1|The Blue Mountain Review Issue8
Cover and Logo Designed by Tracy Kincaid
Interior Arranged by Holly Holt Others Behind the Scenes Art Editor - Peter Ristuccia .................................................................. firstname.lastname@example.org Prose Editor - Shane Etter.................................................................... email@example.com Poetry Editor* - Damian Rucci ............................................................ firstname.lastname@example.org Music Editor - Dusty Huggins .............................................................. email@example.com Essay Editor â€“ Clayton Ramsey ........................................................... firstname.lastname@example.org Interview Requests â€“ Clifford Brooks ..............email@example.com * Scott Thomas Outlar was the poetry editor for this issue. All future submissions should be directed to Damian Rucci. 2|The Blue Mountain Review Issue8
Table of Contents Intro ........................................................................................................................................................... 5 Poetry Yahia Lababidi ........................................................................................................................................... 7 Joan McNerney ......................................................................................................................................... 9 Carolyn Wilding Kelso ..............................................................................................................................12 Bernette Sherman..................................................................................................................................... 15 Ryan Quinn Flanagan ...............................................................................................................................19 Paul Brookes ............................................................................................................................................ 22 Sherri Jens ............................................................................................................................................... 23 Sudeep Adhikari ...................................................................................................................................... 27 Dan Leach ................................................................................................................................................ 29 Johnny Longfellow ...................................................................................................................................31 Sunil Sharma ........................................................................................................................................... 33 Chris Graves ............................................................................................................................................ 36 Danielle Hanson ...................................................................................................................................... 38 Casanova Green ....................................................................................................................................... 40 Glenn Johnson .........................................................................................................................................41 Roger Green ............................................................................................................................................. 44 Alia Hussain Vancrown ........................................................................................................................... 48 James H. Duncan .................................................................................................................................... 50 Prose Tina Morris .............................................................................................................................................. 53 Gregg Andrews ........................................................................................................................................ 54 Will Mayo................................................................................................................................................. 56 Daniel Johnson ........................................................................................................................................ 57 Sean Hastings .......................................................................................................................................... 59 Bernette Sherman.................................................................................................................................... 63 Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sachs ................................................................................................ 66 Clayton H. Ramsey ...................................................................................................................................77 William Walsh ......................................................................................................................................... 80 Book Review: Praise for Resurrection of a Sunflower .............................................................................91 3|The Blue Mountain Review Issue8
Interviews Interview with Christopher Dickey ......................................................................................................... 93 Interview with Jonathan Haupt .............................................................................................................. 97 Interview with Tim Conroy ..................................................................................................................... 99 Interview of Hope with Felino A. Soriano ............................................................................................ 102 Interview with Brad Stephens ............................................................................................................... 106 Interview with Steven Shaff .................................................................................................................. 109 Interview with Allison Joseph ................................................................................................................ 110 Interview with Jon Tribble ..................................................................................................................... 116 Music Feature Interview with Kick the Robot ...................................................................................... 142 New Plains Review Interview ................................................................................................................ 144 Southern Collective Member of the Issue: TC Carter ........................................................................... 146 New Member Interview with Bernette Sherman ................................................................................... 157 New Member Interview with Clayton H. Ramsey .................................................................................159 New Member Interview with Damian Rucci ........................................................................................ 162 New Member Interview with Debbie Hennessey ................................................................................. 168 New Member Interview with Marsha Cornelius.................................................................................... 172 Faces of Faith Interview with Pastor Gerald L. Rice ............................................................................. 174 Photography Sandra Smith ..........................................................................................................................................178 Chris Graves .......................................................................................................................................... 184
Outro ....................................................................................................................................................... 191
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“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw
Intro As the media, politicians, hate-mongers, and zealots made these few months of Persephone’s freedom feel like hell, I chose to reflect on my own philosophy – quietly. Those in the Southern Collective Experience strengthened the whole of us, and no one is without deep respect. Each one is a jewel I cherish. It is not about race, sex, or religion. Either you are intelligent enough to be beyond that, or you watch from outside the walls. (That is as political as I plan to get.) Moving on: I do not have many friends. It is difficult to endure my intensity as it refuses to give my mind peace or limbs a moment of rest. I do not bemoan or exalt these genetic traits. I am Charles Clifford Brooks III of Crawford, Georgia. The Southern Collective Experience is a company of engineers, preachers, teachers, rebels, and attorneys who honor a single code: Be honest, kind, fair, and forthright. Do not talk - do. Do it or kindly get out of the way. Success is sacrifice, and every win doesn’t need a parade. In this issue of the Blue Mountain Review, you will see the songs, hymns, and battle cries of those in the South, and those far from it. We set the bar high, and that is the only line we draw. Illegitimi non carborundum. The world wants us to remind them that music is the voice of God. As Beethoven said, “Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.” I think he is right. Beethoven is also the brawler who stopped playing his masterpiece to silence an aristocrat of unknown wealth and power while he made melodies no man could match. Do you know what he did? He shut up. Thus is the undeniable power from the divine fire. Do not burn from it. Flourish due to it. Respect your art and yourself as others. Write. Compose. Paint. Do anything except invent excuses for refusing to try. Clifford Brooks "Depict your sorrows and desires, your passing thoughts and beliefs in some kind of beauty- depict all that with heartfelt, quiet, humble sincerity and use to express yourself the things that surround you, the images of your dreams and the objects of your memory. If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place." — Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)
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Yahia Lababidi Excerpts from Where Epics Fail Between comedy and tragedy, a hairline — the depth of an abyss. Art alters the artist and, in time, recreates them in its own image True artists disturb the false peace, also known as complacency. Artists are heralds. In the way a dog barks to announce imminent danger, so the artist registers an advancing stranger called Change. A poem should be flesh-warm, scented Spirit. There is a hidden relation between sacrifice and revelation—we are favored in proportion to what we are able to offer up. For the sake of a good line a poet, like a comedian, must be willing to risk everything. Numbness is a spiritual malady, true detachment its opposite. Work without the need for a vacation is a vocation. If we listen, the air is heavy with poems, ripe for plucking.
Yahia Lababidi’s latest book, Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993-2015), debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases, in the Spring of 2016. Lababidi’s first collection of aphorisms, Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane Street Press) was selected as a 2008 ‘Book of the Year’ by The Independent, in the UK. Other books of his include critically-acclaimed collections of essays, Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly-Dancing; a series of ecstatic, literary dialogues with Alex Stein, The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi; as well as a collection of short poems, Barely There (Wipf & Stock, 2013) inspired by the constraints of social media, and featured on NPR. Lababidi’s work has appeared in several anthologies, such as Geary’s Guide to the World's Great Aphorists, where he is the only contemporary Arab poet featured; the best-selling US college textbook, Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing; and, most recently, Short Flights, the first anthology of modern American aphorists. To date, his writing has been translated into several languages, including: Arabic, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, Slovak, Italian, Swedish and Dutch. Lababidi has participated in international poetry festivals in the United States, Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East, while video adaptations of his poems have been shown in film festivals, worldwide. The Blue Mountain Review readers who pledge/preorder Where Epics Fail from this page will have their names included in the back of the limited edition hardcovers, as a thank you. 7|The Blue Mountain Review Issue8
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Joan McNerney Summer Solstice Trees outline the horizon in green lace. Beneath boughs float galaxies of blue bugs. Listen to swish of branches as cicada swell and swarm. Hiding under shadow beating their wings, hissing their mating calls. Evening is comingâ€Ś the dawn of darkness. We are suspended now between bright and shade. Clouds rushing over heaven. Sun drops from sky. The air is fragrant with sweet blooming jasmine as star after star sets nighttime on fire.
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Shimmering I wanted to take off all my clothes. Be naked under the sun. Tango all over warm grass, so warm, warm. Noontime perfumed berries and lush grass. Beneath honey locust through hushed woods We found this spring, a secret susurrus disco. My feet began two-stepping over slippery pebbles. Threading soft water, the sun dresses us in golden sequins. Your hand reaches for me.
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In Flight A tree waves wooing birds who fly from branch to branch looking for a home. Congregations of wrens winging off to choral practice stop at bird feeders first. An outdoor concert. Which is sweeter, the flute or bird song in woods?
Joan McNerneyâ€™s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Three Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work. Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 11 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Carolyn Wilding Kelso A Wooden Step A wooden step bears the weight of my soul, burdened, and lonely. Alone I sit, with just my thoughts listening, to the crickets. Chirping, chirping, chirping still while the moon rises in the dark beyond the tree tops, in the yard. A stillness hovers just above those crickets sharing all their love while I, make my plight to God, curious, of my next task here, on earth. I know next it will appear despite the loneliness that I feel continuously, in my heart and soul as each day, comes, to a close. Precious are the hours spent where joy and comfort take precedence over the weight that sits upon this step, listening, to crickets chirp as the moon, now settled in the sky peers, down on me lonely, in the dark.
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A Loonâ€™s Wail Though the heat of day had long been tucked, it penetrated my soles, my arch, as along the shore I sat barefoot, bare skinned in the dark of night glowing like a firefly in the moonlight. Water, gently lapping along my soul titillated fantasies only I know. Leaving them hidden beneath my skin like the current of the lake, now still. Its surface lit but for a moment as the sun-of-night came and went like echoes of a loonâ€™s wail aching for its mate.
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Solitude Solitude is where I find myself, my piece-of-mind. A bath poured in broad-day warms cast iron surrounding me while lavender, fresh from stem relaxes tensions from within. Pellucid rays casting through breach barriers fabricated in the mind, liberating sensuality, long stowed. And in broad-day with solitude sound, my feminine form soused in warmth strokes, her pleasures.
Canadian born, Carolyn Wilding Kelso is a mother and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose poetic voice was pressed into the open by debris traveling the currents of life. Carolyn aims to memorialize human conditions often overlooked, dismissed, or simply too difficult to express. She is a member of The Gallimaufry Tribe creative writing group associated with the FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA. 14 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Bernette Sherman Wrinkled Heart You try to undo what you cannot Like crumpled paper in your hands My heart will never beat the same You utter words to make it smooth But the wrinkles, like scars on my soul Remain
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Remains of My First Love The dust tickles my nostrils As yellowed papers, worn on the edge Tumble from a box long forgotten Love, hope, innocence trapped so long Forgotten on pages of a girl a quarter century younger The faded pencil still marks the sheet And fine pen lines mark others Here lie the remains of her first true love Bits of dust on yellowed paper in a box
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Labels Where’d I put it? The right one for you The one to help you see me clearer Give you comfort And me a chance to be seen What’s wrong? Nothing – just trying to find The sliver of me for you I need to peel off the labels Can I just put them in a blender? Pour them back into my soul I don’t want to be divided Can I just be me? Accepting every part My strength being my inner diversity Every day I wake up And slide out of bed I slip on my bra And the label of woman I put my caesarean scars in undergarments My brand of motherhood marks me I press brown powder onto my nose And with it the label of Black As I dress and prepare for my day I add labels, badges, and tags For you to define me, understand me Feel safe in putting me In the right boxes That are for you not me I know I am all these things And those I haven’t named But none defines with clarity Rather, it is the intersection of these labels That nectar where my flower oozes sweet Attracting those vibrating at the higher frequency Like a bee’s wings whose movement you can’t see Can you appreciate The complex creation that is me? I have labels unperceived Tags you can’t read Those with meanings That unless you also wear 17 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Will only dance at the edge of your understanding That’s not to say don’t try Let’s start from our shared experiences No matter the labels we wear No matter the names We’re not so different I am more than the labels The world chooses to define me More than the pedestrian words trying to bind me More because my soul can’t be put on a tag More because this blend Of complex intricacies That create the personality You recognize in mosaic pieces Aren’t dissimilar to the ones you wear Different labels but labels all the same Trapping you in jigsaw pieces That convolute your truth We are not the labels We are more Let them fall as they’re stripped away I’m weary of the fractured illusion I’ll start I’m Bernette It’s nice to meet you
Bernette Sherman comes to the world as a creative individual with a passion for transforming lives through words, whether that be her written works or music. Her book Heaven is Now: Enough Excuses. You ARE Worth Living For! is a collection of essays, talks, meditations, and poetry to encourage living the life you want today. Her poetry book Resist Persist is a timely collection that reminds us to resist that which is untrue to our highest sense of self and persist in that which expands love, peace, and truth for us and even the world. She is the author of several sci-fi and speculative fiction titles as well, under her pen name A. Bernette. Creativity must continue to be a part of our lives as we mature. Bernette values every person for their individual character and how they show up in their own life and share that with others and the world. Bernette’s desire is to continue moving and growing herself and to inspire others to move their creativity from heart to sole! Bernette is a certified coach and holds her Bachelors of Business Administration and Masters of Public Administration from Georgia State University. She is also a former Miss Black Georgia Metroplex and Miss Black International. Bernette believes that self-expression can take many forms. She is one who writes, sings, and loves to dance. She values all of the above as well as visual arts. Learn more about Bernette’s creative endeavors at www.CreativeCoreHS.com. 18 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Ryan Quinn Flanagan Father is a Priest, and Nothing Else The car breaks down by the side of the road and he is the car divorced denied visitation rights contemplating suicide head in hands without food and water seen so many times before and I do not slow down because I cannot hear this story again. Sadness has a limit and I have reached mine.
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Shoe Shopping Heading across the street to the Vans outlet to buy some shoes in downtown Toronto a dominatrix crosses the street in full leather on the green dragging a leather masked submissive on a chain behind her. Someone stops to pet him like a dog on all fours and he is immediately swatted on the nose for responding. Across the street the dominatrix ties her submissive to a parking meter and goes into some fair trade coffee place. As I walk into the shoe store just happy they have air conditioning.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Walking Is Still Honest, Word Riot, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review. 20 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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All white bird, a ghost who stares intently into my jaundiced eye, then flies towards sunblaze where it sweats all my illness in droplets to the earth. If the bird looks away this disease succeeds. Some healthy hide the bird under their coat, refuse to offer it with the thought nobody gets owt for free. Some say the bird is a saviour. Some put faith in fleeting things.
Paul Brookes was, and is a shop assistant, after employment as a security guard, postman, admin. assistant, lecturer, poetry performer, with "Rats for Love", his work included in "Rats for Love: The Book", Bristol Broadsides, 1990. First chapbook "The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley", (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). Read his work on BBC Radio Bristol. Recently published in Blazevox, Nixes Mate, Live Nude Poems, The Bezine, The Bees Are Dead and others. "The Headpoke and Firewedding" (Alien.Buddha Press) illustrated chapbook, "A World Where" (Nixes Mate Press) and "The Spermbot Blues" (OpPRESS) have all been published this year. 22 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Sherri Jens Rumbling Silence Never knew I was a biker chick â€˜Till you showed me today Fingers looped in your belt Curving past fields of frivolity Trusting the balance Leaning with you Rumbling silence Quieting racing minds Leather-fringed memories Flapping into nothing Windchapped lips Smiling into breathlessness Hugging the center yellow Asphalt sunbeams Finding the path Paved with gold
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Highway Four-One-One A day too bright, Too vivid for my taste. Careless angel dropped his 64 Melted sky blue Plastic farm animals Planted on Astroturf Wedding confetti pearblooms Marching the aisle Toy-colored tractors Red, green, and orange Auburn wild turkeys Make me taste amber whiskey Sun-dappled strobe Pine green grove Yellow biker shack Crawfish boil and show Antebellum dollhouse Columned in white Abandoned twin silos Scopeless observatories Hills of gray markers Satin-flowered chaos Spikes of forsythia Spot Southern foundations Bugleweed field plays Purple valleyâ€™s majesty Red tin lid Tops white clapboard crackerbox Shady alpaca farm Straw-covered secret Stoney cottages Rock-piles of lonely 24 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Carnation-pink crabapples People-sized pruning Antique trestles Bearing no load Cedar Creek rentals Canoes, Mile 8 Beige Winnebagos RV-parked dust Jackâ€™s Bee Farm Five bucks a quart Red-bricked mansion Blocks planked slave house Six-Mile Quarry Flying Old Glory Wheel-clamped hands Urging to swerve Into oncoming traffic
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Out-of-Character Assassin You lash out at me, Character assassin. You hit your mark; I bleed. I’ve no reparation For this, No fantasy fix No dreamy denial I’ve nothing To staunch this. You knew just where To strike your blow; Your aim is true. Your slightest slights Have caused me pain, And this you knew. You’ve used an atom bomb To kill an ant. My hands cover the wound At once So you won’t see. I look at you To ask why, Then I see your fear. The soldier ants Carry me home On their backs, Just another casualty Killed by friendly fire. Sherri Jens is a writer, yoga teacher, Reiki master, and college writing instructor. Her poetry appears in The Old Red Kimono and Share Art and Literary Magazine. Her degrees include an M.S. Ed. and B.S. in psychology. She is the owner of Sher Jens Yoga and Reiki. Sher is blessed with three sons, her saving graces in life. 26 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Sudeep Adhikari When Nothing Sings a Song for Nobody I live inside a truncated cube of colors, my head buzzing from semi-dead molecules of bygone Dionysius days. There is a strange rapture in every single rupture. A centre stands unshuffled, amidst the crazy tales of little fires carried away by the lust of storm-water, or a story on blogosphere about a power-electronics band, running their show with attendants at gun-point. I see the excess of god on colloidal carpet of hellfire. And all the unrealized miracles we have mistaken for a house of pain.
Sudeep Adhikari is a structural engineer/Lecturer from Kathmandu, Nepal. His poetry has appeared in more than eighty magazines, online/print on different parts of the world. His recent publications were with Beatnik Cowboys, Zombie Logic Review, The Bees Are Dead, Silver Birch Press and Eunoia Review. He digs beat poetry, punk rock, hip-hop, science and good beer. 27 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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Dan Leach Parked Across From Our Old Home You cross the room in your panties, Disappear into the kitchen, Come back with a glass of wine. The distance, that light: I cannot see Whose shirt youâ€™re wearing.
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All The Kingdoms of The World and Their Splendor When you see her and think, “There she is: The most beautiful woman in the world,” Remember someone somewhere With a heart got tired and left her. “Ugly, cancerous bitch,” said that fool, Driving into the night, Collecting in his cupped palm All that cold black air. Remember that, the first time she looks at you and smiles that smile, And you find yourself swimming In the center of all that soft, hot light, And the door that’s been locked For what seems your whole life Is now open to you, Filling your head with possibilities. Remember love is a stray That will forget the name you made for it, But that here is something different, An angel waiting to attend you When you finally come back home From your latest resurrection.
Dan Leach’s work has been published in various literary journals and magazines, including The Greensboro Review, Appalachian Heritage, and The New Madrid Review. Floods and Fires, his debut short-story collection, will be published by University of North Georgia Press in 2017. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and three children. 30 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Johnny Longfellow Midnight, at The Star —for M. Off’rin’ comfort but to only Moths that hover ‘roun its light There’s this star, ‘ppears like it’s risin’ Ever upward through the night, An’ it throbs there, bright but lonely Bathed inside a bluish glow, Lurkin’ ‘long the dark horizon, Wand’rin’ aimless, to ‘n’ fro. Closer still, a couple lovers Talkin’ dirty, curse ‘n’ moan, While I git to feel this achin’ Like I feel when I’m alone, So, I hunker ‘neath the covers —Try to nurse away that ache— But my heart, it keeps on breakin’ With each sound them lovers make. Off the highway, slowly wheelin’ ‘Neath them storm clouds in the sky, Comes the peelin’ soun’ o’ thunder As a convoy rumbles by An’ each headlight goes a-reelin’ ‘Long my ceilin’, down my wall Where I watch ‘em all, an’ wonder How much lower can I fall . . . An’ the moths, they jus’ keep bobbin’ Roun’ that damned ol’ crazy star— An’ the lovers, they keep cursin’ (Dirty fuckers that they are); An’ the neon, ever throbbin’, An’ the big rigs stormin’ through Here at midnight, fin’ me nursin’ Ev’ry ache I feel for you.
Johnny Longfellow is editor of the online poetry journal, Midnight Lane Boutique. A twenty year mentor to Newburyport, MA high school students through the Poetry Soup Reading Series, he has also been a featured reader at The Hyla Brook Reading Series held at The Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, The Powow River Poets Reading Series, and The Newburyport Literary Festival. To learn more, please visit "Heeeeeere's Johnny . . . Longfellow, that is." 31 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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Dots black The sand golden Rolling like the musical notes; Or, a broad bosom heaving softly Of a sleeping Amazon; Or, a few furrowed creases On an old Bedouinâ€™s forehead; Or, a yellow rugged canvas Where human beings look Like tiny black dots Overwhelmed by the infinity! A few zigzagging imprints In the sands of time That will be there and then, Not there on the next rosy dawn!
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Dance A girl-child Rumpled frock Grey-white Torn slightly at the hemline Brown hair wild and un-oiled Bare feet on the burning tar Of the road in Mumbai suburb Full of vertical honeycomb of cages Gilded and bright; The child waits for long for the Fancy cars to pass by Then finding a gap jumps over The painted divider waits again Then dashes to the other side Arriving on the vacant lot leading to Her run-down shack, Her tiny feet happy and prancing On that garbage-strewn open stage.
Sunil Sharma is a senior academic and a widely-published writer from Mumbai, India. He has already published 15 books: five collections of poetry, two of short fiction, one novel; a critical study of the novel and six joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poetsâ€™ inaugural Poet of the Year award---2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015. 34 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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somehow sticky wet rain makes it hard to breathe i’m soaked through and through waiting… pretending not to feel someone watching me with the face’s of cain and abel i had to get away from the negative space i need to take a breath that's true all i managed to do is to get through without coming unglued
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untied my head crowded with visions that won't behave i'm tired of knowing things that aren't real to other people and may not even be real to me is it from holding on or not letting go... i don't know it seeps through me where a knot has been waiting to be untied
Chris Graves is a photographer and poet she wants to slow people down to show them what their missing she feels it in her soul a piece of her the rawness her goals are to have a published poetry book with her photographs build self-confidence around writing/reading out loud believe in oneself www.rawpoetic.photos 37 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Danielle Hanson Remnants Light from the stars is only a remnant, like water dripping from trees after the rain has stopped, like a slow leak of memory through the cracks in the eye. So we take the remnants and sew them togetherâ€”pin a childhood fall to the fall of Rome, stitch our leaving to leaves on a river, sew your face to a clock.
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New Mythology So let’s consider a new mythology, one in which the moon is a fish— radiant scales reflecting light back to us, food offering to the gods. But perhaps this new civilization of ours, with its great explorers meet another ancient peoples and learn about the Hunter, the Crab, the Bear and realize we are doomed. and perhaps our civilization’s philosophers realize the rotting of the gods.
Danielle Hanson received her MFA from Arizona State University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the author of Ambushing Water (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in over 50 journals and anthologies, including Hubbub, The Atlanta Review, Iodine, Rosebud, Poet Lore, Asheville Poetry Review, and Blackbird. She is Poetry Editor for Doubleback Books. She has edited Loose Change Magazine and Hayden’s Ferry Review, worked for The Meacham Writers’ Conference, and been a resident at The Hambidge Center. Her work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Daniellejhanson.com. 39 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Casanova Green The Score What will history say about us in twenty years? Will we wave victory banners high and coo watching the long-departed soldier clutch his bride, dipping her low, kissing her deep in Times Square? Will we be burnt shadows on glowing rubbled walls waiting for radiation to die decades after we have vaporized and those who remain pray cancer kills quickly? Will history before our present be fact mashed murkily into tasty fiction garnished with fear while poems and art are lined black, redacted and gagged, hushed in place of newspeak? Perhaps, history will be gracious: the Union will still stand. I, greyed and wrinkled, will write new words and preach the same Gospel. But the Republic, for which it stands, may be too divided, too fractured, to handle the same heart or the same name. History, you unbiased judge, take pity on our idiocy and do not strike the gavel yet. There is too much yet to be done before the sentence begins.
Casanova Green began singing at a very young age under the training of his mother, the late Evangelist Vonzelia Woods. He began writing songs and poetry at 12 as a way to express his life and communicate with God. He continued his musical pursuits while attending Ohio Northern University participating in many groups and ensembles, creating the outreach group People of Worship, and serving as the Contemporary Worship Leader at St. Johnâ€™s Evangelical Church (formerly St. Johnâ€™s United Church of Christ) in Kenton, OH from 2008-2009. After graduating in 2010 with a BA in Language Arts Education and minor in vocal music, he returned to Columbus, OH and resumed his service to his local church, Judah Christian Community. Currently, he serves as the Minister of Music at Judah Christian Community and has ministered locally and abroad in Kenya and the Czech Republic. His debut CD, A Worshiper Mentality, was released internationally by Tate Music Group on January 26, 2016. Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia. He and his wife currently reside in Reynoldsburg, OH.
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Rearview Mirror How often do we struggle on this journey we call “Life” Disappointment, shattered dreams, and other forms of strife. We see the path that others take and wonder “Why not me?” For through our eyes, the best that was is often hard to see. We focus not on the now but excelling in the race Always trying to do more, regardless of the pace. We strive to reach the future, where dreams we’ll finally hold, From where we can recall the times of weakness and of bold. But we’re not human doers, Human Beings are what we are And if we take the time to think of memories from afar, We might just find the roads we’ve seen, are the ones we’re searching for.
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Life’s Path Our path is never straight, It meanders as we go. There are distractions left and right, So take it nice and slow. Don’t be afraid to venture off To get a closer peek, For often the most important things Are the ones we have to seek. But if you should stumble While on your way, The journey’s not over, For tomorrow’s another day. For no matter where we are When the sunlight fills the skies, There’s a new beginning Each morn when we arise. So take each step intentionally, Stop and smell the flowers. Bask in the warm glow of the sun And dance when there are showers. It’s not about who gets there first And certainly, not how far. It’s being in appreciation Of exactly where we are.
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The Unseen People find it easy To believe what they can’t see When they call it a religion, That’s “faith” to you and me. But what about the other things That may have missed our gaze, From stories told and written E’en before the biblical days? Could they, too, be just as real As the Sermon on the Mount, The burning bush, the loaves of bread, Too many tales to count? What about the leprechauns, And dragons, or horses using wings, Could they not be just as real As other living things? It does no good to pause belief ‘Til you’ve seen it with your eye. Maybe if you first believe Then all of them you’ll spy. As for me, I hold out hope That each of them are true. I think that they have made the world A better place for me And you.
Glenn Johnson, 61, has been a professional Santa Claus since 2010. He has shared stories of his interactions with people as Santa with his friends on social media and has been encouraged to publish them in a book. He took his first creative writing class in 2016 at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA and found a gift for poetry. His first book, a Santa themed children’s book, will be released during the Christmas season, 2017. 43 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Roger Green Little Gothic Lady Come play your dark guitar. Those not following the herd, are in tow. Strings, dark wave inspired, pulling at fellow Goth hearts. Where is she, that Gothic woman, who tends to her musical craft? Under the influence of absinthe, drunk off her ass. Who'll disrupt her stupor? Tis not me, I'll most assuredly not. Because doing so will cause Dr. Caligari eye.
