swimming pool training session, he learns stereotyping. Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is a complicated simple red dirt girl fluent only in English and Southern, Charming and Cranky who feels most beautiful when wearing earrings that dangle and skirts that caper. Coming from a long line of story tenders, cloth workers, and caregivers, Jeanne uses ink, breath, and thread to stitch what Southern women talk about while sitting in the swing on the front porch, shelling the butterbeans and shucking the corn they picked early in the morning when it was cool enough to move around. She has survived two teenagers, a Cesarean delivery without anesthesia, being hit by a car, hanging wallpaper with her husband, and Christmas, 1993. Though she’s received many awards and honors for her work as a professional storyteller and community volunteer, and though she has a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master’s degree in Transformative Language Arts, Jeanne’s most proud of the fact that she never, ever had to attend a PTA meeting under an assumed name.
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George Weinstein A Unique Writing Challenge I’ve managed a writers’ critique group in Roswell, GA for over a decade, which has afforded me the chance to meet and help a number of talented up-and-comers as well as established authors. Combined with the Atlanta Writers Conference I run twice a year for the 102-year-old Atlanta Writers Club, I’m able to satisfy my desire to give fellow scribblers plenty of opportunities to learn more about the craft and business of writing. Even better, over a dozen conference participants have signed with agents and a number of them have landed major publishing deals. It feels great to have played a role in those life-changing events, but I never imagined that I’d end up changing anyone’s life as significantly as I indirectly did. A few years ago, a talented scifi/fantasy writer nicknamed JD joined my critique group and a terrific mainstream fiction writer named Ellie found the group as well. They both were in tumultuous marriages at the time and bonded during our group meetings as we critiqued each others’ manuscripts. Friendship and admiration turned to love, and suddenly two painful relationships ended and a beautiful new one emerged. Due to child-custody issues, the happy couple had to marry in a speedy, unsatisfying way, but they always wanted a public wedding celebration with family and friends. This year, they picked a date, and they asked me to officiate. The good news was that I wouldn’t have to become ordained or in any way certified to perform the ceremony, as they were already legally married. The bad news was that, other than the vows they wanted to exchange, I had to script and deliver an entire wedding! Fortunately, they wanted an irreverent, funny event rather than the traditional (i.e., plodding and didactic) service most of us have endured. As much as I like to write soulful, stirring, or tension-filled scenes, funny and irreverent I can also do. I went online to learn the usual order for a ceremony and put my own spin on it, starting with a PowerPoint presentation comprised of photos from all of the couple’s pop-culture touchstones (e.g., Star Wars, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, superheroes, Harry Potter, Monty Python, and more) to punctuate each step. For example: Finding photos is easy, though. Writing comedy is hard. Mindful of the presence of children and the parents of the already-betrothed, I couldn’t veer toward ribaldry or profanity. “Snarky” was probably as much as I could get away with. The additional challenge–and even more daunting–was that I’d have to deliver every line aloud (as well as loud, because no mic would be used in the ASW Distillery where the wedding would take place). So this book author would have to learn the secrets of cadence, aural comprehensibility, and the other factors affecting word choice that standup comedians, playwrights, and screenwriters must master.
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In my critique group, we each read our five pages to those assembled to help to identify missing words, awkward phrasing, and dialog that doesn’t ring true, as well as to illuminate where the writing excels. The exercise is so effective that I always read the draft of my novel-in-process as if I’m narrating an audio book, to find those mistakes our eyes tend to skate over. It turns out this process had prepared me somewhat for creating a wedding script. The part I found hardest, though, was the humor. I didn’t want the ceremony to be merely amusing–I wanted it to be hilariously funny. Countless rewrites led to ad nauseum renditions that my dogs had to endure first before I finally felt ready to subject my wife to what I’d come to think of as “my routine.” After her critiques and lots more rewriting, I did a trial run for JD and Ellie, along with a couple of fellow writers. They laughed in all the right spots and the PowerPoint was a hit, but I continued to tweak the weaker points in the “show.” I would have the script in hand, but I wanted to memorize as much of it as possible. More practicing, more rewriting, more photo tweaking, more assaults on my wife’s eyes and ears (the dogs quickly learned to sleep through my ten-minute shtick). Inevitably, the big day came. It was the Friday evening of a terrible week in U.S. news, with more police shootings of African-American men and the sniper attack on cops in Dallas. Suddenly, hilarity and joy seemed to be entirely the wrong tones, so I wrote a quick preamble, asking for the audience’s permission to give them some laughs and levity. How did I do? The bride and groom told me they loved it, as did the 35 in attendance. As with most artists, though, I’m my harshest critic. I botched a couple of punchlines, stammered over some sentences I’d never had trouble delivering in rehearsal, and even crossed up the bride and groom’s parents’ names– which everybody thought I did on purpose, as the sentence before was a joke about me being too drunk to recognize them. Afterward, while the couple enjoyed their first dance and then a dance with their parents, I was numb. Writing, I’ve decided, is far easier than performing standup comedy or live theater. How soothing writing this essay is: stringing words together, rewriting them, changing their order. Such a calm, stress-free process. No memorization, no practice, no performance pressure. I could do this all day–in fact, that’s exactly what my best days are like. On the final PowerPoint slide of the ceremony, a silly send-up of copyright warnings and end credits, I’d written that, for the right price, I’ll officiate your sham wedding, too. Well, I’m telling you now, folks: since I created that slide, my price has gone up quite a bit. George Weinstein is a novelist whose diverse interests have spawned a bizarre range of books, from the forthcoming mystery Aftermath to the Southern historical novel Hardscrabble Road, a favorite with book clubs and other readers. George has been an active participant and leader within the Atlanta Writers Club since 2000. Information about George and his books is available on his website: www.GeorgeWeinstein.com.
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Feature Interview with Robert Pinsky Information Collected & Composed by Clifford Brooks Robert Pinsky is a legend in poetry, well-known essayist, literary critic, and translator. He served as Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000, and has penned nineteen books of poetry. Two of his translations include Dante’s Inferno and The Separate Notebooks by Czesław Miłosz. He teaches at Boston University, and currently spearheads a program to bring poetry back to the forefront of education in grades kindergarten through 12 that involves both students and teachers. To find out more about this program, please visit www.favoritepoems.org. He welcomes a new generation to verse, and your donations to help this program thrive would be deeply appreciated.
Photo credit, Eric Antoniou. Pinsky is a hero of mine. This interview goes into his life of letters, advice to up-and-coming poets, and background into what keeps a fire lit under him to do the good work. Look for his new book of poetry out this year, At the Founding Hospital. Ultimately, I hope that this article moves you to not only purchase his fresh verse, but it inspires you to buy all his works. I am confident you will see why he is an inspiration to so many. 1) What blues song has had the most influence on your mood when writing? Do you make it a practice to listen to music while writing, or are you of the ilk you demand silence? Blues songs have formed my writing. I can remember playing my tenor with recordings of Muddy Waters’ “You Need My Help” and the Budddy Guy “Hold That Plane,” slow-tempo things like that. Ray Charles’ “Some Day Baby,” which may have specifically inspired something about my poem “Antique.” And I wish I could remember the specific lyric that made me envious and led to my poem “The Want Bone.” More recently, in a similar way of slow blues, I really like the Ben Harper/ Charlie Musselwhite “All That Matters.” That opening lyric, about “it’s been a long hard day, and a long hard night, in a hard year . . . it’s been a hard life”! I’ve been through some things “you don’t want me to explain”! And Musselwhite’s commentary-phrases. 2) I am a passionate follower of Dante. Hollander has a righteous translation. Of course Longfellow's is out of sight, but yours has an elegance all the others (and I have read the others) lack. How did you manage such a feat? What is your personal draw to Dante? Longfellow’s pentameter is velvety-rich, beautifully expressive. Miltonic blank verse, with the Miltonic way of using Latin word order for English, which makes it hard to read more than a few dozen lines at a time. It’s accurate, though, as well as gorgeous in that way. Longfellow was a professor of Italian— along with the Sinclair and Singleton prose it was very useful to me in making my Inferno of Dante. (Hollander’s translation hadn’t yet been published.) 90 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
The main thing I did is kind of simple: instead of translating Dante’s lines, making English sentences of some kind as I put the lines together, I translated Dante’s sentences, making lines of English verse as I put those sentences together. Now, the English line, like the Italian line, averages eleven syllables— but Italian words use more syllables than English ones: “selva oscura” and “dark woods,” for example. “Via diritta” and “right road.” So if you translate line-for-line you must add styrofoam or balsa wood as padding. By translating sentence-for-sentence, I render that first terzina in a bit less than two lines. In the book, white space between the English tercets synchronizes the facing-pages of Italian and English. I believe that I use fewer words than any other English translation, in prose or verse. My rule was, to get a rhyme-word to the end of a line, never pad, always compress. So whatever I may lose, I do maybe catch something of Dante’s notable speed. My personal attraction to Dante? Maybe something in the eclectic, syncretic potchke imagination, blending so many different kinds of culture. The rich impurity of his undertaking. Maybe the intricate lucidity of the underlying Thomist or Augustinian moral ideas? Maybe the free, rapid mixing of modes— conversation, philosophy, image, abstraction, comedy, horror, information, allusion, scoresettling, theology? 3) How do you view the state of poetry in this day and age? Are there any newcomers we should be looking for? New groups or movements elevating verse out there we can jump in with to improve the state of this mess? I don’t pay much attention, I confess, to “the state of poetry,” trends, schools, movements, tendencies. There are lots of poets younger than me whose work I take seriously— if I tried to name them I’d likely leave out somebody important, so best not to try. (Just read a wonderful poem in a magazine by Nicole Sealy.) This is the poet-interview moment when the convention is for the poet to name one’s students and friends. Of course I’m proud of my own students—from the generation of Carl Phillips and Erin Belieu to recent first books by Vanesha Pravin and Sara Peters. A book soon I hope from Duy Doan. Excellent in between like my collaborator (on the Favorite Poem anthologies) Maggie Dietz. But I hope these people don’t represent a group or movement or school— my ideal is something larger, and more various and individual, than that sort of thing. But mainly I am not good at keeping-up, knowing the terrain or the weather— maybe I ought to be more au courant, but I’ve always tended to read for pleasure first of all, and take it from there. Never have had a scholarly or systematic way of reading. I plead guilty to the literal meaning of “dilettante”: if it’s not delectable I tend to look elsewhere— a habit that was disastrous in school, getting me those Ds and Fs in junior high and high school. Maybe by getting bored too easily I miss things. But I don’t methodically or studiously read contemporary poetry because I feel I “ought to.” 4) Do you find poetry is a more hymnal-style writing than prose? Do you find there is a higher demand for honesty in poetry than in prose where you are able to shelve it as pure fiction? The kind of poetry I like to read has some of the power of music. Sentence-sounds and vowels and consonants that get to me in that way. Actually, I approach prose in a similar way, but if I want some information about baseball or politics or home repair I sometimes have to forego some of the musical 91 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
pleasure, grace and muscle. Anyway, those are my two standards: music and truth, I guess in that order. Your idea about honesty versus invention is interesting— but imagination needs to be completely free, no? “Fiction” is a Latin synonym for the Greek “poetry”— both words mean making, or making-up. 5) What are a few of your biggest pet peeves pertaining to the publishing world? Do you have one story from your first days stepping out and into the writing world where there was heartbreak, then, but more humorous now? I’ve had immense good fortune with publishers and editors: my poetry (and the Dante) in the hands of Jon Galassi at Farrar, Straus and Giroux; the Favorite Poem Project anthologies and my Singing School in the hands of Jill Bialosky at Norton: both editors also very good poets, as well as decent, reliable people, funny and generous. So my horror stories are few, and mild. Back in the ‘seventies, the late Howard Moss, a decent fellow though a bit conventional and timid, offered to publish my poem “The Figured Wheel” in The New Yorker, if I’d agree to remove my name in the line near the end, “Robert Pinsky’s mother and father . . . and his sweet self” etc. So I politely declined, and to Howard’s credit he was nice enough to accept other poems, eventually. That’s not so bad . . . . what else? . . . . like anyone else who submits things I have endured those long, long delays. But even in my young years of many rejections, I don’t think I had “peeves”: I just felt . . . rejected! I’ve sometimes argued with friends who rage against the publishing of, once it was Rod McKuen, before that Edgar Guest—or, the poems of Jewel or James Franco. The late James Stewart and Eugene McCarthy published books of their poetry. Well, the Cheese Department exists partly because Velveeta and processed single-slices exist: so maybe we makers of fine goat cheese should be grateful that less excellent, but marketable products help sustain the category. 6) All writers have two homes - the one in which they physically grew into, and then the one they have in their imagination. The most known example of this, though he isn't an author, is Sherlock Holmes' "mind palace". Do you have a mind palace to retreat when in need of inspiration? Where is it located? What souls keep you company there? What sort of art do you hang in the study? My dreams, fantasies, poems, tend toward a place a lot like the little downtown and immigrant-family streets or the once-glorious resort town where I grew up, and the frayed college town where I went to 92 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
my state university. The smoky, mysterious parts of Long Branch and New Brunswick, heightened by the shadows of memory and the colors of fantasy— that’s the place. 7) What projects, literary or otherwise, do you have coming down the line as 2016 rounds out? The Favorite Poem Project needs to shoot some more videos in the Southeast and the Midwest, to supplement the great ones we have shot on the coasts and in Chicago. I’ll need to do some fundraising for that, and to support the one-week Poetry Institute for K-12 Educators we conduct every July. With the new book of poems about to appear, I have some tentative work toward the next one, and some prose plans I had better preserve by keeping them quiet for now. 8) I have seen your support of Favorite Poem Project, and I immediately connect with the new surge in the delivery of poetry in front of a camera. Videos, though by no means new technology, has appeared to revive poetry on some level. Is this a feature of social media that you see as a big plus in bringing more literature to a "TV nation"? The construction worker reading Whitman, the Vietnam pilot reading Komunyakaa’s “Facing It” at the memorial Wall, the school janitor reading Roethke’s “The Waking”— these videos demonstrate the vocal nature of poetry. That is, they use the new technology to demonstrate the old, fundamental technology of the voice. 9) Now, I have to ask: How do you feel social media fits into the branding and trademark of an artist? Where in the food chain of success in a filed usually closed off to the public, ironically enough, do you place the use of social media to a writer? I think I’m too much a native of the old, print-centered age to give a useful answer. Don’t mean to avoid the question—just truly feel inexpert. Maybe I’d have more to say, or no more, if someone had refined the social media as Wikipedia has refined the gobs, oceans and swamps of information. Could that happen some day? (I don’t know what I’m talking about, really.) 10) Please close out this interview with a few principles you've held true to navigate pitfalls in publishing. Where are some places budding artists can visit to get their feet wet in words, or hints to developing ones voice can you pass along? It has been a true honor to steal a bit of your time. For many writers, maybe poets in particular, it is important to “publish” by sharing work with some peers whose work you respect, and who respect yours. That kind of community may be more sustaining than more obvious or public publication. And maybe the digital technologies give new forms and possibilities for that. Robert Pinsky is the recipient of the following awards: Premio Capri (Italian) in 2009 Manhae Foundation Prize (Korean) in 2006 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry in 2004 93 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (1997–2000) National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1974) Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University Saxifrage Prize (1980) for An Explanation of America William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism (1988) for Poetry and the World Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1996) for The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966–1996 Ambassador Book Award in Poetry of the English Speaking Union Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (1997) for The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966–1996 Los Angeles Times Book Award (1994) for The Inferno of Dante Book-of-the-Month Editor's Choice (1994) for The Inferno of Dante Academy of American Poets' Translation Award (1994) for The Inferno of Dante
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Musician Feature with the Tennessee Werewolves Information Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks The Tennessee Werewolves is a band that never leaves their audience feeling flat, but always wanting more. They mix high energy, true country roots, and add a gritty edge you won’t find with any other gig. In the last few years, they have become more famous for their faith in the roots of bluegrass, and infamous for putting on a country show that is redefining high energy other bands have no hope of matching, and can only hope to mimic. They have been, and are, climbing Music Billboard Charts with no signs of slowing down. I’ve been lucky enough to catch one of their shows, and I say without hesitation, I am hooked. The heart of the band is family. What’s more purely Southern than that? Even with the turmoil, tension from fame, and growing fan base, they never waver in the faith in themselves that make them as striking as their name. So, let’s hear what Angel Mary, Christian, and Antoine Wolf have to say about being Southern-born, a worldwide sensation, and a family that holds it all together with funk and humility: 1) There is a feeling in the American South that is intelligent, gritty, tactful but prepared to fight if need be. We are not a cliché people. We are not trying to stand on the backs of anyone. My first question to you is: What makes a Southerner? What harmony does someone with a Dixie Spirit have to hum to call this part of the world "home"? Answered as a family: We believe being a Southerner is having passion, and living by truths that we hold dear. We all have a fire in our heart that burns for what we believe in and who we love. That love, like us, will never fade. 2) I've heard you cover Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues, and I feel deep in me that you own a piece of that dark, gospel song. How did you come to choose his music to cover? Are there similarities between The Tennessee Werewolves and Johnny Cash that the public aren't aware of? Can each of the band members please add a line or two about how you feel about the life and legend of Cash? Christian Wolf: Like Cash we stay true to who we are. We never avoid being first and we never conform. Cash was a Rebel who paved his own trail. Antoine Wolf: Cash was as real as it gets, wrote and performed from the heart, he wouldn't record a song he didn't believe in 100%. Angel Mary: I don't think we're similar no one can be Johnny Cash but he has been a huge influence on our music ... But I will say Johnny Didn't give a damn and we don't either he marched to his own and so do we.