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Eliminate Prejudice You can't feel what I feel because mine mind is above average concepts. Numb, but pain never leaves. Wondering why humans think in certain absent thought contexts. We all do this. But elevating others, even though we have different skin tones, is my project. Upholding hate monger stereo typed illusions, instead of forward movement. Those ignorant few, stalemate contaminating Homo Sapien pools. Festering creating misguided fools. Blind to the golden rules Equal treatment, that is what I was taught in elementary school.
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Dark Beauty The Countess is thy drug, intoxicated by my ladies blood. Nectar settles thee. Being embraced by her forever comfort calms me. Positions unknown to our natural world. Contorting, serpent motions entrance. Non above or below, just I and she. We dance an eternity. Eternally mine; I'm eternally hers. We're more familiar than a familiar and It's witch. When transformed, she-wolf tongue greets, licking these lips. Undressed, sexuality grabs as a magnetic force. Pulling hormones, ingesting each otherâ€™s aura, crashed into paradise forbidden. We shall remain smitten.
My name is Roger Green, and Iâ€™ve always loved art from the beginning. It's been a part of my life in more ways than one. I have always wanted to show the world that anything is possible no matter what obstacles come your way. As you can see, I've got a disability but it has not deterred my dreams. I went from finger painting, to water colors and now computer art. I utilize a head mouse system, which gives me the ability to create poetry on my laptop by head movements. It has taken a bit of time, but my dreams have begun to surface of becoming a fullfledged poet. I invite you upon my journey through the universe of words! 46 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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Alia Hussain Vancrown The Golden Door
Alia Hussain Vancrown has published in journals and magazines in print and online. Her poetry has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She currently resides in the U.S. 48 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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Piece By Piece: Writing Your Way Out of a Creative Dry Spell
James H. Duncan
It happens to all of us at different points in our writing lives; we hit a stretch where we can’t seem to finish anything, or the ideas have dried up faster than morning rain on an Arizona highway. It happened to me this last winter when I finished one novel and was excited to start a fresh project…except each novel idea I started fizzled out. They weren’t right. Same went for a few short stories I had rattling around in my head. I’d make it halfway through before casting each aside. Even poems felt forced. I was breaking Neil Gaiman’s wise and important rule: “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish.” I wasn’t finishing things. I didn’t have any “next” thing to finish. I couldn’t see anything inspiring in my future. It was a hollow, scary feeling. But instead of sitting back and waiting for inspiration to strike, I tried a few of the methods below to jumpstart that old excited feeling, to help me start something I could finish. It definitely felt like a detour from my intended route, but after a while I bean to enjoy these little detours. I’m hoping that if they worked for me, they’ll work for you. Head to the Junkyard When I felt like I hit a creative wall, I took an inventory of what I had in stock that wasn’t finished or needed work. One thing I noticed was that my OLD POETRY folder on my laptop had a lot of poems that didn’t work or just bits and pieces of ideas. I spent a few nights going through and stripping away everything that wasn’t worth keeping. Sometimes it felt like I was ripping apart an old car just to find that one bolt that still had some polish on it. Some of these pieces became seeds for new poems, but others still felt off somehow. So instead of keeping the free-verse style I typically use, I tried re-writing them as blocks of streaming text, playing with punctuation and flow in ways different than when you take line breaks into consideration. A few of these ended up as really great unexpected pieces in a style I never used before, and it felt good to get something worthwhile out of what I thought was a scrapheap. Frankenstein Those Poems A few times during this process, I took some of these poems scraps and pieces, or full poems that just wouldn’t work, and I mixed them in together. If you look for similar themes this can work well, but sometimes putting two totally different poems together and going back and forth between the different streams of thought using new transitions to sew together the places where you made the surgeon's cut can create interesting results. It’s worth trying, and I got a couple more keepers out of it. Flash Is Your Friend I also tried something a new (for me) with some poems in my junk pile: I converted the poem complete into a flash fiction piece. A lot of my poems have a running narrative through them, so I just fleshed that narrative out. I got rid of the precise conservation and economy that goes into a poem and 50 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
filled in the blanks, expanded on ideas, explored parts of the poems I could visualize but had originally left to the reader’s creativity to fill in. Some of these flash pieces were just little one page stories, and some became a couple thousand words. And yeah, some went nowhere. But to see a poem that wasn’t working one minute and have a completed 300 word story the next, it felt damn good. I was following Gaiman’s advice. I was FINISHING things. Seeing this, I decide to try the process in reverse. I had a half dozen stories that fell flat after a few pages, but I kept them around. I decided to strip out a paragraph here and a sentence there, and I tried a few poetic styles with them, coming up with some couplets, some free verse pieces, some prose poems, etc. It felt good to be happy with eight or nine poems rather than staring at the unfinished stories sitting dead in my thumbdrive. Most of the text didn’t make the leap from fiction to poetry, but enough did to make it worth trying. Who Needs National Whatever Month? Last November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, as the cool kids say) I had just finished a novel and didn’t feel like my other ideas were up to the challenge, so I opted to do my own 30 day exercise. I tried writing a new flash fiction piece every day, even if it was just a paragraph or two. It was hard, as all those challenges tend to be, and it was my first time writing flash. But I ended up with about 35 stories, and after some time to let them simmer and some revision, most of them worked out. These 30 day challenges can feel passé sometimes, sure, I understand, but they can also force you to get something done. One little thing every day. It adds up. It gets you out of a funk. Don’t want to write poems in April? Don’t. Write character studies instead. Or write a letter to someone telling them something you always wanted to say, that they’re important, that they suck, or just to say hi. One letter a day. Or, like I did, try flash fiction. Try poems. Try journal entries. Go for that damn novel. Challenge yourself, just for you, and I’ll bet something good comes out of it. But most important, just keep writing, whether you're in a 30 day challenge or not. Even if you don't know what to write, there are options out there, there are styles unexplored. Everything you need to get yourself fired up and finishing things is closer at hand than you think. Just don't stop writing.
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a contributing writer-at-large with The Blue Mountain Review, and a former editor with Writer’s Digest. He is the author of Dead City Jazz, What Lies In Wait, Berlin, and other books of poetry and fiction, and his work has also appeared in American Artist magazine, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Pulp Modern, Drunk Monkeys, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other publications. He currently resides in upstate New York. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com. 51 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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Tina Morris Blue The sun rises over the marsh; pinks and blues reflect on the tan Georgia landscape. The salty sweet scent is calming. I could lay here for hours with her in my arms, which is exactly what we have been doing. Warm April nights allow a couple to drift in a hammock, scantily clad, no worries about the outside world. A screen provides relief from what otherwise would be a mosquito infested warzone. The inlet river in front and the marsh behind is why we had the screen porch built onto the side of our island shack. Incredible views should be enjoyed from a central point. It’s a dreamy mix of eclectic, much like the island we live on, much like us. Beside us, our daughter, Emerson sways in her rope swing cradle. I lean over and kiss Emily, my wife, on her forehead as I try to get off the hammock gently without dropping her to the ground. She wakes enough to shift her body to the center. The sun glistens off her amber-brown eyes. Her lips form a sweet little smile before her heavy eyes close and she returns to her Freudian landscape. I lean over Emerson’s swaying crib and thank God before heading in to get ready for work. I instinctively turn back and look closely at Emerson. Her lips tinted a faint blue. I grab her hand, it’s cool to the touch. My heart quickens. My mind goes into slow motion. I methodically check her from head to toe. My eyes stop at her chest. It is not moving up and down as it should, but in truncated heaves and drops. I hear someone scream Emily’s name. She jumps up and disappears into the house. I cradle Emerson close to my face. I feel her soft breath on my numb cheeks. My left middle finger identifies a faint pulse with the speed of a humming bird’s wings. I yell out yeses to questions I do not recall. I pray for the Lord to hold her safely in his arms. Emerson coughs. I hold my breath. I walk inside our quintessential beach dwelling to be closer to her mother- shells and fish everywhere. My eyes dart and land on a happy fish sculpture made of found scraps all welded together- an old ice cream can, a weathervane, a Budweiser sign, a holiday cookie tray, a serving spoon, and an airplane wing. I realize Emily is relaying information to me from the person on the phone. I catch only tidbits. Asthma. Emerson goes through a long coughing spell where her lips look as though she kissed a peacock. Reaction. My eyes glance between Emerson’s face and her mother’s eyes. The terror inside me is reciprocated back twofold. I pull her close and whisper that everything will be alright, just relax and breathe. I breathe long and slow hoping that she will mimic my pattern. Failure. I hear the faint sound of a siren. We walk toward the door. Emerson’s breathing grows louder. I walk faster until we’re standing on the edge of the road, meeting the ambulance. They whisk my baby girl into the ambulance and beckon me to join. They give her a shot. Before we are on the lane, her breathing begins to regulate. Steroids.
Tina Morris grew up in Jamestown, a small town in Western New York, earning her Bachelor of Science from SUNY Brockport. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Tina is a student in Reinhardt University’s Etowah Valley MFA. She tweets as @tinarazz about writing and parenting. 53 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Gregg Andrews A Combustible New Year My God damned head won't quit pounding here in the darkness! It's about to split open! I don't know what time it is, but it's the middle of the night. That's for sure. I've been lying here awake in torment and thrashing all around for a long time, desperate to fall back asleep. As if this pounding headache isn't bad enough, the soft, but persistent whiny cries of my six-year-old brother lying here beside me keep me on edge. The more Kevin squirms around in our bed, the more my wretched head pounds. I swear, in all of my ten years of life, I've never had a headache this bad. "Shut up and lay still!" I nudge Kevin harder with my elbow and scold him till he climbs out of bed with his crankiness. At last! I spread out a little more in the small bed and soak in the warmth of the spot he just vacated. Now maybe I can get back to sleep. A few seconds later, I hear a thud and then a frantic commotion in Mom and Dad's bedroom. Kevin has fallen at the foot of their bed in the darkness, but somehow it all seems surreal as my head continues to throb relentlessly. The lights come on in the kitchen, but my God-damned head is killing me! "Gregg, git up 'n' git in here! Quick!" Mom yells. I struggle out of bed and stagger across a bitterly cold floor to the kitchen. What in the hell's wrong with me? There's a delirious feeling in my head as I try to make sense of things around me. It feels a little bit like it did when I picked up my first menthol cigarette butt--one of Uncle Marvin's Salems-and smoked it last summer, but this dizziness is painful, not pleasant like that menthol nicotine sensation. As Mom feverishly tends to Kevin in a chair, I'm only vaguely aware there's blood on the kitchen floor. "Git me uh Kotex outta thuh pantry," she hollers with alarm in her voice! Like a zombie, I somehow carry out her order and then plop down in a kitchen chair. Immediately, I start to tumble over backward in the chair, but I fall in Kevin's lap. Seated in the chair behind me, he instinctively reaches out and manages to brace my chair and keep it upright. Dad's on the phone calling Aunt Anna and Uncle Lionel, who live down the road. Mom suddenly grabs Kevin and me and yanks us to the front door and props it open. The fresh, brutally cold air hits me. Suddenly, Good Lord, I can't even stand up because of this swirling, spinning feeling in my head! Mom forcefully plops us down to sit in the doorway with our bare feet on the outside concrete step. I bury my head in my arms to try to get rid of the spinning sensation and to keep my head from lifting off, glancing up occasionally at the snow on the ground. I'm freezing! In my delirious state with my head buried in my hands, I'm only vaguely aware that Aunt Anna and Uncle Lionel rush past us through the doorway into the house. Aunt Anna at once gasps, "My God, Virginia, I smell gas! Let's all get outta here, quick!" We scurried away from the house that night just as fast as our unsteady legs would carry us to Aunt Anna and Uncle Lionel's. I don't recall if we grabbed shoes or winter coats before we fled the house, 54 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
but later that night, Kevin and I were admitted to Levering Hospital in Hannibal and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Mom, too, was feeling the effects of the monoxide, but refused to be admitted to the hospital. She did stay in the room with us, though. In time, hospital personnel rolled in an extra bed so she could be with us and watch over us around the clock. Until then, she had tried to get comfortable in a chair as best she could at the foot of Kevin's bed with her pounding head resting on his mattress. She refused to leave our bedside. Over the next few days as we got better, Mom told us how she figured out what the problem was when Kevin fell at the foot of their bed. When she jumped up, she saw how badly disoriented he was. Once she had put him in a chair in the kitchen, amid all the confusion, panic, and crisis, she experienced sudden bleeding in the aftermath of her recent D & C surgical procedure to remove a tumor that turned out not to be malignant. She, too, had a horrible headache and was a bit woozy, but she still had her wits about her. She also quickly perceived that I was in bad shape and not totally responsive. Once she put on a Kotex and wiped up the blood on the kitchen floor, she ran to her bedroom window and threw it open. When the fresh air hit her, she suspected there was carbon monoxide in the house. Luckily, my older sister, Cheryl, was spending the night at a friend's house, and for some reason, Dad was the least affected by the poisonous fumes. Afterward, we all figured it was on account of his emphysema that had been diagnosed ten months earlier. While in the hospital, we learned from the gas company inspectors and professionals who afterward restored our house to safety that it might have exploded at any moment! Miraculously, Dad, who rarely got out of bed without smoking a Camel or Pall Mall, didn't light one up on that particular occasion. As Mom suspected, the carbon monoxide poisoning was the result of a botched job by Dad and one of his drinking buddies, who had teamed up a few days earlier to install a new heating stove with pipes leading up from an outdoor basement. Too many Falstaffs on the job, it would seem! The pipe lines clogged up, and carbon monoxide fumes from the propane LP gas crept silently up from below to fill the house. It sure was scary to go home after a few days in the hospital. The sight of blackened floors was a vivid, frightening reminder of how perilously close we came to death on that cold night in early January 1961! Gregg Andrews San Marcos, Texas
Gregg Andrews, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Texas State University, is a prizewinning author of four books and numerous scholarly articles. Besides being a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, he is also a singer-songwriter/recording artist who fronts the south central Texas band, Doctor G and the Mudcats. Doctor G has released three CDs of original songs on the Cheatham Street Record label—“Mudcat (2005), “My Daddy’s Blues” (2010), and “Swampy Tonk Blues” (2015). He has been active in Texas dance hall preservation for many years, and he is the President of the Cheatham Street Music Foundation's Board of Directors. He grew up in Mark Twain's boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri, but currently resides in San Marcos, Texas. 55 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
One Wild Summer
All these movies and books and other tales about horse whisperers and men who know the trick of wild things reminds me of a little old gnome of a man I knew nearly 50 summers ago who gave up horse thievery and barroom hoodlums to work for the Man and tend his horses. If there was one thing this little man knew well it was horses. He knew the scent of them, he knew how they dug in among the grass, bit into it, spit it out and made it their own. He knew the very language they spoke. “Whoa, old horse,” he would say, as some old stallion reared and pranced about the pen, raising its hooves on high as if to clamp down and stomp the very life out of the little man. “Whoa, easy now,” he would say to the animal, easing him down, reaching up with a handful of salt, “easy now...” and slipping a bridle about the horse's neck, he would say, “All right, you ride him now,” to my brother. My brother would hop onto this wild animal of the fields that had posed bodily harm to man and beast before and digging his heels in ride the stallion and make it his own. And that horse would be my brother's to the end of his days. As for the man who tended the horses, his was a sad affair. He grew old with a life given over to moonshine and cards and wild dealings as much as the horses. No one could really say how old he was. He was as old as the fields. He was as old as the corral. He himself did not have a clue how old he was. He grew old past his time and ours. His family abandoned him for they would not tend to a man who honed to the wild things and the Man alike. They wanted their own life out in the Big City and they wanted no part of the horse man and his foolish ways. So it was left to my father to tend to the horse man in his old age. “Tend to my horses,” were his final words as he slipped from my father's grasp. And then he went off to join the stallions dancing in the far off sky. When we looked for the horse man's grave we could not find it. We heard only a distant stomp of far off hoofbeats and then too his song was lost to the fields.
Will Mayo lives in a room full of books in Frederick, Maryland with his six toed black cat and is known to spend his nights (all night generally) upon his computer, his portal to other worlds, where he communes with his 800 or so penpals. Once in a while, it is said that he leaves his room and takes to the streets where he roams with uncanny ease. His cat misses him then. 56 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Daniel Johnson Convalescence Green light shone through the mist like eyes flickering orange and yellow from the flames with movements that seemed unanchored by any familiar anatomy and a low, guttural chant reverberated at a frequency which made organs tremble. Cool, dark cobblestone, engraved with intricate spirals and geometric shapes touched my cheek and hands as I lifted myself from the floor. The patterns left indentations on my face that I vigorously rubbed while surveying my surroundings. In the distance the eyes did not appear to take notice, continuing uninterrupted along their strange circuits. Warming my hands by the fire I observed the burning debris; not logs nor branches, rather, polished wood and books covered with a sweeping script whose trajectory arced and whirled in the sentence structure of an alien tongue. Pain rippled through my flank, distressed I saw a long, deep wound carved into my flesh, a stain of dried blood on my torn clothes. I could not recall where it came from; only knowing that they had attacked me mercilessly and left me for dead. But I did not die. No complete experiences, I seemed to remember only emotions. Touching it, sanguinous fluid stuck to my fingers. It was a fresh injury with irregular edges--- some kind of dull weapon. Hunger gripped me and my body would not heal without nourishment and it was cold even with the crackling fire, I knew I could not stay. Leaving the light, I moved into the mist, walking towards the eyes for I had no other point of reference and not far from the flames there was only darkness. The chant-- it sounded like a kind of throat singing-- pitched deeper suddenly and the eyes went into a flurry of activity, cartwheeling first up and away from each other then spiraling back together. For a brief moment, it stopped and the lights blinked out, then a blast of noise, some kind of massive woodwin shook the ground. Pitching and rumbling, my entrails rattled violently, I knelt for a moment to catch my breath then continued on. As I drew closer to the eyes, a faint light seemed to come from above them revealing a wall, the top of which I could not see. They were not eyes. The wall was covered with tracks--- thousands of them, along which moved knobs, these pewter chalices, each holding a deep green gem the size of a fist. Some kind of porous metal, they were engraved with the same patterns as the floor and script from the burning debris. The chalices danced with the undulating incantation and the stones sparkled from the movement. Reaching out, mesmerized, I touched one of the stones as it crossed in front of me. It stopped immediately and slowly rotated in place. Again the timbre of the sound changed, as though a single voice was silenced in the cacophony. I took hold of it and pushed the jem onto another track in the opposing direction from its previous trajectory; in the distance there was the sound of a bell. Suddenly, one of the lines of the engravings pulled deeper into the wall, bits of earth and stone fell as the wall shifted, rumbling with the friction of stone against stone. A series of loud cracks came from within and the lineâ€™s arch bowed, shifting the track upward. After it came to its resting point the chant and the gems continued their waltz. Following the path of the line from below I traced it until it shot upward beyond my sight and gave way to a lower one which sloped down towards the floor. I watched my stone climb until I could no longer see it. It was not long before another passed within my reach. With only a light touch it stopped. I held it firmly, decided which way to push it. It was quite cold and unconsciously I began spinning it clockwise in my hand. My weight had been shifted onto the stone with the grip and as I turned it I nearly fell; the track had bent downward underneath the chalice, the wall shaking and crumbling in protest. Once I stopped turning it, the bending stopped as well, if I turned it counterclockwise, the track raised itself upward. For a few moments, I took in the wall and its multitude of paths, then began turning the jewel to the left. The path lurched upward with each turn until it was a narrow parabola just under the one I had sent the first chalice moving along. There was greater resistance in the final twist but then, the two tracks merged into one, sending a shower of pebbles and dust down on me. Covering myself, I released the stone and it quickly moved up the sharp incline. I could see the first knob still moving along the path about to intersect with the new one. As the two chalices approached one another, their speed increased; they seemed drawn to each other. Finally 57 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
they converged where the paths met with great speed, there was a pop and sparks lit up the damp air. All sound and movement stopped. Everything began to shake with far greater force than previously. I lost my footing and fell hard to the ground. A large stone landed where I had been standing. To my shock, a massive section of stone retracted into the wall revealing stairs about four meters above me. This strange puzzle could get me over the wall. Again I looked over the tracks. Moving away from the place where the stairs had been revealed, I found another path just above the floor I waited for another stone then connected the paths as before. Another segment sunk into the wall. I repeated the process until I had created a complete staircase and began to climb. It was a steep climb and the stone was wet and slick and treacherous and my pace was slow. When I was well into it I nearly fell when a tightness pulled at my side. The wound had suddenly narrowed and shortened. It was still a large wound but it did not seem as fresh and appeared to be healing with unnatural speed. This perplexed me but having no explanation I moved on. At a much greater height, I had been climbing for what seemed like hours and the air felt thinner, the stairs cut a sharp angle into the wall. Not far from the turn there was a wall of stone. It appeared that the stairs ahead had broken free and jutted above mine. I could go no further without climbing the wall. Rising ten or fifteen meters above me, jagged and wet, it was like a cliff face, it could be ascended but only slowly and with great care. At the base were boulders and loose earth and as I made my way to the face of the wall it was difficult for me to grip the wet stone and my torn shirt dragged and caught on the rocks so I removed it. Once I reached the top of the debris pile I began the climb. With great care I wedged my hands and feet into the crevices of slick stone, keeping the weight of my body on my legs so that my arms and chest would not fatigue. Nearing the top I rested for a moment and lost my footing and held tightly with my arm as my lower body swung away from me. The wound opened with incredible pain and I nearly released my grip. Kicking and slipping against the wall I recovered my stability. Warm blood flowed down my side and I cried out but continued climbing. At the top I laid on the bottom stair and slept. In my dreams angry faces above kicked me but I did not know them and their features did not stay in my mind. The memories receded and returned, each time with new details realized or released, reshaping the thoughts and sapping their weight held in my heart. And as I slept the memories changed to dreams and visions of hope and of other futures. THE END
Daniel Johnson is a versatile writer out of Texas who pens unconventional fiction with themes drawn heavily from politics, bureaucracy, philosophy, technology, current events, existentialism, substance abuse and the human condition. Recently he has lived in Atlanta and Jacksonville, following a career in cyber security. His true passion lies in exploring and communicating universal human experiences through the written and visual arts. Daniel worked as a nurse for seven years before transitioning into information security and corporate America at the age of 27. Before this he worked as a line cook as a teenager. A first generation American, born minutes from the Mexican border, Danielâ€™s unique journey has exposed him to personal hardship, culture shock and a broad view of the socio-economic landscape of the United States. Experiences as a cancer ward nurse during his formative years engendered a keen awareness of mortality and the boundless resilience of the human spirit. It has had a profound effect on his writing. The sudden and challenging transition into the cerebral world of information security has been driven by a passion for technology that translates into richly detailed world building. A creative without limits, Daniel also writes scripts and is hoping to produce his own films. Daniel currently lives in Jacksonville Florida. 58 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Sean Hastings An Anxious Stream-of-Consciousness My hiding places have been set on fire and borrowed time is about to run dry. I’m at the point where the mistakes I’ve made over the course of life, especially those since 2014, are staring me in the face while sharpening toothbrushes into shivs. I’m just now smelling the smoke of bridges I’ve burnt and noticing the glass floor I call home is beginning to crack. The chasm I can see under my feet is dark, bottomless, and if I don’t act fast there will be no hope of escape. How did I end up here? Bad choices and worse judgement. I stand in awe as the abyss opens its jaws and every act of negligence that led me here is inscribed in its teeth. Everything I’ve been distracting myself from is assembled at the gate with war drums and air horns, refusing to be ignored anymore. What I once resolved to worry about at a later date is ramming through the walls and oozing onto the dinner table. The living room is flooded and my bedroom is the only high ground left, but it won’t last. I’m at the point where I lag behind my peers in professional and personal progress. My resume is nonexistent and my body of work merely an incomplete skeleton. The list of things I should have done include jobs and internships; the lack thereof is my indictment. My excuse was always writing, creating content and honing my craft. This is a half-truth; I left out the part where I procrastinated and messed around two thirds of the time I claimed to have been writing. Perhaps the biggest mistake I made was to fabricate a reputation before I ever actually accomplished anything. I barged into a community of poets and storytellers from Georgia and other parts of the American South, acted tough and faked confidence long enough to carve out a space I did not deserve. I sought mentorship from masters and found acceptance among people with similar interests for the first time in my life. I chatted up magazine owners and sent rough drafts to editors. I thought that by now, at the age of twenty-one, I would be adding the finishing touches to my first soon-to-bepublished novel. I was wrong. I got as far as one-hundred pages in one novel I was working on and over one-hundred fifty in another. I was about to send short stories I had written over the years to magazines when I noticed something that should have been obvious from the beginning. I wasn’t ready. My short stories weren’t ready. And the flaws in my novel drafts had metastasized into terminal cases. Coincidentally, I was scheduled to begin a semester studying in England at this time. I had three months to disappear and make the repairs my mediocre creative endeavors required. Disappear I certainly did–I don’t know if the repairs I made were up to par–and I expected everything to be the same when I returned. Wrong again. My fresh face-novelty has worn off and people see what I was trying to hide, even from myself. They see the laziness, lack of results, unjustified hype, and hollow showmanship. I built up expectations and, thus far, have lived up to none. Magazine owners who expected to see stories from me and editors who expected manuscripts feel like I stood them up. These allegations are not unfounded. 59 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Saying “I’m sorry” won’t be enough. I’ve gone from being a promising stranger to an unreliable noshow in the eyes of people I admire and respect from the bottom of my heart. I have failed to live up to the expectations of almost everyone who ever saw any potential in me. And even if I wasn’t a writer, I would still be in this same sinkhole of stagnation. I’m writing this in Seagrove Beach, Florida. I’m sitting in a condo rented by my mother; she, along with my stepfather and stepbrother, are sleeping while I drink, play Rome: Total War, and sometimes get back to what I should be doing–writing this. The times I make the most progress seem to be in the late afternoon or during the hour of the wolf. “Reptile” by Nine Inch Nails on repeat for hours is putting me in the meditative trance necessary to write this piece. I’m at the end of a chapter in my life and I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’d have a better idea if I had taken more time to prepare. If I had been more responsible. If I had applied myself more to something other than writing. I went all-in with writing without knowing one crucial detail: being a successful writer requires a work ethic and dedication that I have failed to demonstrate in the past. I just finished my Junior Year of college. I’m nearing the end of my introductory period to real life and I haven’t done nearly enough to prepare. I put off getting a job because I claimed it would get in the way of my writing. I used class projects and papers as a pretext for putting off getting an internship. They were all lies. I hid my acts of sloth behind a smokescreen of going off the beaten path. Writing is a solitary, oftleisurely–save for sleepless nights spent bleeding over a keyboard–activity, where you are your own boss. But most of the time, that’s not even what I was doing. I wasted most of that time. I accomplished a few things–I travelled, wrote a few stories, nearly finished a couple novels–but not nearly enough. I’m covered in sweat from Gulf of Mexico humidity and my pathetic fear. I’m sitting here wondering how people, especially my parents, believed my mediocre falsehoods for so long. Well, my father hasn’t. He and my stepmother have always been the ones on my case about jobs and internships. They were right. They were right. They were right. And the magnitude of how wrong I truly was, how careless and shortsighted I was, is about to submerge my future. My hope levels have been depleted, running on fumes. I keep telling people that I won’t live with my parents after graduating college like so many people my age. I tell everyone that I’ll consider myself a failure if that ends up happening. It’s the truth–an honest statement from me, for once. And the likelihood of this failure happening is all too real. I see it staring right back at me, conspiring with my shiv-sharpening mistakes and the bullwhip of harsh reality. The waves are loud and the wind is louder. Palm trees are swaying and sand stings my legs. The sun is setting and dark blue clouds hover over the ocean like swollen water sacks. Night will fall and rain will seep. My heart pounds as I think about the future and the defeats that may occur. People laugh, smile, and chase each other on the beach while my mind races with panic like the wind that is trying to carry off my towel.
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I think these trees are going to fall. I think cars will fly into the sea and sand will billow while people Like it or Heart it on social media. I’m restrained by roots while the water rises. I drink to forget and remember within seconds. Trent Reznor’s voice is the only thing keeping me tethered to reality and distracted from the possible failure to come. I can’t help but look around for the next person or thing to distract me or try and remove me from this Word Document. They never stop. They never stop. They never stop. They always known when I’m in the zone and about to be productive. They hunt by instinct. Tove Lo is singing about tipsiness and other intoxication while the wind grows stronger. The sun has almost finished setting. I’m tempted to spit at some stones and maybe smoke something. No, don’t do that. Don’t do it. That’ll cause more problems than it’ll solve. I can’t help but feel I’m at the end of my achieving years. I graduated high school, I got into university, I spent a semester studying in Oxford, England, and I’m close to my Bachelor’s Degree. That’s all I’ve accomplished in life. All of it. Tove Lo’s voice allows me to stand up but I still look around scared. The waves are rougher and the wind is more aggressive. It grows more bellicose every second. I need to go inside but I just want to be alone. I’m surrounded by people but safe in this tower I call a balcony. And what the actual hell do I keep hearing! I keep thinking the door is opening but no one is there. Must be the sound of gusts smacking palm tree leaves. That’s probably a inaccurate botanical statement. Screw it. I see a lake, or lagoon, or whatever term you seafaring peoples gave it. I put my hands on my face and elbows on a table. I see a pre-teen jogging and a little girl running. Two women walk with their arms over each on the sand. One of them looks like a lesbian. Nothing wrong with that. Honestly, I’ve always been turned on by women with short hair. The skyline looks like beer or Starbucks coffee heavily-saturated with milk as it comes closer to today’s wan song. The wind is getting too strong. I’ll say more about the lagoon later. The sun is rising again. The sand shines white while the water glistens. Chairs are perched and umbrellas impale the dunes. The wind slows but still ripples the grass and palm tree leaves. Faster than I can believe, it’s already afternoon and the chairs are being taken away. So little time before this cycle repeats again and again and again. The sun is high but closer to dusk now than dawn I see a coniferous forest where the sun will be laid to rest. I think about what I’ve written thus far. Has it really been five days? Is the rum already gone, as Jack Sparrow warned? Is this excursion already almost over? The answer is yes, and its not the only segment of my life coming to a close. Somehow, seeing this middle section before the near-end reminds me how close to transition I really am, for I see how fast the change will be. And yet, I find myself calmer now. Maybe it’s the rum? Maybe it’s all of the girls in bikinis I can see from this balcony? An abundance of cleavage and iceberg views of magnificent ass. Most people would say I’m lucky my girlfriend isn’t here. Most girls make me anxious; I clam up and forget whatever clever line or calm smile I’d fantasized. My girlfriend calms me down; she understands me, she tolerates the parts of me I always kept secret because I thought they’d be grounds for immediate exile. I’m rarely afraid around her like I am with other people. And she’s hot as hell, too. I savor the smell of the Gulf and lick the salt off my lips as the sun gets closer to having set. I’m tipsy enough to think outside the box and notice things my tunnel vision often keeps hidden. The faded 61 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
glow of an old house painted yellow some time long before I was born, the gradual departure of bikini girls and their beachgoing cohorts as day mutates to night–now its just fat parents and toddlers who refuse to leave the water–and a flock of seagulls–I think–flying over that lagoon I mentioned earlier. The water is blue, unlike the white seafoam and emerald hue of its oceanic counterpart. The Gulf is loud, powerful, unpredictable, and capable of terror. But the lagoon, even in the strongest wind, remains tranquil. It has found peace, it is protected by solid land, it provides sanctuary from the Gulf on red flag days. And with that, I realize something. Maybe what comes next won’t be the Gulf, but the Lagoon. The Lagoon is clear and calm, easy to keep track of. The Gulf is scary, the Gulf is awe-inspiring, the Gulf is unpredictable and perilous. The Lagoon has its risks, there is certainly a chance of failure, but I can see the Start point from the End point. The Gulf is endless, yet also irrelevant. The Lagoon is what matters. Make a goal, and stick to it. Time to wrap this tome up and move on to that stage I’ve been putting off.
Sean Hastings is an undergraduate student at Oglethorpe University, studying to achieve his BA in History and Minor in Writing. He also spent three months studying Creative Writing at Oxford University. He has wanted to be a novelist since he was fifteen years old. He has previously competed in online short story competitions and self-published two novellas, Legacy of Secrets and The Irishman, on Amazon.com. 62 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Bernette Sherman Curtains, Fences, and Trees (Non-Fiction) A sigh escapes my nominally glossed lips as I glance through the sheer blue curtains by my desk. Through the freshly cleaned panes I see the tree on the other side of a fence in slight need of repair. My lips turn up into a crooked smile as I am gently reminded that I have something in common with all three. I wonder how much most of us realize we all do. Forty years. That’s how long it took me to own myself; to take the part of me that has always called out from somewhere within and bring it to the forefront. Looking into the rear view mirror at my life, I understand the journey and on some level, I am grateful for the life and lessons I’ve experienced before setting myself free. “So what are you going to be when you grow up?” my mother would ask. I would respond as all good little children do, “A doctor! Or maybe a teacher!” Those were good solid answers. But, they weren’t truly me. I’m not the kind of smart that doctors need to be and while I enjoy children, being with them all day in a system that crushes independence and creativity to produce worker bees would probably suck the soul out of me. However, I admire teachers for sticking with this much needed occupation and doing what I consider to be a herculean feat that never receives the deserved thanks and appreciation (or pay!). Coming from a family of educators, I see what is required to do it right. Hats off to them! This doesn’t mean I don’t teach – just not in the traditional classroom. The person I have always been is finally being recognized as the person I am. I’m still a little different, sometimes too serious, silly with those I’m closest to, and creative in ways that I am still exploring. The things I love to do and create are what I have always loved to do and create. I simply hadn’t allowed myself to make who I am central to my life. That is, not until family, my spiritual practices, and my desire for a life with heart collided a few years ago. Seeds planted as a child, finally began to blossom after I was forced out of my comfort zone with a spiritual tug and a change in my family. I began walking my current spiritual path sixteen years ago. It was in August of 2001 that I wrote a lengthy paper on departing from traditional Christianity. I eventually found my way to metaphysics, new thought, and spiritual practices that expand my connection with that something greater some may call God, Source, or the Creator. I began communing personally and intentionally with the Divine, and as I allowed myself to be open and to continue growing, my life opened. During this period we were also trying to add a child to our family. That’s its own story. However, I realize during that journey to creating life I was opening up more than one channel to conceiving new 63 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
life – within me and for me. The birth of my son in 2012 knocked me off the path I was on. It took me out of the traditional workplace and soon I found myself in the one place I vowed I could never be. At home. Staying at home. As a mom. I became a stay at home mom. I have nothing against stay at home moms. I know some amazing women who do it and love it and that is their contribution and how they express themselves. It just isn’t my forte. When I worked part-time, it was the best of all worlds. However; when my job wanted all of me, it wasn’t in line with what I wanted for my family. I turned in my letter and stayed home with my eleven month old son and ten year old daughter. While my high-energy son filled my days, homework and borrowed moments with my daughter and husband filled my evenings. I spent my nights creating with my hands to help me cope. It wasn’t the answer and soon I stopped selling my handmade heating pads. Drowning in a sea where I only existed as an extension of everyone else and to meet everyone else’s needs, I was lost. Where had I gone? Was this it? All of my education, good career, my love for working and creating, and all my past achievements were put into a box. I know what you’re thinking. What was all that you said about being a stay at home mom? Yes, despite all that, my family and their well-being are at the top of my list. However, now, I’m up there too – juggling their needs with my own. My focus went into my spiritual practice –coaching, energy healing, and spiritual guidance. I could see so clearly for others while I could only see my life through sheer curtains like the ones I gaze out of now. It was there, but unclear. It was like looking at that lovely tree just outside but being separated from it. I wrote poetry here and there, blog posts, and an occasional essay. My mother would tell me I should write and my response was usually a tight-lipped smile with the mumble of some kind of excuse. Her latest gift of a book on making a living as a writer would find a place on the shelf with the others she’d given me over the years. Being an author and writer was for other people – people who didn’t look like me or have my background. I didn’t fit the mold. Delusions about what I was supposed to be and what was meant for my life based on cultural and societal expectations of me, still kept me fenced in. However, those beliefs were beginning to break down. Over time and with pressure, things that may seem naturally occurring, wear away. The neighbor’s fence was installed not long after the homes went in. It’s seen its best years but has many more to go and it will continue to do what it was put there to do. I’ve had to pick up some boards that came loose. Perhaps the nails were forced out, and what held that board in place, could no longer contain it. I’ve had to pry out some nails from places I didn’t even realize existed in me, so the beliefs they held could be released. In my spiritual practice and preparation for talks I gave, I found myself questioning how to fully apply what I knew to my own life - authentically. I was unfulfilled. I’d released the false ideas about who I was in this world, and like a fence in need of repair, in their place were gaping holes. I was up there talking, but I wasn’t walking the walk to the extent that I knew I could. I hadn’t replaced those boards that had been dislodged with something that truly fed my soul. This could all be coincidence, but I’m not much of a believer in randomness. After a busy Christmas season I woke up early the morning of December 26, 2015 with an idea for a book. It was more than 64 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
that. It was a series and I knew I had to write it, without delay. The following month I would hit that magical milestone of forty and for the first time in my life, I was certain that no matter what else I would ever do, I would always be a writer. By March 2016 the entire Chosen series had been drafted and by late summer, the first book was released. My creative juices had been activated in full force. While I was relatively unheard of (hmmm, as of this writing I still am), my transformation had been happening within for years. The leaves on that tree outside my window are full and richly colored in a vibrant deep green. They sway gently in a breeze that is likely hot and humid on this late July morning. The roots spread out as far as those tree leaves, securing it where it stands. There are times that it can elude us that everything we’ve been through, when we don’t let it keep us down, means we are going deeper. We are getting more strongly rooted. What we see at the top, the beauty of the leaves, wouldn’t be possible if those roots weren’t firmly planted in something real. I have always been who I am. I’m a creative artist who loves to write, sing, and even take the stage from time to time. My family has been a source of inspiration for me as much as and sometimes more than my faith. Why? They are the physical representation of that which we can only imagine from spirit. They teach me to love, to give more of myself, to be an example for them and what is possible, and to apply my spiritual knowledge in my life. Every day I create something new and in that creating I allow myself to expand, realizing that at the core, being creative is my true nature. At the core, we are all creative and all have the power to create worlds without end. How does your life, family, and soul influence who you are and where you are going? How do you go further? What else is possible?
Bernette Sherman is a writer of science-fiction, poetry, and inspiration as well as a practicing metaphysician, life coach, and Access Consciousness Bars Practitioner. She helps other creatives breakthrough barriers while continuing to press through her own.
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Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sachs Theresa Ast earned a Ph.D. in Modern European History (Emory University). She is currently teaching Modern European History at Reinhardt University. Her book about American GIs who liberated the Nazi concentration camps during World War II, "Confronting the Holocaust" is available through AMAZON.
Oliver Sachs is a well-known neurologist who has written many books about various brain and neurological disorders. You may be familiar with his first book, based on his own medical experience as a doctor, AWAKENINGS. The book was later made into a film, with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. Dr. Sachs has become quite famous for studying, treating, and writing about unusual patients suffering with rare neurological disorders. He became interested in achromatopsia when he began hearing intriguing reports of an isolated community of South Pacific islanders born totally colorblind on the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap.
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While researching color blindness, he made the acquaintance of Knut Nordby, a Norwegian scientist who happened to be totally color-blind. Knut and another scientist agree to travel to Pingelap with Oliver to assist the people, analyze the disease, and search for ways to combat or eliminate the disease. After arriving in Pingelap in 1993, Dr Sachs established a clinic in a one-room dispensary and begins evaluating the Pingalapese natives. Over 10% of the native Pengalese people are affected by the disorder and about 30% are carriers. This 1 out of 10 ratio is stunning and significant because in the United States, for example, 1 in 33,00 people have the disorder where the retina has no functional cone cells whatsoever. Rod cells, which normally provide peripheral and night vision, serve as their only source of vision. Dr. Sachs found that many achromatopes develop acute compensatory memory skills and utilize their remaining sense in heightened and unusual ways. The Pingalapese describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. In the more shaded jungle where they are comfortable with the light level, they are able to recognize a great variety of plants.
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Dr. Sachs was of course concerned about the individuals afflicted with achromatopsia. He and his fellow researchers brought hundreds of pairs of sunglasses and visors with them to distribute to the achromatopes. The purpose of these items was to assist the people to function more fully. Generally, people with this disorder, are virtually blind in bright daylight. They stay indoors much of the day and are only comfortable in very dim sunlight. They discovered that the afflicted children played outside or went swimming in the surf at either dusk or dawn. He also wanted to study the group, the entire population of achromatopes and document the effects of physical isolation (caused by colorblindness). There are tasks which achromatopes cannot perform safely due to their inability to distinguish colors. They are further isolated from their fellow islanders because most of those born color-blind never learn to read. They cannot see the teacher's writing on the board. Of course they can't work outdoors in bright light and often are unable to see fine detail.
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Since achromatopsia is a recessive disorder, inbreeding between the descendants of Pingelap resulted in children who inherited two recessive genes for the disorder. Those Pingelapese survivors who inherited two recessive genes for monochromasy were born without any understanding of color and a great sensitivity to light. While this condition is rare among large and diverse populations, on isolated areas like islands the potential for rare genetic conditions to become common increases dramatically. Discovery of these unusual populations frequently leads to scientific research and study. Congenital or genetic Achromatopsia should not be confused with Cerebral Achromatopsia, which is an acquired form of total colorblindness that can result from trauma, illness, or some other cause. Persons who develop Cerebral Achromatopsia report that they see a monochromatic world, all in shades of gray. Persons with Cerebral Achromatopsia are diagnosed by neurologists, rather than eye specialists. Their loss of color perception is not accompanied by severely impaired vision, extreme light sensitivity, or any abnormality in the photoreceptors of the retina, as is the case with persons who have genetic Achromatopsia. A person with normal sight would be aware of the many shades of green in the foliage. Of course everything the Pingalapese achromatopes see is gray, but there are many shades of grade, some are brighter or shinier or duller than others. And they are acutely aware of the rich profusion of patterns 69 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
and textures which can be discerned in leaves and plants, if one is not distracted by the more obvious and flashy chroma (colors). As far as using other senses, consider the simple problem of recognizing whether a piece of tropical fruit is ripe without being able to see its color. They would rely much more heavily than people with normal sight do upon touch or feel and of course upon smell.
The retina is made up of what are called rods and cones. The rods, located in the peripheral retina, give us our night vision, but can not distinguish color. Cones, located in the center of the retina (called the macula), let us perceive color during daylight conditions. People with normal cones and light sensitive pigments (trichromasy) are able to see all the different colors and subtle mixtures by using cones sensitive to the three wavelengths of light - red, green, and blue. Many of us tend to think people who are "colorblind" live their lives in stark black and white - like watching a black and white movie or television. This is a very common misconception, because it is extremely rare to be totally colorblind. There are actually many different types and degrees of colorblindness and they are more correctly labeled 'color deficiencies.' Five percent of the men and 0.5% of the women of the world are born colorblind, or more correctly color deficient. People with mild color deficiencies (they are called red-weak or green-weak) make up 99% of the individuals in this group. A slight color deficiency is present when one of the three color cones has light sensitive pigments which are coded incorrectly in the person's genes â€“ this is a genetic mutation. A more severe color deficiency exists when two of the cones have light sensitive pigments that are altered.
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Genes contain the coding instructions for the pigments present in the cones, and if the coding instructions are wrong, the cones will be sensitive to different wavelengths of light (resulting in a color deficiency). There is also a very rare blue-yellow deficiency or weakness, which I myself experience, the result of a mid-life cerebral infarction (stroke). The eye with its multitude of rods and cones can be perfectly normal and healthy; the altered color perception is purely a result of neurological damage. A person who is red-weak sees less â€œred toneâ€? in any color in terms of its depth of color and its brightness. For example, red, orange, yellow, and yellow-green, all appear more green and paler than when seen by a normal observer. The redness component that a normal observer sees in a violet, lavender, or purple color is so weakened that the color may look like a simple shade of blue. If the differences are slight these individuals may not be aware that their color perception is abnormal. Many go through life with very little difficulty doing tasks that require normal color vision. However, all three color sensitive cones are defective in Achromatopsia. This total color blindness occurs when two copies of the mutated genes that code for the disease are present. Congenital Achromatopsia is an extremely rare hereditary vision disorder that affects 1 person out of 33,000 in the United States.
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Congenital Achromatopsia is not progressive nor does it lead to blindness, but, it is characterized by extreme light sensitivity, poor vision, and the complete inability to distinguish colors. Now we explore the tropical islands of Oceania. Pohnpei, which means upon (pohn) a stone altar (pei)" is the name of one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia and is situated among the Senyavin Islands which are part of the larger Caroline Islands group. All of these clusters of islands are part of Oceania. Pohnpei Island is the largest, highest, most densely populated, and most developed island in the Federated States of Micronesia. The islanders of Pohnpei have a reputation for being extremely hospitable. The island attracts many westerners who come for the beautiful tropical climate and vegetation and for the fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. According to biologists, the island also contains a wealth of biodiversity. Biodiversity can be defined as "the variety of living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems." So, biodiversity can refer to the genetic variation within an individual species (this applies to the human disorder Achromotopsia), the variety of different species in a defined area, and the variety of habitat types within a landscape. Biological diversity is of fundamental importance to the functioning of all natural, as well as, all human-engineered ecosystems. However, Pohnpei is important because it has a large minority population of Pingelapese who are afflicted with the most extreme form of color blindness, achromatopsia. This genetic disorder is rare, but is more likely to emerge in communities with severely limited or restricted gene pools.
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Pingelap is a coral atoll approximately 170 miles east of Pohnpei, also part of the Federated States of Micronesia. Pingelap has a land area of (455 acres) at high-tide, and is less than 2.5 miles across at its widest point. The atoll has its own language, Pingelapese, and averages between 250 and 300 inhabitants. An atoll is a coral reef enclosing a lagoon. Atolls consist of layers of coral of reef that form closed shapes, sometimes miles across, around a lagoon that may be 160 ft (50 m) deep or more. Generally, they develop around the outer edges of a volcano which has risen above sea level. Over time the top or center of the volcano subsides, collapses, and the coral atoll remains. Most of the coral reef of course, is below the water’s surface. In 1775, a catastrophic typhoon, swept across Pingelap, killing 90% of the inhabitants and leaving approximately 20 people alive. Scholars think that one of the survivors, the ruler at that time, was a carrier for achromatopsia. As a carrier, he was not color blind himself, but carried the recessive gene for that particular mutation – a gene that he would pass on to his children, who would also have normal vision. However, roughly four generations after the typhoon, the citizens of Pingelap began exhibiting symptoms of this rare recessive disorder known as Achromatopsia, also known as Monochromasy – which is vision with the complete absence of any detectable color. When it appeared, the Pingalese called the disorder MASKUN, which literally means “not see.” All the achromatopes on the island today can trace their ancestry back to this single male survivor of the great typhoon of 1775.
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In the case of the achromatopsia on Pingelap Island, the genetic mutation which produces monochromasy, increased exponentially in a fairly short period of time. This will only occur when the population is extremely small. Because relatives share many of the same genes inherited from their common ancestor, there is a high probability that the offspring of two related parents will inherit an identical trait from each parent. The Pingelapese are further isolated in modern times from their fellow islanders because most of those born color-blind never learn to read. They cannot see the teacher's writing on the board. Of course they can't work outdoors in bright light, and often are unable to see fine detail. Yet, in spending time with them, Dr. Sachs found that many, if not most, achromatopes develop acute compensatory memory skills and utilize their other senses in heightened and unusual ways. The Pingalapese describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. In the more shaded jungle where they are comfortable with the light level, they are able to recognize a great profusion of plants 74 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
A person with normal sight would be aware of the many shades of green in the foliage. Of course everything they see is gray, but there are many shades of gray, some are brighter or shinier or duller than others. And they are acutely aware of the rich profusion of patterns and textures which can be discerned in leaves and plants, if one is not distracted by the more obvious chroma or colors. In thinking about utilizing other senses, consider the simple problem of determining whether a piece of tropical fruit is ripe without being able to see its color. The Pingelapese, all achromatopes, would rely much more heavily than people with normal sight, upon touch or feel and of course upon smell. Human flexibility and ingenuity seems endless. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What Dr. Sachs focuses on in this book, as in most of his books is the amazing adaptability of human beings, and other species as well, the great variety of compensatory mechanisms we can develop to overcome difficulties, and the enormous complexity of the intricate design of the human brain and nervous system.
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Note: All photographs from Sacred Balance, Suzuki and McConnell
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Clayton H. Ramsey Losing Voices Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) publicized the effect of pesticides on the environment and arguably initiated the modern environmental movement. In the intervening decades there would be laws and treaties, initiatives and organizations, designed to reverse dangerous trends and protect the planet by recycling resources, slowing the emission of greenhouse gases, minimizing carbon footprints, and making our social and productive practices more ecologically sustainable. One of these trends that has attracted attention is the extinction of species. Biologists estimate that there are between 2 and 50 million total species on the planet. Even with such diversity, the UN Environment Programme believes that between 150 and 200 species of plant, bird, mammal, and insect slip into extinction every day, nearly 1,000 times the “natural” rate and greater than at any other time in the history of the world since the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago (HuffPost, 8/17/10). Scientists have labeled it the Sixth Mass Extinction. The pressures of Darwinian natural selection and weather patterns have had an impact on the expansion and contraction of animal populations over time. But it was the emergence of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century with its large-scale human production, waste creation, and urban settlement that caused the loss of natural habitats that in turn began to have an enormous effect on the natural order. There are efforts to preserve these species, but it is a Sisyphean struggle. However, there is an unacknowledged crisis of extinction that draws a comparison and might very well be just as important, calling for a campaign of recognition and reform that rivals that of the environmentalists. It is the extinction of languages, the snuffing out of words and grammars and systems of syntax that reflect, preserve, and (if you believe the linguistic relativity theory of Sapir-Whorf) create thoughts and cultures. It is called language death, linguicide, and, in the case of a minority language being consumed by a majority language, glottophagy. These disarmingly graphic words refer to a cultural catastrophe that can and does impoverish us as social and communicative creatures as much as the loss of plant and animal life threatens us as biological participants in the bionetwork of this planet. When a language is no longer spoken, it is considered extinct. And that process of extinction, much like in the natural world, is a calamity. According to Ethnologue, there are 7,099 living world languages. 95% of the 7 billion people who live on this planet speak fewer than 300 of them, and half of all people speak the largest 16. Estimations vary, but almost half of these 7,099 are thought to be endangered. In other words, there are thousands of languages that are in danger of disappearing when the last surviving speakers die. In fact, we are losing languages at a rate of one every two weeks (UNESCO, 2010), and some linguists predict the loss of these endangered languages within the next century. Whole libraries of millennia of accumulated wisdom, technical knowledge, history, mythology, philosophy, culture—all the information and perspective packed into a language—disappear and are forever inaccessible when these unique systems of symbols and sounds are lost. And as with biological death, cultural death is devastating. Lest we dismiss these statistics as referring to obscure dialects tucked away in distant Asian steppes or African savannahs, the Endangered Languages Project calculates that there are 168 endangered languages in the United States alone. Most of these are indigenous languages, languages spoken by thousands who live in our borders, languages that served the peoples who lived here before the introduction of Europeans. Even with English as the official and predominant language in this country, there is still a diversity of language in our cultural ecosystem. Our history as a nation of immigrants and our acceptance of people who import their cultural and linguistic heritage from countless contexts of origin when they arrive in this country ensure that we are a “melting pot” of languages and histories. The overlap of culture, language, and identity is easily identified in a homogeneous society that shares a genetic patrimony and common 77 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
history. But that is not our story. In our society, we are bound by ideals of freedom and democracy, but not identical backgrounds, reflected in a single language or a particular culture. Within the cultural patchwork that defines us, there are hundreds of microcultures: Hispanic and Asian and Slavic and African and European and the thousands of subgroupings that make up the larger cultural categories. Sometimes these cultures coalesce in particular neighborhoods, sometimes a single street. Sometimes there are districts that have a particular ethnic profile. The study of these groups, the languages they share, and how they interact with the broader society are best left to sociologists and linguists. However, it is on the cultural and linguistic periphery of society where languages and the worldviews they preserve are most threatened that we can glimpse how and why some languages blink out of existence, the result of this loss, and perhaps what we can do to stop it. So, the fact of language death is undeniable. Why this is happening is another matter. The factors involved in the preservation and vibrancy of a language are complex, but some facts are clear. Through agencies such as mass media, languages of instruction in schools, and operating languages in governments and multinational corporations, a handful of languages such as English and Mandarin Chinese have emerged as principal means of communication in fields like commerce and diplomacy. The primacy of these languages has historical roots, of course. It’s hard to talk about majority languages without talking about the history of imperialism, colonialism, warfare, trade balances, population migrations, urbanization, and globalization. Each would require volumes to trace developments and explore implications. Essentially, though, in the interplay of both internal and external pressures, cultural enclaves that share a language are scattered by certain forces and a common language, in the diaspora, is difficult to sustain. Sometimes governments require students to attend state sponsored schools that seek to reinforce official languages and eliminate minority ones. This strategy is usually part of a broader approach in which a governing power enforces a supremacy over a governed populace. To do business with the state bureaucracy, a certain public language is required. To advance economically and professionally, a certain language is required, squeezing out competitors. The locus of preservation of minority languages is usually in the home, but when success and acceptance in the broader society is dependent on another language, that native language and culture is often the victim of a survival mentality. When jobs are scarce in remote areas and urban centers offer promise of employment, other ways to communicate are forced on the émigré, other languages more suited to expand business in the global community, to fit into social institutions and economic systems that are flourishing. The result is a “language shift,” as the use of one is replaced by another. As native communities shrink and families see that success and acceptance requires the adoption of a majority society’s language, languages become what linguists call “moribund” when they are not taught to children. When they are not taught, the culture is not transmitted and both die. When these languages are oral and not written, they are especially vulnerable, since there is no written record that at least provides some level of preservation. Why should we care? The argument can be made that languages like Saxon and Latin are extinct languages. Languages get absorbed in others, taken up and integrated in other forms of communication that serve the needs of living civilizations. It is a Darwinian logic applied to linguistics. But Saxon is one of the parent languages of English and German, and Latin is the basis of all Romance languages and the culture of Western civilization. They both live on, albeit in modified form. The question is what about Akie in Tanzania or Kasong in Cambodia, for instance? Both are listed as critically endangered by UNESCO. When they are gone, they are gone. They are not a substantial contributor to world languages with billions of speakers. The real tragedy with these and thousands of other languages like them is that with the loss of these languages, there is a loss of cultural legacy. With the loss of languages, there is the loss of wisdom traditions, folklore, knowledge bases like medical and ecological information, connections to a unique 78 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
history, ways of looking at the world that are conceivably not encoded in quite the same way in other languages. Some ancient works, like those of Aristotle, Archimedes, Euclid and Homer, were lost to European access during the so-called Dark Ages. But many were preserved in Arab centers of learning, translated, and reintroduced to Europeans centuries later in the High Middle Ages and Renaissance. Language death is not like this, a shift in custodial care and re-emergence in other locations later. It is more like Egyptian hieroglyphics before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Lost languages are locked and inaccessible. If they are written with no key for translation, they cannot be read. If they are entirely oral and no one to speak them is left, then it is as if they, and the people who used them to tell stories and identify medicinal herbs and speculate on the origin of the world, had never existed. Not just words, but entire peoples, pass from the narrative of history. What they contributed, and might still contribute, is no longer part of the record. And that is a genuine tragedy. Given these trends, what will be the result if nothing is done? If no efforts to reverse these developments are taken, then there is a trend toward monoculture, a flattening out of differences of style, expression, and outlook. The music and beauty of the language is lost. Surely there is also the loss of information, some only of academic interest, granted, but much of practical use, all unique examples of the range of culture and cognition. But beyond just important data, there is the loss of perspective, encouraging a cultural hegemony that lacks enriching diversity and impoverishes society. Knowledge of weather patterns and ecology, differences in chronology, mathematics, strategies to negotiate their corner of the world—all gone. Like the loss of flora and fauna depletes the biosphere, the loss of languages as cultural vehicles diminishes all of us. So, I understand this phenomenon of language death is important, you might say, but what can I do about it? I’m no linguist, ethnographer, or anthropologist. The first step is to educate yourself about the issue. National Geographic’s Enduring Voices Project and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages are a good place to start. Harrison’s The Last Speakers (2010) and When Languages Die (2008), Abley’s Spoken Here (2005), and Nettle and Romaine’s Vanishing Voices (2002) are all solid resources and enjoyable reads for the layperson. There are others, of course, but you should get a clear picture of what is happening with these books. Once you have read up on the phenomenon, the next step is to decide what to do about it. For most, general awareness is enough. For others, however, those with a more activist bent, intellectual appreciation of the problem is not sufficient. For those admirable souls, you can give to programs like the Endangered Language Fund that work to preserve these disappearing languages. You can search out, personally support and encourage those in your social sphere to back the work of other revitalization programs. You can contact your representative to help shape national policy that recognizes and protects indigenous languages in this country and around the world. And for the more intrepid among us, you can be involved in an immersion program, perhaps learn an endangered language yourself. Though not for everyone, you could not just be enabling experts to preserve a language, but you yourself could be the direct agent of preservation, a Fahrenheit 451 solution to the problem, if you will. Imagine, you could be the final hope for an entire cultural heritage. All by learning a language and keeping it alive. Whatever your personal response, the call upon us as the community of humanity is clear. Every culture is important, not just as vastly diverse expressions of the human mind, but as reservoirs of knowledge about issues that affect us all. Lost languages, as vectors of these cultures, are a loss not just for these cultures, but for the entire human family. And that is a loss we cannot afford. We care about the environment. Now we need to care as passionately about the cultures that give it meaning.