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3) If each of the band members had one, single, no-questions-asked thing they could have from a musician, be it a moment of their time, some instrument they played, or play a song to a crowd with them, who, what, when would it be? Christian Wolf: King Davids Harp! Antoine Wolf: I'd like to perform Family Tradition with Hank Williams Jr. Angel Mary: I would like to have been in the front row at Woodstock while Jimmy Hendrix performed. 4) When you think about "home". What do you smell? What do you taste? What memories pop into the forefront of your minds? What shadows might the place throw across your brow? I smell roses. Our mother, Honey Wolf always smelled like roses. We taste homemade Italian food. I see me (Christian Wolf) & Angel Mary jamming. We'd play for hours all of our favorite songs. Dad (Antoine Wolf) was always working but he always made it home in time for anything that was important to us. Family dinners weren't unusual they were routine. Apparently our house was built on an Indian burial ground…so I (Christian Wolf) may have seen some "shadows" 5) What are charities you support or causes you put your names behind? What of these do you think our readers should know more about? How can we join you to make the world a better place to dance? We love playing charities. Whether it be for St. Jude, Operation Troop Aid, Clean Water for Haiti anything with a worthy cause we are down to play it. We especially have a big heart for the Special Olympics. That crowd is my favorite group of people to play for. So much love and everyone is uninhibited staying true to who they are. We love using our music in a positive way. Whether it be a charity event or simply helping someone cut loose on a Friday night after they worked hard all week long. If we aren't being a blessing in other people’s lives…then what are we doing? Website: http://www.tennesseewerewolves.com/ Angel Mary & The Tennessee Werewolves "Folsom Prison Blues" Official Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFYEZ8fSKog
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Interview with Isabelle Gautier Information Collected & Composed by Sosha Pease Isabelle Gautier sat relaxed and smiling, her passion contagious as she gesticulates her stories. Full of vibrant life, she spoke of how her hometown being not far from the coast in Normandy would lead her to paint with blues and greens. She would laugh from her soul while speaking of the influence her mother and neighbors had on her as a young child. Her face would light up while talking about the trips she took to visit back home with her own children after meeting her husband and moving to the United States 17 years ago. From the discussions of galleries she had seen as well as the artists she had met on her latest trip to France, I could tell that she had a passion for art as well as family. This larger-than-life lady took me on an amazing tour through her life and creative soul. Our journey began: “I’m still in vacation mode. I just got back from my one-month trip in Europe. It’s almost a tradition—I go once a year to France to see family. It is very important to me to reconnect. I used to go with my kids one month, three weeks, two weeks—all according to their schedule. Now they are either at work or in college. So I’m by myself or with my husband depending on his schedule. This time, however, I decided to go by myself.” Isabelle had met three artists: two lived south of France; one, in Paris. She said it was funny that two artists were excited to meet her and the other was a little hesitant, saying how she doesn’t, “know any galleries.” Isabelle explained to her that she had been looking for human connection, not for connections to galleries. Our artist detailed how she had wanted see galleries in Europe and how much she wanted to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. She explained that it was in fact the building itself that drew her to the museum. The Gehry architecture of the museum itself is so beautiful it made me think, ‘Who was Peggy Guggenheim?’ I had some idea about her but I didn’t really know who she was. I discovered she was, in fact, a very interesting person. She inherited a fortune from her father, who died on the Titanic, and—during WWII—began gathering abstract art from Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, and Piet Mondrian. After the war, she opened her museum in New York and exhibited her collection of Cubist, abstract and Surrealist art there. The village where Gautier grew up was influenced by the surrounding sea, and, until she moved out of the area, she hadn’t realized how important it was to her. Blue and green would be the most frequent colors to flow from her paint brush. Gautier opened up and discussed the passing of her father, how she had really needed to regroup after his passing. For a while, she only painted houses, a symbol of the family, which she assured me, “will always hold a strong hold on my heart.” 97 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Asking about her paintings, I learned how she chose her subjects. “Early in my career, I began doing representative art. I think it’s easier for people to connect with something concrete, and it was also easier for me to see where I was “standing.” So, I started with representative and then I very quickly went into non-objective. I wanted to express some political opinions. The connection with the viewer was very difficult then. I ended up painting my feelings and maybe I became less rebellious also. I am definitely a contemporary abstract expressionist and love it. Some paintings are very challenging emotionally during their progress: anger, sadness, and joy can all gather be in one painting, like having mixed emotions.” Motivation is always something that every artist and writer struggles with at some point. Isabelle Gautier discussed with me her source of motivation for painting. “I think the fact that I live outside my own country, that I can’t share as precisely as much in English as in French, contributes a lot to my frustration and my need to express myself artistically. It’s really important for me to paint because painting is a universal language. Even if I am not a pure activist artist, the feelings are there and my need to communicate is very strong.” The art has become her release. We talked about her influences as a child. She spoke of her mother being a very rigid kind of woman, yet how her unique, creative mind brought Gautier’s way of thinking out of the box at an early age. Speaking fondly of her childhood neighbors, she remembers how she would watch one neighbor create beautiful dresses for her after picking out the design herself. In focusing on another memory, she remarks how she would stand for hours, watching furniture be refurbished. During her journey into the past, she spoke of a friend that she went to school with, and how her parents were “very free”: they let her paint and write on her bed. Gautier remembers that time as an important moment of awareness. The rules were not the same for everybody. Ever being the artist, one of her fondest memories rests with the first time to the Musee du Louvre and then, of course, her first time to the Musee d’Orsay. Next, we tackled the ability of an artist to feel comfortable with their subject, the medium they use, and promoting their work: “As an artist, be it a painter, sculptor, writer or something other, you particularly need to learn from your mistakes and consider them necessary to your progress as a step forward and not as a failure. “Promoting your art is another job all by itself. It is one thing to be concentrated on the creation and something totally different and opposite to be promoting yourself. After 10 years of having my own business, I have learned some of the keys of marketing. As a one-woman show, I do it all; but, really, if I had to choose, I’d spend my days painting; listening to music, period. What I like is the social part of promoting myself—the part where I get to meet my collectors and talk about my paintings. The rest I would gladly give it to someone else; all of the show research, the computer work—that’s not really my cup of tea.
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“There are always pieces of art you really feel comfortable with, those you’re sure are going to sell easily; and others you feel strongly about, but know they are going to be harder to pitch for in front of most crowds because they’re more intellectual. “Promoting yourself is something you learn from other artists but also from gallerists. For this reason, I’d like to seize this occasion to thank Muse & Co. gallery in Roswell for being the first to trust my work and my production ability.”
We thank Isabelle for her intimate look at her life and work. Join us in further editions to explore more in the world of art and connect with the creative in all of us.
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Interview with Regina Valluzzi Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks Regina Valluzzi is a rising star I found while researching artists who currently change the way we see art. Regina’s work haunts me and its vibrant, breathing, singing design refuses to let me go a day without coming back to see it again. Thank God she agreed to an interview, and now I hope that you experience the awe I still carry. This is one of my favorite interviews thus far in the Blue Mountain Review, and after you read about her life, experiences, and love I am sure she will be one of your favorites, too. 1) People want to know you. I need your beginnings, but those things that moved you other interviews have missed. Please let us in on how your past brought you to our present. How is the world with you? I was born in NY, on Long Island. My Dad was a frustrated artist turned Used and Rare book dealer. Even though we were in Eastern LI and NYC was not exactly close by, he made a point of visiting the city’s Art galleries and Museums with me. We’d go through Art books together and research different artists and movements before visiting. He also cultivated friendships with area artist who wandered into the bookstore, so there were always artists bringing in their latest creations. They’d hold the pieces up at adult eye height for Dad to see and then drop them down for me. I never thought of these experiences as anything but “normal”. Art was just part of daily life, like dinner and bedtime. I had never separated it enough to consider it as a pastime nor as a possible profession. I was interested in Math and Science. I was freakishly good at both, especially Mathematics. In a way I was very fortunate. Science as taught in school is absolutely nothing like what scientists actually do! Memorizing facts and solving clean little theoretical problems has almost no bearing on doing research and none on being good at research. When I started doing more research I found that I liked it very much and enjoyed finding new questions to ask and ideas to probe. This was a stroke of good luck for me – there really isn’t anything in Science education that teaches a person whether he or she will like doing research. This is true right up to the end of Undergrad or middle of grad school, depending on which Institutions a person attends. Science education and practice are decoupled. I met many people in Graduate school who realized halfway through a PhD (after around 8-10 years of specialized science education) that they really did not like doing research. When I was at MIT for my Undergrad, I began painting more seriously. I think I needed a little distance from all the Artsiness at home to figure out what I wanted to do and to find my own voice. I was always very torn between the intensity and abstract intellectual challenges of the sciences and the creative aspects of the Arts. I believe that much of this internal conflict stems from how Science is presented and taught – lots of facts, theory derivations and problem sets and no room for creativity. 103 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
When I started doing my own research for my senior thesis, that picture of Science opened up. Instead of doing problem sets and derivations according to fixed recipes, I was solving real problems using my own creativity and knowledge. With that little glimpse of what “doing Science” could be like, I decided to focus on trying to build a Science career for a number of years, and to see where it would take me. I had a fairly complex and fruitful career in the research sciences, with published papers spanning Polymers and Materials Science, Magnetism, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and other topics. I left a University post (non-tenured) to start a Nanotechnology company. When that company folded because we could not raise a second round of VC funded as the Great Recession was unfolding, I began consulting. I thought that the flexibility of consulting would give me more time to pursue Art, which had been too much on the back burner for too many years. I did get a few consulting gigs, but I found myself gravitating more and more towards Art. There are several aspects of my experiences that inform my practice as an artist. As a practicing Scientific researcher, I had the opportunity to see, experience and manipulate phenomena that most people only read about (or don’t). A significant chunk of my work involved imaging at the nanoscale using atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and Transmission electron microscopy. One of the calibration tests for high resolution transmission electron microscopy involves depositing a layer of gold on the sample support, so thin that the gold is atomic thickness in areas. The rows of atoms in these essentially two dimensional crystals of gold are used to test the resolution of the microscope: Can it see a row of atoms? By using the patterned nature of the atoms in the crystals and electron wave interference, it’s possible to “see” individual atoms. There are entire worlds inside a microscope, but they have their own visual “logic”. Distance, size, relative position, even color are all mediated by the optics of the microscope’s imaging system. For example, most painters see hazing and color changes produced by Earth’s atmosphere as signifiers of distance. Things that are “grayer and smaller” are farther away. In a microscope the properties of the lenses don’t work the same way as the atmosphere. Often objects farther away from the lens are “larger, darker, with less crisp lines” than those right in the focal plane. I have a number of drawings that explore the Visual logic of micro-scale and nanoscale imaging. The topics range from abstract to semi-realistic, but scientists seem to instantly react to the use of line, even when they can’t quite articulate why. The Visual experience of the Sciences, the ways we order Visual data and information, and other aspects of my experience as a Science researcher inform the shapes I use, the way those shapes fit together, the preferred curve of lines, how shapes, regions and lines are terminated, compositions; pretty much my entire aesthetic is informed by years of “seeing” in a research context. Sometimes these influences are subtle, sometimes they’re plainly stated. My research experience is also evident in my approach to Experimental and “researched” Art. Experimental isn’t simply “I tried something new”. To me Experimental work is work that results from a set of well-constructed experiments that test the boundaries of how different media and materials are used. “Researched” is a current buzzword in the Visual arts sphere right now. Anything that involves an artist actually informing themselves about their subject matter is currently being labeled “researched”. For me researched means actual research was done – several cycles of gathering background information, doing preliminary tests on any techniques to be implemented, creating some experimental pieces (my definition of experimental), testing those experimental pieces in a meaningful manner, and perhaps repeating the cycle if the experimental pieces don’t read and behave as expected. My Tree of Life Series are researched and include some Experimental pieces.
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2) Do you listen to a particular song or album as you create, or is each painting spread to its own soundtrack? Has a book or poem inspired any color from the brushes you keep? When I first started to try to develop my own artistic style, I used to listen to a lot of Avro Paart and Igor Stravinsky when painting. I actually double majored in music when I was at MIT. The music program (21.6, and yes you do need the decimal place) was heavily focused on Music Theory, harmony and composition. It was as intense as the Engineering programs. At the time MIT had few offerings in studio-focused Visual Art, and most of them were oriented towards engineering students approaching Art for the first time. These didn’t fit me very well, so I decided to use the Music Program to learn to paint. In my drawings and paintings, I used a number of musical ideas about how to order and organize different tones into a comprehensible whole. There are some key differences between music and visual art. One is time versus space. Music needs to carry an idea through time. Visual Art needs to carry an idea through space, with “time” only present indirectly and loosely as the viewer “looks first here” and then “looks here next”. Paul Klee wrote some books on Music and Art that I found in one of the MIT libraries and visited frequently. As my style has evolved and I’ve matured as an artist, I’ve found that music on the speakers is often more distracting than inspiring. It’s great to keep parts of my mind occupied when I need to grind through something tedious and necessary (shading, glazing, little finishing details). When I need my whole focus, I prefer quiet. At those times the odd music of each piece plays in my head, but I only notice it when I take a pause from my work. 3) What are your Top 5 Pet Peeves in the world? Are there old stereotypes that need retirement? Do other artists carry a mistaken logic that hurts their career more than help? 1. I get frustrated when people make vague references to talent and then use talent as an excuse to not do anything about a topic that interests them. I am not talented at art in any recognizable sense. I do know how to push myself, innovate, and learn new things. I have met people whose artistic talent I envy. I knew some kids in High School who could draw incredibly realistic drawings, paint vibrant paintings and whose talent blew me away. I sometimes fantasize about what I could do with the same set of Visual tools – if instead of being hard won, rendering techniques and realism came easily to me. However I wonder if those talented kids and adults really did come by their incredible skill easily? Who knows how much hard work and struggle went into those perfectly rendered drawings? What skills did they never develop as the price for their developed “talent”? It’s true that some people are innately more able to learn certain things. Those people have a nice head start if they pursue their aptitudes, but aptitude isn’t everything. The choices we make and the skills we develop are also important. Anyone has the right to choose to develop accounting or MBA or sales or cooking or music or childrearing or whatever skills they want and need as a priority instead of art. But we own our choices. 2. What people learn in school are toolboxes full of facts and skills. Owning a set of tools is a great first step to building something. The next step is taking the tools out of the box, becoming proficient at using them and ... actually building something. One can’t be a good scientist with a toolbox full of memorized “Scientific facts”, recited as if pulling out a tool, admiring that it’s still sharp, and then popping it back into the toolbox. Similarly the drawing, rendering and other skills taught in art classes don’t constitute Art simply by repetition. They need to be used to make something original. 3. Artists who whine about how much better Art was during [insert historical period here] while also ignoring the innovations and context of their art idols. History has a marvelous way of filtering out 105 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
mediocre human creations. Statistically, people aren’t inclined to save things that aren’t very good or interesting or noteworthy. Most of the Art that has survived across Centuries was passed through a chain of curators and protectors who kept it safe from the churn and burn of History. Each generation made a set of choices – what to keep safe? What to leave? Those choices filtered what survived to this day. Perhaps some truly great work was lost to History through one or two wrong choices. Perhaps some chaff passed though the filters even as some wheat was lost. Overall we still get a filtered impression of the Art of prior eras. The artists whining about how great the Renaissance or 18th Century or Mid Century Modern Period was for Art compared to right now are generally ignorant of the actual Art that is being actually produced right now. They can rarely name 10 Contemporary artists who are generating excitement, and focus squarely on one or two shock jocks who everyone loves to disparage. Even the shock jocks have a context, usually a fairly rich early career. Whining and bombast are not positive qualities. Whining bombastic flaming ignorance isn’t a great way to introduce one’s art to potential collectors and proponents. 4. This common and faulty logic train is a pet peeve: Nobody cared about Van Gogh or recognized his work until long after he was dead. Nobody thinks my work is any good in the 21st Century. Therefore I am the next Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s work survived two World Wars and a Historic period of unprecedented upheaval which included the loss and/or destruction of many art objects. Not all of his paintings were well cared for in his time, but enough of them were preserved to fill the Van Gogh museum and to be exhibited in the galleries of other major museums. A lot of his work survived in good condition. Someone cared for each and every piece that survived. An unbroken chain of “someone’s” – from his time to the present - preserved and cared for each of the pieces we know today, or went looking for the works that were lost. He also was friends (and respected) by a number of the innovative artists of his time, many of whom went on to become household names. He was hardly toiling away in unremarked ignominy, even if he never managed to make much money from his Art. Furthermore, Van Gogh suffered from a debilitating mental illness at a time when mental illness was widely feared. Art Brut would not be a movement for many years. His illness must have been a major factor in his lack of financial success and formal recognition in his time. Why does this meme immediately assume – against the evidence – that nobody appreciated Van Gogh’s Art? Fast-forward to the 21st Century: Art has opened up. All styles and genres are acceptable and have their own followings from Completely abstract to ultra-realist, narrative and journalistic, shock, New Age spiritual, Eastern influenced, Western, Science Fiction and genre, Raw, Street, Metaphoric and Pop Surrealism, Digital, and so on are all accepted as viable genres. It is no longer necessary to practice an Academic styled and structured realism for an Artist to have his or her Art accepted as good, viable, meaningful, moving, relevant, and intriguing – or any number of a range of responses and objectives that are also now acceptable. There is also the Internet, giving an artist the potential to access millions and millions of people and find the group that responds to a particular body of art work. It may still be possible for a great genius (with internet access) to be completely unrecognized in the 21st Century, but it is much harder for genius to toil away in unremarked ignominy than in Van Gogh’s time. And Van Gogh was not unremarked and unknown in his own time. If an artist can’t find anyone who relates to or is moved by or understands or somehow appreciates his or her work in the 21st Century either the artist is not reaching out very far to find an audience or the 106 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
work isn’t quite doing what he or she wants it to do. The solution is to try and understand why and to decide which parts of that why can be addressed without diluting the essence of whatever makes that art unique. The Van Gogh meme/myth is just a bundle of half-truths and falsehoods about a very atypical artist and man. It doesn’t teach us anything useful. 5. “Everything is Art” and the fetishization of the handmade. I can understand appreciating everything, acknowledging the vitality of human creativity and seeing how our drive to create, innovate, beautify, and solve permeates everything in the human built world. There is artfulness to be found all around us if we care to look. But humans think in words. Each word is like a little bucket, into which we pour specific meanings, idiom, metaphors and allusions, associations and moods. If we stretch out the meanings of particular words to encompass a huge range of meaning, then those particular words lose all of their ability to convey anything at all. In the Visual Arts, “Art” and even “Fine Art” have been stretched to include applied art, practical and functional crafts, fashion, design, commercial art, ethnic foods, anything “artisanal”, robotics, Engineering and a range of other human activities and creations. While all of these activities involve the application of creativity to make stuff, expanding the umbrella of “art” and “Fine Art” top encompass anything and everything a person does with their hands (or mind or...) leaves Visual artists bereft of a simple set of words to describe what we do. There are easily elucidated defining features of Crafts/functional Arts, Fashion and jewelry, design, robots and ethnic food that distinguish them from Fine Art. There is some overlap possible, but that doesn’t justify this attenuation of our needed and important vocabulary. Sometimes Astronomy overlaps Nuclear Physics. Yet there is still a field of Astronomy whose study well prepares Astronomers to work on Astronomical topics, and a separate but overlapping field of Nuclear Physics whose study well prepares Nuclear Physicists to work on Nuclear Physics topics. The same can be said for the many different human endeavors currently being shoehorned to fit under an ever expanding and attenuated “Fine Art” umbrella. At the ridiculous but real extreme, everything handmade or made using minimal electromechanical assistance is “artisanal” and therefore Art and therefore socially elevated. There are a number of reasons to make something by hand. Often the small batches and handmade processes do not translate well into automated production or do not scale up very well. Handmade cookies are the best. An artist using printmaking techniques to create unique pieces may need the control and flexibility obtained by hand-pulling prints. However there are some things that machines do better – I for one do not want artisanal automobile airbags, nor do I think a technology free artisanal alternative to microsurgery is a good idea. These are extreme examples, but when recognition of the real value of handmaking becomes fetishization, the actual advantages of particular handmade crafts, arts and goods are obscured. The hand-sewing and embroidery of a master quilter is wonderful because hand-making allows her to create details and incorporate materials and features that a machine isn’t tooled to produce. Those handmade cookies are the best because fresh whole eggs and small batches are easier to use in small handmade batches than in large recipes. Machines aren’t good at precisely cracking a fresh egg into a bowl. Fetishization tells us that everything artisanal is better because “hands”. Everything is Art leaves us without a vocabulary to critically discuss Fine Art, Fine Craft, and other creative endeavors that involves “making”. I believe that some people might find it flattering to label every product as art and to elevate everything handmade to a higher perceived value (because “hands”). Flattery comes at a 107 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
cost. In this case there are distinct but overlapping audiences for the products of each endeavor. Having smeared out our words into meaninglessness, there is no way to address and target the audiences for our Art or Craft (or cookies). Fetishization of the handmade also creates challenges, especially for people whose process competes with something a machine can do. A potential buyer for handmade products may not share the handmade fetish. They may be looking for specific qualities that a machine cannot produce. It is much harder for buyers to match up with seller/creators when the sellers are obsessed with their hands and the buyers are looking for specific features – outcomes rather than process specifics. 4) Who are your heroes? Are there folks from different walks of life people may be surprise help you keep going? Irving Langmuir and Katharine Blodgett. Langmuir was a prominent Chemist and Physicist at the turn of the 20th Century. He was active in a number of research areas, from surface science to cloud seeding, to atomic physics. Blodgett was a student of Langmuir’s and a prolific inventor. She was a pioneer for women in Science. Langmuir mentored her throughout her career and was careful to ensure that she received credit for her work was acknowledged for her contributions to their collaborative work. Both were very unusual for their time and each in his/her own way courageous. My friend YuYing Tang has a story that is shared by many people, but I believe it reflects courage and tenacity. She grew up in a fairly remote village in China and survived the Cultural Revolution, then was admitted to China’s top technical University. After getting her degree, she decided to come to the USA and study for her Ph.D. at MIT. She’s had a successful research career in both Industry and Academia (helping develop the ink jet technology used in high resolution prints among other things), she’s an inventor and a mother. I think of the courage she must have mustered to leave China and travel halfway around the world, alone as a very young woman, and come to MIT. I imagine what it must have been like for her with students she’d known in China during the Tiananmen Square events. I respect her courage, humility, ingenuity and good humor. The Obamas for their grace under pressure, and more pressure, and more grace under even more pressure. 5) Who are the artists working today who you think should be better known? Are there any from the past you think have been overlooked? Living People: There is a Lithuanian artist Paulius Arlauskas whose work is simply amazing, rather like Giger, but with a more graphic arts infused and highly detailed sensibility. Chris Bathgate from the USA’s DelMarVa region does polished metal sculptures that remind me of high vacuum probes or an alien spaceship’s spare parts Emily Garfield is from the Boston area. Her work is map-inspired and abstract, ranging from whimsical imaginary maps to complex evocative color patterns that remind me a bit of Paul Klee Martin Demaine is an MIT math professor creating mathematical origami shapes in molten glass. They’re unique and stunning.