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William Walsh The Vulgarity of the Human Heart (an interview with Joseph Brodsky) It has been 25 years since I interviewed Joseph Brodsky. Typing that number on to the page is odd. It is surreal to read twenty-five years and to think back a quarter-century to the five days I spent at the University of West Virginia as a guest of Gail Galloway Adams and her husband at their house. It just doesn’t seem that long go that I was there to interview Joseph Brodsky for my next book. As well, I said typing on to the page, but that is factually incorrect. I’m typing into my Mac Books, which Brodsky disapproved of. Back in the day, this was actually an issue—whether students should write using a computer. Did they write as well with a computer or was a typewriter better or simply a pen and paper? Did computers cause students to pontificate without regard to the physical pages stacking up? These were actual issues. What would Brodsky think of today’s lifestyle of cell phones? I’m certain he would disapprove; however, he would, I think, approve of the distribution of information and books, to so easily order a book from Amazon or some other retailor and have it delivered. But then he might disapprove because the Internet has put so many small bookshops out of business. The Brodsky interview is one of my favorite interviews because of his intellectualism. In general conversation, when asked, he would talk about his difficult life, but you don’t’ really hear any resentment for the suffering he underwent at the hands of others. There is a tonal gruffness in his character, but that’s just the man. For the most part, while being around him for five days, even though I was but a few feet away from him, I stood in the background and watched him perform with in a crowd of intellects. I interviewed him at a time when I was at the cusp of a new life. I had finished my graduate degree less than a year before; I wasn’t married; I had no children; I was footloose and fancy free; I was two years away from leaving a job I despised in the computer industry; I was writing poems and trying to write a novel; and, I was teaching adjunct at a small community college—a job I very much enjoyed. I had had a few job offers around the country, most in the middle of nowhere, but mostly, I didn’t want to leave Atlanta for many reasons. As important, I had already been accepted into several PhD programs, but deferred for a year because I was in a relationship that would result in a marriage and three children. But, most importantly, I was still interviewing writers and Atlanta was a great city to use as a base of operations. In the seven years since I was an undergraduate at Georgia State University, I had moved on from a kid who knew nothing about literary interviews to interviewing my second Nobel Laureate. What an amazing journey! In that span of time I interviewed, among many, Donald Justice, James Dickey, Shirley Ann Grau, Harry Crews, Lee Smith, Doris Betts, and Czeslaw Milosz. And here I was in April 1992 in Morgantown, WV—hometown of Don Knotts—walking around with Joseph Brodsky. It worked out that two young undergrad students and I guided Brodsky around the campus and the city on several different occasions for several days. I had a little red sports car and in my mind I think I drove him around because I remember the Porsche logo being covered in salt residue, but I’m not sure if that is a true memory or something I imagined. I also don’t remember the young ladies’ names who accompanied Brodsky and I, although I remember one asking the other if she “hooked up with him” and the other just laughing at the questions but never answering. The three of us were intrigued with Brodsky, and when he wasn’t required at a panel or reading, we walked around town listening to him talk about the world. Of course, I had never been to Morgantown or to the university campus so I had no idea where I was going but somehow figured it out and got Brodsky to where he needed to be. He seemed to love having young people at his feet listening to his musing about the United States, literature, writing, and the world at large. I found him to be incredibly interesting. That’s what I remember. I also remember that he did not like me. It bothered me back when I was younger then but I soon got over it. Why didn’t he like me, you wonder? It could have been for a thousand reasons, I suppose, but 80 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
looking back, well, it wasn’t my fault. I had only a few days before interviewed Brodsky’s hero, fellow Noble Laureate, Czeslaw Milosz. However, when Gail Adams introduced me to Brodsky, she opened by telling Brodsky of my recent interview with Milosz, which stole his thunder, especially in a group of five or six notable university bigwigs. Without my help, the conversation moved from Brodsky to Milosz, and I think he resented that and held me accountable. In reflection, I understand how it looked, and how he must have felt smaller in the shadow of Milosz. I could tell by his disposition toward me that something was amiss, but I had no idea why until years later when I thought back to this time. I knew he didn’t like me, that was easy to decipher, but it didn’t matter—I was thrilled to be escorting the famous poet around town, running into the five and dime store for him while he stayed outside in the bright sun and snow-chilled air. I enjoyed listening to him, asking the occasional question, but above all, I recall that he was a gentleman, albeit gruff as hell. When he gave you an answer, it seemed to be an edict handed down from the heavens, as if his answer was carved on one of the tablets handed to Moses. And, rightfully so. Brodsky was brilliant. He had thought for many years on the issues that man has pondered, and he knew the answers. He didn’t want you to disagree—he wanted you to accept what he already knew as the truth, and he was here to shorten your journey. I have for many years since told people that television is the death of the American culture. It’s not that TV isn’t entertaining, because it is, but we watch too much television. Brodsky knew this and warned these young girls and me. He knew we wanted to be writers, and he knew what it would take to be successful. He warned us, as he did in the interview, that watching television was like watching someone work. Would you go to the office to watch an accountant work, he asked? Never! And, yet, we spend countless hours in front of the television when we should be writing poems, reading, anything but watching someone else do their job. Fast-forward twenty-five years. Here we are, reprinting his interview. It was originally printed in the highly acclaimed literary journal, Verse, and then later in a best of interview series by the journal. Both publications gave me literary collateral. However, I often feel as if I have squandered this collateral. I have not interviewed a Nobel Laureate in 25 years. Brodsky was the last for me. This makes me feel as though I have allowed time to slip by with accomplishment, that had I been more serious and focused, I would have done more. Maybe I watched too much television. Maybe I worked too long on a flawed and failed novel, which for years I thought was salvageable. Whatever the reason, there is a hollowness where I feel as if I certainly should have accomplished more, that the Brodsky interview was the last hurrah. Maybe I feel as if I failed in taking his advice, that there was always more a person could have accomplished had I turned off the television, stopped surfing the Internet, focused more on reading Gilgamesh or Hamlet. Who knows? I never saw Brodsky again. I saw Milosz a few more times and wrote to him, and he wrote back in a friendly tone, inviting me to visit him in Berkeley, although I never did. Brodsky wasn’t like that. And, I respected his privacy. I never wrote him, never bothered the man. As I do now, Brodsky understood the limits of his time on earth—he wasn’t interested in watching other people work. He had work of his own that was more important. I have never forgotten Brodsky’s the idea of human genius, the idea that mankind will find a way to survive, to make the world better, to create greatness out of nothingness. After my time in Morgantown, I remember driving late at night on the darkened interstates, few cars or trucks on the road, windows down, REM’s Out of Time CD playing, and I thought to myself, “I just interviewed two Nobel Laureates within a week.” I really thought my future was going to be bright, that all my hard work was paying off and I’d be able to write my ticket to whatever I wanted to do. There would be a dry spell of two or three years where I couldn’t get my name published in the phonebook, just nothing got published. It would be fifteen before my second book was published. As Brodsky said, “Big deal. If I suffer, so much for that.” Like the term Human Genius and the idea of not watching someone do their job, I would come to understand what he meant. So, I suffer, big deal. 81 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
And, yet, we never think we will suffer. We think the world is out there waiting to hear from us. Sometimes the world is ready. Mostly, it is not. The reality of the matter, the world does not want to hear from any of us. What that really means is that you, as a writer, are not ready for the world to hear from you. There needs to be more people like Brodsky willing to tell us that we are not ready, that we are going to suffer and be pained by the world; however, we should never give up. Of course, you cannot succeed if you give up. Human genius will not allow it, either. Brodsky did not want people typing on a computer, not even a typewriter. He wanted your hand to feel the scratch of a pencil on the paper. I’m not opposed to that. Seems like a tactile innovation in this world where everyone’s face is buried in a cell phone. As well, if you read closely, when Brodsky was discussing the distribution of books, although he couldn’t formulate the verbiage, he was talking about the Internet as a way of transmitting books and information to everyone. He probably never visualized the Internet, but he knew there would be a way to distribute books to people. Brodsky once stated, “. . . there are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” On more than one of his talks, he made clear his idea of being able to distribute books to people all over the world. On January 28, 1996, Joseph Brodsky died of a heart attack at his New York City residence. He is buried is Venice, Italy. The Original Interview Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad in 1940 and began writing poetry at age eighteen. At age twenty-four, he was sentenced to five years hard labor for social parasitism but spent only about eight months in exile, March 1964 through November 1965 in Arkhangelsk, a region in northern Russia. Because of internal and international protests, his sentence was commuted. On June 4, 1972, he was involuntarily exiled from the Soviet Union, and after brief time in London and Vienna, he settled in the United States. Brodsky left school at age fifteen to hold a job as a milling machine operator, as well as to work at a hospital, a ship boiler room, and in a morgue (with the idea of becoming a physician). At his trial for parasitism, the judge asked Brodsky how he became a poet, who gave him the title, and where did he learn to be a poet, in school? Brodsky replied, “I think that it. . . comes from God.” In 1987 Joseph Brodsky was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His five volumes of poetry in Russian are unavailable in the Soviet Union, but his first collection of poetry appeared in English emerged in 1973. In 1986, his collection of essays, Less Than One, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include, Elegy for John Donne and Other Poems, Selected Poems (1973), A Part of Speech (1980), To Urania (1984), Collected Poems in English (2000), and Nativity Poems (2001). His other essays include Watermark (1992) and On Greed and Reason (1996). He also published a play, Marbles (1986). Joseph Brodsky continued to live in New York City and South Hadley, Massachusetts, where he was the Andrew Mellon Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College. He was been Poet-in-Residence at the University of Michigan, and a Visiting Professor at Queens College, Columbia University, Smith College, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and Hampshire College. He was the recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Award in 1981. At the time of this interview, Brodsky was visiting West Virginia University as a guest lecturer, a gift from AT&T to the College of Arts and Sciences. Because of inclement weather, his plane from Washington, D.C. was delayed several hours, but once he arrived he was on campus for five days (April 2-6) meeting with students and faculty, and answering at great length every questions posed 82 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
before him. Throughout his stay he and I had lunch several times, always in fairly large groups, and though the conversations were always enthusiastic and compelling (Brodsky imparting of his admiration for Beckett and Milosz) there was never an opportunity for a one to one interview for the two of us. Since Brodsky was most comfortable directing his replies to a larger audience, being the center of attention and eloquently conversing like a statesmen, this interview was conducted in what would be a most comfortable setting for him—one evening in the living room of Dr. Rudy Almasy, Chair of the English Department, where a group of about ten sat for an informal question and answer session where I moderated the evening. At the time of this interview, April 4, 1992, Joseph Brodsky was Poet Laureate of the United States. Grateful acknowledgement is made to Gail Galloway Adams for her assistance with this interview. She and her husband were in charge of many aspects surrounding Brodsky’s stay and for five days they housed me in their home and organize my time with Brodsky so that I was able to spend extras hours with him even though it was not a part of the interview. Walsh: Could you comment on your Nobel Prize speech and how well it’s been received? Brodsky: It has an audience, that speech, but I don’t really know how it’s received. All I know is that shorts of it have been printed. I got a terrific amount of flack from the magazine Commentary, which preceded to make rather vociferously their wants and habits and that the Germans were terribly well-read people, etc. etc, the usual holocaust sort of bitch. It wasn’t even implied that I should respond to that or whatever it was and I never did. Well, I think it’s—I don’t really know. I’m not going to make any sort of digression or whatever it is and qualify it. I think it was pure bunk. Of course, of course, they all have read books, they played Beethoven, but it’s one thing to consume the culture. Well, consumption of the culture doesn’t make you a civilized man. It makes you a consumer of the culture at best, and perhaps that’s some ennobling consequences for your psyche and your manners, to say the least. The idea that beauty will save the world, or might save, is a very simple premise. It’s a very simple idea that when you read something you should become that. You, in fact, become that. The idea of listening or playing Beethoven is not simply. . . perhaps Beethoven is not a good example, but Beethoven is the case, being German and so forth, or as they claim now they found he is of negroid origin. At any rate, the idea is to become Beethoven if you will. Take it from there and take the next step so to speak. Of course, if you are just simply passing the time for entertainment, Beethoven, then you can man an organ, if you will. It is my experience and several people I have known of my age have indeed become what we read. We are the sum total of what we’ve read, but none of us could qualify for any drastic beauty. (laughing) Of course, it doesn’t receive any press—that sort of attitude. And maybe in that speech of mine [Nobel Prize speech] I should have said something else or I should have talked about something else. I didn’t really know what to talk about, because when you get this news that you’ve received the Nobel Prize, immediately goes the requirement of producing a speech. It would be sensible, practical, to say the least, for an individual in that line of work to prepare that speech in advance, because when you have to do it in one month, well. You also believe that your speech will be publicized, that it will become the property of the people, that people will read and respond to it. But to tell you the truth, this is only the second time someone has mentioned that speech. Once was when it was attacked in the New York Post. You really can’t reply or retort in any manner. Well, this is the second time I’ve been asked about the speech, and it’s been what, five years since. Well, that may be just an answer to your question. There are many in the literary community who don’t look at literature as beauty or expression of meaning, but as a representative of chauvinistic ideals—the canon, why read Dostoyevsky, let’s read Kate Chopin. 83 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
This is pure bunk. I know all about that. I think books are written to move hearts, to change. There is that terrific line from Rilke, “With every muscle, with every turn, this story tells you change your life.” That’s what it’s all about. Yeah? This rather substantial increasing deafening noise about the changing requirements of the canon, it’s a cry from the future. It’s a demographic cry, because the demographic composition of the country is going to change. Yeah? Those groups which we regard as minority are going to have a substantial part if not the majority. They try to cater to themselves. It’s a mistake to go on the assumption that this will simplify the task, but indeed, you have in practically every school (and I believe in yours as well) ethnic slices, block status for instance through which the individual may graduate with a degree in (I really don’t know what), and he will not be able, she, very often, not exactly to read and write, but maybe even that. You graduate from that sort of program but you haven’t read a line of Shakespeare. You’ve read Bharati Mukherjee up to your nostrils but that has a very small yield. The best thing you can say about that is that it has a sort of therapeuticnarcissistic value for the individual to read those things. But education is not therapy. It is, if you will, a rape. But then Mr. Brodsky do you think that maybe the Nobel Prize for literature as being limited by the same considerations, when they’ve given the recent Nobel Prize to an Egyptian for literature and the Nobel Prize in Literature to a Latin-American, and I guess this year the Nobel Prize to a South African? Are they pandering to the groups to enlarge the canon, and we should hold the line? No. That’s not true. It’s easy for me to speak. I’ll have to answer your question directly. Obviously, some sort of geo-political cultural matters do play a role in those considerations. I remember about three or four years ago I was in Stockholm and I saw a man who reads everything. He’s just astonishing. As I walked into his office I saw on his desk several books by Octavio Paz. He asked me what I thought of Mr. Paz. I began to do a song and dance—I told him he was a wonderful poet. I told him actually the truth, what I think. I told him Paz was a wonderful essayist, far greater essayist than a poet. Still, a wonderful poet. He [Paz] considers himself a poet. Yeah, well, that’s simple the ego of the gentlemen. A wonderful gentlemen in my view. Also, you have to take into account the role he plays in Latin-America, in the Latin-American culture, and in Latin-American letters, because it was sort of dominated by people like Neruda, and later by Marquez, whose political sympathizes are quiet clear cut and stupid. Yeah? Pernicious in many ways. And then this gentlemen said to me, “I wish considerations of this sort didn’t have any play in our operation.” But that was a wish that they didn’t. Obviously, they do. Particularly this year—it was awarded to Nadine Gordimer, who politically I admire, like, respect, etc. and she’s done a tremendous amount of good, so to speak, social work in her country. That is, working against Apartheid. But to give the Nobel Prize to Nadine Gordimer—it was in my view a bit erroneous, because there is a tremendous South African writer far better than Nadine Gordimer. It’s like giving a prize to nineteenth century versus giving it to twentieth century. There’s a wonderful book, The Life and Days of Michael K. I think it’s one of the best books I ever read in my life, at least in the last twenty or thirty years. Well, but there’s Bishop Desmond Tutu, and there’s this and that, the relevance of South Africa itself, and so forth and so forth. So presumably they do. On the other hand you have to take into account something, how should I say, less appealing than the considerations of that sort of thing. The truth is, there are not that many great writers around. The very fact that I’ve been given the Nobel Prize is the best illustration to that. (laughing) Yeah. Now I’m not trying to be cute. Or elegant, even. The last time I think it was given deservedly was to Czeslaw Milosz. But then figures of that magnitude, they don’t exist. What you have is several orders below. Those several orders below I can stand. Well, I regard myself as being there, if you will. (laughing) That’s what I think. It’s an obvious temptation to go a little bit global. They’ve done it before. They gave it to Tagore. You remember that? They gave it Soyinka, though he writes in English, of course. This is a related question. Yesterday you mentioned reading in Swahili. Translated from those languages. 84 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
The widening of the canon that everybody is talking about is similar to your notion of reading everything that is written, that you admit there are other cultures. How would you see a conflict between the two? I don’t see a conflict. And indeed I would change the canon, but I would change it in some different manner. Because the canon that does exist, in a sense, has one tremendous shortcoming, it’s not even a shortcoming, it’s a very dangerous thing building the canon. How does go our canon? It starts by, let’s say at best with the Old Testament, then the New Testament if at all, then we get the Greeks, a little bit of Rome, then the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, then whatever’s in the nineteenth century, and pretty soon we are here now. All that tradition with the exception of the Old Testament, and I know it very seldom figures this sort of thing, but it starts normally displayed with Aristotle and becomes a pickle forever for the individual, the dialogue and so forth. Well, all that tradition puts a tremendously high premium on one thing, on the reason, on the rational operation. Obviously, an individual grows up and is lead to believe that the reason is the main tool of operation for the human being in this world. Well, I’d question that to begin with. But even without questioning, you have to take into consideration that there is a substantial part of the world where reason plays a second fiddle. The whole point is about our civilization as it were, and I’ll get back to this, because I have lost your question. . . (laughing) but the whole point is about civilization at some point of doubt drawing a chalk line through Moscow, let’s say, and whatever was lying beyond that straight line was almost equitable in existence. That’s of course, efficient and sensible and perhaps the only way to run your own affairs. You sort of build that wall around yourself, your intramural civilization with the laws etc. etc. based on reason and you can implement them and in force them. The whole point is that right now in a global, geo-political manner, in a practical manner, we get into all sorts of inter-deals with the realms which don’t abide by our books. Increasingly that realm makes inroads and all sorts of ruckus within our ranks. Take Iran or Iraq, you name it. My idea is that an individual in the course of his life always bumps sooner or later into somebody who behaves in a manner which couldn’t be interpreted in a solely logical manner. Rationally we should be all happy, shouldn’t we? And yet, she goes away. Why is that? The next thing you do is run to the shrink or seek this advice or try to remedy it in some sort of way. Or you’re thinking you made a mistake. What would be sensible to try, and this is what I do in my small way with my students though it’s not my direct responsibility to supply them with the canon, I give them a reading list for two years. They may do with this list whatever they wish. But it starts not with the Old Testament. It starts with a little bit of Gilgamesh, and a little of the Sumerian text. Then I give them the Egyptians. Then I give them the Old Testament. The reason is the choice, the choice mankind has made. It’s not the given. It’s one of the options. This way at least later on in their lives they will be less prone to get hysterical when something doesn’t work the way they intended it. (laughing) In this way I would indeed change the canon. I would sacrifice, perhaps not Blake, but Aristotle, and I would replace him with, I really don’t know who, but I would introduce Batuta into the canon, a tremendous Arabic traveler who is better than Marco Polo any day—far more observant and covered far greater territory. But on the other hand, I would either expand the canon or change it in the deliberate manner to introduce the reader of the canon to a greater display of the rational, the human affairs. That’s what I would do. That would be the goal I would keep in mind. But to do it simply for the sake of putting in—I really don’t know whom, well. I think for that matter I won’t include Tagore. Would you keep its historical spread or maybe even broaden that? I would do something else if you want to know. The idea which I’ve had for a long time, but I don’t know how to implement it. . . . I was trying to talk with the National Endowment for the Arts, but the thing is that when the authority of the state is in decline or nonexistent practically, when the authority of the church is compromised or whatever, then under those circumstances the authoritative philosophy is simply not available for the masses. The only source of the ethical education and the purpose of every society is to save the efforts of the members. Hence, ethics. The only source of moral 85 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
education are presumably the arts and history. Now about history, universally in this country, people know it very sketchily, if at all. What I would try to do, is to produce a canon of historical material, that is, all that we know, all that exists on record, but every event—the uprising of Spartacus, the Battle at Waterloo—you name it, I would supply it with three very succinct possible interpretations. Every phenomenon would have three interpretations. One would be the traditional, conservative lade-da. Second would be Marxist. The third would be Freud and I don’t know what. This way an individual who reads that sort of event would be presented with the equivalent of multiple choice. He will make his own choice. In the first place this enables him to think. Otherwise what happens is this—you go to high school, a good high school, a private school, whatever it is, and you get a general notion of history, a skeleton of what transpired, feudalism, capitalism, Middle Ages, and then you go to the university and the professor of most likely a particular political persuasion tells you: No, what happened was this and for this set of reasons. And you think, “Of course. In high school I was a kid. Now it’s a serious matter. Now I’m being told the truth.” For the rest of your life or for a substantial number of years, you just ride on that? It’s another illusion, if you will. It’s not exactly of your own choice. Maybe you will prefer this interpretation yourself. But that’s the chance. The thing is that you have a choice. Of course, it may result in some unyielding encyclopedia. I don’t believe it can be done in a compact manner. That sort of thing should be distributed nationwide. You’ve taken morality and ethics directly back to aesthetics. Well, no. This is the way I’m talking about the arts. Indeed, I do think and I’ve written that, said that, and I can repeat that—aesthetics is the mother of ethics. Of course, yes. This is why the arts are so crucial. It turns one into an aesthetical being, a person with taste. They are quiet unlikely to make a wrong ethical choice. I’m perfectly convinced of that. What kind of example can I produce. Take for instance a child, a little babe in your arms. You have guests and the child smiles to somebody, yet cries to another person. Well, what is that? He doesn’t have yet the ethical apparatus, judgment or experience, but maybe he wants to pee-pee (laughing) — that’s something else — but maybe there’s some other consideration. Or better yet. How do you choose your beloved? On what basis? An ethical basis? (laughing) If you do that then you can wind up with a rather peculiar looking spouse. (laughing) How do you choose a mistress? Could we move back to the issue of the canon? It seems to me the purpose of a canon is to create a community, a communication system of shared preferences. But the danger of the canon is that it leaves out whole chunks of experience that are not part of a particular paradigm of established reality, and although the canon you described is one which is more historically deep than one partly of the western tradition, nonetheless, even with that canon there are literatures of primitive histories that would not be part of the perception of that reality that that canon would dictate. It would seem to me there would be certain indigenous groups that would be left out, and the richness they might add to our understanding of their experience is therefore lost. The very fact that you speak about indigenous groups that don’t have reach to themselves, is the fact that we are fully capable of appreciating them, and appreciate that through the prism of our own refinement. There is part of the answer. The very apprehension you have is already the answer, you see. The richness they can offer, the moment we spot it we will be able to appreciate it. In this country we are very fond of the Indians and their heritage. We begin to appreciate their heritage because it is rendered into English, and perhaps, and I’m just jumping over several hurdles here, but perhaps the better we manage our own language, the better we will render the Indians, the more we will be moved. One of the issues is that you never render anything without a bias, and that is the big thing now-a-days. People talk about how always in translation you make certain choices and present their stories or poems in a particular way. Hiawatha is an example 86 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
of making it more palatable, accessible, and in some ways you might claim, distorted. A lot of the movement today is saying there is a distortion in all translation. Yes, but it’s better to have a distortion of translation than an absence of the material. Secondly, very often distortion is a promotion of the material. I think our civilization as it is rests on the translation. The Bible has been translated. The New Testament has been translated. Everything we know practically has been translated. We haven’t generated that much ourselves, have we? (laughing) We just translate quite a lot of things and notions. Our languages are composite languages. And to bemoan that is simply a mark of immaturity of undualish realness on the part of those people. It’s so funny, because I find myself in the position very often, increasingly so, well me a Russian at least by origin, playing a particularly English role, trying to talk common sense. (laughing) I quite agree with you that the distortion is a kind of promotion. For example, the Chinese philosophical work has enjoyed many versions, and many scholars who were unhappy with the translation, translated the material themselves. I think the distortion is much better than absence. The biggest enemy is ignoring a certain work, which leads me to another question I wanted to ask. Before you ask your question let me say this. I believe in bad translations, because you know what’s good about bad translations, they awaken the reader’s intuition. Whereas, a good translation confines the material to its own achievement. The biggest enemy to literary creation in China and also in Russia used to be totalitarianism. It wasn’t the enemy of creation—it was the enemy of distribution. As well, yes. In ten years of cultural revolution, there were only eight plays, dramatic plays, of so called revolutionary models, and I also know that in Russia many writers, poets were persecuted. Similar things happened in China. Many people feel the enemy has changed now, and it’s not really so much totalitarianism as commercial profit. I can shorten the trip for you. The real enemy is not totalitarianism or commercialism, the real enemy always was and always will remain the vulgarity of the human heart which produces either totalitarianism or commercialism. This is essentially what art is up against. Always. Always was and will remain. Given the size of the Chinese population, given the size of the Russian population, I profoundly believe that those nations will produce out of their own bowels somebody who will say “NO” to this and rather loudly. And will be heard. It’s divine economy versus diabolical economy. I’m not trying to operate under these vague categories. But when a certain idiom becomes the domineering idiom of the state, idiom of the church, idiom of the clergy, idiom of commerce, etc, the balance within the language becomes tilted. Every society has a high pitch towards the positive, life affirming, ensuring the inevitability or necessity of the success of the society. Well, a keen ear will always detect that imbalance and try to produce the anecdote. Hence, for instance, the genre of ballads, English ballads, the emphasis on the war, the dark, getting your comeuppance. But why are they so bloody? Because the official idiom, the domineering idiom is not blood, it’s too pristine. Why do we have a foul language? Why when a young man of the age fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty with no experience whatsoever in this life starts to write his poems he’s predominately dramatic, dark, dissatisfied with his life though he has no experience whatsoever. He speaks out of linguistic necessity to produce a counter balance. That’s how it works. You mentioned earlier that you would like to make poetry more accessible to the masses, and as Poet Laureate, would like to put all the old poetry recordings of Eliot, Stevens, etc. on compact disk. How accessible can we make poetry when so many people simply cannot read and, of course, there are greater problems facing them? What other changes would you try to make? 87 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Perhaps now we have more reason to make this observation than normally, because of the means of communication are in the hands of God-knows-who. I start with a very simple premise. Basically, my central idea. . . well, it’s not my central idea, it’s just simply born out of experience, but it harks back to the notion of original sin, that man is radically bad. His soul is number one—that is the idea that man is inherently good and what makes him bad are the bad institutions; therefore, let’s improve the institutions. You know there is some disturbance because the improvements to the institution, the logical result is to politicize that and so forth. Well, it simply has to do with human nature, and you can’t really change the human nature, but you can press a different button in the human nature. It’s most grievous in the United States where theoretically you can read anything you like. It’s terribly sad because illiteracy is practically universal. Okay, there are twenty-five percent who are functionally literate. It can be given to the people, but they don’t have an access, and if you don’t have an access you do all those things that result subsequently in the statement that the modern culture will take against human nature. It’s one thing to teach in the university and try to convince students. It’s getting harder and harder to convince them, mind you. For a variety of reasons, actually there are some logistical reasons as you know, they have to do too many things, etc, etc. One thing that is troublesome, in a sense, is that our universities are rather free universities and the kid can study anything until the very last year, taking courses in whatever. There’s one course he takes in literature, another in micro-biology and so forth. It’s good that he becomes a renaissance type. Essentially, it means no concentration in one thing. I think the rigors should be higher—more rigorous. Or perhaps they should stay longer in the school. An individual emerges and acts according to the well-being of his fellow citizens at the age of twenty-three or twenty-four. This is all fine and dandy, but it’s just idiotic. There was a great shudder when I saw the line up of President Carter’s administration. They were kids. Somebody barely the age of thirty-five or thirty-eight was running our policy—Hamilton Jordan. I notice a number of observations you have made and a number of people have made about you, is that you consider yourself a private person. We’re in a society that we like to believe is private, but I see an anomaly in that a man of letters in an open society such as ours has a difficult time being a private person. No, he doesn’t. I can speak, let’s say, for my humble self. I came here twenty years ago and I enjoyed something extraordinary. I enjoyed fifteen, perhaps seventeen years of peace. I was completely left alone. And I liked it enormously. Then something transpired and I got into the public eye. One of the manifestations of that is my stint here, and indeed now it has become a little bit difficult. But it’s not difficult in the final analysis. It’s not that difficult. Though you may advance this and that thesis and explain this or that to the public, defend this or that. . . you can be blinded or confused by your public role. The only thing is—it claims time. Well, I think I’ve been given quite a lot in a sense, and I just may in a sense pay back. I’m not doing that on a daily basis or a weekly basis, but it’s this year that happened to be hectic that way. Maybe just as well. If I can suffer as a writer for this, so much for my writing. (laughing) That contradicts your own notion that good writers are good and that suffering should not matter. No. No. It doesn’t contradict that at all. Big deal. If I suffer, so much for that. No, I don’t believe that I can lose. All I can lose is time. I somehow am inclined to think maybe I dilute myself, but at a certain point I’ll shed all this garbage. And, well, I’ll just do my own thing. What’s happening in no way changes my ear, my sense of what should rhyme with what. I think, God willing, I’ll last a while and I’ll just return to that. These five days in Morgantown is just an escapade, an episode. I’d like to return to your phrase—the vulgarity of the human heart—and ask you about the impact of electronic media and computers on society and writers. 88 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
I was talking with the kids [undergraduate and graduate students at West Virginia University] today about that. I’ve been teaching for twenty years, and with the advent of the word processor I began to notice the quality, rather the different texture of my students’ writing now that they compose all their papers on the word processor. Some go for the fancy printout and this and that. But what they unanimously have in common, well almost unanimously, universal, they all write in equal chunks, paragraphs of the same length. My explanation to that is, presumably, they are sort of mesmerized by this screen. I’m not trying to say anything funny. It’s terribly sad and terribly dangerous. What’s happening is that they are mesmerized by that screen, a hypnotic, mechanical thing. It’s not the paper. It’s not disposable, you see. So therefore, they try to fill it up. You can’t find in anyone’s writing anymore a sentence long paragraph, one that occupies two lines. It’s almost gone entirely. And not only with student papers. It’s gone on to newspaper articles, magazines, and everywhere. Everybody writes like this. The saving grace, the most remarkable aspect of prose is its rhythmic nature, the way it is about human speech. That’s entirely gone. We are adding some unnecessary things. We are getting sort of fuzzy. The great virtue of American writing always was a succinctness. That was always a telling sign of who was the author. That’s my experience. They get straight to the business in the first paragraph. Now it’s getting fuzzier and fuzzier. That should be somehow addressed I believe. I’m not trying to say, “Let’s return to the good old days to the quill and the paper.” Though it would be ideal in a sense, but I don’t believe that many of the people who are twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-five have their own handwriting. But that’s something else. The whole point about writing is that it’s a great investment of your body, because it takes your arms etc. etc. Yeah? Or dipping into the ink pot, or if it’s a fountain pen then fine. The whole point is that with the word processor it’s all with your fingertips, almost no touch at all. Some animal link is being lost between what you are doing and the results, not to mention the mesmerizing effect of the printed word [on the screen]. You believe that you have said something, though you may have said very little. The printed word has this hypnotic thing. I’ve been teaching a very long time, and I’ve noticed that my students, even the very bright ones, choose less and less to read, preferring more film experiences. I’m wondering what your opinion is on the future of books. Well, there is the future. There’s still the future. I know what you are talking about, and I could be quite eloquent on that subject because we indeed are getting into the culture of ideograms, of the pictorial realm. That, I can practically say, is back to the caves, to the wall paintings. It essentially is. It’s ideograms. I do believe there is a future for books, because I think pretty soon, if not this generation, the next, the television will become like the wall paper. It won’t be as significant to the individual as it is today, as it was to our generation. They will watch less and read more. I think. One develops. Your question itself betrays a certain disillusionment with television and perhaps you read more than you watch. But there was a period in your life when you watched quite a lot—not quite a lot, but you did. You shouldn’t deny it. (laughing) It has something to do with the individual growth, not growth in that positive terms, but simply in relation of the years, and pretty soon one gives up watching television so much for a simple reason: one realizes he is watching someone else’s job being done by someone else, while not doing his own. This is my sense of it. If I don’t watch it so much it’s not because it’s not interesting, but I know I’m watching someone else’s job. I’m not doing mine. I could have done something else. I could have written something. Maybe I would read. Not necessarily read. I would do something different. I would write something or perhaps I would court a dame or I would just build a bench. I don’t really know what. But you don’t do that. It’s a medium of impotence. Well, we know all that. It depends on the perception of the individual himself, whether he feels he’s impotent to practice anything qualitative, to do something at this given point. Or he is. And if he is, then he will switch the television off. That’s how I think it’s going to be. I think literature in the final analysis is fairly safe. The whole point is that great revenge of literature comes not from 89 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
television but from our swelling numbers. We can expect a coherent discord of any literary matter in the foreseeable future. But definitely we will read. What, then, according to your definition, is the difference between a live performance of Hamlet and a two hour movie on television where in both cases you are watching some one else work? I’m against either way. On those two occasions that I taught Shakespeare I expressly forbid students to watch it either on the tv or to go to the cinema, or for that matter to the theater, because I think they should read. When you read, a great deal of adventure occurs in your mind. Take the simple line, “How have you been doing Prince? Well, well, well, well.” When you read it, you invest, and you have four or six interpretations. When you deal with an actor, it’s one interpretation. If he’s subtle, he may convey ambiguity, but that’s about as much, whereas, there’s far more. Not to mention that when you watch something you follow the plot line inevitably, or you invest in this or that character with your own sympathy and identification with that character. When you read, it’s all you. Two poets you’ve mentioned who you admire—Hardy and Auden were masters of sound. I’d like to hear you read your work in Russian because the Russian I have heard you read is very rhythmic, yet when I look at your poems they seem more for the eye. You know Auden’s musical selection. Everyone of them has drive, beat: “Desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews, not to be born is the best for man. . . .” Now you are talking about something which I think I can at this point defend. What you were talking about with those syncopations are wonderful. I’m not going to defend my Russian record. That I will leave. I know what I’m doing in Russian. But now after some point I know what I’m doing in English. It’s indeed for the eye, although I think I can read it out loud as well, not all because I’m a lousy reader of English. I have to keep my eyes on the text because it’s difficult to memorize. Today, and this is perhaps my delusion, I am the next generation after Auden, if you will. I’m not trying to say. . . but you brought this comparison. I think now you have to deafen your mute or musical aspects. I’m interested, myself, in verse in monotony of the sound rather than an emphatic acoustics of the words. When I was younger I tried to produce all the sound effects I could. But it’s a matter of aging, you see, and what you try to do is impart to your verse a certain aspect of time itself, and perhaps a romantic vision of time or sense of time is rather monotonous—it’s not emphatic. It’s even tone. I still believe those caesuras and the syncopations can be hinted at. Here, Auden comes to my support in a sense, to my side. He once said Bach was terribly lucky because in his day if you wanted to address the Almighty you’d write directly to Him, whereas nowadays if an author wanted to praise the Lord, he has to use the indirect speech. To a certain extent, what I am saying to you is more or less in the same vein—I’m not defending myself here so much, I’m just trying to explain it to you. Tomorrow will you read your poems in Russian as well as English? Well, I read some in English and some in Russian. I read them both, the same poem, in English then Russian. But mostly presumably they will be in English because the audience is predominantly English. Could you discuss the future of poetry as you see it. I can’t talk about the state of poetry in the future. Then the health of poetry. You can only talk about the individuals and there are going to be enough individuals to make their mark. It’s inevitable. It’s inevitable because I believe in the human genius. I believe the material that exists already will push individuals far. Human genius.
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Book Review: Praise for Resurrection of a Sunflower
It has been an honor, personal delight, and continuing pleasure to read, reread, and now praise Resurrection of a Sunflower. This is a collection of poetry and prose in honor of Vincent van Gogh from every walk of life. Speaking simply as a collection of literature, I have never seen anything on shelves or currently in production that matches the scope of this book. It is not a book mired in melodramatic madness or fused to the abject loneliness of a genius locked in the frame of a madman. No: This is a book about hope, individuality, and love of art. It is because of these traits that I’ve carried Resurrection of a Sunflower around with me for the last two months. The brain trust behind this jewel is a combination of Catfish McDaris and Marc Pietzykowski, and these two have gone to extreme lengths to culminate the vast chorus of voices necessary to do van Gogh justice. I have been aware of McDaris’ work for well over five years. As it should be noted, his work is included, and it is good. Another familiar name is Dr. Marianne Szlyk, and her trio of additions hums with her usual brilliance. Pietzkowski is a new one on me, but his single song found within, again, reinforces that no one is better to bring a work like this together than someone who not only adores the subject, but has the skill to create an homage as well. The list of names you’ll find here is nearly endless. To name only a few would indicate my favorites, and that simply would not do the others justice, and that is a pitfall I wish to avoid. There are 525 pages to this tome, and readers and art lovers alike must understand there are no weak spots, or chinks in the armor, of what I consider one of the best collections of literature since the year 2000 – easy. Please do yourself the favor of buying this book. The cover art is exemplary, and the introduction is so poignant that if you can read it to the end and not weep with joy: You have no soul. Resurrection of a Sunflower is genius. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998847607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494341248&sr =8-1&keywords=resurrection+of+a+sunflower
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Interview with Christopher Dickey Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) It is a daunting task to approach this interview from an objective, simple perspective. I have read your work as a war correspondent and found it to hold a singular, literary flair. To get a hold of how you create such vibrant imagery as you've put yourself in harm's way ... let's back up: We know you are the son of famed poet and author James Dickey. However, what is it about you that allowed you in your book, Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son, to create such a distinct writing voice (as it seems) effortlessly? That’s pretty flattering. Writing is never effortless, at least not for me. But my brother and sister and I grew up playing with words, exploring their meaning and their cadences, punning endlessly, making up limericks, writing little epic poems in rhyming couplets, memorizing bits of Shakespeare, Milton, Yeats, Housman. As I got older, I also read a lot of essays by great craftsmen from Lamb and De Quincey to Aldous Huxley, Orwell, and Gore Vidal. That sort of thing works its way into your unconscious and serves as a backdrop for the writing you might do later in life. It’s also true that I am influenced chameleon-like by whoever I am reading at a given moment, which is a problem when I am plowing through government reports or academic papers. But in the case of Summer of Deliverance I was reading and rereading a lot of my father’s work, and while I don’t think my voice in the memoir sounds like his, in fact the influence was very strong. Finally, when writing a full length book, the author needs to be so involved in it that he can’t put it down. The writing itself is an exciting process of discovery, and that keeps you going. When I was writing Summer of Deliverance I was discovering and rediscovering my father, my mother, and myself, and when – after months of procrastination – the writing began, it was at a wrenching emotional pitch. I would write late at night and early in the morning, not only reading aloud what I had written the day or night before, but speaking the words aloud as I typed them. I had written the prologue earlier, but from the first chapter to the last took me only about four months, and I finished the manuscript in the small hours of the morning while on assignment for Newsweek in Tehran. 2) What question have you been asked so many times you'd like never to see it posed to you again? Did my father write the line “Squeal like a pig” in the movie “Deliverance?” But I am always happy to say no he did not. 3) What have you never been asked that you'd like to see? What is the answer to that query? What people do I love. They know the answer. But it is interesting how rarely that question is asked of anyone. We ask each other what “things” we love - food, music, cars, what have you. And we often talk about the people we hate, especially those we don’t know personally, like politicians, actors, and athletes. But love – that’s more complicated. 93 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
4) What is one of the most dangerous situations you've been in as a journalist? I recently listened to you speak for the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University. You touched on a few of these, but what of the examples you gave still jerk you awake at night? I sleep pretty well. I’m more likely to have nightmares about mundane quotidian matters than about the wars I’ve covered, and that’s always been the case. I don’t know why, but for the most part posttraumatic stress has passed me by. The closest I ever came to a breakdown probably was in El Salvador in about 1982 after my first couple of years covering the conflicts in Central America. I had been living with so much fear and witnessing so much suffering and death that I reached a sort of saturation point. Then I was visiting a town near the Honduran border that had been hit with fairly random mortar shells, one of which landed in a little tienda – really just a house with a refrigerator where people could buy cold drinks. Everybody inside, all of them women and children, had been killed. The bodies had been taken away just before I got there. I saw them later in the back of a pickup truck on their way to a makeshift morgue. But the image that made me break down was inside the empty, gore-soaked room: a bloody handprint sliding down the open door of the refrigerator. I could see that moment of pain and mortality as if I were living it, and I just started crying uncontrollably. As for the most dangerous and terrifying moments, some come back to me quickly, but only when I am responding to a question: There was the funeral of Archbishop Romero in San Salvador where 35 people were killed as shots rang out all around us and explosions erupted at the corners of the cathedral square. Everybody there thought they’d be crushed, incinerated, or shot. There was the escape under fire from Nicaragua into Honduras when I was traveling with the Contras (I read that passage from my first book at the Etowah conference). I took an insane risk hiring a boat to sail into the war zone in the Persian Gulf. And every visit to Lebanon in the 1980s was dangerous, with the risk not only of death or injury but of being taken hostage. I remember once going through a firefight to get to the Beirut airport to get on a network’s private plane to Cyprus, and being stranded there for hours on the tarmac as the sun started to go down. Men with beards and guns drove straight across the runway and stopped in front of me and the cameraman who’d offered me the ride. They asked for a light, and I said I had quit smoking, which seemed to infuriate them – it seemed a pretext for what was about to get very ugly – but then the cameraman produced a lighter, and they just drove away …. Later I went back to smoking. Heavily. In the 1980s and 1990s I was often assigned to go to places in the Middle East that the United States was about to bomb and see what that looked like on the receiving end. Most of the incidents are barely remembered by Americans, although the people who were there certainly recall them: the bombing of Tripoli in 1986; the buildup to the bombing of Baghdad in 1991; the cruise missile attack on Baghdad in 1993; the bombing of Belgrade in 1999; the occupation of Baghdad in 2003 and the spiral into terror afterward. Since 2005, I have spent less time on or near front lines, but the wars have come closer to home as I covered the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks in Paris and the bombings in Brussels. There will be many more incidents like those.
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5) The introduction (Overtures) to your heartbreaking but inspiring memoir is on a level that makes one say, "Damn. If he's going to start off on such a high pitch of crescendo, can he maintain it?" You do - really, really well. Did the introduction come to you at first, in a torrent, or did it seep into you as you wrote the book? To hear you read it aloud is an experience I will never forget. People think those first pages are about hate, but anyone who reads on will understand that the book is about love, which is a much more difficult subject. The introduction kind of wrote itself after I had the first line: “I thought that I could save my father’s life,” because that in many ways is the core of the narrative, and the spirit in which the book finally was written. But there was a long gap – one of many months – when that was all I was able to write. Then my wife suggested we go to Positano, where, as a 10 year old boy, I had begun to come of age in the spring and summer of 1962, and suddenly the flood of words and memories began. 6) The one point that snatched my breath away is on pages 211 and 212. It reads: "All my life, whether in the suburbs of Atlanta or the VW bus in Europe, and even, when I moved to Boston, at the end of long, overheated phone lines, my world had been enclosed by my father's wishes, dreams, visions, obsessions, abuses, confessions. Everything I tried to do was firmly tied to his range of experience. When he talked about me he'd tell people proudly, "I made his head, now he's making mine," and no one believed the latter phrase, of course, least of all me. But that wasn't the point. He defined me as his mirror, and everyone believed that." This, even now, makes the hair on my arms stand on end. This leads me to two conclusions: 1) Your and your father's ability to capture life, spirit, and climate spring across sentences so elegantly stretched across the page that Faulkner would read them in envy. 2) I am one of those who see a "mirror-esque" quality to at least the means at which you two use words to express the surface of a subject, and at times a tumultuous storm of underlying causes/emotions beneath. My questions are now: Do you still feel that his "latter phrase" is a mystery? Do you have any better grasp of what he meant? Do you feel that statements like this from your father place a heavy, but honorable mantle upon your shoulders? As a father and grandfather myself, I understand what he was saying – children are an endless source of discovery (one of his favorite words, and one of mine), and we do learn from them. But he repeated that line a lot. When he was drinking heavily, as he always was in those years, he would fall back into his personal loop of clichés. This was one of them, and like all clichés eventually it lost meaning. As for a mantle bestowed by my father: I am happy to think there might be something there; I hope there is something there, but I could only assume it after people ceased to make any connection between me and him. 7) Do you feel that there is a follow-up autobiography delving specifically, of course, into you as you've successfully taken up his mantle and made it the freeing ability to write that is wholly yours and bears only your fingerprints? I don’t think so. It would become a collection of anecdotes, I think, and those sorts of books don’t interest me very much. But for my own edification I am thinking about going through all my old diaries, notebook, and clips – millions of words – to discover the many things I once experienced, the many facts that I once knew, that have been lost to an overcrowded memory. 95 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
8) It appears that all fathers and sons come to similar clashes, shipwrecks, and redemption in love and life together and apart. What advice do you have for all the sons and fathers looking to build bridges and perhaps "save" each other as you posed in the first chapter of your book? Do it. Don’t think about it. Do it. Build the bridges. Most fathers and sons have clashes. But redemption is much less common, and when death intervenes, there is no way back. 9) What other kinds of arts do you dabble into? Who are your top five musicians or bands? Who are your favorite visual artists? What precious films always calm or get you going when you need balance in the chaos of words? I love photography, and I take a lot of pictures which I impose on those who follow me on social media. @csdickey on Instagram for anyone who's interested. Mozart’s concertos never fail to move me, especially the second movement of his Violin Concerto #3 in G. Artie Shaw’s “Star Dust” breaks my heart. I listen to country music with great amusement, but for the words more than the music, and more to individual songs than to favorite performers or bands. I like escapist films, even the Marvel variety, but never watch them more than once, except ... Since I was a little boy fantasizing about being a spy I have loved James Bond movies, especially the early Sean Connery films and two of the four Daniel Craigs (“Casino Royale” and “Skyfall”). I never ever watch movies or TV series about foreign correspondents or, for that matter, about journalists. The one exception was “Salvador,” which in a few segments was like reliving my life. I suppose I have watched “La Nuit de Varennes” several times, and a more recent film, “La Grande Bellezza,” is a wonderful immersion. 10) What have you learned thus far in life that gives an author/poet balance, peace, and/or a sense of belonging? I can’t speak for others, but in my case I'd say the powerful, stabilizing sanity of a good woman who is still willing to embrace adventure. My father had that with my mother when they were young; I have had it for almost 40 years with my wife, Carol. Maybe that answers the question of why I sleep well at night.