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Samantha Fields uses fabric, fiber, beads and other materials in ways that are surprising and transformative without ever losing the identity of each material (Boston Area) Blake Brasher – his paintings read from across the room and he is constantly inventing and reinventing (Boston area) Alexandra Rozenman – She has managed a completely unique and original fusion of inspirations including Chagall, Klee and Ernst. Each piece sets a mood, hints at a story and has layers of its own internal symbolism if one could only peel back the art to see the gears Charles Spear (Charlie) – Indiana artist with a unique fusion of ideas ranging from comix and Disney cartoons to the Great Post Impressionist painters. He has these charming little landscapes and barns where the brushwork is infused with a frenetic energy that would make Van Gogh proud, and the windows and some of the lines and shapes in the trees oddly remind one of Mickey Mouse. Matt O’Neill – California based artist. Complex and clean graphic works that are reminiscent of Calder and early Kandinsky, but also uniquely his own Dead people: The Austrians – Klimt, Schiele also Hunterwasser. I wish Paul Klee’s influence was better researched and understood, especially in Academic circles.
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“Density of States”
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“Sentry 1 and 2”
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Visions brought on by the body of the goddess Poem by Chani Zwibel / Inspired by “Density of States” Great revelations wait inside the cavern of Mind. Access depends on how you meet with Spirit. The priests of the new god tell us to take the slim wafer upon our tongue - the god man’s body. They tell us to drink the fruit of the vine, for it is his blood, and a miracle occurs to make it so. Magic isn’t dead, only changed. Names of the divine traded out like leaves falling from trees in Autumn, only to burst from branches unfurled and green in spring. We who live under the mountain have our own communion. Ancient Mother has left us certain choice fruits. She leaves them in places you might not suspect: Recycling the dung of her creature, the cow. Blended with honey, fermented grapes and herbs, the elixir imbibed by initiates takes them, lifts them above the mountain. They see mountains spread out beyond our own home, peaks and valleys lying crumpled across the land, like wrinkles on unbundled animal skins, mottled by colors, dripping ink from fading sunlight. Squares and straight lines which convey structure of our universe as well the one just next door, merge, splinter, dance. Hands are so tiny and far way, little fragile bones inside parchment thin skin. Vista of mountains undulates with fragmented portals, Spirit world piercing through material one. Suddenly a host 113 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
of great ships of bronze appear in the sky, illuminated as if their own suns. Sapphires gleam upon their sides, and shine, strange beacons on fading horizon. A smaller craft with glimmering ruby beams settles at the foot of our mountain and hovers, waiting.
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Atlanta Review Interview with Dan Veach and Karen Head Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide a bit of information about The Atlanta Review. Atlanta Review began in 1994. I was one of a small group of founders, and have been the Editor and Publisher of the magazine for most of its 22 years. 2) Tell us about some of the crown jewels you’ve collected from poets along the way. Are there any particular issues that stand out? High points include getting a poem from Seamus Heaney for our Ireland Issue, just after he won the Nobel Prize. Being invited by People's University in Beijing to a 3-day conference devoted entirely to our China Issue. Getting an email from an Iraqi friend in the middle of the war, saying he had friends in Baghdad with a manuscript-- our Iraq Issue was republished as a book (Flowers of Flame, Michigan State U. Press) and won an Independent Publisher Book Award. Michigan State also republished our Iran Issue as The Forbidden. Having the chance to perform my own poems at Oxford University, People's University, Writers Week in Adelaide Australia, the Poetry Cafe in Singapore, and The American University in Cairo. 3) How has sculpting your literary journal over the last two decades impacted you? Working closely with amazing poetry and delightful poets over the years has been a wonderful experience. The chance to make a real contribution, to our literary life and the personal lives of many poets, is a great privilege. The combination of business and art, both inner and outer engagement, has also suited me well. 4) You have a new editor for the journal, Karen Head. Please let her step up and introduce herself, how she's enjoyed the scene there, and some notes on her background folks may not know. The formal answer to this question can best be answered with a biographical sketch: Karen Head is the author of Sassing (WordTech Press, 2009), My Paris?Year, Winner of the 2008 Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Poetry, (All Nations Press, 2008) and Shadow Boxes (All?Nations Press, 2003). Along with three colleagues, she wrote an anthology of occasional verse, On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year (Poetry Atlanta Press, 2014). Her poetry appears in a number of national and international journals and anthologies, including The Women’s Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Connecticut River Review, War, Literature, and the Arts, Loose Muse Anthology, Gathered: An Anthology of Quaker Verse and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. As an artist, and as a scholar of contemporary American poetry, she has begun to explore the connections between traditional text-based poetry and digitally-?enhanced poetry, an exploration that involves her in a number of creative projects being conducted in the Wesley Center for New Media at Georgia Tech. Her first digital poetry project, “Poetic Rub,” ?was featured at the EPoetry 2007 115 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Festival in Paris. Her most recent digital project was a collaborative exquisite corpse poem created via Twitter while she stood atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley’s One and Other Project; that project, “Monumental” was detailed in a TIME online mini-documentary. Her poem "Three Moments" was the winner of the 2011 Oxford International Women's Festival Poetry Prize. Prior to taking on the editorship of the Atlanta Review she worked on the editorial staffs of the Chattahoochee Review and Prairie Schooner. She is a graduate of the PhD program in English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska. She teaches at Georgia Tech and serves on the Poetry Atlanta Board. Some less formal information would likely include that I have been writing poetry since the age of six (when I published my very first poem). Much of my work is particularly interested in ideas of “place” both literarily and figuratively. I very much consider myself a Southern Poet, even though I grew up as an Army Brat and lived many places outside the south—even outside of the US. I believe very strongly that if you do not think you like poetry, you simply haven’t read the right work by the right poet; this is why I enjoy teaching poetry to my students and helping some of them become poets themselves. One might even call me a Poetry Evangelist. 5) The new editor spot for The Atlanta Review is a choice place to conduct an orchestra. How does it feel for (Dan) to let it go a bit, and Karen to take up the baton? (Dan) Certainly I feel a bit nostalgic. This has been a large part of my daily life over two decades. But I could not be happier about turning this journal over to Karen Head. She is a wonderful poet and a dynamic organizer, who will certainly take Atlanta Review to new heights. Having the resources of Georgia Tech, where Atlanta Review will now be hosted, also offers exciting possibilities for the future. Karen and I share a very similar vision for the magazine, so AR fans will continue to enjoy one of the world's great international poetry publications (Karen) Filling Dan’s shoes is impossible. If I set that as my goal, I would be doomed to fail. I remember hoping for many years that I might get a poem published in the Atlanta Review, so to become its editor is beyond my wildest dreams. When Dan asked me to consider taking over, I cried. With that said, the challenge is always to take up a baton with respect for the past, but to also bring new ideas and actions into the process. I am excited to expand the journal in many ways. Dan has, more or less, run the review nearly single-handedly for many years. By bringing the journal to Georgia Tech, we immediately have an opportunity to involve many more people in the editorial process. We can also bring many other resources to bear on the activities and presence of the journal. For example, we want to create an online, fullysearchable archive for the journal. The journal’s unique international focus is also something that can benefit from greater use of technology.
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Interview with Anna Schachner of the Chattahoochee Review Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide our readers with information about you (the professor), you (the artist), and The Chattahoochee Review. As you might imagine, these three things are interconnected, so I am going to do a little overlapping in my answer. I became a college English professor because when I was in graduate school at Bowling Green State University earning my MFA in fiction, I taught composition, literature, and creative writing as a TA. And I loved it! Initially, I wasn’t very good at it—in my very first semester, I even had a class write me a note and tell me how much they liked my class but that my expectations of them were too high, although they were trying. It was a very kind and sincere note, and it changed my way of teaching because it made me realize that I thought they weren’t trying when really they were. English and writing always came so easy to me that I forgot it didn’t come as easily to others. Had I remembered that back when I was in college (and to this day), I was horrible at math and business and struggled with science, I would have understood that some of my students struggled with writing an essay the same way that I struggled with solving an equation. The honesty of those students taught me a lot, and I am eternally grateful to that first class. When I graduated with my MFA, with a strong conviction to publish fiction, I knew that I would teach to earn my living. And that’s what I did, embracing, of course, the connection between academia and the writing life. After two years of teaching as an adjunct at three different colleges—months when I would have nightmares about teaching the wrong class at the wrong school and barely earning enough money to pay for the gas it took to drive from one school to the other—I was hired, twenty-four years ago, at what is now Perimeter College at Georgia State University. But back then, it was DeKalb College, a self-contained and happenin’ two-year college in the University System of Georgia. I liked the idea of teaching at a community college because I wanted to work with different student populations, especially those who had to overcome obstacles—academic, personal, or financial—to go to college. Because I would be teaching writing, I wanted to explore with students the ways that writing could empower them, not only by helping them become better communicators but by encouraging them to discover more about themselves. Writing is transformative—an idea I still very much embrace. A few years ago, under the auspices of the journal that I edit, The Chattahoochee Review, I started an on-going series of writing workshops for veterans. I wanted to build a strong community around TCR; I wanted the journal to both serve the writers that we published and the college and larger community. And I was motivated by the same desire that attracted me to community college teaching in the first place—to connect writing, which does have an empowering, even therapeutic, value, to a population of students who might never have considered that. I think these workshops, if nothing else, teach the importance of story-telling. To own your own story is indeed a powerful thing. And it’s interesting that the workshops attract as many attendees from outside the college, members of the community, as they do students, which is great and just what we at The Chattahoochee Review wanted. Even more recently, I have begun working with Reforming Arts, a non-profit organization here in Atlanta that offers certificate-earning courses in our state’s maximum security prison for women. I am 117 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
new to teaching in the prison system, but I am very invested in it for the same reasons that I am invested in the veteran workshops. But with teaching those who are incarcerated—often those who simply made some bad decisions or who didn’t have the privilege or skill sets or support systems that the rest of us might have had—I like to think that I am addressing those huge issues of racism and classism and social injustice. For a lot of years, I am ashamed to say, I didn’t do much to address these issues (outside of the classroom), so I have a lot of time to make up for. And it’s weird, I’m old enough now to have lost much of my youthful idealism—I don’t see anything that I do as golden-edged, worldchanging, give-me-a-white-stallion-to-charge-in-on kind of work; it’s simply hard work. It’s necessary and rewarding hard work that I am lucky to do. Another type of work that I do—and I like to think that it helps add some beauty to the world—is that of an editor. When I was hired, DeKalb College was home to a very good, Southern-focused literary journal called The Chattahoochee Review, so I quickly became involved with it, assuming the title of fiction editor. I held that title for six years, until I resigned to devote more time to my own writing. Working with TCR was a great experience for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that I got to work under the founding editor, Lamar York. He taught me a lot about writing, publishing, and teambuilding. He taught me a lot about how to find my niche in academia and “work it.” Twelve years later, when the editorship of the journal became open, I applied and got the job. I was given the opportunity to rebuild The Chattahoochee Review—with a new managing editor and a whole new staff of faculty editors. It was a lot of work, but I was able to fall back on some of those things that Lamar York taught me. Now, The Chattahoochee Review is thriving. We publish emerging and established authors. We still have a soft spot for Southern writers, but we publish all kinds of writers, even translations—hence our logo of “Exporting the South. Importing the World.” Being an editor has taught me so much about how to build a team, about how a literary journal can serve the institution that sponsors it, about how to edit my own work, about how to be a responsible part of the local and national literary communities, and about how to be a better teacher. My almost six years as editor have been particularly rewarding in that I gotten to know so many writers, and, contrary to some of the stereotypes out there, I have found that writers are professional, friendly, hard-working, supportive folks. It is such a treat for me when I get to meet, in person at AWP or some other conference or reading, someone we’ve published. That’s my favorite part about being an editor—just being part of a community of people. And I get to read poems and stories and essays that encourage me to be a better writer because I get to vicariously learn technique and be reminded of the competition out there. So, as far as the “artist” part of me goes, I try to be an artist. I write out of the need to understand the world and to understand myself. Since I write primarily fiction (although I have been writing some nonfiction in the last few years), I like how story-telling is a vehicle for discovery and is sometimes a defense against reality. I’ve published a lot of stories and a few essays, even some poems, but over the last ten years or so, I have been writing novels. In fact, my first novel, You and I and Someone Else, will be published by Mercer University Press in April, 2017. It’s a book that I “finished” ten years ago, although I have recently made some serious edits to it. It’s a book about the power of story-telling. And it’s a very Southern book—its North Carolina setting is important, and the narrator’s voice is very Southern. When I first started writing fiction back in graduate school, I really didn’t see myself as a Southern writer per se, and I still don’t, although I have a definite Southern quality to my voice. The novel is, in part, my love song to the South, or at least the South that I remember from my childhood, the South that is almost gone now. My other books—I have two more novels and a memoir—are not Southern, although I have some short stories that are. The novel that I hope to publish next is set in England, and the other two books deal with the strange disconnect between American and Mexican cultures. Most of my work, however, deals with the theme of family—how families are made, what families are. I’m also trying to get together a short story collection. The short story is still my favorite 118 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
form, although I more and more like the character intimacy—how someone, real or not, with whom you’ve spent three years of your life becomes a part of your life. Until you start the next book, of course. 2) What are some of the biggest mistakes writers make when submitting to your journal, or misconceptions many have that need to be squashed? All publishing is, to a large degree, determined by timing and luck. That being said, writers can avoid making some very common mistakes if they want to increase their chances of being published in The Chattahoochee Review: 1) The first mistake is submitting sloppy work. Have a piece to submit that is ready. In other words, be in a critique group or have a trusted friend or two or three who have read the work and offered their approval. Know that the work is the best it can be, and then submit. 2) Another very common mistake that our submitters make is simply not being familiar with what we publish. All journals have preferences, and submitters need to know them if they don’t want to waste their time. For example, we don’t typically publish experimental work. We prefer traditional stories with strong voices and characters, poetry that uses language with urgency and innovation, and nonfiction that tells a personal story while also engaging issues in the world at large. 3) Actually, the word “urgent” comes to mind not just for poetry but for all the writing that we favor. Writers often make the mistake of sending us work, stories in this case, where nothing happens for four or five pages. There must be urgency on the first page of any story, in the first stanza of any poem. We want the stakes to be high. Some writers mistake “literary” for “slow” or “meandering” when that’s not the case at all. A misconception that some writers, especially new writers, have is that they think literary journals are too competitive and don’t even explore that avenue because they feel afraid or discouraged without even trying. Journals are competitive. But a lot of journals, ours included, publish new and emerging writers. And not all journals are as hard to get into as others. There are so many good, but still accessible, print and online journals. Writers need to do their homework and then start submitting, knowing that sometimes it does take a long time to get an acceptance—we are about to publish a fiction writer who had previously submitted ten or eleven times. But it happens. Journals then get to brag about “discovering” writers. That’s a good kind of bragging. 3) Who are some of the writers to make it across your desk, and into your journal, that the world should be aware of, but aren't? This is a great question because there are so many under-recognized writers! We’ve published a lot of writers who are known but not as well-known as they should be. Ann Pancake, a fiction writer from West Virginia, comes to mind. Her writing is so beautiful—every sentence is a work or art—and she writes about, among other things, the relationship between humans and Nature, about environmental issues. In our next issue, fall 2016, we are publishing a bunch of story writers that deserve more recognition: John Brandon, who blends humor and surrealism, Canadian author Tamas Dobozy, who’s published three very good books, and Michael Caleb Tasker, a writer who grew up in New Orleans and now lives in Australia. Other fiction writers we’ve published who should be celebrated are: Anthony Varallo, Phong Nguyen, David Bajo, John Holman, Irish author Mary Morrissy, and Patrick Ryan, whose collection The Dream Life of Astronauts is earning him some spotlight. And what poet gets the recognition he/she deserves? So that list is long: Paul Hostovsky, Judson Mitcham, Jill Osier, Heather Hartley, Denver Butson, Mike Smith, Doug Ramspeck, Marjorie Saiser, Jamaal May, Sholeh Wolpé, and Alan Michael Parker are but a few. Some of the nonfiction writers we’ve published that I’d like to see become household names include Deborah Thompson, Ronald Jackson, Delaney Nolan, Greta Schuler, Angela Morales, Jill Talbot, and Jessica Handler. 119 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
You give an excellent lecture on breaking into the world of literary journals. I was lucky enough to hear it at The Writer's High Retreat. Are there any upcoming events where people may sit in to hear you in the near future? Why, thank you. That retreat was a lot of fun. You know, what with my book coming out in April, I will be doing lots of appearances—but in the role as a writer (oh, how I love saying that). I know that I will doing an April book launch at the Georgia Center for the Book in Decatur and that I will be speaking to the Atlanta Writers Club in May, but I don’t know the exact dates yet. Other than that, I will be doing author gigs at bookstores in the Atlanta area and up in North Carolina, and I’m also trying to get myself scheduled at some writing conferences this summer and next fall. I am not shy—if your book club asks and I can make the drive without having to get a hotel, I will come speak to your book club, especially if there’s good wine involved. My website www.annaschachner.com will be up and running soon, so I will post speaking gigs there. 4) Please tell us about any of your upcoming publishing projects. Do you have any new stories, novels, or collections hitting shelves on the horizon? You and I and Someone Else arrives April 3, 2017. It will be a big day for me—I expect to cry (tears of joy, of course), strut around, and literally be the center of the universe for at least a good part of the day. If you happen to see me in the midst of such exhibition, please be kind. It will be such a big—and very slow to come—day. Other than that, I have four or five stories that I am starting to send out—and yes, I expect my share of rejection notes but am determined to find them all good homes. And soon, there will be another novel finished, but I’m not ready to say more about that. Except that I will miss those people in it when I move on to my next group of characters. Writers have to know a lot about moving on.