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Interview with Jonathan Haupt Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us the skinny on your new Pat Conroy Center. When did/does it open? What's the location and function of this facility? Like Pat’s writing, the Conroy Center grew out of grief and pain giving rise to action and empathy. Pat’s agent Marly Rusoff formed the idea, loosely inspired by the Loft literary center she started in Minneapolis, then Pat’s wife Cassandra King, the Conroy family, a board of directors, and an advisory council all put their hearts into the possibility and brought it quickly to life. Ultimately it’s Pat’s many readers who are making the Center possible day by day through their incredibly generous support of our nonprofit. Pat’s lasting legacy as a writer for the ages is already established by his beloved books. What the Center aims to do is continue Pat’s legacy as a teacher, mentor, advocate, and friend to readers and writers alike. The Conroy Center has an educational museum in an antebellum home at 308 Charles Street in Pat’s adopted hometown of Beaufort. Since opening our doors to the public in October of last year, we’ve welcomed more than a thousand literary pilgrims from 38 states and 9 countries, many coming to Beaufort specifically to visit the Conroy Center. But the museum component is only half of what we do. By our one-year anniversary, we’ll have hosted more than 50 programs in and beyond the lowcountry, everything from our monthly Visiting Writers Series to book discussion groups, writers workshops, poetry readings, cooking classes, professional development for teachers, public lectures on Pat’s writing life, and of course, our annual Pat Conroy Literary festival, an immersive and thematic weekend of all of the above added with film screenings, tours, a children’s book fair, and live performances. 2) The center has its first Pat Conroy Center Festival is coming up this October. What can people expect? Do we buy tickets? If so, how do we go about getting them? This October 19-22 we’ll hold our second annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, an event really first began in October 2015 as the Pat Conroy at 70 festival, celebrating with Pat his milestone birthday. Each year we take a theme from Pat’s work and expand on it through a diverse sequence of special events. Last year we celebrated Place as Character and Muse in Southern Literature. This year we’re honoring the Transformative Power of Education, and among the festival highlights will be a tour of the former Beaufort High School were Pat was both a student and a teacher, a screening of The Lords of Discipline followed by a discussion among several of Pat’s Citadel ’67 classmates, a performance of Conrack: The Musical, and appearances by Pat’s students Sallie Ann Robinson and Valerie Sayers, his teachers Bill Dufford and Nathalie Dupree, and a pantheon of teaching poets and writers, including Pat’s brother Tim, who will be debuting his first book of poems, Pat’s daughter Melissa, and his wife and fellow novelist Cassandra King. A full schedule of events and ticketing options will be available at www.patconroyliteraryfestival.org and also linked through the Conroy Center’s main site at www.patconroyliterarycenter.org. 3) What is the philosophy behind the center? What do you see as its mission? What is the significance of the center's location? In the summer of 1968 Pat, as a first-year teacher, wrote a letter to his former high school principal and mentor Bill Dufford, a letter that no one but Pat and Bill ever saw until it was rediscovered last fall as we were on the cusp on opening the Conroy Center to the public, holding the inaugural Pat Conroy Literary Festival, and announcing that I would leaving the University of South Carolina Press to take the helm of the Center as its executive director. It’s a wonderfully earnest letter from one 97 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
teacher to another, and in includes these lines: “That is immortality. For what I have learned from you I will pass on, and it will be passed on, and it will be passed on and passed on.” We have beautifully detailed mission and vision statements on the Conroy Center’s website, but Pat as a 23-year-old teacher really got to the heart of what we aim to do, to pass on the lessons of Pat’s writing life as the lessons of his teachers had been passed on to him. The Conroy Center is in Beaufort because this magical place was Pat’s literary muse as well as the setting of so much of his writing. As he said in The Death of Santini, “I’ve come home to the place I was always writing about…[and] I’ve tried to make Beaufort, South Carolina, my own.” 4) The Pat Conroy Center will host workshops of all kinds and flavors as time goes on. What kind of classes can we expect? How can established authors go about requesting time to teach there? What kind of classes are you looking for from poets/authors/teachers? We have offered workshops on topics ranging from haiku writing to memoir writing to reading as empathy to blogging as writer-reader dialogue, and we’ll continue to expand our class offerings and build our audience over time, presenting Conroy Center workshops in partnership with other literary events and organizations beyond Beaufort as well. Submissions of potential class topics and instructors are always welcome. We’re focusing initially on the pantheon of remarkable teaching writers, poets, and publishing professionals based here in the lowcountry and on our Visiting Writers Series authors who are also eager to share their craft through classes as part of their visit. In time and with greater support, we’ll be able widen the circle and have a student base that would make possible the hosting of classes by other guest instructors as well. 5) How can fans and other folks help fund the center's future? The Conroy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, made possible entirely by gifts and grants, both of which are always welcome. We’ve been very fortunate to have fostered the generous support of Pat’s readers, which is making possible the breadth of programs and quality of visitor experience we’ve been able to achieve in a comparatively short time. Tax-deductible charitable donations to the Conroy Center can be made online at http://patconroyliterarycenter.org/support-us or in person at 308 Charles Street in Beaufort. Honoring our mission and festival theme of the Transformative Power of Education, our donation box at the Center is an exquisite metal sculpture made by a master fabrication class at the May River High School in Bluffton, South Carolina. Those students and their teacher were incredible to work with, and Pat would have been deeply moved by what they crafted in his honor. Pat wrote in The Prince of Tides, “the only word for goodness is goodness, and it is not enough.” Indeed, it’s the goodness of so many that makes the Conroy Center possible, empowering us to pass on Pat’s legacy in that same spirit of generosity. 6) If I missed anything, please feel free to plug it in here. A selection of images and logos to choose from can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zg0n0kdjb3wbe8k/AACQZIqmR0dJVLY2FbZhzDtKa?dl=0
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Interview with Tim Conroy Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Let's break the silence in the man, Tim Conroy? Where are you most at home? Who are your people? What quirks and concrete hold you together? 6) What do you do to decompress? I bury the man in places of silence and separation. My favorite thing is to enter the woods or go city exploring as often as possible. When I am outside, my senses activate and my mind quiets. It is in these moments, I feel at home. Is it scorching hot or is there a hint of coolness rising from the fall line? Senses draw us to notice miracles. Are thrushes nesting in a Hackberry or finches darting between branches of crepe myrtles? Why are the worms showing themselves? You see and hear that the Holly tree is an entire ecosystem. When you are alone, away from technology, you hear the whispers of the environment forcing you to explore the metaphors surrounding you especially when on a long distance hike carrying only essentials. I think in abstractions and being outside allows me to enter the lessons of dirt and sky. You make connections with something more important than yourself. It is what holds me together. It restores and renews me for the perplexing nature of human relationships. I use strategic aloneness to recharge for human connectivity. My friends understand this quirk. I would tell you in my perspective we are all broken, confused, or lost. The weird part is that we all need each other. I gravitate toward people that know this and who seek ways to lessen their egos so they can continue on a journey of learning. By the way, we all fail at this lessening. I admire people willing to offer help to the other without fanfare or angle. If this sounds like bullshit, it is, but it is the undergirding of a lot of the things I write and think about. 2) You are a poet, and a damn good one. How did that truth evolve? What parts of the legitimate publication process took you off guard? What surprised you the most? Tell us about your new book? What does it cover? What kind of poetry would you call it? Who are your favorite poets? Who are you Top 5 Poets? My truth is still evolving. It is a moving target. I don’t know if I will find it. It has taken decades to begin to formulate two or three questions about it all. In my book of poetry, “Theologies of Terrain,” I use both narrative and free verse forms to bring the reader into the dynamics of this search whether through a father and son driving the ruts of a field in a shit-stained Cadillac, marsh deer standing on a declivitous shore, or a boy playing a game of checkers with a therapist. Here is the one truth I am unequivocal about. Life will eventually beat the shit out of you. It’s just what it does. But I remain optimistic because I have witnessed the good inclinations of strangers. I am a believer in the goodness of the stranger. You may not be and that’s OK. The fact of strangers rescuing me has been a recurring theme in my life. Most of the pain and suffering I have experienced have come from the actions of people I know. The stranger has been consistently good to me. Hey there stranger, my poetry book “Theologies of Terrain” will be available the second week of October at http://muddyfordpress.com My experience with the publishing process has been remarkably positive. I praise all who support the vital role of small presses like Muddy Ford. I admire Cindy Boiter and Robert Jolley for their passion to publish emerging writers and poets. My experience in publishing is one of deep appreciation for the work of small publishing companies. Most small presses are run and managed by people that have an absolute commitment to help writers but are straddled with financial margins that are painfully thin. I can’t give you a list of poets that are my favorites because I will leave someone out. That will later piss me off. I will mention poets I have been reading lately. I am enjoying the poetry of Ray McManus, John Lane, Ed 99 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Madden, Ron Rash, Quitman Marshall, Marjorie Wentworth, Délana R.A. Dameron, and Ross Gay. I find myself returning to Rash’s poem, “Whippoorwill,” again and again. Its form and beauty pulls me into its tragedy. Marjorie is the poet laureate of South Carolina. Her poems are beautiful, intricate, and rich. She is as generous of a poet and person as I have known. I love her piece written in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg tribunal, “In the Shadows of Nuremberg.” Ray’s poems in his book “Punch” clock you in the face like a drunken redneck. Ray’s got big balls. He will pour the liquor of truth down your throat. Ed Madden’s poems in his collection, “Ark,” paralyze you with unexpected facets of discovery and sadness. Ed is a brilliant poet, the poet laureate of the city of Columbia, and is the editor of my book. His poems have a depth that stuns. Quitman’s poems transport you into sensation and truth with dazzling technique. John’s poems are explorations in the wilds with the sensibility of a prophet naturalist. I love to roam in his poems like, “Early Spring On Cumberland Island.” I frequent the poets preserved in Carolyn Forché’s anthology, Poetry of Witness. It reminds me to honor the fearlessness of poets that chronicle human cruelty, oppression, and war. Her anthology translates a universe of pain, unfathomability, and resilience to us. The other day, I revisited the construction and stunning power of “Bringing the Shovel Down,” Ross Gay’s masterpiece. My dog hid when I read the poem aloud for the first time. It’s brilliant. Dameron’s collection, “Weary Kingdom” searches for place, for home, maybe even a deeper space that is intermingled with distance, memory, and time. Is this the search within? Her series of poems that begin, Dear—, haunt your imagination. Wait. On second thought I hate all these poets because they’re better than me. Don’t read one of their extraordinary creations. 3) What else are you reading right now? I just finished a fabulous short story collection, “Signals” by Tim Gautreaux. He can move a story like a bullet train, slow it down enough for the curves, and bring the damn thing in the station every time. This is as fine of a collection that you will ever read. It’s 21 imaginative stories filled with an authenticity of place, situational hilarity, tragedy, and great characters like the Bug Man and Deputy Sid. I never read to decompress. I read for the sheer delight and wonder of it. I read to be taken away. I read for the miracles on the page. I read to raise the heart rate and turn red. 4) What rituals or habits do you have while or before writing? I get up early and just go at it. I bang. I drain coffee. After the first hour, I stop for nourishment. At some point, I make a few phone calls to keep my juices flowing. I harass people routinely. I ask them questions or get their take on ideas. Friends are great resources when exploring subjects. They lead me to new material and are more knowledgeable about tons of stuff. Since the majority of my friends are smarter than me, this works out well. If I need help with a particular question about anatomy, philosophy, religion, or biology, I call and listen to them until they slam the phone down or tell me they have to pee. These conversations are vital to me and take me in new directions. I stop working after a few hours unless I can’t let something go. I try to dream about the poem at night. I never stop revising. I am in a couple of writing groups to keep me honest and disciplined. One year before Pat died, he sent the late great Sam Morton to my door to invite me into Ink Plots, a tribe of writers. Now Sam was a damn character and he wouldn’t leave until I promised I would join. I thought he was going to wrestle me to the ground as he chased me around the damn kitchen island. Believe me it was impossible to tell Sam anything but yes. But being in writing groups have proven to be an important part of my reading and writing process. Sam died shortly after Pat’s death. Read a little about my great friend Sam Morton at http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thestate/obituary.aspx?pid=179500740 5) Who are your heroes? Without a doubt, my hero is my wife Terrye. Terrye is a radical militant law librarian. There is more natural strength in her little toe than most people possess in their entire being. I am proud of how she takes care of her momma with dementia and how she tended to her sister who died from melanoma. I am proud of her political activism and her practical problem solving skills. I am lucky to be in the same orbit with her. Both of us had horrible fathers so my heroes are also great fathers. I love watching good dads in action with their children. I didn’t have a father; I had a roiling boil left on the stovetop. My father got better in his second act but he was 100 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
horrendous when we were young. My friend, Mitch Yell is one of the best dad’s I know. I love how he carves out time for each one of his three sons. He is different in how he approaches each son and he does it with such intentionality and love. Phillip Weathers, Ben Robbins, and Aaron Marterer are also wonderful and intuitive fathers. There should be a Hall of Fame for great fathers and mothers. 6) You and I have discussed how it feels when some approach us for selfish reasons. For you, until his passing last year, it was begging time with your brother, Pat Conroy. How did you tactfully deflect that? Do you feel you operate under his shadow or composing in your private light? Honestly, the question itself is the perfect example of his shadow. But I proudly write in his shadow and light. My brother Pat was always encouraging me to write, offering help, handing me books, nudging me to risk and find conviction as a writer. I loved him dearly and his death has devastated me. But it has brought urgency to me. It is why I write every day now. I can say his death fundamentally changed me and I think it changed all that knew him well. I want to honor him by risking complete and utter disaster as a poet. He would love my effort regardless of the result. Though he never gave a shit about his legacy, I think he would like what we are trying to accomplish at the Pat Conroy Literary Center. In its essence, the Conroy Center is a place for writers and readers to share and explore the life changing power of written and spoken words. Learn more about our efforts at the Conroy Center and the upcoming 2017 Pat Conroy Literary Festival (October 19-22) at patconroyliterarycenter.org/ https://www.facebook.com/PatConroyFestival/ 7) You recently became a member of the Southern Collective Experience. How do you feel about that? What do you see in the future? I am hoping to establish ways to connect, collaborate, and learn from other artists in the collective. I seek growth from interactions with artists. I want to gain new insights and deeper truths from others. I know a lot of writers and poets and visual artists and musicians and sculptors and painters and other artists but there are never enough creative people in a life. We all work in a form of isolation but we also need connectivity to the creative power of the group. If we don’t have connection with each other, we only feel the hard drops of a rainstorm and never the river’s current. I look forward to finding a niche and being a contributing member of the Southern Collective Experience.
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Interview of Hope with Felino A. Soriano Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us about yourself as the last year has gone by. How have you changed, become stronger, and/or found yourself tested? This past year has been the most trying time of my life. My father became ill in July of last year, and sadly passed away in late August. He was originally admitted into our local hospital but needed a wider spectrum of care and was transferred to a hospital a few hours away. As my mother’s intuition lead her to call me to head down to see him, as it appeared he would be passing soon, a series of ridiculous events prevented me from seeing him, which added varied degrees of frustration to a situation I was not prepared to comprehend. Typically, August is a celebratory month, as it is my and my daughter’s birth month. The disposition of the month will definitely be different, but my family and I will celebrate my father’s life, indeed. My father and I were very similar, contextual to our disposition. I move within the comfort of knowing his shaping me will continue to engage me and others, further evidencing his important role in my existence. 2) You are a captain of humility and quiet strength. I never mean to pry, but: Please tell us about the recent health scare you've stared down and what you've learned. Continuing with this trying year, ¾in early January I began experiencing difficulty swallowing, which ultimately lead to an endoscopy revealing I had esophageal cancer. A PET scan a few weeks later further devoted conflict with uncertainty in that I was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer; the cancer had spread to my liver, stomach, spine, left hip and femur, and left clavicle. 3) What was your prognosis when you started, and what is it now? By choice, I haven’t had that difficult discussion with my oncologist, yet. Due to my quite curious disposition, upon arriving home from my gastroenterologist’s office after receiving the original cancer diagnosis, I immediately began researching this type of cancer, treatment options, diet, side effects, and of course, prognosis. Prognosis for this type of cancer, particularly at stage four, is not very good. There’s a five year survival rate timeframe doctors use to establish information for the patient, depending on the cancer’s stage. For me, that survival rate is at around 5%. However, I’m maintaining an attitude cultivated in a belief that obviously is predicated on the unknown, while simultaneously staying focused on a very positive outcome. My recent scans have indicated the cancer in my liver, which was extensive, is nearly gone, and the cancer in my spine and clavicle is completely gone. I take this type of news and allow it to shape each day’s unknown becoming.
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4) How has cancer shaped your writing? My motto for this time in my life is healing. Poetry, music, family/friends, and other forms of elation are all dynamic aspectual identities moving me toward healing. I’ve incorporated cancer into some of my writings, although not overtly. I’ve also comprised healing into my recent poetic language as a subtle theme. Too, I write often of death, my death, and how death rotates within the language of oscillating perspective. 5) How has your philosophy on life changed over the last year, or made stronger? It hasn’t changed, much. Due to the physiological changes cancer has made to me, I am not as physically active prior to becoming ill; this alteration to the physical components in my life has created a stronger thinker in the context of how I approach every day or even, extraordinary occurrences. This forced stagnancy has helped me be more present in the aspects my life, that again, are leading me to healing. I’m able to spend more time with my family, research new jazz, study more philosophy, ¾and although the nausea and fatigue associated with cancer treatment sometimes renders me too tired to write, I have found time to slowly continue my series “Sedentary Fathoms”, which I started in January. The title has burgeoned a new meaning in that I am sometimes now “forced” to be still, which in turn releases an ability to observe the poetic language much more deeply I am trying to posit and communicate within my work. 6) What poets, authors, and/or music gets you through times like this? Music is always foundational. I’ve begun a deep listening to the brilliant saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose 2015 album “The Epic” is spectacular. It’s layered beyond my comprehension. Also, I’ve rediscovered the brilliant pianist Craig Taborn, and I continue to listen to the new inventions of pianist Robert Glasper, and trumpeter, Christian Scott Adjuah. Further, I was saddened by the recent passing of one of my favorite pianists, Geri Allen, whom I listen to nearly daily. Music, well, mostly jazz, leads me to my favorite poets, for the poets I enjoy reading read like musicians. A truncated list of whom I’m reading now includes Will Alexander, Nathaniel Mackey, Clark Coolidge, Ed Pavlic, Sheila Murphy, Eileen Tabios, Alison Ross, and others. 7) Do you have any poetry since your diagnosis? May we see a few pieces? Yes, I mentioned, I started a series called “Sedentary Fathoms” in January, and I’ve completed 99 poems. Below is a small example.
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Sedentary Fathoms |section ninety-four| Composite complimentary , collision, calligraphic momentum, curled revelations rotate within a certain speed of day’s ornamental energy contemporary
blur of a jazz-wing undulating clustered abbreviations Sedentary Fathoms |section ninety-five| Night I like most most in the figurations of mosaic blinking of each hour’s fulltime achromatic posing. Said of what holds warmth most: holy names first first second within the context of a surname’s obligatory identity/\thrust into freedoms of generational camaraderie. Said of when ghosts inherit the strong of bone, the strength of devotion to never decease or confine the wearer confusing the context of never-healed. Thus when water isn’t handmade
its veneration is lost to a smaller identity smaller rotational return to what the mouth needs most amid a summer’s electronic seams never disrupted Sedentary Fathoms |section ninety-six|
Curated fathoms. Held near this/a deliberate freedom to show/conceal
aspectual memories, cultural guidelines within my trio
identifying phrases/apparitional relatives’ devotional
momentums. I’ve alerted the eyes: reconnect with a/the behind you paradigm: history/prophecy eventual combine, creating more than the surname 104 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
attached to the configuration of blood and momentary breaths attracting the dragonfly’s improvisational absence and familial connectivity Sedentary Fathoms |section ninety-seven| Slow heat this summer’s halved disposition: friction of windy hands rhythmed vibratory standing bass insinuation¾ my dexterity’s abbreviated existence struggles to hold what reluctance taught regarding totality of inconsistent teaching. Of what stated music enables multilingual halos to lean to the good-hand’s momentum the gregarious openness of palm and counting affirmations of hands’ eloping into neoteric manipulations Sedentary Fathoms |section ninety-eight| Contemplating
documented purpling of a sky-near/night between twilight and its gradating neighbor of an early autumn achromatic darkened hall. Fear isn’t a persuasive illusion; its momentum moves in the healing of me. A chemo -therapy attribute washes over/through the veins bones organs allowing my breath to endeavor me to continue to view my daughter becoming prophecy of my dancing with her in all aspects of her arcing exaltation
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Interview with Brad Stephens Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. What music do you want them to hear when they read you? What feelings are you attempting to stir? I am a child of the red clay, first and foremost. My hometown of Cassville, Georgia is engrained in my soul, no matter where I have been since I left it. I feel like I am that same kid that rode his bike across cow pastures at night, hunted for periwinkles in the creek behind my house and learned how to shoot a rifle at the age of nine. I worked at Cass Grocery throughout my childhood, a general store that has stood since 1887 and was owned by my family for about 50 years. My days were spent pumping gas, checking oil, stocking shelves and hauling livestock feed. During that time, I interacted with the people of Cassville and became an adolescent anthropologist, inadvertently studying the turbulent and fascinating phenomenon that is small-town Georgia. The happiness, sadness, triumph and tragedy of the modern-day Southerner is a story that must be told. I have always said Cassville is Southern Gothic with a side of hyperbole, turmoil and laughter. From afternoons of watching fistfights in the parking lot, removing dishrags to pump gas, talking about the weather and sweeping up cigarette butts on ninety-degree days, I took inventory of my amazing neighbors and their lives. I miss them terribly. I have lived in Athens, Atlanta, Birmingham and New York City over the past 18 years and while all of those places had a profound effect on me, I still go back to those simple days. The music people should hear when they read me should be whatever speaks to your soul and removes the doubt and fear of everyday living. I write to inspire and make people laugh. I write for nostalgia. When I read my own writing, I hear "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers. It is a song about simple days with great lyrics and that telltale fiddle that really makes me smile. I want readers to slip away into their own past and remember the people who shaped their lives. My favorite feedback is when a reader tells me that my book helped them laugh during a bad time in their life. One woman told me that her mother had just passed away from an aggressive form of cancer and she was feeling very down and depressed. She cracked open my book and it made her laugh for the first time in weeks. If my words can overcome the sadness of death, then I call that a success. 2) What makes "you" - You? The number one ingredient of me is that I do not take myself too seriously. This is life and none of us escape the end game, so why live in perpetual seriousness? I find humor in all things, except Georgia football losses and cold cheese grits. I have never seen the point of negativity and it has helped me through some trying times. My family is extremely important to me and my childhood made me who I am. We all grew up on the same street (Kimsey Circle) that was named for my great-grandfather, Julius David Kimsey. My grandmother and great-grandmother lived 30 and 40 yards from my house, respectively. I had great, strong women in my life growing up - those two ladies affectionately known as Neen and Mama Kim and my wonderful mother Susan. Not to mention, my grandmother in South Carolina that we called Meemaw. I worked for my Dad at Cass Grocery, so there was an interesting dynamic balancing "boss" with "Dad." We spent many hours together up there and while most would think I had it easy being the boss's son, they would be wrong. He expected more out of me and I worked hard to live up to it.
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When I left home, I learned that many people did not grow up like me. It made me proud to be from Cassville, but curious about others as well. The years after I left, I was shaped by amazing people outside of my little bubble. My horizons were broadened by my college years, during law school and my life in New York. Experiences with people that do not share your background really shapes your adult life. I love the world and the people in it. My mock trial partner in law school was an AfricanAmerican male from inner-city Chicago. I am "honorary Jewish," as bestowed by some of my coworkers in New York. I love to eat Caribbean food, I am a wine snob and I even own a pair of Seven jeans. I like to think I shaped their opinion of Southern folks as much they shaped my opinion of them. However, I am still a Cassville man...no matter what. Of course, my wife Laura and my daughter Elizabeth make it all worthwhile. The joy they bring me is unparalleled. My idea of fun now is grilling steaks with everyone running around on the deck or writing ABC's on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. The simplicity of that puts my heart at ease. Our newest addition, Anderson, will join us this Fall. We could not be happier. 3) What is a question(s) you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? "Did you watch the 2012 SEC Championship game?" Yes. I watched it. I have tried to erase that memory from my mind but it sticks like syrup on a Waffle House floor. The last five seconds of that game is like putting my head in a blender and hitting puree, on fire, with Fran Drescher's voice reading the score in my ears as I die. Just responding to this question makes me nauseous. 4) What are your favorite practices in writing? Is it spiritually fulfilling? What keeps you banging at words on the page even when if feels like you're beating your head against a wall? I am a caffeine aficionado. Once I have a coffee and some Allman Brothers' "Mountain Jam" in my ears, I can write anything. Duane Allman's slide guitar makes my fingers nimble on the keyboard, I suppose. "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" also works for me, preferably the 1973 version from the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Although Duane is gone at that point, Dickie Betts is certainly no step down. One can find me in coffee shops anywhere between Atlanta and Blue Ridge, although you will not see me in hipster garb or enjoying any acoustic guitar sets. That is too clichĂŠ for me. When I write, I escape from the world entirely. Seriously, somebody could conduct a sĂŠance next to me and I would not notice. Once I have a thought, I run with it until it is done and I have had enough coffee to fire up an aircraft carrier. I am not prone to writer's block, but when I slow down, I drive to Cassville and "mosey" down CassWhite Road, which runs alongside our old family property. Just seeing the old pasture, the hill where I hunted squirrels and ran from Confederate ghosts and the smell of the grass gets me going again. 5) What helps you maintain balance in the world of literature? Maintaining balance in literature is staying true to yourself. I write as I speak. I do not use a thesaurus unless it is absolutely necessary. I stay away from semicolons and never try to doctor up my words to fit certain readers. Understanding the small town South is about immersing yourself in the culture of these people. Authenticity is something that cannot be compromised and I think that has served me well in writing. There is a difference in adapting to criticism and completely changing what you are. I picture myself sitting on the bench in front of our old store and talking to the old men who used to sit around, drink coffee and talk about life. I ask myself how I would explain things to them. Once I find 107 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
my opening, I go with that and I will not change that approach. I firmly believe that if you compromise your true style, you may as well stop writing. 6) What are some initial thoughts about the Southern Collective Experience? What role do you play, or want to play? I love the SCE and what it stands for. It is the epitome of authenticity with a collection of kindred spirits that seek to give the world a heaping helping of our own unique "Southern-ness." I want to help SCE grow and prosper outside the borders of Georgia into other places where our lives are unknown outside of unflattering news reports and comedy routines. We live in the most romanticized and mysterious region in the United States.....and I could not be prouder. You can find his hysterical, touching, brutally honest memoir at: https://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Muddy-Water-HighwayCassville/dp/1533483469/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8 https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998847607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494341248&sr=81&keywords=resurrection+of+a+sunflower
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Interview with Steven Shaff Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us a bit about yourself, Steven. Hello my name is Steven Shaff and I grew up in the Midwest. I am from Wichita, Kansas and moved to the south over 20 years ago. I came from an excellent upbringing but was not happy as a child through adulthood and was diagnosed with Dysthymia depression. It was God, Counseling, and Medication that has got me to where I am today. Anytime I have struggles in life I know who to turn to which is God and his Son Jesus Christ. 2) As a man with curly hair, I am genetically aware that perfecting the art of a hair stylist is a tricky beast to master. What made you choose this vocation? I decided to choose Hairdressing as a career because it was a way for me to express my creativity. I owe a lot to my mother since she was also a hairdresser. 3) You work like a man obsessed with joy. After long weeks, how do you center yourself? Music, Traveling, and Exercise are my go to for escaping and relaxing. 4) You have a genuine kindness that Christians don’t share in the vast amount your show. It is calming and inspiring to talk to you while getting my afro shaped up. Where does that quiet strength come from? I have a strong passion for helping people. I currently mentor a lady who was homeless and HIV Positive. She and I are part of an organization in Atlanta called the Jerusalem House which houses homeless people living with HIV and AIDS. 5) Steven, to be honest, the close physical contact you must have with all you work with would drive me insane. How do you deal with so many in your personal space? Currently I start my day off reading the Bible and listening to Sermons on You tube while getting ready in the morning. I also watch a lot of videos and attend classes on my craft so I can become even better at my profession. 6) You have mentioned on several occasions that music makes you a happier man. What kind of tunes do you groove to? I love R&B, Jazz, Neo Soul, Gospel, and Classical. Whitney Houston is by far one of my favorite artist. 7) Now that I’ve found someone who won’t butcher my style, I have to know if you planning to stay put with Joseph and Friends or open your own joint. I plan on owning a salon in the near future that I can call my own. I had owned 2 salons in the past and learned so much. 8) Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t make sure our readers know how to contact you. What’s the best way to make an appointment? I can be reached at www.josephandfriends.com for your complimentary consultation. 109 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Interview with Allison Joseph Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Tell us, Allison Joseph: What makes "you" You? Where did your striking, but lasting form of poetry resonate from? What would you call you kind of poetry and the song it sings? There are so many things that go into who I am. I'm the daughter of immigrants, a geeky kid who discovered poetry at her local public library while growing up in the Bronx, a Midwestern small-town creative writing professor, a runner, a walker, a writer, a wife. But I'm no one's mother. 2) Speaking of music: Who are your top 5 musicians that are "go-to's" for you before, during, or after you write? Do you have any rituals or practices you use to keep your fire an inferno for poetry? How do you push yourself to grow as a poet? I don't listen to music while writing. I'm much more apt to seek silence when I write. I love music however, and have tons of CDs, cassette tapes, MP3s, and even some albums. I push myself as a poet by inventing my own forms, and learning more about the craft. 3) Do you find that reading poetry is not only needed to "hear" that a poem is finished, but also vital for practice in reading for the public? Do you believe that readings are vital for the poet and poetry lovers? What is some advice you can give our readers for developing their voice on the page and then their literal voice aloud to the public? I'm a big fan of poetry readings. I can truly connect with a poet when I hear his or her voice, not just on the page, but in the air. My best advice for giving readings is to read your work like it's best thing ever--relish the sounds you've made. 4) What early experiences in life sculpted you as a poet? What recent moments have life have kept you on that path? I was a NYC school kid, so we were some of the first kids to get Poets-in-the Schools. I really thought poets were neat people. I still think that. Recently, it's been more the gift of time that keeps me writing. Whenever my time is free of obligation, it's a good time for writing. 5) What do you do to relax and remove yourself from words, and work? Do you find that these breaks allow you to move more freely within the written word? Travel--it's really important to travel. I don't drive, so travel for me can be a walk in a new city, or a jog in my neighborhood. 110 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
6) What question do you never want to be asked again? Can poetry be taught? Of course it can! 7) What question(s) have you always wanted to be asked, but never have? What are those answers to help our readers see you the way you wish without regret? I really don't have any answer to this one. I'm happy to answer anything anyone might ask, but I don't think there's anything anyone need ask me. 8) What projects are you working on now? Where can we find your current book(s)? My new project is No Chair Press--a press I founded this summer to publish chapbooks of formal poetry by women poets. As someone who writes a lot of formal poems (meaning metered and rhymed poems), I knew there was a need. A lot of contemporary poetry is in free verse, and that's fine, but I do love a good rhyming sonnet, or a fine villanelle, or some of those obscure French forms. 9) Where are a few places we can find you reading this fall and winter? I'm honored to be reading this fall at De Paul University in Chicago, and at the Festival of Words in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. 10) How on earth do you and your husband, Jon Tribble, maintain such a high-energy, non-stop touring schedule and maintain some semblance of sanity? We pick great hotels and have a reliable car. But seriously, we enjoy traveling and like to do readings. It's a blessing to be heard in a world where poetry isn't much of a priority for a lot of people. We're grateful for the opportunity to talk poetry with eager audiences.