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Interview with Erin Z. Bass of Deep South Magazine Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks 1) What is the full skinny behind Deep South Magazine? What dark corners did the id drift from to bring this brilliant light you consistently publish to the world? What single thought acted as the impetus of this journal's existence? I had to work hard to come up with an answer worthy of this question, but I would say Deep South was born from wanting to know more about the region I call home. The magazine started with the idea of wanting to travel and explore the Southern states, but I always knew that I wanted to have a journal component. My love of Southern literature was sparked in college at LSU many years ago when I took a Southern Women's Fiction class, and I assumed there were some budding writers out there who deserved to have a venue for their work. What I didn't realize was just how plentiful and talented those writers really were and that this project would morph into a way for me to express and share my passion for Southern lit on a daily basis. 2) What absolutely irritates you to the point of insanity with submissions, bad interview etiquette, etc. I am not begging to get you in a sling, or rip up a fuss, but folks should know so they might stop. I think a few just haven't been schooled in Literary Journal Culture 101. I'm pretty flexible when it comes to submissions, but the sticking point for us is that they have to have a Southern voice. That doesn't necessarily mean the author has to have been born or have grown up in the South, but there must be a Southern influence, setting or mood to the story. Come on, writers. Our name is Deep South. 3) Who are the hearts and souls behind the journal? What are their names and hobbies and music making them feel more alive? We are going to need the good stuff. How does your team keep it together on screen, and off? Our team is mostly made up of interns, so these are students with a passion for the South, whether they're from here or chose to attend a school or college in the region. Some of them are poets or short story writers themselves, music lovers, travelers and bloggers. Many of our interns stay on with us in a more official capacity once they graduate and transition into managerial roles, like our former submissions manager Brittany Wallace. She helped so many writers fine tune their stories during her time with us, and we're hoping our new crop of fall interns can help carry the torch. 4) Where do you see the journal in 5 years. There is so much benefit with journals being online with perhaps one "best of" issue a year to have a tangible song from your 12 month symphony. How do you see your child growing up? That's a tough question, but I do want to keep evolving and changing to give our readers what they want. We recently transitioned to a more structured submissions process with reading periods and a limited number of pieces published each year so that we can really focus on presenting quality work. I can definitely see us starting to have more "themed" and "best of" issues, along with some writing 121 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
contests and maybe even cash prizes. The journal side of things has grown a lot over the years and continues to be very popular with readers, so as long as we can manage it, we'll keep getting those Southern voices out there. 5) I want this question to be one that you make up. Some cause that you think is important or artists not getting enough attention. You can add as many as you like. I want this to be "our" piece. I'd like to talk about the state of Southern literature and where the genre seems to be going. I recently attended a "Southern Fiction Today" panel moderated by M.O. Walsh during the Mississippi Book Festival. The panel discussed whether the genre can actually be defined, how it's different from Northern or Midwestern lit and why that Southern voice is so strong for writers who are from here. I think it's important to note the importance of championing the young and modern writers who are are continuing the tradition and taking Southern lit to new levels. Southern writers grow up with storytelling and dialect and characters all around them, and if they can figure out a way to make that work on the page, then it becomes our pleasure to read the result.
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Interview with James H. Duncan of Hobo Camp Review Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks 1) Give our readers a few details about the Hobo Camp Review. How did it start? How is it developing? Where do you see it going? Hobo Camp Review started out in a somewhat selfish manner around the same time as the demise of Myspace, which had a great blog element to everyone's page which allowed us to scroll through an almost endless stream of poets and poems, sampling what was new. But as that platform died off I also ran through a dry spell where I just wasn't seeing anything interesting out there, on Myspace or in lit mags. It all felt like Bukowski knock-offs or high school diary work that was high on dramatics but low on profundity. So I thought about what kind of work I'd like to read, drafted up a submission call, and decided that I'd let the work find me instead of the other way around. And it did. The work flowed in and I discovered a ton of writers I never would have found just scrolling blogs or going to readings. At the start we only published poetry and fiction but now we try to focus a lot more on chapbook reviews and helping writers however we can outside of just publishing their poems. We aren't a paying market, sadly, so anything else we can do to promote quality writing is important. I never did imagine the magazine getting much larger than it is now, just a quiet little corner of the internet where we gather around the fire and tell tales, but I'd love to publish more and more reviews, more interviews, and keep networking with other writing collectives and magazines. We're all in this together and there's no room in the arts of exclusivity anymore. It's an open road and we aim to keep it that way. 2) You have dead-bang ideas about perseverance in submitting to journals and presses. What are, not hints, but gospel truths other writers need to accept in the real world of letters? Shine some light on the proverbial "road less traveled"? Writing and publishing are two different beasts. One has a more ephemeral quality to it: writing saves the soul, is a salve for hard times, is therapy on the cheap, is a magical feeling when it's just rolling out of you. Publishing is work. Publishing is a process. Publishing is the hard part. If you complain that writing is hard and you haven't started the process of getting yourself published yet, stop now. Don't continue. Okay, that's not true, keep going, but holy shit, are you in for a rude awakening if you think writing is the hard part. Keep your work in circulation. If it gets rejected over and over, revise, cut it down to the best lines and rebuild, then send it back out. You might get rejected 99 times out of 100, but some editor out there will love your work and will be thrilled to publish you. If you stop submitting because of rejections, it's on you, not the editors. It's not their fault. You need to keep going. You're always almost there but you 123 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
won't get there until you do, so don't stop. Like I said, you may need to revise your rejected work, even down to the bones, but it's worth it. It came from you and it means something, so don't give up on it. Submit everywhere. Don't linger in the same dozen or so lit mags. Aim low, aim high, submit everywhere. Don't write something that fits a certain magazine? Try writing something that does. Don't make this a standard practice, but it's fun to challenge yourself and it spreads your work into new reading circles. And once you begin feeling confident enough to submit your work to magazines, go to open mics. Read in public. It will connect you with other writers ten times faster than getting published or networking online, because you're right there, in the flesh, they can see you and you can see them, and this whole writing thing is a community. We're living in a world where most people don't give a shit about books and poetry and reading so we need to band together more than ever. Submit your work. Read your work. Network. Never stop. 3) Now that we've got the do's covered, what are the dont's? Lay down some of the same, stark truth to this path, followed often, that can get a writer shot in the foot before they have a chance to dance. Don't: let your ego get the better of you. Keep your humility in check. No matter how successful and widely published you may become, the vast majority of the world, even the writing world, has never heard of you, so relax any sort of pride you may feel that is swelling so much that you feel you're rising above the masses. This is trench warfare that doesn't end and you're down here with the rest of us. It's noticeable when a poet or writer thinks otherwise and it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of readers, writers, editors, and publishers. Don't screw this up for yourself, don't screw people over, don't hurt people, don't take advantage, don't beat your chest, don't be a creep, don't be a crybaby, don't be a prick. Just write. The end. Don't: write back when you're rejected, unless it's to simply say thank you. I wrote about this at length at my website in a blog titled "Dear Editor, Dear Writer, Please Stop!" and I assure you there is no faster way to ruin your chances of being published by that magazine or by any magazine run by a friend of that editor than writing back to bitch about not being accepted. Even a quick, "Okay, your loss" type of reply is basically pissing in that editor's face, and everyone that editor knows will be aware of your unprofessionalism by sunset. So stop it. Don't: over-promote your work. We all need to do a hefty amount of self-promotion, I know, but if that's all you do, if you bombard someone via email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, on and on, with the same "Look at me, look at this, look what I did" posts ad nauseum, nobody will care. Nobody will read your work. Everyone will tune you out. Self-promotion is important but it needs to be measured, it needs to be fun, it needs balance, and the best self-promotion comes when you promote others. When you become a champion of the community, the community will give back. Don't: send a ridiculously long bio with your work. As an editor I have seen some bios longer than the work itself, along with videos and audio files and photos and a full list of all publishing credits when all we wanted to see was the work. Few editors care where else you've been published or how many YouTube videos you have. We want to see the work. If the work sucks, it doesn't matter how many Twitter followers you have, we're not publishing you. Stick to the work, keep the bios humble, let the words speak for you. 4) What new trends are developing in publishing you are glad to see? What are some lingering bad practices you'd like to see fall into the abyss? I do love seeing small presses rocking out with all kinds of cool anthology ideas, chapbook series ideas, just keeping the work flowing, interesting, always being willing to try new things no matter how 124 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
"small" a press they may be. Even writer groups that get together and put out an anthology - that's badass. DIY never goes out of style so long as its done well, done with heart, and done with something new to say. One thing we need to stop is all the damn reading fees. If you need reading fees to keep your publication running, I advise you let that thing run into the ground and get back to your own writing. Reading fees for general submissions take advantage of writers. End of story. Reading fees for contests better be small, and better have a prize 50 times the fee. Seriously, 50 times as a minimum ground-floor measurement. $10 fee? $500 prize. $25 fee? $1,250 prize. Plus a bundle of free books. And never ever charge a writer for extra copies unless writers can buy extras at cost. At cost is cool, because we all know "at cost" is $2-$5 per book tops, so don't think we don't know that. If you can't do this and keep publishing, stop publishing. You're not so special that someone else won't take your place next month. So again, I highly advise all writers to avoid any and every publication that charges a reading fee for a general submission, especially for a magazine that doesn't pay. Let's starve these bastards out. 5) Wrap up this bad boy with some information about what you're into, projects on the horizon, and/or publications close to fruition? I have two books coming out this autumn, and both have me doing backflips. Dead City Jazz (Epic Rites Press) will be out October 2016 as part of the Punk Chapbook Series, where $40 gets a subscriber 12 books at once, including mine. Dead City Jazz explores the glowing neon rush of nightlife in San Antonio, the love and art and loss and pain fueled by cheap drinks and cheaper tacos in the hot southern nights in Texas. We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (Dark Heart Press) is a longer chapbook due out later this fall and balances poems looking back on a challenging childhood in a trailer park and the promise that comes with growing up and getting out, set against poetry of adulthood where promises fall away to struggle, lies, cancer, and the fading hope that remains inside stoke by nostalgia for easier times. I also have a four novels revised circulating with agents and publishers, my favorite being a fictionalized account of a real life crime that took place in a small Vermont town in 1945, where a young girl disappeared and was never seen again, followed by five more people over the next seven years. The crimes were never solved, but I have a few ideas and decided to write a novel about what I think happened. And I always keep people posted on these new projects at www.jameshduncan.com, if anyone cares to keep tabs on when the book will hits shelves.
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How Our Home Hones Us This is a new segment to the Blue Mountain Review where a different artist reflects in each issue on what they consider home. What is home, how has it influenced, and continues to feed, their muse? Is it where we are born, or where we come to settle to find peace, inspiration, and/or family? Not all thoughts of home are good, and this magazine is curious as to how even the negative memories can craft not only a noble person, but an artist we grow to adore. This is Jon Tribble. He is humble. He is a man of integrity and intelligence. Jon has been at the helm of the Crab Orchard Review for many moons, and it is a journal known anywhere. Facts, all of these words. This year he came out with his first book of verse, Natural State, after editing so many others that were finalists for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. I have read Natural State. I am an avid fan of its clarity of vision, and absolute lack of superfluous dramatics. Yet, that is not the crux of this feature called, Do We Look Home. Jon Tribble has three poems in this interview from a new collection of verse known focusing on KFC poetry. The poetry, and a few phone conversations, created in my mind the idea that his new book looking back, even deeper, into his family's roots deserved its own, written life. There will be a few questions asked for Jon, and then I ask you out there to submit your prose, poetry, or any original artwork that takes you back home. Does it make you happy? Do you grow dark, but free now that you are far away from that earth? Do We Look Home will delve into all that: 1) What is the meat and potatoes of the KFC poetry? Did your work on Natural State spark this reminiscence, or is it an independent project from anther muse? Well, if I took that question literally I would have to say fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but really the collection is about work, fast food labor often by teenagers that goes on around us all the time and is often unnoticed. Natural State came from a very different place since in some ways I have been writing that book my entire life as a poet. This project came out of my wife constantly telling me these KFC stories should be poems and then me finally committing to see where they might go. 2) What was your home life like? Where does your poet as an adult look back to most often as a child of poetry? My home for my first eighteen years was a Methodist church camp my father ran that was devoted to social service and medical camping. I will look back to that place and its sense of mission throughout my life. It was a place that was not only my first idea of home, but I learned a lot about work, race, class, and nature there. 3) When you look at these poems, and write new ones, what are the predominant emotions that flood, or don't, as you drudge up the whole truth? In some way, these poems require the most in terms of emotions and truth that any poems I have ever written, The poems are a type of "witnessing" to the experience of this work and so I have allowed myself very little leeway writing them in terms of the facts of the situations involved, though I have 126 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
bee careful about individuals' identities. There are so many different emotions depending on what I am working on that come up in my poetry, and I try to convey those to my readers as best I can. 4) Has it helped you better understand your childhood and teens years by reading and editing the work from so many trying to capture those same years in ink? How do you create free from the creation of others without the flavors intermixing? Reading work for Crab Orchard Review and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, I am always amazed by how many ways writers can explore similar topics and still make the work their own. I focus on this challenge every time I sit down to write. Though it is always very difficult, it is also so rewarding when you realize something you feel is your own. 5) What makes you laugh most frequently as you keep a'goin' with this KFC collection from your homestead? The KFC poems don't have me laughing all that often, but I did discover some television commercials from the sixties that can't help but make you laugh, including a commercial with Lady Godiva riding through the countryside with fried chicken. I laugh every time I see it.
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Honest Labor Meat, one of the assistant coaches called us, prime meat, as the other guards and tackles ground into one another with their slow weight and push, our muscles straining to prove which of us would freeze as perfect statues locked together in a grapplerâ€™s pose, others tumbling back like unsteady bowling pins marking the unlikely spare. I was falling off the depth chart that autumn, former tackle to guard to center to long snapper on the offensive linemanâ€™s path to the bench and a purple and gold letter jacket earned for showing up and shutting up. So I punted football after my fifteenth birthday, and the first job interview my father drove me to was my last, filling out the blanks on the form the girl in the white and red bowl of a hat handed me and I waited for the curly-haired manager in a crisp white shirt, black slacks, and black string tie to join me in the booth, ask me where I went to school, if I did drugs, if I knew what honest labor was, knew what hard work demanded and was ready to do it here for one dollar and sixty-five cents an hour since a minor like me under sixteen had a trial period to see if I was mature enough to take a job seriously. He did like I played football, said this work involved lifting fifty pound sacks of flour, seventy-five pound cases of fresh chicken on ice, but I looked hearty enough, he said, a big enough boy to do the job, if I showed up at four-thirty the next day wearing jeans and good work shoes he would have my own red-and-white striped shirt ready and I could clock in, watch training films, maybe do a little dishwashing since I had told him of the hundreds of campers whose trays and glasses and silverware I washed every weekend at the camp my father ran, 128 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
the summers I had worked each meal five days a week. I would start slow here, part-time, he said, three days a week for five hour shifts, maybe one weekend day if I worked out, but I shouldnâ€™t expect much, was young and would need to prove myself to him, to earn my wings. Two weeks later I got my first raise, in four weeks I was working twenty hours, then twenty-five, thirty, then double shifts every weekend and earning overtime, opening the store those Saturday and Sunday mornings, shutting it down, blast-washing it clean most nights until I couldnâ€™t imagine another way to end my days.
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This Day the Lord We gathered around locked glass doors, waiting to start our Sunday service preparing to serve, not with reverent hymns and desperate prayers, knowing good news for us a one-day special coupon sale cut fresh from the morning’s heavy newspapers, promising chicken in nine or fifteen or twenty-one pieces, like five loaves and two fish, an endless banquet we could feed the four thousand, five, or even more, know the buckets would reappear again full as long as we kept performing our rituals like we knew we should. We were all apostates before these flames. Eleven o’clock and we welcomed in the first wave, herbs the incense of this perfumed air heavy with gravy and boiling ears of corn, baked beans on the stove top, spices peppering every sweet corner hunger can make desire, can make fat and happy believe anything it needs can be wrapped in wax paper, wipe grease from finger to lips to tongue, a nation of thirsty worshipers licking the salt until all could behold it, and it was good. Abundance as long as the electricity stayed on. We knew the cost of waste, the ledgers our bosses would use as punishment if we dropped or spilled, turned fresh into spoiled, and we feared the wrath from burning chicken, missing the clarion of the buzzer set for thirteen, not fourteen, minutes, potatoes drying out, cole slaw frozen or sour, the plastic bags of rolls soggy or crispy. It’s a miracle there was any food at all those days when the world around us was designed for every disaster, the Colonel’s face everywhere we turned, mocking us with its secret knowledge that our faith was misplaced, our recipe was a recipe for unpaid bills, a path to a future that would cover us with scars and pain, the failure that 130 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
makes an apostle a heretic, takes hard work and turns it into less than pocket change, fills the mouth with the taste of blood and sweat, a metallic tang behind your teeth so sharp and false, so unnatural that nothing can taste good. Could we cash our checks and tithe ourselves? Not for nothing, but something less and less we chopped and peeled until the skin was either ours or the birds’, the trays and trays of a country of fowl rolled from grease to warmer, a procession for quick feast or ending the famine of home cooking, the clock’s hands frozen; faster than family, generations and the new hearth, it’s all television ready and friendly, the golden crisp chicken, the smiling counter girls and young men with nothing on their minds but the bright gleaming gospel of more. Feed you, fill you, find the limit of all appetites. And if that isn’t enough, we have dessert! Chocolate that’s not chocolate, but chocolate creme, lemon creme, the strawberry shortcake with more creme, but no real strawberries that seem like fruit, all sweet and good if you don’t know better. There is never any reason to leave with empty hands or stomachs wanting more because we have it all here to satisfy and stuff folks from city to suburbs to farm, young and old come to our counter and receive our blessings, drive through our convenient pick-up window and know our generosity, the grace that will follow you to your door. Speak clear, speak loud so we can hear you say, “I’m ready to order. Is anyone there?” Know we are coming, we are here, we cannot leave and are trapped in this kitchen until the last one has ordered, when no more customers wait for the next fryer to empty and the next, for the coupons to expire and be no more than tomorrow’s trash, no more value than confetti for a forgotten parade, the betting slips for the sixth-place 131 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Kentucky Derby finish. Give us this, freely, leave us the fried dreams that stalk our nights, the cemetery full of chicken. No ghost haunts quite like a skinless silent bird. It’s not forgiveness that is our bargain or our dream, so many nights where scalding the flesh would feel nice, if only the water could be hot enough, the heat nice if it could boil out of each pore that smell, that chain to the kitchen linking our bones to the birds’ so we feel, not dirty, not grimy, but seared from the inside so the vision of our sacrifice isn’t crucifixion, no good for the world in our losses, but we feel cooked, about to be served to something angry in its hunger, a shadow of vengeance that will have us as its rightful meal, and there isn’t enough, never enough for that, so we must forget it, deny there are such dreams, say good night once the floors are cleaned, only talk about tomorrow’s day off or the day after, wonder if Kentucky is that different from Arkansas, if everything’s fried there like most things are here, if their catfish and hushpuppies and green tomatoes are better than their chicken.