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Somehow You Survived for Dennis Brutus, in memory of his 1995 visit to Carbondale, Illinois Somehow you survived the legacy of a shameful nation that did not see your glory— its anthems not for you, for “coloured” you in exile, one way ticket out of your homeland, territory you cherished though it shot you down, let you bleed on the street in Johannesburg, dragged you to trial, shipped you to a cell, imprisoned you in the rocky cruelty of Robben Island, Mandela one cell over. Somehow your tenderness, your humor, your tenacity survived in the wake of presidents and politics, sport and the desperate beauty of cities held hostage by global forces—boots on the ground, secret police and Secret Service, dictators and demagogues. I heard you speak of hope in the face of death, of love in the midst of anger, of home in the midst of exile. I heard you speak with the tenderness of a man outliving his captors, his jailers, poet set on wandering wherever tenderness lets him imagine, surrendering over and over that peculiar sudden hope, that simple lust in life.
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Spell for A Neglected Poem I resurrect this poem from the dead, brush off the faulty lines and set them right, remind myself that they came from my head, remember I abandoned them that night, forgot them in the glare of morning light, went onto to write some other piece instead, some easy passage much less prone to fight. I resurrect this poem from the dead, unwind it bit by bit, and thread by thread, to turn it into something I could write with joy and not a creeping sense of dread. Brush off the faulty lines and set them right, fill in the gaps and joints, my rhythms tight. I plot and scratch, step back, my papers spread across the floor. I free these lines from spite, remind myself that they came from my head, investigating work I could have shred, its newer possibilities in sight, my words revealing how lived and fled. Remember I abandoned them that night? I resurrect this poem.
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My Father. Back from the Dead, Visits to Complain About Donald Trump He’s looking really sharp for a dead guy, but then again, my father always could dress well— leather shoes, pressed suits, cufflinks and tie pins, because my father always knew he couldn’t get away with being slovenly, that he couldn’t be angry with anyone but us, in his home, his own falling-apart castle. I tell him that it’s been like this for what seems like years, and that black people, who are usually merely just fed-up with all the hypocrisy and indignities, need him back fiercely. Only you can make me feel better, I say, forgiving him those rages in my girlhood violent moody swings of temper that left me loving him and hating him in the same day. How can you trust a white man that orange, my father sneers, and I feel a wash of relief— this time, my father’s scathing sarcasm is headed for Trump Tower, to DC—where he took us once on a rare family vacation, occasion of one of my few photos with him. My father says white people don’t come in tangerine and I roar aloud, tears coming into my eyes with love for his snark, for his petty meanness now thrust at the Starburst-In-Chief, for my father remembers I loved that candy, particularly the orange ones, wrappers all over my childhood bedroom, decorating my hand-me-down dresser. My father’s ghost demands: you mean to tell me that’s the best this country could do after all this time I’ve been away? He never felt a need to visit during the Obama years—though I’m sure he would have poked fun at Barack too—those ears too much to resist. But this, this orange clown, this real 114 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
estate loser, this reality show ringmaster— he’s enough to raise an angry black man spitting and yelling and reeling from the dead, my father’s loud Caribbean timbre waking me from my abject American sleep, my green card slumber, my citizenship not the only gift this father ever gave me.
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Interview with Jon Tribble Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) You are a return artist to our Blue Mountain Review. I not only see this as an honor, but your prolific body of work demands it. People can read our past issues to get a full picture of you as an artist, as well as other, better-known journals, but I want to touch on what we've talked about in the past as well as what you're up to now. What is the status of your KFC collection of poetry, and what is the official title? What made you want to write a selection of verse so specific? My KFC collection is complete and scheduled to be published in March 2018 from Glass Lyre Press. The title is God of the Kitchen. I took on this project about writing about the two and a half years I worked as a teenager as a fry cook to explore fast food labor and the price paid by the individuals doing that work. 2) What question have you always wanted to be asked, but never have been? What is the answer to that unknown query? Since I often write narratives, the question I have wanted to be asked is, why poetry rather than fiction or nonfiction? And I suppose the answer is I like the challenge of the economy of poetry, the hard work of exploring a story while compressing the details to their essence. 3) You and I have talked on several occasions. What strikes me each time is the level of Zen-like peace in your tone and delivery. How do you maintain that peace? What practices do you use every day to keep up your "chill factor"? I get to work editing other writers' work, reading with a purpose, and it's so satisfying. I suppose my calm comes from being grateful to do work I love. I know how rare that is. 4) What are the new projects on the horizon? I have five projects right now: another completed manuscript made up of more mwtaphysical/historical/music/myth-influenced poems; a collection of poems nearly complete about the missionary work my parents did and the Methodist church camp where I grew up; a project book about the almost eight years I worked for United Artists Theaters in Arkansas and Texas; a sequence about the toxic masculinity associated with Peewee, middle school, and junior high football that will be written entirely in forms invented by my wife, Allison Joseph; and a hybrid project exploring the damage done by white supremacy in America. 5) What are the top five living poets you most enjoy? That's a hard question. I love the work I publish in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, but it wouldn't be right to name any of those writers. Right now I'm enjoying Kaveh Akbar, Ross Gay, Marilyn Nelson, Jamaal May, and, always, Allison Joseph. I might be wrong in naming my wife, but she is doing such terrific work. 116 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
6) If you create a collaborative work with one or more other poets, who might they be? Who's on your "dream list"? I have never thought about ding collaborative work, and I'm married to a writer. I would rather edit writers I admire, helping them realize their own vision. I just had the opportunity to edit Cyrus Cassells' new book that will be out in Spring 2018, The Gospel according to Wild Indigo. It was a great experience. 7) What moment in your past made you stop and say to yourself, "I think I need this poetry thing. How do I make it my life"? I began writing poetry when I was a fiction writer who couldn't revise a story. There were too many choices to make. I'm still learning. Maybe I'll return to fiction someday. 8) The Crab Orchard Review is making a new home from print to online. What do you think will make that transition smooth? How can we keep up with the launch online? When can we expect to see the final, print version and who are some of the names within it? We're very excited about this transition and I hope readers will receive the final print issue by October. We're making corrections in copy right now. Proofreading and getting page proofs to the authors then final corrections is all that's left. Along with you, some other contributors include Tiana Clark, Claire Rossini, and Afaa Michael Weaver. There are 102 contributors.
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A Special Chapbook Release: Adultery Chicken by Jon Tribble Polyester Corporate synthetics unnaturally clinging to our skin, binding our corporeal selves to the publicly-traded carefully-branded and re-branded identity of a bucket of convenience, our sweat each day glued this redand-white-striped armor over our true selves hidden underneath. But most of us shed the uniform first chance we got after clocking out, peeling away the sticky fabric like testing a scar to see if living tissue might be healing underneath, if the heavy damp net we spent our days drowning in could be cast off, traded for the clean sharp air and illusions of freedom. The women and girls working the front of the store had it worse than the teenage boys behind them in the kitchen or the childish men disappearing into the manager’s office after each mealtime’s rush with the day’s receipts. The managers wore white shirts with black string ties, black slacks, and black dress shoes. The cooks wore the candy-striped shirt and silly crown of a paper peaked cap that never lasted long, but necessity allowed us jeans and whatever heavy shoes or boots might save our feet from the grease and spills and water and heat. The women, young and older, couldn’t escape full regalia—red polyester slacks tight as a snake’s skin, white shoes, white-and-red-striped apron-like vest over a red top, and a red-brimmed white newsboy Gatsby-style hat, a round and fat bubble on top to conceal fully any shining crown of hair within it. Whatever our religion these were our vestments now and until we disrobed, our rituals unfolding daily in garments proven to resist the visible stains, the wear and tear sure to mark us in more indelible ways than any fabric could ever hope to cover up. 118 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Adultery Chicken Faithfulness and flavor need more than salt, whether from the brow or the table shaker, so when one of the assistant managers said rumor was the recipe belonged to a mistress, not the Colonel, even though the training video showed the man, familiar white suit and black string tie, sauntering past the rebuilt Sanders Court and CafĂŠ, not original black suit with tails, gold watch chain, and thousands of miles, days of handshake deals over plates and plates of pressure-cooked fried chicken and the best gravy anyone ever licked off their greasy fingers, the Colonelâ€™s Lady overcoming her shyness in a yellow antebellum dress serving cole slaw, mashed potatoes, maybe baked beans, and rolls. But she was second for his heart, his first wife from his railroad days and when he stopped receiving answers to his letters home he returned to find no furniture, no children or wife there, her family taking them back in away from him, thinking she could have done better, and what became a thirty-nine-year unhappy marriage proved someone right as sure as when it ended he married well at last to the woman who made the beds at his motel and made him believe there was something he could do with the rest of his life. So what does it matter if he authored this combination of measure, taste, and luck alone or found help and inspiration where he also found a partner who traveled with him sometimes, other times met the late-night train to mail packages of what was probably plenty of paprika, salt, and the essence of flavor in Accent, plus a choir of other choices in harmonies of ground oregano and sage, garlic powder and onion salt, dried marjoram 119 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
and basil, pepper and the possibilities of chili powder or cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg or any of the other discordant notes a unique song can bend to its purpose, all mixed into the clean white field a fifty-pound bag of flour can spill pure and true time after time, the chaste surface to welcome the dirty delicious passion the lips await, the kiss that once in the mouth new lovers hunger for again and again without shame.
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Learner’s Permit Cruising Rodney Parham to Reservoir and back in the assistant manager’s late model Cutlass Supreme, fifteen years old but Randy was twenty-four, a Mr. Kotter curly hairstyle on top of a blinding Vinnie Barbarino smile, and if he’d been watching me instead of making out with Mary we would have been technically legal if not stretching the spirit of the law. But nothing right was happening here. I had cleaned the kitchen, Randy made deposits, and Mary cleaned counters, warmers, service areas, and we all finished over an hour before my parents would come and collect me. Randy always had two joints rolled and ready but Mary never joined us and we didn’t need more than one. When Randy found out I had a learner’s permit, he said he could teach me to drive, but really he knew if we were rolling no LRPD would pay any attention to what was going on in the back seat. I did, and when he began peeling off the white cotton shirt she had changed out of her polyester work top like I peeled albums out of their cellophane at her other job at the Target on John Barrow Road. I rode my bike the first couple of times but figured out if I walked the two miles from my home she would offer to give me a ride back in the red VW Beetle held together with rubber bands. She liked my company like a little brother she could teach the way the world worked and I had never known anyone whose kindness and beauty blended like the perfect morning light, a sunrise warming you just because the day’s promise included everything breathing and waking to the possibility of being. As long as I didn’t overdo it, she let me take advantage of her position running the music department, opening albums so they became “slightly damaged,” merchandise now available for a dollar for regular albums, two dollars for 121 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
doubles. It was hard not to strip them all, and someone should’ve locked me up for bad taste—the Bee Gees soundtrack Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Barbra Streisand’s Superman mainly because I liked the T-shirt, Olivia NewtonJohn’s Totally Hot for the leather, though luck took me to Taj Mahal because I found the name funny, an Indian palace built for love and death, was so taken by the music I added John Lee Hooker and B.B. King to my shopping list along with Briefcase Full of Blues since even I knew the Blues Brothers. But in Randy’s car the music playing each ride his 8-tracks—Boston, The Eagles, some early “Quiet Storm” tapes to set the mood for Mary—and I watched more and more of her skin filling the mirror, making me feel less and less, even hoping for the rear view to fill with light from a car behind us, a flash of brilliance to turn my soundtrack of failure into any fantasy I wanted foolishly to believe.
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A Very Special Recipe The best thing I ever cooked myself and never will again was beyond offthe-menu and forbidden, but when you are fifteen years old and work sixty-five-hour weeks in summer frying chicken the number of things you will listen to that anyone says you can’t do becomes smaller than the hours you aren’t exhausted or sleeping or back at work again. We only sold the special Hot & Spicy™ blend after Memorial Day until Labor Day, an attempt to keep Popeyes down in Louisiana where those Cajun-style flavors closed down some of the Colonel’s longtime franchises. One of our cooks experimented with the orange day-glo chicken pieces that spilled from the marinator’s steel drum and found that if we used Original Recipe™ flour rather than the bland Extra Crispy™ that even the Colonel called “a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken,” the result tasted good in the deep fryers but became something worth calling special if we used the Henny Penny pressure cooker and its little cage of wire trays to stack a bird or two into the hot oil bath. We tried every method we could think of until finally discovering that doublebreading the Original Recipe™ flour —a second egg wash dip to pat on a more luscious coating—gave us an almost perfect result, but when one of us thought to cook 123 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
only the center breast pieces, the all-white keel with wishbone intact, and to stuff the pockets on each side of the breastbone with one whole jalapeno pepper, we had a spicy, moist, savory dish that was worth filtering the machineâ€™s oil twice to strain out the flavors we cooked into the meat, worth every bit of the time and effort to discover when those hot juices burst onto your tongue, coated your lips with a tangy kiss, almost worth getting fired just to have the memory of that taste.
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Waiting for the Colonel The day I met the second best fry cook in those central Arkansas chicken franchises, we both were working together in a small take home store like the hundreds that had spread the good news of the bucket and side dishes across the country and the world. We were used to the kind of restaurants we usually worked in, sit down spots with a portrait of the Colonel in a front corner, pictures of happy families on the walls smiling and laughing as the perfect Sunday dinner waited for their prayer, or perhaps the mother and father and two children— of course, a boy and girl—had a blanket down on the grass on a beautiful day with the full meal and fixings spread out before them as the Colonel sat nearby with a bucket of chicken in his lap like he did on the album cover of Colonel Sanders’ Tijuana Picnic, a marketing ploy to cash in on Herb Alpert’s success and connect the brassy joyous music with a familiar pastoral scene and the occasion of stores opening in Mexico in the late ‘60s. This location we were in part of a memory that wouldn’t last much longer, low volume and no seating dooming it to a sure closing in the near future, but for this day an all-star crew would create the illusion of a past perfect in its moment, where every spot of grease, drop of water, mote of flour disappeared as soon as we cooked and prepared each order, a kitchen where all our efforts seemed effortless with every surface shining, no dishes waiting in the sink, our aprons brilliant white and unsoiled. The Colonel was downtown at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, back in the city he had been a lawyer with no training practicing before the Justice of the Peace bench sixty years ago until brawling in the courtroom 125 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
with his own client ended one of so many careers he pursued, but we were told he never lost that legendary temper and knew when he arrived here our purpose was to present him a store like those he first opened everywhere for so many years, our job to keep him from raising his black cane and beating out his percussive anger on our spotless counter. So we waited and worked and cleaned and waited, erasing our every action in preparation for a visit that would never happen.
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Nine Easy Pieces Learning a new language of nine, each plastic-wrapped chilled bird gave us that ever-odd count again. Trucks loaded with cold cases on hot and hotter afternoons where ice was dead wet weight in our grips as we challenged one another, heavy and heavier loads our own Sisyphean task in another pointless idiotic work game for boys who didnâ€™t understand the lasting damage each box added to the bodyâ€™s ledger. Believing we proved something real when two, three, or maybe even four seventy-five-pound boxes anchored our sinking arms as we stumble-walked forward with three hundred reasons to break down. Wax-coated boxes slick in our hands, impervious to water and our sweat, numbed our fingers into frozen grasping claws that bent to lift again. Cases piled five high in the walk-in, each rack two deep, the boxes of new chicken in back all filled with twenty fresh birds, hoping we had enough weekend business before rot and stink replaced clean dead air. Blood and water drained from racks to the floor, and we watched every degree the thermometer added each time the door opened, salmonella waiting at forty to bloom and spoil all our work. We knew heat killed the waste incubating inside so we hurried all nine pieces from egg wash to flour to glorious cleansing four hundred degrees. Splatter and pop of deep fryers, ingenious pressure cookers sealing in 127 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
dark secrets of heat and oil, answer everyone mistook for herbs and spice. Bucket after bucket filled with our roll call of one center breast, two each of side breasts—really just awkwardly-cut back the Colonel split to make three white pieces from two—to join thighs, legs, and wings. Tricks of the trade, each bird now having nine parts to sell, not eight, innovation by slick country cooks getting every penny, every little bit helping to stretch the valuable meat. Leftovers almost always wings and extra thighs, the hard sells we’d gather at night, a last inventory of waste.
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Color-blind I thought the chickens lived in black and white, but who was I to think I knew anything about anything, avoiding the only question anyone sensible would have asked those years I went from high school to kitchen to bed to summer to kitchen to bed and eventually back to class Only to know I was hiding why in every minute clocked and paid regular and time and a half. Why did I work forty hours and more as other high school students put in fifteen or twenty for spending money on dates, a little extra to put away for college? I bought a strange little automatic Honda Civic with a hole in the floorboard but a removable backseat that could hide bottles, bags, a life I led beyond straight A’s except for the nine weeks I slept through trigonometry and took a D only to ace the other three quarters after a day the teacher suggested everyone leave me head down on my desk snoring when class ended, but I heard him and popped up to his and the student’s surprise, said, “I don’t think so.” He swore I had been sound asleep, but truly I never was, always on the edge of a waking dream as as undiagnosed sleep apnea grew worse and more soul-consuming for another decade. My father had lost his seventeen-year job here and Mother needed a paycheck for the first time in my life, brother and sister away at Hendrix College on half-tuition Methodist minister’s children received from my father’s thirty years now lost, but I had never been a problem—band, football, glee club, even Eagle Scout behind— and now a model worker still succeeding and in the Honor Society. But I turned down Governors State because they wouldn’t allow 129 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
cars and I wanted to commute from Conway so I wouldn’t miss a week of work. My first summer I worked sixty, seventy, even one week of eighty-four hours, but the next summer, when I was seventeen, I almost reached perfection in my deep-fried mind when I worked six days seven a.m. until midnight, forty regular and sixty-two hours of overtime, one hundred and two hours even drawing notice from our district manager, who said never let that happen again. You could have branded the red and white stripes on my skin those days I was so lost in the prison I built for myself from grease and bones and blood. But my why was the cause of an effect of something else, something I did not see. The chickens see more colors than we do, an extra cone in their eyes making ultraviolet paint bugs and feed and other birds, showing hens an egg we will never see, the rooster a sunrise with beauty we can only imagine in a virtual existence. But we have tried to blind the birds for commerce, placing glasses with red lenses on to make them docile, eat less, more productive, upsetting the natural pecking order, even moving on to contact lenses since the glasses fell off, but blinding the birds wasn’t the answer, infections and death bad for the bottom line. When I trained to be a fry cook, Tony and Dre were older African American young men crossing Little Rock—one from Granite Mountain, where opportunities were hard as the stone coming out of the quarries, the other from Little Rock’s purposefullynamed Confederate Boulevard—making our store on Rodney Parham integrated more naturally than our schools, white 130 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
and black churches. I saw the uniform and little else, but the more I worked, the hours that more and more appeared with my name assigned on the schedule beside the time clock, the other cooks became whiter and then front counter workers and servers until the entire crew was all the same, and I realize now the first White domino to fall was me, managers one by one consciously or not turning us into a sixties version of the companyâ€™s television fantasies of Lady Godiva in her pinkish leotard riding through the countryside with a bucket of chicken and a smile, only a yellow tabby to look askance at her spectacle, but I was our convenient aberration and distraction, nakedly consuming so many opportunities for others with my unnatural obsession, as blind to what was happening as a pacified bird, and so tired, so very tired, I wore my lenses for years.
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Good Girls Don’t Friday and Saturday July nights, we wanted things to get sticky sweet, even just late-night drive-thru blurry skin shows after we refilled sodas soon transmuted to rum or Jack or vodka and Coke, Sprite and Seven, Southern Comfort and just about anything, our adolescent dreams, schoolboy lust filling ten to one A.M. when only male cooks and assistant managers worked since we were waiting for a holdup that never came. Instead our stupid macho bravado screamed through the slow hours between customers coming or going from odd-hour shifts themselves or the munchies and the young women we worked beside the rest of the long days entertaining us or their own needs. Even with the promise of the gun, we fought over that drive-thru, knowing Shelly would pull up in her mom’s baby-blue T-Bird with the latest star football player or student body second-tier official who heard she was fast, yes, pretty fast, but he didn’t know she took what she wanted, discarded men like men dumped girls, wearing skintight jeans she had slithered into with me in the Women’s room girded against my embarrassment with pre-spandex spandex, my eighth-grade football pants minus 132 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
the pads that I wore under my jeans to protect me from chafing after back-to-back day and night shifts in the swamp of the kitchen that also served to hide hard-ons when Shelly stood before me with only bra and panties since I was safe. We could also count on Madeline to appear two or three times in a bikini top and cut offs that wouldn’t have made it past network standards and practices on The Dukes of Hazzard, Madeline, a girl I’d known since she was six or seven at Markham Methodist when she barely cast a shadow, now with a body that made sin out of a Sunday dress, who thought kindness was letting us see all her tan lines and then some. Or Barbara and her station wagon full of half-drunk or high, laughing Mount St. Mary’s girls mooning or flashing us if they didn’t know the guy who won the window. On summer weekday mornings when Margaret and Sue gossiped between mothering and shaming us and making vats of coleslaw, potato salad, enough baked beans for Ann-Margret to take her Tommyinspired bath. I wasn’t spared when they tore into the rest of us, but they expected so little of the men and we didn’t often disappoint. 133 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
But the girls got it much worse: should have known better, needs to get on the pill, had it coming. Shelly got the brunt of their disdain and I tried to redirect the conversation since she was my sort of best friend, had pulled me out of class that spring, drove me to the Target parking lot and sat there silently until she finally spoke in a whisper, “I’m pregnant.” We never slept together, even months later when she was my prom date or the last night we saw each other when after she left I fell into a solipsistic nightmare and took all the aspirin in the apartment, thirty-seven measly tickets only enough to travel a third of the way, and in a moment of lucidity called my brother, who introduced me to ipecac syrup and a night of retching, but this is about Shelly and her need for someone to hold her while she talked about the expensive procedure in Dallas she’d need to make everything all right at that late a date. No, I didn’t tolerate much badmouthing of Shelly and since in their kinder moments Margaret and Sue thought my sixteenyear-old self was “husband material” they let go what I expect might have been their favorite material. But they shouldn’t have spared us men— the young assistant manager who told one of the fifteen-year-olds he really liked the way a microphone looked in her hand; Jack, the oldest 134 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
cook, trapping anyone female not Sue or Margaret against counters, walls, doors and while copping a feel telling them he was “an ass man”; one of the nicest assistants, Doug, a forty-five-year-old who couldn’t get ahead in food service but would always buy beer or hard liquor when we wanted so we knew he was cool, gathering guys around to show off nude Polaroids of his girlfriend, sixteen years old, the pictures he said her mother, a close friend, took for him; but the worst was probably Carl, who so matter-of-factly stood behind the closed and bolted back door when the young women went out with the trash from the dining area and demanded a squeeze or pinch to let them back in the store to finish their shifts like he was entitled, and to get on with their night most gave in. Criminals, perverts, idiots, all of us guilty by commission or of omissions daily where we might have demanded another stop it, but we didn’t until it became clear no one wanted to hear us sing that song unless the verses included a sniggling smirk and a wink, ignoring damage that never goes away though I hope some of us couldn’t erase the sad stain, carry it still. I do.
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Homefront A scene no Norman Rockwell would ever paint, my mother sat in the recliner across from me while, sometime after midnight, I shook my heavy steel toe boots one after the other off sodden feet drenched in another day and night’s long shift, but I had forgotten what I had hidden away in that second one, so while the boot went right toward my mother, a bag of the finest leaf marijuana went to the left and my eyes didn’t move a bit in that telling direction as I continued to talk to her about how things had gone at work, when I would need to get up that Sunday morning to return to another long day those summers I brought home nearly two hundred a week after taxes, forty hours plus overtime a constant, and so was the weed, my need growing and my tastes expensive for 1980, a week’s pay not unusual for me to spend on any number of strains of homegrown or foreign sensimilla that I’d break down and mix with Colombian Gold or Chocolate Thai, Black Magic African, Buddha stick (though that was sometimes too good to mix), and always the Panama Red around, cleaning the herb of all the seeds and stems until only leaf remained and I would blend different versions for smooth or strong, a mellow high or oblivion, whatever the night called for, but I never smoked at home or alone since it was not difficult to find someone at work to share such fine weed after the labor of the day and night had left us spent. By this point, my father had lost his job as camp director—the camp the only home I had known since birth—and we had moved from the United Methodist church’s house in those pine woods to this rented duplex across from St. Vincent’s Hospital, my birthplace in Little Rock. My mother had three teenagers to look after as my father tried to rebuild a professional life for himself after so many years working for the Board of Global Ministries Women’s Division, and he stumbled 136 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
at first in the world of for-profit nursing homes, his spirit not built for capitalismâ€™s end of the line at the end of life. I was never a problem they could see, straight-A student going from work to school and back, most of my scars healing quickly as my arms and hands shed most hurts like a snakeâ€™s skin, new pink flesh appearing in days or weeks from even the worst the kitchen could give me. I took pre-college courses in electronics, out-scored most in my high school on national math tests when I was a sophomore, and no one noticed I was a bad idea because on paper I looked so good. But a high tolerance for pain and the ability to smile the emptiness inside away when fatigue and sleeplessness were all I really felt from each time I punched out until I punched in again was eating me away from the inside like the leftovers I brought home every few nights would be gone the next day or the next. We talked until there was nothing more to say that night, and, when we finished, I said goodnight, got up from the yellow sofa that had been part of a spotless sitting room in the campâ€™s house (since at least the furniture was ours), and as I crossed the room to retrieve my boots, I scooped up the bag in the same motion, and there was nothing left to do but make my way back down into the dark to find my bed and sleep until what was left of morning passed and I was back at work again.