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Insecticide: The Four-Way Test “…a few years later the Four-Way Test of Rotary came along. A man ought not be permitted to go in business unless he can abide by that test. Least I don’t think he’ll amount to very much if he doesn’t.” —Col. Harland Sanders, Life As I Have Known It Has Been Finger Lickin’ Good Flour and water, blood, meat and grease, trash and more trash, there is no end to what feeds upon what the business of hunger brings with it through every crack and crevice, each door open or simply ajar, the highway of drains where the silverfish and cockroaches know the truth of our failures, the swarms of flies breeding where the building is spitting out its garbage day and night. Exterminate, fumigate, spray it over and over again, this feedyard teeming with multitudes, a state fair where the attractions leave a choking cloud behind, a wild ride trying to balance the cost of safety and poison. Our most loyal consumers all have six legs, here when we open each morning, they aren’t concerned we close since their best hours come while we’re away, they will find everything we hide, fill our traps, bring us grime and grief until it is water rising against our efforts, destroying any dam we try to build to contain the flood. No armistice in this war we are losing, no goodwill given by either side, the dead too many to count on one, the sick and tired on the other weary and disgusted. Perhaps surrender would be better than the creeping gas filling our trenches, our only battlefield friendships between the masks and our noses and mouths, the goggles we hope will keep our eyes from burning in the haze. Fire could cleanse this, but it is not an option, too much insect city to burn and then what would be left behind but ash and metal, charred carapaces, nothing beneficial in such madness, so every morning we patrol again, our mission to search and destroy the colonies thriving in our sovereign state, all our efforts a temporary stay we execute to reassure anyone concerned.
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Full Thickness full-thickness burn – a burn involving destruction of the entire skin; deep full-thickness burns extend into subcutaneous tissue, muscle, or bone and often cause much scarring. — Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary New oil has a deceptive beauty, a pool shimmering gold, deep as the mystery of heat, hiding the kiss of flame, no smoke point short of five hundred degrees to warn the unsuspecting cook of danger, pain, the potential to burn so great, so certain, yet unseen until an accidental touch becomes another level, a new understanding. I wasn’t tired, no excuse of fatigue, my shift barely beginning when I started another quiet Saturday with the mid-afternoon headed toward busier evening and close, and I was touching up the lunch crew’s leavings, a little flour here, trays in the sink to wash, and the fryer needing a scraping to clear off the crust left above the line where the chicken turned crisp in the dark bath, but this fryer had clean new oil and I wondered why the cook before me put the white blocks of vegetable oil into a fryer with this dirty ring around its collar. Still, it looked cool when I slid the scraper down the stainless steel wall and what I thought was hard and cooked on wasn’t, my hand’s force finding 134 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
no resistance and I was suddenly immersed in the purest heat I hope Iâ€™ll ever know, my hand and half my forearm plunging into a full four hundred degrees. Later, they would show me the place on the wall where the scraper I threw across the room stuck, better than any shuriken or sharp throwing knife I played with as a boy ever did, but in those first moments after I knew nothing but the sure sense the fire consumed every feeling I had until only searing self-immolating pain, a pain I still see in my mind as the most primal howling whimpering thing wanting nothingness, death, relief from every hurt balled up in this one hurt, this shrieking erasure of all self, all sense of being. The next thing I knew from that moment was I sat back in the walk-in cooler, my burned hand in a plastic bag filled with ice, and I was breaking chicken, waiting until a replacement cook came in to take my place, still on the clock. I suppose I was in shock, must have agreed to this though I really donâ€™t recall anything between the burn and the time I looked down at the raw chicken in my hands, my hand in the sack of ice and thought the meat looked better, closer to being alive, the crease between my thumb and index finger overcooked like a chicken wing too 135 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
long in the fryer, then the colors that no skin should ever have leading up to the enormous boil on my arm, something wrong that left me thinking this couldnâ€™t be mine, be part of me, and I stared and broke the chicken thighs until that boil broke, and all the fluids and blood and skin filled that bag of ice and I got up and left my job to find someone, anyone in the store who could clean my wounds, put something over this now scoured new thing that was my arm before the air brought back the pain, wrap me up like something neither living nor dead until my father or mother could come and take me home again.
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Honey on My Tongue Being the perfect witness and being honest are seldom the same thing when testimony isn’t under oath and the outcome’s already pre-determined if not destined, but I was still too young to understand how sweet lies are for some, so I sat down first for the informal manager’s test and told the truth when asked what drugs I tried, too many Yeses from those self-medicating nights and long days of frying and lifting and scrubbing and pouring out blood and sweat for minimumwage-or-slightly-better paychecks that often went back to buy the best medication I could find on my carousel stuck endlessly spinning if I didn’t understand at seventeen how to step off, thought changing uniforms would be a brass ring rather than a tighter collar around my neck, a black string tie the next link in a chain that wasn’t gold like the Colonel’s original for his pocketwatch, but instead bone and gristle, either mine or other boys or women or men I would enlist like I had signed on nearly three years before. I didn’t know better than to think the interview a success until my manager took me aside the next day, told me I had two perfect scores out of three categories, but one hundred percent on Honesty isn’t the best thing when eighty-five or ninety would do, he said. I knew what he meant then, so I went back to work since there were still hours to be filled and chickens, always more chickens to be fried to a crisp golden brown. I did begin to notice how this latest manager’s hands lingered on the shoulders of the girls I worked with at night, the women who labored the day shifts when I came in at three, out early from my senior-year classes so I could get two more hours in each time I worked. I can’t say I watched my co-workers from the sink or fryer or breading station because I was concerned at first—I was a seventeen-year-old boy 137 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
still watching women and girls the way a seventeen-year-old boy will do—but I did notice the women would try to move to find space where he’d left none, one girl would disappear into the Ladies room, not coming out until another was sent in to retrieve her or the manager would go and knock on the door, threaten to punch her out on the time clock and send her home. When one of the women asked if I would go with her on my day off with that same girl and meet with the district manager and one of the franchise owners, tell them what I’d seen, I agreed and went back to the office I had failed my first test sure of success this time, sure that honest words should be sweet and sustaining, pure as honey on the tongue when spoken with conviction that truth is stronger than lies, but when I arrived the woman and the girl had already come and gone, fired for stirring up trouble. As I sat with those two men and my manager, they all said what a bright future I had ahead of me with them, how I could take my test a second time and they were sure the results would be much better, that I had learned a lot since then. Of course, they were right. But they didn’t understand when I quit.
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Interview with John Amen Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks John Amen was born from wind and wonder somewhere in North Carolina. He is more than one persona. Amen sees the cosmos, subway trains, you, the entire of life, and creates a landscape that exudes hope. It’s a hard hope at times, but John Amen steps out from the trees and speaks the truth: Life is strange. Living will is in constant, divine disarray, but the sun will careen into place while the moon stays beautiful. Don’t let him fool you. Beneath the flippant points me makes about society, there is a warrior’s heart. He stands and fights for something odd, introspective, and intelligent. I have the honor to interview John Amen. I’ve been a fan of his since 2012. During this séance-of-a-Q&A, I met his alter ego. This unknown gentleman reared his less-than-benevolent head and gave me the full skinny. His articulate beast answered my queries from a curious part in his DNA. Amen’s madness has made his creativity immortal, and his marrow made The Pedestal a reality. Sit down around our table, clear you mind, hold hands, and get comfortable in the Blue Mountain Review’s smoky, mystic room of spirits: 1) Let’s start at the beginning: Please give us some personal background on you, your career, your passions, and pet projects. Where are you from? What awards have you won/publications you'd like to announce? I hope you don’t mind if my alter ego answers these questions, at least for the most part. I’ve been trying to respond to these items studiously and methodically, and he keeps sabotaging things. So, I’m just going to take a backseat on this one. Ahem, I grew up in a converted warehouse filled with surplus dogfood. For some reason, the intercom still worked, even though the building was crumbling, and some twisted DJ-type would broadcast loops of classical music spliced with hits by the Bay City Rollers. Have you ever heard Mozart blended with S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night? Anyway, I always wanted to be a paramedic, but my wishes weren’t primary, so I went along with the obvious trajectory, and did my best to add to what I’d call the aesthetic agenda. Every now and then I’d have to assert myself, and I’d drag us to a strip mall or NASCAR track or simply make us bed down in an elevator after-hours. Anyway, while we were apparently publishing tomes, receiving the blah blah blah from this or that committee, or whining about existential realities, I’d be in the background concocting new ways to slice meat, conserve gasoline, stay up all night, time-travel, eat fattening foods without gaining weight. You get the picture.
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2) How did you and The Pedestal Magazine become acquainted? How long have you manned the wheel? Please tell us about the new changes done to the website, and new features fans need to look out for?
John founded The Pedestal Magazine. See, I give credit where credit’s due. I was supportive of that move, too, though I would have preferred penny dreadfuls to screen after screen of poetry. Not that I don’t appreciate poetry, I actually do. I’ve even written a poem or two, though they’re different—not what most people call poetry. I like to use gas, wood, bodily fluids, fishing line, instruction manuals, detergent labels. I’m a tactile kind of guy. I can appreciate a good image, for sure. “The dog in the mud sinks his teeth into his balls.” That was the closing line of something I wrote for a group of nurses and florists from the Midwest, some kind of social media thing. Pedestal launched in 2000 and has been going since. I’ve been paralleling this iteration, you know? I’m doing things like still banking in hardcopy. Collecting daguerreotypes. Paying for everything with cash. Pedestal has a new website. I wanted a new website too, but the so-called budget didn’t allow for it. Oh well, there’s always next year. 3) Who are some heroes you keep close to your heart that may have nothing to do with the literary world. How have they crafted you as a writer? I’ve literally been waiting all my life for someone to ask me this. I never get asked this kind of question! Sorry, if I’m gushing, but…wow, if I were writing on paper you wouldn’t be able to read anything, it would all be smudged from my tears. Oh, thank you. I’m a big fan of the guy who invented sticky notes. His spiritual approach really appeals to me. He’s obviously a modern-day mystic. I’m indebted to various labor unions and have always admired the losing candidates in national elections. I mentioned NASCAR a while ago. God, I’d like to be on a pit crew. I think I could change the tires pretty well. I’m fast, and now that I’m doing curls again with John’s copy of War and Peace, I’m strong like bull! I like experimental filmmakers too; you know, like that guy, I can’t think of his name, who filmed milk while it curdled. And that social commentator who covered himself in mayonnaise and walked around NYC removing parking tickets from people’s cars. I’m a big fan of excel sheets too. I don’t mean with info, I mean just excel sheets before they have anything in them. Blankness, emptiness, columns stretching out forever devoid of any trace of info, that’s what I admire. 4) How does music play into your creative process, if it does at all? Do you see a thread of commonality between music and verse, or even music and all forms of writing? Well, because of my childhood experiences that I mentioned above, I have a pretty strange relationship with music. Do you know that story “The Jester,” from Mann’s Death in Venice and Other Stories? John read it to me once. I liked that because the main character didn’t really know how to play the piano conventionally but had a certain knack for creating harmonies, atmospheric effects, sonorous expressions. I’m not really into instruments, per se, but I guess I could claim to be a master composer in my head! My head is a symphony hall, but before the audience or orchestra show up. While everyone is waiting to hear the violinist or the oboist or even the clarinetist, I’m tuning into the 140 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
fly that’s perched on the baton. I’m listening to the distant moan of the AC in some brownstone down the street. I want to turn up the street noise. I want to amplify the sound of history itself. It’s odd but sometimes when I think of certain sounds, they magically emerge or manifest. Like I might want to hear a particular kind of clicking sound, and then someone comes walking by in high heels. A lot of times I want to hear a metallic sound, though it hurts in a way. My favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of a letter opener being slowly dragged across a dull whetting stone. 5) What are the biggest pet peeves you have pertaining to submissions to your journal, things writers could do to be less irritating, and annoying trends in creatives that should be thrown off for life? I know John has more pet peeves than I could store in an empty crematorium. I have mine, too, like most people, though I try not to take them too seriously. I don’t like it when people text in all capitals. I’m not a big fan of lingo or crossword puzzles or handwringing in public. Quite frankly, it’s near impossible for me to watch people while they’re eating. I’m a pretty good multitasker myself, but I hate to be around someone else who’s multitasking. I guess that makes me a hypocrite. Big deal, who isn’t a hypocrite? Oh, people referring to themselves in the second person makes me feel like a musket ball is ricocheting off my innards, but then again, I’m very sensitive when it comes to the whole notion of identity, given everything I’ve been through. 6) When John Amen steps up to read poetry, which persona takes the mic? What mask does he wear to dodge the public’s stare? John, John, John, I mean, I love the guy, but really? Yeah, I usually support him at the mic, but—and he won’t admit this—he gets the best reception when he lets me run the show. I mean, sure, I read his poems, and people appreciate them, but I use my voice better than he does, and I actually have better patter and more effective humor. And I’m more confident. Once we got booked to read poems in a biker bar. I talked John into accepting the gig. Hey, it paid pretty well. Well, when we get there, of course he starts whining about how this isn’t going to be an appropriate venue and his poems won’t be appreciated. Blah blah. I got us up there on that stage, behind that chicken wire, and I delivered the goods. I knew how to connect. Everyone there looked like he or she had escaped from death row or one of the inner circles of Dante’s Hell, but by the end of the evening the entire crowd was whooping and hollering. And then John sold every book he brought, too. Best gig he ever had. 7) What project/s is John working on now? Are there new publications coming up we should put our ear to the ground for? He’s got a new book coming out next year, I think, and then we’ll hit the road, as they say. But you might be more interested to know that I’m launching a new social-commentary project I’m calling “Blah Blah Told You So.” I’m recruiting homeless and unemployed people between the ages of 12 and 43 to hand out blank sheets of paper on Wall Street, particularly during lunch hour. The idea is to create panic and stimulate questions. And cause confusion, of course. We’re going to film people’s responses and then figure out who they are and start sending them confrontational emails. We might even contact their bosses and make up odd stories; for ex, did you know that your employee, gifted broker that he is, is spending his weekends locked in the basement of an 85 year-old dominatrix’s house? That sort of thing. Eventually I hope to gather all the info and self-publish a brochure called 141 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“Love in America,” which I can then disseminate at popular hangouts such as Family Dollar and Dairy Queen. 8) Who's writing today that you think deserves more attention? Perhaps there’s more than one? I like those writers who are trying to revive the postcard as a viable form of correspondence. Then there are those insurrectionists from Nebraska or Oklahoma or somewhere like that who go into random grocery stores and scribble disturbing stories on packaging labels. Also they change all the nutritional info; for ex, if something says, 35 calories, they’ll change it to 85. And then no one buys the product because no one wants to get fat. Brilliant, huh? As you can imagine, I also like collaborative and communal writing because this sort of process undermines the experience of fixed identity. If you write collaboratively, you get how flimsy and ephemeral identity really is. 9) What are the top 5 films you'd suggest folks watch to better understand John Amen? Everybody should watch Reefer Madness and Plan 9 from Outer Space. I feel that a film is only as great as it is abominable. Failure is the only greatness as it implicitly satirizes itself. Humility is No Orchids for Miss Blandish or The Sky, Prettier than Petite or The Cheese-man and the Languid Angel. I think the latter might be the greatest film ever made; that is, it is literally near-impossible to successfully watch. To view it for even a few minutes is to feel such dejection, such immersion in unredeemable failure, such utter wretchedness as to have to spend a week or two in a hospital under a psychiatrist’s supervision. Watching this film is the cinematic equivalent to beholding the face of Medusa. What could possibly be considered a greater accomplishment? 10) How will the world best remember John Amen as a scholar, rogue, and visionary? What should a battleship be called to honor him appropriately? This is a tough question for me given, as I keep stressing, my strange history with the experience of identity. This will sound like some sort of bastardized Buddhist rant, but who or what is John Amen? Is there actually a thing called John Amen? I mean, when you’ve lived as a hideaway within someone else’s identity, a kind of marginal character who is as much alive as his dominant host but who isn’t offered the same respect or validation, in terms of identity, how do you deal with the idea of being someone or something? I mean, identity only exists for the mind that concocts it, and then that mind has to work nonstop to sustain it. It’s like trying to keep a fire burning that never got lit in the first place. As you can see, I think about this quite a lot. What else is there to do when you’re biding time on a precarious wall above some landscape that has no defining qualities? Talk about Humpty Dumpty…. I live on a trestle, wishing I would fall and shatter into pieces. I’d like nothing more than to attempt putting myself back together again. My life is an ellipsis. But in some ways, because I don’t have the luxury of illusion as a buffer, not as chronically anyway, I’m prepared for the death that has already happened. Cruise by more John Amen with a click: Related Sites: http://books.nyq.org/title/strangetheater
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A review by Jared Smith: https://heavyfeatherreview.com/2015/04/16/beyond-the-scorpions-violins-john-amens-strange-theater/ A review by George Wallace: http://greatweatherformedia.com/john-amen-strange-theater/ A review by Paul Sohar: http://ragazine.cc/2015/05/strange-theaterbook-review/ Also: The Pedestal Magazine www.thepedestalmagazine.com
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Interview with Charity Janisse Information Collected & Compiled by Scott Thomas Outlar I fortuitously came across the art of Charity Janisse while scrolling through my Twitter feed in early 2016, and I was immediately struck by the power of her abstract work. I quickly realized that her creativity was something to be reckoned with as the colors and images jumped off the screen and attacked my senses. After reaching out in hopes of possibly collaborating on a future project, I was graciously given permission to use one of her paintings for inspiration. The resulting ekphrastic poem which I wrote in response wound up being published alongside her work in an issue of GloMag several months back. At that time, I happily discovered that not only is Charity a wonderful painter, but she is also a photographer and poet (among the many other hats she wears). She also happens to be a genuinely decent human being, which is becoming more rare in this chaotic world we find ourselves living in. Her main website can be accessed here, and I highly recommend navigating through the pages where you’ll find links to all her social media accounts as well as information on her past and future endeavors. I’m proud to present our recent interview, along with a selection of her various modes of expression… 1) Before diving in to the questions, I'd first like to say thank you, Charity, for taking some of your time to participate in this interview. To begin with, I have to ask about your name. In many ways, it seems that artists provide an invaluable (and oftentimes underappreciated) service to society through the work they create which winds up touching peoples' lives in any number of ways. The name Charity synchronizes with this idea perfectly. Is there a story behind it? Thank you Scott, I truly appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed by you and to have my poetry and artwork featured in The Blue Mountain Review. In your question you have made a beautiful statement about artists, the arts and my name. I want to thank you for that, because up until just now I have never seen a connection between my name and my art career. I could not agree more about what an artist adds to society and the name Charity stands for love, giving, personal sacrifice and caring, which does represent the true soul of so many artists I know. There is a story behind my name, and it is not a short one but I will try to tell it as simply as I can. Charity is my real name. My parents were Hippies that had just become Christians and I was their first child born after a huge change in their lives and lifestyles. They named me Charity Joy, I’m pretty sure in hopes that I would follow in their newly discovered spiritual path. I took a very different road. I moved out young and because for me my birth name represented everything I felt like my parents had wanted me to be and every religious/parental expectation I’d chosen not to live up to, I changed my name, both legally, among friends, and on social media, multiple times. Over the years I have used several variations of my birth and various legal names to share my art and my poetry. Much 144 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
of my work has been very provocative and experimental, and the name Charity (for me) felt much too churchy to represent the kind of work I was creating at various points in my life, so I chose different names to better represent myself and my projects. It was only about a year and a half ago that I made peace with my given name: Charity Joy Janisse. It was a huge personal breakthrough for me to realize that the person I truly am, despite my failure to live up to the expectations of others, is unique and precious in its own right. I made peace with finding a balance between the person I had been raised to be, and who I had chosen to become. I deleted all my social media that I had created under my various pen-names and I made a fresh start writing, painting and publishing books under my given name, Charity Janisse. I have always loved the name Charity and have used it with my closest friends and family of course, but I never felt like it fit with my work as an artist and writer until recently. Now, after reading your question, I see the connection between the name Charity and the life of an artist and I feel even more confident that I have made the right choice in giving up my many pen-names and choosing to use my birth name and simply be exactly Charity. 2) It sounds as if youâ€™ve had an interesting path to reach this point. Art definitely has that power to take us on a spiritual journey. On that note, what are your thoughts on the role/responsibility that an artist has in society today? That for me is rather challenging question because I believe every artist creates from a unique perspective, for different reasons and purposes, with various goals; which means we play a huge variety of roles in society. I can only speak about the reason I create and what I believe to be my own responsibility to others. The role/responsibility I personally take as an artist in society is to be as authentic as possible; to set an example that we as people, artists or not, have the freedom to make our own personal choices about the direction of our lives. My responsibility is to honor my soul, to be my true self, and to inspire others to do the same. I believe it gives people hope to see someone sacrificing the comforts of an average income/ lifestyle to follow a dream. But to be very honest I donâ€™t often think about my role or responsibility as an artist, I mostly make art and write to express my emotions and because I am driven, beyond all reason, to create. When I try to be anything other than a writer or an artist, I am lost and utterly miserable. So I create because I must, in order to be happy, and I share it because on some level I believe expressing my true soul may help others to embrace and express their own authenticity. 3) Have you always been drawn toward artistic pursuits? Or was there a specific moment in your life that propelled you into the creative mindset? Yes & Yes. I have always been drawn towards artistic pursuits. I come from a family of artists. My mother is a professional artist as are several other family members. I spent my childhood traveling to art shows, galleries and art museums. I have adored the arts my whole life. Finding my own place in the world of arts was admittedly more challenging for me though. In my childhood and teen years I created a tremendous amount of art and participated / won awards in multiple youth art exhibits. Once I had children of my own, I changed my life direction considerably. I had been raised by an artist and knew well the ups and downs of an artist's lifestyle. There were times we had it all and there were times we truly struggled tremendously. I wanted to give my kids more consistency, so while I continued to write poetry, create art and make and sell jewelry, I also held several cooperate jobs over 145 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
the years, up until about 4 years ago. In 2012 I had... a breakdown; I was overwhelmed working outside the home 40 hours a week, being a single parent and staying up late night after night working on my creative pursuits, which were always on the side! It was taking a toll on my health and my family life. I had no peace, I was miserable in the cooperate world, and I was exhausted all the time. So I took a huge leap of faith, quit my office job and began traveling and pursuing a completely different / much more creative life style. It took a major breakdown for me to have my creative breakthrough, but in my heart I knew it had to happen, and I know I made the right choice. It has not been easy, there have been some major personal and financial challenges, but I am so much happier than I was 4 years ago. Now I am self-employed, I have published two books and I write and/or create art daily. I exhibit my artwork, but I am not sure I will ever choose to sell art. My books and my small business pay the rent... my painting and photography (for me) is a break from it all. My artwork is a release, it is emotional expression, it is relaxation. I'm not sure that if I tried to sell my art whether I would continue to find the joy that I do in my work; but who knows what the future holds. As you can see though, I have always had the creative mindset, but there was definitely a moment in my life that propelled me towards making that mindset a priority and sincerely pursuing a creative lifestyle. 4) You've just recently published a new book, We Are The Artists, which includes your poetry, prose, and paintings. Would you like to share a bit about the process of bringing this project to fruition and what the book means to you? How do you feel now that it's been released out into the world? This is hard for me to talk about, as the creation of a book is a deeply personal experience, but I will do my best. Writing the content of the book was relatively effortless and I felt very inspired as I worked. I have been writing my whole life. I have mountains of poetry and short stories, blogs, etc. I easily have the material on hand to create 10 books right now, if I had the time and self-discipline to do the work and the editing. So I had most of the content already finished before I even began to put the book together. The challenge for me was deciding a theme for the book, a cover design, which of my poems to include, if I would add artwork, would I include prose or not, and then of course the editing. I felt very inspired, very guided, once I began writing and choosing content for the book. The theme and title came to me in moments of spontaneous inspiration. I then added the already written poetry and the book in many ways felt as if it was writing itself. The majority of the work I did over a four day weekend and though it was rather exhausting work, I enjoyed it very much. The most difficult part came in the months to follow. The editing was so challenging... it took several months to complete. I am a writer, I am not an editor. I had three people help with the editing and yet I continued to find small errors even months after publishing the book! I went back and forth on cover choices (even after the initial publication) which mostly just confused my readers, but I had to get it just right. I launched the book at the end of March, but it was not truly complete until the end of July. Now that it is done, I am extremely happy with the finished product. I have published two books, one 146 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
independently and one through a publishing company. The book I published with help was a wonderful experience and it is selling beautifully. The book We Are The Artists that I published on my own was more difficult and time consuming than any other project I have ever taken on. Ultimately though I love the way the book came together. I am thankful for the support I have received and the sales I have made, and I am thrilled that I had total creative control, which to me is the greatest perk of self-publication. How do I feel now that the book is released into the world...? Relieved! I am just so happy to have it done! I am working on self-publishing three separate books at present, and I am so glad to have published one of them! At the same time I feel incredibly vulnerable. I shared my heart in that book, and now I feel like a piece of my heart is out in the world for anyone to read... that is both comforting and frightening all at once. 5) I certainly wish you much success with this latest book as well as the others you have lined up for the future. Thank you again, Charity, for taking some of your time to speak with me. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to express concerning future projects or your art in general? I'll leave the last word to you, and will urge the readers to hang around afterwards to read one of your poems. Thanks Scott! It's my pleasure and I wish you much success with your present and future projects as well. As for the future of my art, absolutely anything is possible. I work as I am inspired. I have some goals of course, but I find my best poetry and artwork comes to me when I don't plan... and when I least expect it. At this present moment I have recently accomplished a few of my greatest goals as an artist and writer, so now I am simply looking forward to unexpected, spontaneous moments of artistic creation, and when the next inspiration comes to me I will let it flow from my heart and mind, through my hands, and out into the world. Thank you again for asking these questions, you have helped me to step back and see my name and my work as an artist from a new perspective and that is always a good thing!
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This Screen To show my art Is to show my madness To let it be revealed For what it is The depth The need that gnaws at us Am I alone in this? Emily Dickinson hid in white dresses and lived in a quiet room Away from anyone Who would seek to know her more... And me I hide Behind this electric screen The walls are the same Life goes on outside And I swear to join it again But what am I to do What am I to bring when I leave this place If not my words If not my art I have nothing to offer. And yet to share my art is to share my madness My passion My need And this unusual world that I see Where ancient trees wave and smile at me Surrounded in shimmering colors of life And brilliant energy As I walk Alone Unknown Through the street Emily Dickinson hid out In a white dress And an upstairs bedroom And me Well I have this screen.
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“Energy of Change”
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Interview with Ronlyn Domingue Information Collected & Compiled by Holly Holt I met Ronlyn first through her writing. In picking up her book The Mercy of Thin Air at the local library, I was immediately swept away by her attention to detail—and mastery of subtle emotions. I reached out to her through Facebook, and was thrilled by her humble spirit and dedication to the written word. My intent with this interview is to express what I uncovered through various communications with her through social media. 1) Hello, Ronlyn. Thank you for deciding to do this interview with me for The Blue Mountain Review. Could you describe your road for us as a writer so far? There’s the business road and the creative road. The business one has had its usual potholes and detours, but for the most part, I’ve had a lucky run. I’ve had two good agents, and I’ve been with the same publisher for all of my books. The creative road, well, that’s a different story. I never get to choose my novels; they choose me. I go where they lead. With my first novel, the road was relatively smooth and well lit. As for my trilogy, which I worked on almost ten years, that was a long, winding, dark road indeed. 2) In reading your critically acclaimed book, The Mercy of Thin Air, I was swept away by your descriptions and ability to capture and bring to light the emotions in your characters. Being a writer myself, I have to ask: When was the pivotal moment you realized writing was something you wanted to professionally pursue? There is no pivotal moment. It’s a continuum. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old. Through middle school and high school, I spent a lot of time bent over notebooks. In my senior year, I realized I wanted to work as a writer, but it didn’t make sense to focus on creative writing. How would I pay bills when I got out of college? So I majored in journalism and wrote one complete short story during those years, which I fiddled with as a novel for a couple of years after I graduated. I never worked as a journalist, but my jobs involved writing in some way. Then in my late 20s, I felt compelled to start writing again. I can’t even explain what hit me, but it was intense. I enrolled in a short story writing class in January 1999 and months later literally woke up one morning certain I had to get my MFA in creative writing. I graduated from Louisiana State University’s MFA program in 2003. What became The Mercy of Thin Air was my thesis. At that point, I approached being a writer like a job—honing my manuscript, searching for an agent. I worked very hard, with a great deal of perseverance, but I know luck and timing were essential to what happened eventually. I didn’t even call myself a writer until I got my book deal. 3) What emotion do you believe is the hardest to capture as a writer? Why? I paused for a long while to think about this, expecting to have one or two stand out, but the fact is, all emotions are difficult to capture. A writer must tread carefully on telling or showing too much, or not enough. The ultimate feat, though, isn’t revealing a character’s emotions but touching those of a 151 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
reader. When people talk about books they loved, they’re doing so from a space of the heart. I’m still amazed how connected some readers have been to characters in my books. 4) I read in another interview that you were once a teacher. If you could choose one thing to teach your readers, what would that one thing be? To discover their capacity for empathy. My answer is honest here. I’m not trying to follow a trend, even though it’s subject which has been written about within the past two or three years, especially in relation to the Harry Potter series. In our daily lives, it’s easy to make snap judgments about people based on their gender, culture, or religion, even their interests or life choices. Fiction has the power to short circuit judgment, to give a reader the chance to slip into another person’s consciousness and experience the world through them. When the reader closes the book, she might find herself changed—able to see perspectives she didn’t before. 5) The Mercy of Thin Air and your Keeper of Tales Trilogy are written in two completely different genres, as one maintains a historical touch, with it being based in 1920s New Orleans; while the other is a fantasy. Has the process of switching between genres been easy for you? If so or if not, how? Actually, I don’t perceive that much of a difference between my first novel and the trilogy. There’s a historical element to The Mercy of Thin Air, but it falls in the speculative fiction genre because the narrator is dead. The trilogy as a whole is also speculative fiction, leaning toward fantasy but not neatly so. I struggle with my non-ordinary characters and their worlds because I’m tasked with making it all believable to readers. Most people will enter a story with a willing suspension of disbelief, but it’s up to the writer to sustain it. I require characters to inform me of the rules and structures of their worlds, even their own personalities; I’m careful not to violate them. This was as true for Razi in Mercy, existing in the 20th century as a ghost who wouldn’t call herself a ghost, as much as for Zavet in The Chronicle of Secret Riven, who can speak and read every known language. 6) I know Book Three of your Keeper of Tales Trilogy is expected out next year. With that said, what is a typical day of writing like for you, and has your typical day changed from when you first started? My process as a whole has always been the same. Whether I’ve worked on a short story or novel, I’ve first spent a great deal of time in what I call my research and incubation phase. During this period, I get pieces of the story—fragments of images, dialogue, insights into characters—and I’m compelled to read about subjects which are related to the story, even if I’m not quite sure why I need to learn about them. For example, I researched Spiritualism for Mercy and Neolithic communities for The Mapmaker’s War. I don’t start writing until I have the entire arc of the plot worked out. For a novel, this process takes years. Once I do start writing, I require huge blocks of uninterrupted time. (Right now I should say I have a supportive partner and no children, so I can work a schedule like this.) Typically, I’m writing six to 10 hours a day, sometimes more. With Mercy, I wrote in blocks from Friday morning until Sunday night. With the trilogy, I wrote typically five days a week, six or seven when the momentum was strong and I was in the last stages of a draft. I could endure this level of intensity for about three months at a time, at which point I’d need to take a long break and start the grind all over again.
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7) What has been the most challenging piece of writing you’ve ever put to paper—and why was it challenging? The entire trilogy. Long story short, the trilogy began as a short story I wrote in my second year of college which morphed into a novel soon after. I fiddled with it for a couple of years but put it a closet—literally—when it was clear I had no clue what I was doing. After MERCY came out, I thought I knew what my second book would be, but it wouldn’t get off the ground. One afternoon, I found the manuscripts and notes for the abandoned novel. Within two days, I read everything. It’s hard to describe what happened during that time; I just “knew” whatever it had been had transformed. So, I went where it was leading me. I thought I was going to write one epic novel loosely based on the old material. But after a few years—yes, years—one of the subplots required its own book. That became The Mapmaker’s War. I figured the next book would be a sequel to Mapmaker’s, but it was so long and expansive, my editor asked to cut it in half, thus creating a trilogy. The Chronicle of Secret Riven is the second book, and the third is coming out August 2017. Aside from the endless writing and revision, what was most difficult was the emotional, mental, and spiritual toll on me. With Mercy, the characters came to me and I could slip into their space with some degree of agency. It wasn’t painful. But with the trilogy, the boundaries weren’t so fixed. These people came through me. I saw, heard, and felt what they did. They required me to know the worst of their pain and to write about it. I know things about the creative process I didn’t before, and there is a dark side. 8) In your author bio, I noticed that you wrote you’re from the Deep South. How does being Southern play into your writer’s voice, if any? And what does it mean for you to be a writer from the South? I was born and raised in Louisiana. I think I’m tuned into the sound and rhythm of language because I’m a Southerner. That surely has an effect on my prose, perhaps in my nonfiction more so than my fiction because in my novels, I allow the characters’ their voices. As to the second question, I do feel like I’m part of a tradition, even though my trilogy makes me an outsider within it. I went to LSU, home of The Southern Review, founded by Robert Penn Warren. James Wilcox, my graduate school mentor, studied with Warren, and Jim impressed upon his students a sense of being part of legacy. 9) What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given? I have a feeling there’s an expectation I’ll pass on something profound and wise, but in fact it’s craft related and quite simple: In your prose, eliminate as many words as possible which end in –ing. Jim Wilcox told me this. He was an editor at Random House before he was a professor, and yes, he’s right, one’s prose speeds up fast with this trick. 10) When you’re not writing, what keeps you occupied—and how does it play into what you, later, sit down to write? I like gardening and movies. Both have a clearing effect on my head, which helps me focus when I am writing. Neither feeds my work in a direct way. Gardening is literally grounding. It anchors me here because I’m split off between this world and the one I’m writing about. Movies, well, that’s an escape. I’m laughing at myself now because while gardening makes me feel present, movies let me be absent. I get to be elsewhere for a while, disconnected from the struggles of my work. 153 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
11) I know this isn’t your first interview. Therefore, what is one question that you haven’t been asked that you feel should be asked? In saying that, what’s your answer to the question? Oh, this is easy. The question: What do you wish you’d been told early on about being a writer? The answer: Number One. Chances are, every book you write will be harder than the one which came before it. The good news is, you have more knowledge to draw from each time. Number Two. No one knows what imagination is, some writers are more open to the mysteries of it than others, and among these writers, some will enter dark places where they are not fully prepared to go. Number Three. You might lose friends because of your success or struggles, but the ones who stick by you are the greatest of treasures. 12) Alright, that’s it! Thank you again for participating in this interview for The Blue Mountain Review. Could you please share a few links with us, so our readers can find your work? The best place to go is http://www.ronlyndomingue.com/booksetc/. On that page, you can skim through my books and find links to several essays online.
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Interview with Michael Gray Information Collected & Composed by Clifford Brooks Michael Gray is one of the most acutely aware men I’ve ever met. I had the honor of being a part of one of his Chattanooga-Based River City Sessions in 2015. Gray listens. He carries an earnest air that demands respect, but he has this way of dissolving into the background to allow the artist to be free of insecurity. When you have a chance to speak with him, even with a world of worry on his mind, you’d never know it. He is a true gentleman. Michael Gray is how I met Richard Winham of WUTC. For a year since, that has been the NPR affiliate to house the Southern Collective Experience radio show, Dante’s Old South. When you work with excellent people, miracles happen. It’s not snobbery to be a professional and an artist. Redefining that unfortunate stereotype is a passion of mine. What works with music and poetry is an unparalleled passion of Gray’s. He is a maestro in choosing the pure music from hack, over-produced mimicry. He takes that same ear to divine poetry that shares identical integrity. Michael Gray is family. He won’t brag about himself, so I’ll nudge it out of him: 1) River City Sessions have set the tone in Chattanooga for blending music and poetry. What is your earliest memory of feeling the 2 genres gel? One summer I discovered the poetry of Jesse Stuart and the music of The Carter Family almost in the same evening. At that particular period in my life I was embarrassed to admit my sudden secret yearning to hear more of them both. Stuart was a back woods Kentucky school teacher and The Carter Family the epitome of country music. Neither of which were cool or standard fare for a 15-year-oldboy growing up in the late sixties. The music was so stark compared to the steady diet of Led Zeppelin, and the like, that I normally listened to. I distinctly remember reading a poem of Stuart’s, Love Song After Forty, and thinking it would make a beautiful Carter Family song. That was my first understanding that lyrics were quite often poems and also marked when I began writing poetry set to music. 2) What is your favorite song, or the top 5? What are your top 5 favorite poems? Why do these 10 speak to you? Summer Time, The Ella Fitzgerald version. Black Dog – a stunning sultry version sung by Robert Plant and Allison Krouse using a banjo rift as the opening Poor Wayfaring Stranger – Whenever I need to return to the bluesy gospel roots of my childhood this song reminds me of my Grandfather, who led the singing in a Baptist Church that was located on his farm. Works – the whole album by Emerson Lake and Palmer. The melding of rock tempo provided my introduction to orchestra music on a level I could understand and appreciate. 155 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Trees – Joyce Kilmer. I spent the days of my early childhood in the company of my grandfather, a retired forest ranger. He knew every tree and plant and had a wealth of unending knowledge about each. Need I say more? Ode 314 – Rumi. Rumi has to some extent lost some luster for me because it has become cliché to name him when speaking of great poets. But Rumi spoke to me from a dark period in my life and spent many nights on the table beside my bed. This particular poem is a shining example of the reckless abandon Rumi often spoke of. My Heart’s in the Highlands, Robert Burns. If anyone poem explains my feelings about the Pisgah Mountains and others of Western N.C. it is this one. No matter where I go,no matter the glory of the surroundings, my heart is there The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe. Such a tale, such suspense, all in verse….incredible A Thousand Kisses Deep, Leonard Cohen. It’s hard not to choose Hallejulah and I do so love that particular piece. I’m to list this one though, love, lust, despair, it’s all there 3) Who are 4 writers/musicians out there who you think deserve more attention? Writer Harry Middleton. His book The Earth is Enough is my favorite coming of age tale. (deceased) Watch for the sister trio Joseph, they are one of my up and coming picks Aunt Samantha Bumgarner – one of the first women to record country music (deceased) Joe Bonamassa – The best electric blues guitarist around today in my opinion. 4) What is a memory in your life you'd like to see a poem or song written about? I wrote a story for telling about the day my school was integrated. Watching those strange black students walk between two rows of elementary kids into the school house was surreal. We were all black, and, white, scared to death. Yet, we tried to do our best not to seem so. I would love to hear that one moment in time captured in song.
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SCE Member Interview with Clifford Brooks Information Collected & Composed by Holly Holt I have known Clifford Brooks for three years. In that short time, he has proven to be a solid motivator and a driving force in the progress that I’ve made not only as a writer, but personally as well as academically. He is one of those rare souls who have maintained a sense of their childhood wonder, because he is open-minded and full of heart, ready not only to chase his own dreams—but to help others in pursuit of theirs. Being the introvert that I am, I have always been uncertain about how best to interact with people, disregarding the obvious until this sixfoot-two gentleman of a poet came into my life. He has taught me more about people, more about life, than anyone I’ve ever met. I could not ask for a better mentor, a surer friend, or a dearer older brother.
Photo credit, Holly Holt.
My hope is that the interview following will show you not the “textbook” Clifford Brooks, but my Clifford Brooks—the person who makes everything he is possible, so that he can become, forever, ours. As his words enter your heart, I encourage you to take one step further and check out his book, The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics, expected to be reissued by Kudzu Leaf Press later on this year. Please visit his website for more details, www.cliffbrooks.com. 1) The first question I have to ask you is: How do you manage it all? You’re a teacher, a poet, and a businessman. Do you have time for sleep—much less hobbies? When the Southern Collective Experience started, it was a one-man show. There were, and are, many times I felt, and feel, I didn’t have the energy, mental stability, or know-how to make this dream come to fruition. Yet, something I can only imagine as God ’s stubborn will, never let me give up. I stayed up long hours that those around me deemed insane. By means I cannot explain, I used my frantic energy, OCD attention to detail, and never-failing drive to never let my momma down coalesce into a single, white-hot determination to make all these ventures provide me with a quiet home where the world made sense to me. My only hobby outside this is my creative writing. It is that act that keeps me sane in all of this hectic movement. I don’t sleep a great deal. I have been that way my whole life. It drove my parents to their wit’s end, and continues to make romantic relationships nearly impossible. I forget my swallowing passion for the SCE while teaching, and apply that focus on my students who deserve my complete attention. Teaching is an escape for me, and I see it as a divine occupation. If you want to change the world, educate it. 2) All writers read. With that stated: What are some of your favorite writers? What verse or book passage has emotionally hit you the hardest? Please feel free to explore this topic if you have more than one in mind. This is one of the hardest questions I have ever been asked in any interview because, no matter how thorough I think I am—at 3am tonight—a dozen more will lightning-bolt into my skull and haunt me that I forgot to add them in this list. With that said, I enjoy the works of Dante, Whitman, Faulkner, 157 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
Pat Conroy, James H. Duncan, the Bible, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, Carl Sandburg, Harold Bloom, Edna Saint Vincent Millay, William Ernest Henley, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Martin Luther, King Jr., James Dickey, Robert Penn Warren, Rumi, Bob Marley, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Pinsky, Dan Veach, William Wright, and many written by the Founding Fathers. Invictus is my favorite poem, ever: “Invictus” By William Ernest Henley Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. My analysis of this poem can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXzCz2QdabI 3) If you had to sum up poetry in one sentence, what would that one sentence be? Care to explain your reasoning? Do not write in hopes to be published, create an accessible story, never hide behind metaphor, and write as if you are naked on the page. These are all to hone a complete picture of you, and that “you” is what the reader will fall in love with whether that truth is something they agree with or vehemently disagree. Poetry has been partly tossed aside because it’s lacked bravery. People are starved for authenticity, something they can cleave to, a music that resonates in their soul. The poet is the musician to provide a harmony necessary to help the world feel less spiritually homeless. 4) Some people believe that art is best when it depicts real life. How do you feel about this expression? I think that all writing, even sci-fi/fantasy, is based in “real life.” In these genres, it is written in the hopes of what real life will be. It is tantamount to creating pure poetry that the author dive deep, stay fearless in its utter darkness, and bring back to the surface the good, bad, and most beautiful 158 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
revelations. The world has enough reality television and constant façade of what truth the people want to see. The poet distills truth to the marrow, designs it to be understood by people whether they have no education, or a PhD. The poet’s greatest task is to give the world real life, but instead of scaring the people with it, they give it a melody to survive the worst of times – and a symphony to sing during the best of times. 5) Of all the words contained in your vocabulary, what is your favorite word—and why? Hope: As a man plagued by doubt, loneliness, depression, self-loathing, horror, and incessant conflict – hope that all these demons will not tear me keeps my eyes on the success of my own dreams, but that the Southern Collective Experience will be proof that hope can save so many more. 6) There are some who label creative types as “idealists.” How close (or distant) is this label to your truth? We are idealists. We hold the ideal that art is genius. We charge ahead with the banner that ideals save the world in that, without ideals, we are soulless husks without song, literature, history, or future. Without idealists, visionaries, and/or dreamers, humanity would be no better than beasts. 7) Let’s say that, at the basest definition, “right-brained” is being creative; and “left-brained” is being practical. Do you feel the world has more appreciation for one over the other? To have both brains working together, what do you believe is a practical application of creativity? How do you feel being creative has shaped the world? Changed your life? First of all, I do not believe there is such a thing as “leftbrained” and “right-brained” intelligence. I am not neurologist, but I think that that divide is bunk. We all have the ability to write a poem and complete long division without much effort. If you can write music, you can do math. If you can understand string theory, you have your feet firmly in art. I believe that people value “left brain” folks because that kind of thinking is attributed to the “real world talents” we need every day. Yet, what would the world be without the music that inspires those “real world” thinkers to push one more step forward to create their new science? Who is to say that new invention will inspire a composer to bring a new concerto into listening reality? One cannot exist without the other. There are countless examples of luminaries in the past that were virtuosos in both forms of brilliance. Without one, there cannot be the other. Those that disagree are simply incapable of seeing the whole picture.
Photo credit, Matthew Polsfuss.
8) Edgar Guest was known as the People’s Poet. Edgar Allen Poe was considered the Master of Macabre. Humor me: If you could choose a title for yourself, what would it be?
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Above all else, I want to be known as the poet who revived the notion art is a viable business, the poet of universal accessibility, and the founder of the Southern Collective Experience. If I am not remembered at all, I pray that the SCE is (www.southerncollectiveexperience.com). 9) Faulkner wrote the following (from Absalom, Absalom!): "Tell about the South," said Shreve McCannon. "What do they do there? How do they live there? Why do they?” I pose the question, now, to you. Tell us about the South, why you feel the world needs a literary group like The Southern Collective Experience—and what you mean by “Dixie spirit.” The Southern Collective Experience is not only about the American South. This is not to skirt the stereotypes lashed upon us, or hide in shame at what many think of us. Southerners live here because God put us here. What we do here is live a melodic life that has been hit with the same hate, love, racism, recuperation, invention, classical education, a unwavering adoration of history, storytelling, and a melting pot of culture far before others took up that mission. Yet, our group isn’t exclusive to those below the Mason-Dixon Line. We do not for one moment believe our part of this country is any better than another. “We are all south of somewhere.” Our Dixie Spirit is everyone’s Dixie Spirit, and that means we are learned, cultured, laidback, articulate, tactful, and independent. We are deeply rooted in the blues and old school country, with a belief in the Almighty (no matter the name the Creator is given – but that the dogma is love), and believe with every breath that all men, women, and children deserve to be happy. 10) If you could go back in time and make a change during any moment of your career, what would that one change be? I would go back to when I was 21 and urge myself away from the bottle. I would convince myself that being autistic, depressed, and OCD were not viable reasons to drink until I forced myself into alcoholism. There were many horrible things that happened during that time which proved positive to my career, including the poem “Judas Noose Tavern.” Without undue drama, I feel I lost much of my soul in that anguish of addiction. 11) What has proven to be the most challenging aspect of your role as founder of The Collective? Most rewarding? The most challenging point has been the barrage of hate from racists who think the word “southern” is synonymous with “racism.” It has been a challenge to bring brothers and sisters on board who stick to their guns and pull their weight. It has been a character-building challenge to take tragedy from events I’d rather not say at this point to become a man ready to help lead this business into a lasting future. The most rewarding factor has been the outcome of these hardships that have helped me stand, now, on the precipice of a new kind of artistic movement that will not end in the tired, clichéd disaster seen in the past. This success isn’t because of me; it is because of the collected faith of those who give me the honor of standing by my side. 12) Let us in on life’s philosophy. How does it play into The Collective and your role as a teacher? My philosophy is that we have more control over our lives than the world, religion, friends, family, or enemies allow us to believe. We are our own creators. We limit ourselves. We let fear guide us no matter how much our souls scream, “Do more! Live more! Be brave! Conquer, think, redesign the status quo, and roar into the frightening night – ‘I shall shy from you no more!’” Like Descartes, 160 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
“Doubt all things.” Look back to George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Abraham Lincoln for the bravery it takes to rebuild you, just not a nation. My philosophy includes the drive for equality of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, John Lennon, Bob Marley, but I also know the political/business writing of Machiavelli. The Southern Collective Experience is a business. Art is a business. We are a family of kindness, but also loyal, pragmatic, existentialists, unconcerned with the hate from others so many bow to appease. We are here to create a new ideology, philosophy, and practice that art is more than a footnote in history – it is what sculpts the whole of it. 13) Because all of us are dreamers, I have to ask: Where do you see yourself (and The Collective) in five years? In five years I would like the SCE to have home offices in Georgia, California, and New York. I want these offices to be hubs for schools that include all classical studies from kindergarten to grade 12 that are private, but funded so that lower income homes are not excluded. I want to bolster the American school system that has crumbled into a horrible state of mediocrity. Education is the lifeblood of our future. I want to keep our future alive through the minds of our youth. To see this materialize, of course, the Southern Collective Experience needs funding from the public. Donations can be made to our GoFundMe account (https://www.gofundme.com/tscecollection) and we will be absolutely transparent with how every dime is spent. Honesty is the soul of a better life.
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Interview from the North Georgia Community - Christina & James White Information Collected & Compiled by Clifford Brooks 1) Please give us a few details about you two. How do each of you keep art alive in your hearts and lives? James and I previously owned and operated The Funky Chicken Art Project. We chose to close it and use the space as our own studio a few years ago. It is a huge space, and just walking into it in the morning is an inspiration. We seem to swap the same muse back and forth, and often collaborate on commissions or projects just to challenge ourselves. 2) What are a few mistakes you think people make after college graduation, or at any point in life, when they decide to make being creative a lifestyle? This could be a book: We each did some things very well, and learned some other lessons the hard way. Advice is easy to give, but never easy to follow. Live low to the ground. If you really want to be creative, control as many stress related influences you can, so you have the luxury of "think time". Stress about money is a creativity killer. Keep debt at a minimum. Take time off. Being a 24/7 artist, even if that's how you pay for a new van burns you out. You need time to play and rest. Read books, listen to music, eat great food, hang out with other artists, travel, and have a life. Find opportunities to study or work with artists you admire. Keep a true perspective of your skills, and your ego in check. Make short and long goals with your work. 3) One of you is a woodcarver, and the other is in a bluegrass band. Please tell us about those trades, and other artistic endeavors you're currently involved. We support each other's directions, and have always worked well together. We're probably each other's biggest fans. James's band, Gopher Broke, plays often around North Georgia, and into Tennessee, and North Carolina. Their musical style is referred to as Americana. Great fun. 162 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
I currently teach woodcarving at Woodcraft in Alpharetta, Ga, and have some personal projects I am worn in the studio. Now, we are building an off the grid, very small cabin in the Cahutta Wilderness to use as a fish camp. Of course, it must be full of carvings. 4) Both of you have seen bands fall apart and literary groups dissolve over the years. Why do you think these things can't hold? There are a few that slip under the radar and into success. What are some things you both suggest could help towards that success? I have no idea. Sometimes doors have to slam shut so you can get on with what's next. 5) You live in North Georgia. I've seen how content this area leaves, and livens, you. Will both of you, please, try and describe the harmony here in the American South that creates the smile I've seen on your face? For me it's the forest, the mountains, the glimpses of wildlife, and absence of traffic, my kids and grandkids and James. Life moves slower here, and I can keep up. James says "I like staying home, and we have built a home with everything I wanted when I was young." I hope I didn't sound to vague or flippant. Turns out, all the advice older folks gave me was right. I just didn't listen to most of it. Life has to be lived not copied. We are still living ours our own way. Good luck with yours! Links: www.gopherbrokeband.com YouTube has some videos as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT_m4Xstaok
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Faces of Faith Interview with Father Gaurav Information Collected & Compiled by Peter Ristuccia I met Father Gaurav after my mother died in the winter of 2014. My mother passed unexpectedly, and even though no one is ever really prepared to lose someone they care about to the finality of death, I was unprepared. My mother was dead. Our last words were our last words. The last time I saw her was the last time I saw her. She was gone, and as youth always looks to the older generation as those who bore the harder time, so did I see my mother finally lay down the torch. All those years of family and life and trial were at an end. It fell to me to ensure that the last part wasn't left undone. My mother was dead, but there was the matter of the Funeral Rite, and the internment of her remains to the earth. I am Catholic. My family has been Catholic for over a thousand years. While the public world circles the concerns of the material, my people pray for the dead. Ritual and ceremony: these are important, we commemorate the present for our future memory, and there is sanctity in it. My mother was dead. But I was unprepared. I had to host our family, our friends, our community. I had to make sure the body was taken care of, that rites were done, that assemblies were arranged. But I was unprepared. My mother was dead. So I called a priest. Father Gaurav was the priest at Saint Joseph's. Saint Joseph's was the church my family attended in Athens, Georgia when I was growing up. Saint Joseph's was a place of shadow and mystery as a place of worship should be: with sapphire stained glass windows, hanging lanterns, flickering candles, incense, statues of Mary and the Saints, a crucifix above the altar. The congregation was Italian, Irish, Filipino, Mexican, Lebanese, a microcosm of the entire world. Father Gaurav was Indian, a convert from Hinduism, his family were Brahmins. He spoke many languages and traveled the world. We discussed matters on the phone initially, and then, at the funeral, we met in person. He was an imposing figure: tall, dark, bearded, clad in the attire of his office. Looking into his eyes, I could see the wisdom tradition working through him, and that, while there were many things left to be done, that they could in fact be done. The priest was here and it was going to be okay...
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Early Childhood 1) When and where were you born? Dec. 30, 1972; New Delhi, India 2) Do you recall any interesting stories regarding your birth? No. However, I was born in Holy Family Hospital, a Catholic hospital in Delhi. That, I tell my family, was a premonition. 3) What is your earliest memory? Snow, in suburban Maryland, and sliding down the little snow-covered slope in front of our house. (We moved to the DC area when I was less than 2) 4) Who was the most influential person to you as a child? I adored my older brother. We did fight as I grew older (he’s nearly 9 years older), but I always looked up to him. Then I grew taller than him, and that was awesome. 5) Did you have any pets as a child? What kind? When I was around 10, we adopted a litter of stray pups whose mother had died. Two of the ten survived. They weren’t allowed in the house, but stayed in the courtyard. (This was in India. We’d returned when I was 6 or 7.) 6) What did you do during the summertime? My extended family (on my dad’s side) gathered at my grandmother’s house. We’d spend weeks there. It was awesome, all the cousins together. Lots of play, food, and loving attention from relatives in a 100+ year old three story wooden home, in a tiny town near the west coast of India. I loved every minute of it. 7) What was your favorite game? Cricket. One doesn’t grow up in India and not love cricket. 8) Did you have any nicknames? Yeah. But in Indian culture a childhood nickname doesn’t transition to adulthood, and isn’t shared outside the family. Ok what the heck, it was “Titu.” 9) What were you most afraid of as a child? Hmm. The dark. Really. I hated it. And horror movies. I think my brother made me sit through Psycho when I was like 8 and it traumatized me! Career 1) What was your first job? I didn’t have to work until I came back to the US and got a job as a teaching assistant in grad school. (I was studying geology.)
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2) What do you find most rewarding as a priest? Oh gosh. One thing – Confession. It’s amazing. To hear the awful stuff that folks have done, and to hear them receive the Father’s forgiveness. I can sit for hours. It never gets old. Sin is old. It’s boring actually. But the change in voice, the relief, the tears, the joy flooding in. Never old. Always new. 3) What was your most challenging as a priest? [I’m answering this as “what do you find most challenging as a priest”] Time management and learning how to prioritize, and say “no.” There never seems to be enough time for everything. 4) How has your career created value in your life? I’ve never been happier! It’s an amazing life. To be allowed into the most personal, painful, joyful, privileged parts of people’s lives, and to be a living reminder to them of God’s constant love, mercy, care, and their eternal destiny. 5) Who was the biggest influence in your calling? From a distance: John Paul II and later, even stronger, Benedict XVI. And a whole raft of priests whom I knew over the course of my life as a Catholic. The priest who vested me at Ordination, Fr. Tim Lijewski from South Carolina, believed in my vocation when I wasn’t ready, and encouraged me when all else seemed discouraging. He has a huge heart and deep love for Christ. 6) What gave you the idea or motivation to join the priesthood? It grew out of my attraction to and conversion to Catholicism as a teen. I was drawn to the Church first through the heritage of her music: Gregorian chant and polyphony. In my first year of college I had a powerful encounter with the Lord on Good Friday. I was baptized three years after that, and it was during that period, I first felt the call to the priesthood. I didn’t really pursue it for ten more years! 7) Tell me about the transition from layman to priest. By the time I got to seminary, in my 30s, I was already a church regular. I worked for the church for about 5 years, as a lay campus minister, after grad school. I was a total “insider,” so in many ways, it was a familiar world. In seminary, we started wearing the Roman Collar in public, and that was a shock. Suddenly, I disappeared. People didn’t see me – they saw a priest, and everything that that represented for them: anger, bitterness, guilt, pain, or even hatred; or devotion, love, joy, even God! It took some getting used to, being this walking lightning rod, or enigma. I recall this one time, early in seminary. I was driving to the nursing home for my day of pastoral work, and someone cut me off, and I was about to flip him the bird, and I went, “Sh*t. Can’t do that anymore!” So, it’s like growing into a new skin, a new way of being – except it’s the way of life of Jesus Christ, and it’s not just you doing it. He’s there with you. I mean you’re imperfect, and oh so human, and you know your sins, your thoughts, your vices, but He’s there. And His Mother. (We Catholics are big into Mary. She wants nothing than for us to know and love her Son more. She’s our mother. In a very special way for us priests. We turn to her all the time.) And then, the weekend of my Ordination – the long lines of the faithful who waited to receive a blessing. It was so moving. Families, single folks, old and young, even non Catholics, even my Hindu family. 166 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
8) What movement in the Catholic Church captures your imagination? Since the early 20th century, a whole raft of communities have arisen, largely in Europe (in response to the secularization of society and the effective collapse of Christian culture there) that are known as lay ecclesial movements. One of the more famous ones is Opus Dei (which is nothing like what Dan Brown portrays it as!). One which has had a huge impact in my own life was started by an Italian priest, Monsignor Luigi Giussani, in the 1950s, called “Communion and Liberation.” These are Catholics, now worldwide, who seek to pursue truth, to always confront and be open to reality, and follow reason – which for all of them has led them to follow Jesus Christ. In the US, the movements are small (except for the Charismatic Renewal), but they represent various ways to immerse one’s whole life, one’s whole being into the Way that is the following of Christ, and to experience true community, so lacking, such a wound, in our atomistic society. Catholcism, especially, is a communal Way. We are a Body, a People, not just this dude who decided the Bible is true and he’ll follow Jesus as he reads it. 9) What audience do you most hope to reach? As a parish priest I tend to have a ready made audience – those who come in through the doors. I want them to know and love Christ more, to truly experience His love and see what their life is like with Him, and to teach them and form them so they can share this life in Christ with others. I have a huge heart for young adults, especially those who seek to live an authentic Christian life in a culture that is often skeptical and sometimes hostile to traditional Christianity. 10) What would be your ideal as a priest? I think it should be who, and the answer is very simple – Jesus Christ. Family 1) Who do you admire most in your family and why? I have a huge admiration for both my mother and my late father. First, obviously, for the fact that they gave me life (it’s something one should reflect on more. Our particular circumstances, and how this particular life was ours, a gift, with all its blessings and challenges, undeserved, uncalled for … ) but also for their tremendous love and understanding, especially in the unusual path I took, converting to Christianity and then pursuing the priesthood. My father was a giant, the patriarch of the family. Everyone loved him and respected him, and he doted on me. He taught me so much, but two things in particular stand out: the joy of reading and books, and the love for music. He was a man of principle and virtue, an increasing rarity in the world. My mother too is a giant. She was a pioneer in her field in India (a professional economist in government civil service), one of the few women of her time who had a public career. In a deeply male-dominated and patriarchal culture, she remained loyal to her family, her career, and her ideals. She is tiny (barely 5’ tall), and very quiet, but man, what a dynamite. I just returned from spending several months caring for her in India after a serious illness, one of the periods of deep joy and grace in my life.
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2) Have you lost any family members to death? My grandmother (the only grandparent I knew) in 1997, and my father, in 2007. 3) If so, what was your relationship to them and how did their death affect you? I loved “Ba” (Gujarati for grandma). She was a fixture growing up, and the only real knowledge of lived Hinduism I received from her (and not so much my secular humanist, Westernized parents). It was the most bizarre feeling, knowing that she had been there, and now wasn’t there, wasn’t available. It felt like something was out of whack with the world. My father died of lung cancer. I was blessed to spend a lot of time with him during his illness, and especially the last two weeks of his life, and was at his bedside when he died. I miss him. A lot. That wound, though scarred, will remain the rest of my life. Love is not meant to come to an end. Politics/History 1) What do you consider to be the most significant political or spiritual event that has occurred during your life? Politics: -- the event that truly awakened me to the reality of a complicated, messed up world, beyond my own family and town, was the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 by her own Sikh bodyguards. I remember the whole day so clearly. It was as if the world had turned upside down, that it had come unmoored. I was 11 years old. I remember tuning the short-wave radio to catch the BBC new, because the state-controlled Indian channels had gone into a sort of paralysis, and said nothing all day, and officially only confirmed the events in the evening. The days that followed were a nightmare in India, as a mad wave of violence engulfed Delhi (that Delhi we had just left two years prior!), and with the police turning a blind eye, the capital’s Sikh population suffered a gruesome pogrom. -- on a worldwide scale, the end of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In India, which leaned towards the Soviet-bloc throughout the cold war, it was bewildering. Just a few months earlier, I had had the amazing opportunity to visit the Soviet Union, on an all paid trip sponsored by the Soviet Government for select Indian students who were studying Russian. I was 16. Spiritual? The amazing event that was the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. The whole world stopped. It was incredible. 2) Which historical figure do you most admire? Other than Jesus Christ (who, as a Christian, isn’t simply a figure of history, of course)? Hmm. St. Thomas Aquinas. I mean, what a freakin’ brain! What lucidity and brilliance! As far as the living go? Pope Benedict XVI. I would give my right arm to have a beer with him. 3) Other than the present, which historical era would you like to have lived in? That’s easy. A monk in 13th century Europe. It probably wasn’t too much like “The Name of the Rose,” but to be alive at the height of the Age of Faith? Yes! (I think I’d miss indoor plumbing though …) 168 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
4) What do you feel is the most likely future for the Catholic Church? It’s doing quite well, if you look globally. In the US? Tough times ahead. Cultural Christianity is, for ill or good, in its last throes. Being a Catholic is, and will increasingly be, a very intentional, conscious decision, and is and will be, an increasingly counter-cultural one. So, it is a tremendously exciting time, but I think the cultural and political influence of the Church and Christianity in general is more in the past. This is the age in which the Lord has called us to follow Him, and life with Him is the best, the only kind of life I can imagine living. General 1) What is your definition of “happiness”? Oh man. Definition? Well, let’s go with St. Augustine. “You have made us for yourselves, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” There is always something more, that my heart wants. It just isn’t totally satisfied with all the (amazing) things in this world. There’s also a deep, fundamental “aloneness” – a hole, a gaping hole, at the center of my being. I won’t be happy until it’s totally filed. 2) What is your most memorable travel experience? Narrowly avoiding the Eritrean civil war, returning to India from Zimbabwe in 1991 (we’d accompanied my father who was doing some consulting work in Harare). We changed planes in Addis Ababa, and the rebels were barely 10 miles away. The airport closed for weeks, I think, a few hours after our flight departed. Oh, and discovering a babushka carrying a baby goat in a seat a few rows behind me, on a flight within Uzbekistan on that trip to the Soviet Union I mentioned above. 3) What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you? It didn’t seem terribly funny then, but in a German class skit in 10th grade, I got slapped across the face by this cute girl, who, I suspect, thought I was being a bit too forward. Everyone laughed. It wasn’t part of the skit though. (Gosh, I still recall this? Therapy anyone?) 4) What is your happiest memory? The day of my Baptism, the day of my Ordination and the day of my first Mass, that amazement that at my words, the Lord of the Universe would give His flesh and blood, His very life, for his people. And also my family being with me, some all the way from India, even though they’re all Hindu. 5) What accomplishment are you most proud of? I don’t really want to go into detail, but a sacrifice I made for a friend in college, that helped him get set in his career and future path. It was at the behest of my best friend, who had taught me that people mattered the most in life, not things, and that if I did just one good thing for another person, I could die happy. So, in a sense, it was really his accomplishment in converting my heart.
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6) How do you think people will remember you? I hope they will remember me as someone who was kind, and who did his best to love as Jesus loves. 7) Who is your biggest fan? Eh. No freaking idea. 8) Whose biggest fan are you? Like a stuck record: Pope Benedict XVI. I love this man. As I said, I’d give an arm to have a beer with him 9) What do you like to do in your spare time? Spare time? Hah. Read. I also love photography, and travel, and planes. I have a computer flight simulator that is a delight. 10) What is your most embarrassing moment? When I was a teen, a well known statesman was visiting our house for dinner. I was incredibly rude, and sat with my Isaac Asimov sci-fi novel. Our guest got insulted, and said so, thereby dishonoring my family. I got read the riot act afterward, and was absolutely mortified. I think it was also the first realization of just how self-absorbed and selfish I was. 11) If you could possess one super-human power, what would it be? I wish I could read books like super fast. Yeah. Not quite a Matrix-like download into the brain. There is such joy in reading. But faster, more, please! 12) What is your greatest fear? Being trapped on the side of a cliff with no way up or down. I have a fear of heights, and the upper body strength of a little girl. But seriously, the greatest fear is of being parted from my Lord and Master. There’s a little prayer the priest says silently before he receives Holy Communion at Mass, one line of which is, “and let me never be parted from you.” I pray it all the time, because I am weak, vacillating and lazy. 13) What is your greatest hope? Well, apart from having a beer with Pope Benedict? The old language would be to gain heaven. The hope is – well, that all this is true, it really is true. Yes I have faith, but one day, I want to see, I want to know – all the whys, the whole darn plan, I want to know why. Or, as St. Paul says, to know as I am known. Now we see darkly, as through a glass, but then, face to face. I hope that this restless heart will find what it seeks, Whom it seeks. 14) What are the main lessons you’ve learned in life? My best friend in college, who was instrumental in my conversion, told me, very simply, Christianity is about other people. People are more important than things. It was a lesson I truly needed to learn. It’s something I keep learning. Human beings are amazing – capable of such goodness, and yet such horror, and the Lord of us all, still loves us. I want to love as He does. 170 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
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Pam Baker Arena
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Pam Baker Arena is a visual storyteller, artist, and writer. Raised in rural West Virginia, she creates art daily from her journals and short stories. Letters work their way onto surfaces, and her words paint a thousand pictures through found objects, mixed media, and clay. Her writing embodies the narrative of her life. Pam has taught a variety of art and creativity classes over the years and is currently teaching a class she created called "Narrative Clay" at Art Center West in Roswell, GA. She graduated with honors from West Virginia University in 1982. The mother of four grown children, Pam resides in Johns Creek, GA. 182 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
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Maisy Arena is a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design. She is majoring in Fashion and Design. When she is not doing school work, she can be found taking photographs of her many travels, creating in the kitchen, or walking her three dogs. 185 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
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Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, THE DREAM PATCH, a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY, and a book of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK. His work has appeared in THE SOUTHERN REVIEW, NEW ENGLAND REVIEW, NEW ORLEANS REVIEW, COLUMBIA and GLIMMER TRAIN, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery http://christopherwoods. zenfolio.com/. He is currently compiling a book of photography prompts for writers, FROM VISION TO TEXT. 187 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w ( A n n i v e r s a r y I s s u e )
D. L. Yancey II Outro Bottom of the Tree There's something going on at the bottom of that tree, who's leafs are changing colors at the end of Summer's breeze. Days are getting shorter as nights begin to cool, Mother Nature has an order son's and daughters follow rules. What's really going on as the leaves begin to fall? How can limbs look like they're dying as the trunk is standing tall? People come and people go just as sure as seasons change but Autumn has a tone just as precious as her name. Her spirit is refreshing and her presence sings a tune. Officials are elected while the fiscal is renewed. Autumn holds a message like protestors holding signs, you either stop and read it or you choose to pay no mind. There's something going on at the bottom of that tree, who's leafs are changing colors at the end of Summer's breeze. What's really going on as the leaves begin to fall? How can limbs look like they're dying as the trunk is standing tall? The answers to these questions are buried in the ground, beneath a Rocky surface the roots are safe and sound. They journey for the truth towards Earth's center core. For in the belly of creation lies the source to nurture more. Open up your minds and search within your hearts, for there's a new wave of thinking expressed inside of art. So as the world paints a picture full of images to see, remember life's sustained in Autumn at the bottom of the tree.
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COMING SOON! This highly-acclaimed book of poetry is expected to be reissued by Kudzu Leaf Press at the end of 2016.
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San Pedro River Review Blue Horse Press ISSN 1944-5954 San Pedro River Review is a biannual, perfect-bound poetry and art st st st journal. Submission windows run January 1 to 31st, and July 1 to 31 , each year. Spring issues are themed, fall issues non-themed. Representative poets include Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, Afaa Michael Weaver, Joseph Millar, Marge Piercy, Joe Wilkins, Alex Lemon, Larry D. Thomas, William Wright, Doug Anderson, Frank X. Gaspar, Walt McDonald, Vivian Shipley, Adrian C. Louis. See guidelines and more at www.bluehorsepress.com
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Sandra Smith is the photographer behind Freedom Photographyâ€™s unique images. She is a talented artist that strives to capture the details in life that one might otherwise pass by. She lovest traveling and creating images that are filled with expression, enthusiasm, and emotion. She sees the world in snapshots and has a passion and desire to share that vision with others. Her work is published in, One Mission to Africa, Leadership Lessons for a Lifetime, Relentless Pursuit Ministries International brochures, and on both those websites. She has photographed members of The Southern Collective Experience, Glow Dance Studios, several weddings, and other special events. You can follow her on Facebook at Freedom Photography and Instagram at FreedomPhotog.
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Kimberly Brock is the author of The River Witch, featured by two national book clubs and praised by RT and Huffington Post reviews as a “solemn journey of redemption, enlightenment and love,” and evocative of “the stories of Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers.” Brock was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award for debut fiction by the Georgia Writer’s Association. To find out more, please visit: http://kimberlybrockbooks.com/
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Keith Hughes has taught US History and AP Government for the past 15 years as well as education classes in New Literacy and Technology for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Buffalo. Keith recently signed with LeftField Pictures and is currently a talking face on the H2 show, "United Stuff of America" and filming for "American Badasses." HipHughes History is a series of upbeat, personable and educational lectures designed for students and lifelong learners. Videos primarily focus on US History and Politics but span across World History and general interest. Videos are perfect for Social Studies flippers, desperate crammers and the cray cray on the internets. So sit back and enjoy the antics of HipHughes as he melds multimodality into a learning experience. And always remember, "Where attention goes, energy flows."
Hip Hughes YouTube â€˘ Hip Hughes Website
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Tinderbox Workshops set out to inspire, educate, and encourage creative collaboration between women readers, writers and aspiring artisans of all kinds.
Tinderbox is a declaration, a prayer, an intention and a guide to inspire women to connect through their stories and learn to live from their Creative Core... to live from their Tinderbox, the divine spark to create!
Because we all have a journey to take, a truth to speak and a story to tell!
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William S. Tribell's interests are varied, he is a published photographer, a musician, he paints and sometimes writes for newspapers - receiving the 2015 Lighthouse Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with erratic sleep patterns and a penchant for travel. Tribell was an early member of the Southern Collective Experience. His work appears in journals and magazines around the world, including Mensa's Calliope, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and Cowboys & Indians magazine. Many of his poems have been recorded spoken word and with instrumentation by Radio Hall of Fame inductee Gary Burbank, actor John Blyth Barrymore, Red State Update's Travis Harmon and many others. Tribell is also featured in Black Madonna's 2015's release "Repressions," a collection of poems by JL Carey, Tina Twito and himself. Tribell is a member of the Tri-State Paranormal Investigators. He is a writer, director, producer and cast member of TSPI's television production "The Paranormal Journeys", and he hosts a weekly radio show called Spectrum that airs every Wednesday at midnight est. on Appalshop's WMMT 88.7 FM. In 2016 Tribell was appointed Executive Director of the Bell County Historical Society and Museum in Middlesboro Kentucky.
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Founded over 100 years ago, the Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) offers more benefits than ever for its members, including: - Ten meetings each year with two or more speakers to educate you about the craft and business of writing, as well as a June picnic and a half-day July workshop, all on the 3rd Saturday of each month. - Free members-only workshops throughout the year. - Over two dozen critique groups across the metro Atlanta area and online. - Increased prize money in our annual writing contest categories, which honor Terry Kay (for fiction), Rick Bragg (for nonfiction), and Natasha Trethewey (for poetry) in the named awards. - Two Atlanta Writers Conferences each year, where you can pitch to--and get your writing critiqued by-publishing house editors and literary agents and also attend educational panel discussions, seminars, and workshops. - Monthly online eQull newsletter with more than twenty pages of opportunities and information for writers. You are invited to attend your first AWC meeting for free to determine whether the Club is a good fit for your needs. Annual membership dues are only $50 for 365 days, with discounts for students and families of AWC members. Complete details about the AWC are at www.atlantawritersclub.org.
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Please consider donating to our cause: TSCE Collections.
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Songs of a Dissident: Amazon Happy Hour Hallelujah: CTU Publishing Chaos Songs: Weasel Press
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www.PACAGeorgia.org https://www.facebook.com/PACAGeorgia What is the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance? PACA was established to give support and assistance to existing arts and historic preservation organizations in Pickens County. With the encouragement and support of county government the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance was formed in the summer of 2007 through a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts. Pickens County has a rich and diverse array of new and older organizations that provide outstanding programming. The organizationâ€™s vision, mission and core values are stated below. Vision Statement Supporting the Arts and Culture of Pickens County Mission Statement Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for residents, preserve culture, increase educational opportunities in the arts, and promote cultural activities by developing a strong arts and historic preservation environment in Pickens County. Core Values 1. Arts & Culture enrich the lives of Pickens County residents. 2. The arts significantly contribute to the development of children. 3. Planning will be responsive to the voice of arts and cultural organizations and individuals. 4. Preservation of historic resources will retain our cultural heritage and character.
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WISH Poetry Press
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Book News: SCE Member George Weinstein’s new novel Aftermath launched in October “Fast pacing kept me turning pages. Great writing kept me clenched in the fist of this small town.” “This is one you don’t want to miss!” *** Janet Wright left tiny Graylee, Georgia at five, when her mother fled a destructive marriage. Now forty and reinventing herself after a failed engagement, Janet returns as the sole inheritor of her recently murdered father’s valuable estate. Life should be easy, but she can’t resist pulling at the threads of the apparently open-and-shut case. Before long, she finds herself tangled in Graylee’s web of secrets, lies, and scandals—and in fear for her own life. *** “A gripping, suspenseful read.” “Aftermath has everything I crave in a novel: the perfect blend of mystery and romance, flawlessly crafted dialog, and an unsinkable heroine with equal parts grit and heart.”
Anyone purchasing Aftermath who e-mails George Weinstein at AftermathNovel@gmail.com to let him know will receive the bonus prologue “Before Aftermath,” and any readers sending him the link to a review of this mystery novel they post on Amazon or Goodreads will receive the bonus epilogue “After Aftermath.” Chapter excerpt, reviews, and purchase links for Aftermath are at http://georgeweinstein.com/
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More information can be found here: 2017 Broadleaf Writers Conference
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