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Whiffle Hen Beside the dumpster rotten with last night’s wet trash, every morning that infernal August week I pulled in right next to the red Corvette of the sweetest assistantnow-turned-manager of her own store on Asher Avenue in my teenager’s attempt to let this woman know I cared—but more than cared, I understood the petty evil way the district manager promoted her to shut her up, to show the high-school-dropout boy-men running his other stores that a woman with a college degree, especially a black woman, couldn’t run this location. And he was right, but not like he’d say. The store was fast food’s version of the Kobayashi Maru test, no realistic chance for anything but absolute, utter failure inside this sweatbox where the kitchen temperature climbed each day past one hundred and thirty degrees around four o’clock and then got hotter, a furnace where no one but stupid me would stay to keep the fryers on. Even draped in frozen towels about my head and neck, screen-door fan blasting in the useless Arkansas breeze, cooking felt like what I was doing inside-out, my hands, arms, chest, stomach, and legs now Extra Crispy™ or perhaps Original Recipe™, but I believed I could not fail, a charm like Bernice, the Whiffle Hen of Thimble Theatre that Castor Oyl and Popeye rubbed clean of feathers for her luck on their voyage with Ham Gravy to Dice Island’s casino, Castor winning so much that a gangster peppered Popeye with bullets and only Bernice’s magic miraculous fortune saved him. But I was no more good here than a naked bird, just another spoiling thing going in and out of the walk-in, and on the last day of her trial period everyone else called in sick and the Pulaski County Health Department shut us down until a “safer work environment was provided.” She understood how the game had been rigged against her and resigned, never again worked for them, but I hadn’t learned my lesson yet, went back to the old store. I thought a winner never quit. 138 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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 139 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
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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Animated and Extra Crispy™ “…less of course Colonel get funky” echoes from beyond the grave to shill Popcorn Chicken™, “mouth poppin’ good” though it reminds you of the actual old man calling the Extra Crispy™ “a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken,” and a Spicy Tender Roast Sandwich™ he wouldn’t recognize or choke down, even if it’s covered in Monterey Jack cheese and meant to keep “the burger boys” at bay. The cloying Honey BBQ Wings™ might cause a “buzz” among yellow jackets, but no one else should want to be “stricken” with a “zingy” sauce or anything else, chicken pot pie and no-bone crispy strips aside this wasn’t a mascot to pitch Triple Crunch™ or any other fancy sandwich but a fleshand-blood founder who died thinking the corporate gravy “ain’t fit for my dogs” or anybody else’s either, who would have taken his cane, or the pressure cooker he carried from small town or big city and beaten George Hamilton with it until the tanned Extra Crispy™ Colonel was black and blue, bruised all over with the disdain that a mere nickel with every chicken could never draw or erase.
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Music Feature Interview with Kick the Robot Compiled and Composed by Dusty Huggins Kick the Robot is one of Atlanta’s supernovas, when rising stars are mentioned. The group grew up listening to rebellious rockers of the 60’s and 70’s and their kick as rock and roll shows lend the listener the classic rock sound blended with modern movements and downright glorious three-part vocal harmonies. The trio have been playing together since their teenage years when they met in middle school. The tri consisting of: Andrew Ottimo - Bass, Vocals; Dylan Hansen - Drums, Vocals; Jesse Scarpone - Guitar, Vocals, have deservingly received many accolades in reference to their performance; both live and in the studio. They have been declared as 2012 “Hard Rock Rising” victors, received momentous reviews for their first album “Music to Fight the Future,” been gifted a guitar by the one and only Sir Elton John and recently toured with Collective Soul. With all of the honors and name dropping the members still remain humbled and true to their original passions in music. 1) How did the trio meet and when was the formation of the band idealized? I don't know if there ever was a decisive moment where we made the decision to be a band. We met each other in middle school and would just get together and dig on music and skateboard and jam. We evolved together like a family in everything we did and the band just happened to be the anchor to all of that. 2) So, Kick the Robot is a fairly unique name. Tell us about the story behind the name and what it stands for. When the band was just getting going we were really angry with the majority of new music and what was being idolized by our peers. We were confused as to why all of the genuine beauty of human error was being taken out of the majority of modern music. Some of our favorite music is broken, accidental and lively... So we ended up coming up with Kick the Robot to play into the idea of what we’re fighting for. A reminder to be loose, be raw and unpredictable... in other words, we don't bow down to the robot overlords. You dig? 3) How do you feel your, newly released, sophomore album differs most from your first? We like to think that our sophomore album is a lot more focused than our first LP "music to fight the future". Our first record was really an experiment to find who we were and what the band's identity was going to be. With the new record, "Black Magic Radio Static" there was a lot more of a vision of how we wanted this to sound and what attitude it had to evoke from moment one. Actually, it was to such an extent that we scrapped things completely a couple of times to get it to sound proper. In a lot of different ways this record helped us push ourselves and prepped us to keep evolving. Even though we've been a band since we were really young we're still very early in our career and we look forward to keep changing and pushing our limits with each record. 4) I think its very cool how most of your social media pages claim Lawrenceville as your hometown. Most bands will claim a large city, such as, Atlanta or Athens as their 142 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
hometown. Was there some sort of loyalty, strategy, or idea behind Lawrenceville being the bandâ€™s home-base? It's funny really, there wasn't any ideas of loyalty about it, it just happens to be where we're based out of. In a little place out in the woods right on the edge of Dacula and Lawrenceville is where we record our records, so it seems natural to call it home. That being said, we've been known to say we're from Atlanta or Athens when people we are talking to inevitably have no clue where Lawrenceville, Georgia is hahaha. What are some of your short term goals for the upcoming year? Our goals for this year are really simple actually... Is world domination too much to ask for? ...Haha truthfully, we're really focused on touring and promoting this record to its full extent the rest of this year. We've also already begun writing music for the 3rd record and perhaps a completely separate EP as well... so keep an eye out... 5) Long term? ... Seriously is world domination out of the question? What overall goals would the band like to have accomplished by the end of your careers? Our musical goals are always pretty sporadic. Where ever our daily muses take us is where we want to go. Sometimes it will be applying new instrumentation to a tune or trying out new sonic landscapes, sometimes it's how catchy we can make something, sometimes it's trying to create stage antics or stage props... in other words we don't really know. We don't want to be confined to a specific goal, we want it to be a visceral creating experience and to be taken by those moments. That's when we do our best work. 6) Do you believe you will ever come to a point where you are truly satisfied with your musical career? If so, when? I don't think we'll ever be truly satisfied. We don't see why any artist would want to be. Part of being an artist of any kind is pushing toward something. If you feel you have nothing to learn and nothing to work on and or do better than the thrill is gone. The fun is in the chase.
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New Plains Review Interview Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Who was the brainchild behind the New Plains Review? What niche does it best represent? What are a few of the upcoming surprises you have in store for your readers? New Plains Review first dropped in the spring of 1986, initially published directly through the College of Liberal Arts under Professor Gwynne Hunter. These days, New Plains Student Publishing operates in a self-contained capacity within the College, and publishes three journals: our flagship New Plains Review, a student-driven research vehicle 1890, and our newest affiliate, Central Dissent, which contains research and creative work pertaining to gender and sexuality. Shay Rahm has been our commanding officer since spring 2009; under her banner, things have really pushed forward. 2) What are a few mediums you've used in print or social media that's brought such success to your journal? We’re in the process of grounding our online presence more firmly. Our new website has back issues, a blog, and lots of online-exclusive content. Since our print edition only displays imagery in greyscale, we use our digital form to highlight visual arts more effectively. We also do contributor interviews from time to time, and our twitter presence is growing. 3) Where do you pull a bulk of your staff? What are some hardships you've overcome? How have you dealt with potentially competing egos to maintain an equilibrium? Our staff is primarily made up of new students each semester, which senior editors often returning for some continuity and ease of transition. I myself worked as a Publishing Editor on the Spring 2017, and now serve as Director of Digital Editing, as well as Editor-in-Chief of Central Dissent, one of the other journals we print under the New Plains Banner. Egos generally don’t flare. Every year has something at least one staff member hated, but that’s a democratic editing process for you, and our team understands that, no matter who it’s made of. 4) Who are some of the writers you've discovered and proud to introduce to the world? I’ve noticed Ace Boggess is getting around a lot. He’s got tremendous introspection and an acute understanding of the rural mindset without being too folksy. We’re honored to have hosted his prose in our most recent issue, but he’s also great scribe for poetry, as evidenced by his appearances elsewhere. 5) What are goals you have now to reach in the minds of the literary world? There are so many journals out there, you really have to be able to answer that pivotal “So what” rationale. What makes your journal special? A lot of prints struggle with this, but the glorious thing about literature is how subjective it is. If you can reach a few groups, you’ve got an in. Use what you’ve learned from these select interests and then take on the whole scene.
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6) What are pet peeves your journal has found that will immediately throw an entry into the rejected file? Fun fonts are generally discouraged everywhere, as is a flagrant disregard of our guidelines. We ask that you come boldly, but if your “Don’t forget to nominate me for Pushcart and Best of the Net” message title feels a bit copypasted, and not personalized, we’ll notice. We like confidence but if you’re blatantly just here to promote your ego, we’re emphatically not interested. 7) What are three virtues to a good submission? Show us you’ve read the guidelines. Give us something we can understand. Then show us a different angle of it that we haven’t noticed before. 8) What is the philosophy of great writing in your opinion? A perfect balance between personal feeling and an original presentation of such. 9) What would you like to see improved in the world of literary journals? More inclusion. While things have drastically improved in the last few years, some older journals, many with respectable legacies, are still set in old school canon mode. The time to think outside the box is now more than ever, and I’d love to see more hybrid work to that effect. To that end, I think the multimedia afforded by digital journals will go a long way in taking us into the future. 10)
Who are you and your staff reading right now?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but lately I’ve been digging through Berryman’s Dream Songs, which are great despite all their problems. I’m very much looking forward to new books by Kaveh Akbar and Danez Smith, both dropping within the month.
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Southern Collective Member of the Issue: TC Carter Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) What are a few facts about you? What about your youth and young adult life helped sculpt you as a poet? What do you want folks to remember most about your body of work? I’m a proud son of the South, raised in Danville, Virginia when cotton mills and tobacco fields ruled that part of world. I’ve written a number of poems about my childhood in the South and the meager circumstances of my life during that time, but I wasn’t aware that any of that would be material for poems in my later years. I didn’t realize that my thirty-six years in several western states and my love for all things cowboy would be further material for writing cowboy poetry. I couldn’t have guessed that my Dad fighting from Normandy to Berlin while I slept in a safe bed would later inspire me to write about him, nor was there a way to know that Jesus Christ would let me know He loved me and would save my soul if I accepted Him into my life, and that He would later be an influence on how and what I write. I suppose the answer to what sculpted me as a poet is just simply, life; all of life, both good and bad. It’s been a long trajectory that put me into my seventh decade before I began to write, but here I am, a writer among writers, a poet among poets, well pleased and a little surprised about it. I don’t have any formal training and don’t want any; I just write the way I hear it and feel it, put it on paper the way I see it. If, in the unlikely event, I found myself speaking in front of a literary class I could only say, “Write what you know, write from the heart, write the truth and try not to be boring. Class dismissed, let’s do this again next year.” I love writing and I won’t be done with it until it’s done with me. To your other question, only a small portion of my work has ever been read or heard by anyone except for a few family members, including Dusty, my now deceased cat. You might remember I told you one time about going to my basement to read and record new work with only Dusty in attendance, but most of the work hasn’t been available to the public. I have a few voice and video recordings on Facebook and two or three on YouTube, but I’m not very knowledgeable about technology and am slow to prepare anything. I rarely submit for publication. I say all that to convey the basis for my belief that, unless something dramatically changes with my efforts, there will not be many who remember anything about my work. But, if they do, I would hope they might say, “He told a good story and did honest work.” 2) What are you reading right now? I have a terrible habit of getting involved in reading more than one book at the time and I usually have a book about the west in the mix. Right now I’m reading “Bad Dirt, Wyoming Stories 2” by Annie Proulx, a wonderful Pulitzer prize winning author. I’m reading, for the second time, an Elmore Leonard novel, “Pagan Babies,” simply because I periodically need an infusion of his great characters and perfect ear for dialogue. Nobody does it better. I’ve read everything he’s written at least once. 146 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
I’m also busy memorizing a portion of Buck Ramsey’s epic poem “Grass” just because I love it and because it’s so unbelievably good. 3) Who are your favorite three poets? As you know, Doc, I’m a pretty down to earth guy with no claim to being well read when it comes to poetry, so I tend to favor writers of cowboy poetry who, like me, keep it simple and easy to understand. Cowboy poetry can have as much appeal to the Rhodes Scholar as it does to the grade school dropout and that’s my kind of writing. The aforementioned Buck Ramsey is the north star of western writers. After a horse wreck left him paralyzed from the waist down as a young man, he became an alcoholic for a long time and finally an unequaled cowboy poet. Nobody would want to go through what Buck did, but everybody would like to be able to write like he did. There are a number of men and women I could put in the next two slots, but I think Wallace McCrae and Joel Nelson make the cut. Our readers, unless they’re fans of cowboy poetry, have likely never heard of these three men but they’re great writers in my humble opinion. In the cowboy lexicon, they’ll do to ride the river with. 4) You have a distinctive reading voice. Do you think the manner in which you read your poetry adds to the overall vibrancy? Do you think it's important that poets practice reading aloud to best be heard in the sea of other writers? Thanks for asking that question. It’s such an important one to consider. You know, for me poetry is as much a performance art as it is the art of writing. The spoken word, when it’s done well, generates a higher level of interest, breathes life into the piece, touches emotions with more power and brings the listener into the very heart of what you want to express. A good poem can be made a better poem if it’s read with a degree of professionalism. Listen, when you step in front of an audience with words to deliver, it’s my belief that you come not just as a writer but as an actor as well. So, yes, I think any poet who believes in what they’ve written and want it presented in the best light, should rehearse it diligently. I use a pocket recorder and read a piece over and over until I’m satisfied with it. If I don’t like what I hear why should I expect an audience to like it? Recording is also a useful tool for editing. If I can’t make the words satisfy my ear it’s obvious I have more work to do. I show myself no mercy when it comes to editing my work. The big stumbling block for most people is the fear of public speaking, but being well prepared can help immensely with that. I rarely feel any stage fright and that’s because I come prepared and I come with work I have confidence in. 5) What are two pet peeves you have about most open mic readings, or even the "artist" as seen today? Charles Bukowski addressed this subject with brutal honesty in his poem, “poetry reading,” which is a real barn burning critique of open mic events. But, you know, for many of us it’s the only outlet we have for live readings. If I want to be heard I think I need to be willing to listen as well, but I refuse to listen to someone who has been occupied on an electronic device, texting or whatever, while others present their work. When that person comes to the stage I’ll leave the room and stay out until they’re done.
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I’m not much interested in the chain of events that brought a writer to the mic, not interested in their family history, dietary habits, car problems. physical problems or a host of other things that would be better shared another time, another place. Just get to the work, please; show us what’cha got. 6) What is your opinion of the Southern Collective Experience? Some years back when you shared your vision for the SCE and invited me to be a part of it you understood that I was not a joiner, that I was in many ways a lone wolf, but nevertheless, that connection, that night, became a piece of the mortar that cemented our friendship which endures to this day. So, I have a soft spot for the SCE even though I haven’t taken full advantage of it. I think it’s a good resource and support for serious artists who want to promote their work. I’ve not been a good promoter of my efforts but that failure rests squarely on my own shoulders. But, I’ve been very pleased to watch the progress of the SCE. I’m amazed at the prodigious amount of work you and a small number of others have put into the organization. 7) You have been writing poetry for years. What do you call the style of poetry you create? Actually, I’ve been writing for less than six years. It just seems longer. (Laughing). I guess I’ve never thought of what I write in terms of style, but if I had to call it anything I’d call it realistic. I rarely stray off into anything that’s surreal or implausible. I’ve written a few poems based on actual stories that circulated among cowboys on the cattle trails and also on late 19th and early 20th century books about the old west. “The Killing of Dora Hand” and “Where the Oleanders Grew” come to mind. In those cases, the truth of the poem is dependent on the truth of the original story. When my subject matter doesn’t involve my own life and experiences I do as much research as possible to make the piece as truthful as I can. Getting it right is important to me. 8) What are a few of your favorite locations you've visited to read? It used to be said of Bob Hope that he would show up and do an hour show at the opening of a phone booth. I guess I’m a bit that way. My favorite place to read is the place where I’m reading at the moment, but I haven’t done anything in a couple of years. I don’t drive at night anymore and this move to North Carolina has me in unfamiliar territory. I have a few voice recordings and videos on Facebook and I have good intentions of doing more. You know, Doc, I love to write and I love to read in front of a live audience anywhere, anytime, but I especially remember the many readings in Dahlonega and also at your house in Athens. Good times too soon gone. 9) Who are your top five favorite music artists? I think I’d have to put Kris Kristofferson at the top of my list which is ironic because I wasn’t that sold on him when we were both younger, but he’s a phenomenal lyric writer and I like his entire presentation of a song. After him, it’s a crowded field, but I like artists that are less than mainstream like Blaze Foley and Townes Van Zandt. I like Jamey Johnson’s old school style of country music and I’m going to exercise my rights as a proud father and include my eldest son, Mitch David Carter. He’s written music and lyrics to some great work and recorded them on a CD called “A Little Rain.” 10)
Do you have any rituals you go through before you write or during?
No, no rituals at all. I’ve tried to discipline myself to the time honored practice of setting aside a time every day to sit down and not get up until I’ve written something, but it doesn’t work for me. 148 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Someone asked Willie Nelson in an interview where his songs came from and he responded that they’re just floating around in the air, all he has to do is pluck them out. Sometimes it seems to work like that for me as well and other times I’ll have just a single line or short phrase come to mind and I immediately think, “Yes, there’s a story that goes with this line, this is something I can work with.” Of course, I have a lot of false starts and half-finished work that went over the edge of the cliff, but not all. And there’s nothing better than finishing a piece and knowing that you’ve created something of value, something you can be proud of, something that just might touch a heart, stir a memory, or bring a little ray of sunshine into a dark day for someone, somewhere along the way. Letters From The Front: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=464646167201278&id=100009676958205&p nref=story Letter To Sis: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=425220514477177&id=100009676958205 Nobody Gets To Be A Cowboy Forever: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=450914121907816&id=100009676958205
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WE WERE BOYS TOGETHER We were boys together Wallace Smith and I And we liked each other...mostly Although I couldn't tell you why It seems that friends just appear With no summons and no search I met Wallace Smith playing sandlot baseball Behind the Ebenezer Baptist Church The meeting wasn't friendly It started with a short-lived fight Over what..I can't..now recall But as boys are apt to do, we quickly made it right We had some things in common Wallace Smith and I Both poor boys in the south Born with a hungry eye We wanted something better We knew that life could offer more We'd break the yoke of poverty That's an oath we swore Wallace Smith never came to my house And I was never in his home For all we knew of families We might have both lived all alone I lost track of Wallace Smith The day that we left home Still in our teens and Levi jeans Just boys in many ways, but acting fully grown Ours was the kind of friendship That has roots, but not too deep Just enough to form some memories That we tend to want to keep I found out late in sixty-eight That Wallace Smith had returned In a flag draped casket It was bitter news to learn
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But he was one of many Who made that final, mournful trip His bread cast upon the waters Never found a friendly ship Yes, we were boys together Wallace Smith and I Who never had a passing thought That one would live and one would die How it happened that a black boy, and a white In the summer south of nineteen fifty-two Crossed a line that made them friends I don't have the answer, I'll leave that up to you I just know that we were boys together Wallace Smith and I And that we liked each other...mostly Although I couldn't tell you why
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THE KILLING OF DORA HAND Dora Hand had been a singer Of grand opera in the east A voice as pure as sunshine That could have soothed a savage beast Why she left it all behind her Is anybody's guess But by rail and coach she travelled To her new home in the west Dodge City, out in Kansas Was where she chose to settle in A cowtown at it's zenith Taking care of business with Texas cattlemen Wyatt Earp was the marshal Who always did what he had to do And he had drawn a dead line That split the town in two The Alhambra Saloon and Gambling House Was the first place Dora stopped On the south side of the dead line Dog Kelley hired her on the spot She had a stunning beauty That men and women all agreed Whether she was saint or sinner Was a rare and lovely sight to see She was soon Queen of the Fairy Belles Dodge City's name for dance hall girls And she sang bawdy cowboy songs In that rough edged, smokey world But by day dressed as a lady Her deeds were known to one and all Her response to others troubles Was of the highest call She crossed the dead line twice on Sundays Dressed all in simple black Lead the folks in singing church hymns And listened to the preaching before she walked on back
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Dog Kelley owned the Alhambra Where Dora Hand plied her trade He was also the city mayor Known to have a hand in, where money could be made But he handled young Jim Kennedy rough And tossed him out one night Jim swore that he would kill him To even up the fight In the act of a lowly coward Just before the dawn had cracked Jim shot five holes through the bedroom wall Of Dog Kelley's two room shack But he didn't know that Dora Hand and Fannie Garret Had rented Kelley's shack And when his bullets tore through the wall One entered Dora's back Jim was the son of Mifflin Kennedy The partner of Richard King They owned the biggest ranch in Texas Their influence had some sting But this was murder plain and simple And Wyatt set out to bring him in The mayor said, Bring him back alive All of Dodge will want to deal with him Wyatt rode through an awful rainstorm And caught his man this side of the Cimarron The raging river stopped him From being Texas gone But the county claimed jurisdiction And took young Jim in hand Sent to Texas for his father To come as quickly as he can Well, ya know where the story's going And I wish it wasn't so But the county claimed there was no case And Jim was free to go And there for some Judas gold Dora Hand was betrayed And her killer went to Texas As she moldered in her grave 153 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
If there's a lesson to be learned It's that life is seldom fair And sometimes justice is delayed Until we face the perfect judge, waiting over there
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THE SATURDAY OUTING My feet would dangle in mid-air Below the bar stool seat That could twirl round and round forever If you wanted it to Like stainless steel mushrooms in a perfect line The tops covered in worn red leather Where I sat drinking an ice cold Dr. Pepper From a sweating glass bottle My Dad beside me drank an equally cold Pabst Blue Ribbon From another sweating glass bottle And smoked one of his Chesterfield cigarettes No sissy filters for my Dad No glasses for our drinks, thanks anyway Six songs for a quarter on the Wurlitzer jukebox Hypnotic and alive with it’s bubbling lights Hank Williams, Eddie Arnold, Tennesse Ernie Ford Singing while we waited for lunch Jimmy Kalis would set two heavy, white china plates On the counter before us Some of the best hotdogs since the beginning of time Chili and slaw both made by Jimmy From his grandmother’s old Greek recipes Later we would walk along the railroad tracks That more or less followed the muddy Dan River At Scales Street we would turn from the tracks And trudge up that steep hill To the house of one of his friends Who made home brew beer Where men sat around a kitchen table The yellowed window shade at half mast Filtered light with cigarette smoke floating on sun rays And cards being dealt around the table Men drinking the home brew beer Which smelled so wonderful My Dad would let me have a taste The men would say what a good boy I was And I would play with the dog On a plank floor worn smooth by time and use And listen to the men talk and laugh With the ease that comes from knowing each other For a long time From growing up together From working together From going to war…together There would be several similar houses to visit Before our Saturday outing was complete My Dad and I always welcome The home brew always available and cold 155 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
The smoke always thick The cards always being dealt The talk and laughter always easy The dogs always waiting for me Walking home he would take my hand in his And tell me not to let Momma know About my taste of the home brew beer But, of course, he knew I wouldnâ€™t tell It was our secret God was in His heaven And all was rightâ€Ś.with the world
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New Member Interview with Bernette Sherman Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. What music do you want them to hear when they read you? What feelings are you attempting to stir? When I was finishing undergrad my theme song was from Flash Dance, “What a Feeling”. I think because at that time I’d worked so hard to get to that place and I really felt complete that I could have it all if I was ‘dancing’ for my life. Dancing was symbolic for being true to myself. What the heck happened? Oh yeah, after working full time through my undergrad years, I got a responsible job as a consultant, got married, had a child, got divorced, got married, did some work that mattered, had another child, found myself along the way, and finally started dancing for my life. While it’s no longer my theme song, it still moves me when I hear it. That and the Evita theme song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”. Oh, the girl looking out the window to a world that seemed unattainable, but really wasn’t. How often do we limit ourselves unnecessarily? How often do we think ourselves out of our potential greatness? You’ll find empowerment mixed with pain, honesty about the reality we exist in that includes optimism about where we can go. You’ll also find hope, love, and the everyday examples of life. I recognize the world as it stands today is in great pain but that as individuals we have the power to not live in that and as we rise above, we can invite others to rise above as well. 2) What makes "you" - You? Ha! I can’t help but be me. I remember not wanting to be me in junior high school. I’d write short stories about not being me and switching places. Looking back, I guess I was coping with being so different. I don’t want to say I’m unique, but aren’t we all? My combination of the serious woman who will churn through what must be done and the woman who will literally break out into song and dance in the kitchen for no obviously good reason and then tap into some unseen life force on all the same afternoon probably help set me apart. 3) What is a question(s) you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? I don’t really have any questions I’ve been asked often or have been annoyed by. 4) What are your favorite practices in writing? Is it spiritually fulfilling? What keeps you banging at words on the page even when if feels like you're beating your head against a wall? For as long as I can remember being able to write, I have used t to express my thoughts and ideas. I don’t talk much when I’m not around my family and really close and trustworthy friends. I’ve found most either don’t get me or find me fairly intense since I’m not much of a small-talker or gossiper. Writing has given me an outlet to say what I don’t feel I can say with words. The power of the pen is still true. It is magical how worlds can be built and torn down with words. I consider it my main medium as a messenger and that one of my purposes in life is bring messages that inspire, move, make people think and open themselves up to something greater. We sell ourselves short too often and I want to help people stop that approach to life. 157 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
5) What helps you maintain balance in the world of literature? Well, I donâ€™t know what that means. 6) What are some initial thoughts about the Southern Collective Experience? What role do you play, or want to play? I am open to being a part of the creativity that goes into the Southern Collective Experience. As I get more involved, it will be with the question â€“ Where am I best suited to serve? That means that as things grow and change, I can grow and change along with them. 7) Where can we learn more about you and your writing? www.BernetteSherman.com site is a great place to start. From there you can learn about my creative writing, coaching, and metaphysical work. My books can be found at www.CreativeCoreHS.com.
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New Member Interview with Clayton H. Ramsey Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. What music do you want them to hear when they read you? What feelings are you attempting to stir? Tennyson famously wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met” in his magnificent poem, Ulysses. It’s difficult to tease out all the strands of influence that have touched and shaped my writing voice. I gathered customs, styles of speech, personalities, idioms, landscapes, and histories and packed them away in my memory as I grew up in the South, went to college in the North, studied after college in Europe, and traveled along the way. Each of those countless encounters with people and places, cultures and societies in this country and abroad has created in me a perspective that is global and inclusive. Each has made me a little less judgmental, a little more tolerant, and a great deal more grateful for a life and a family that has allowed me to explore and grow. The whole network of experiences I’ve had—family, school, sports, music, nature, church, illness, success, failure, love—all of that informs on some level every sentence I write. Certain themes in my life might match certain themes in my writing—how could they not?—but by no means is all my writing autobiographical, nor should it be read as such. Teddy Roosevelt amended Tennyson’s line to read, “I am a part of everything that I have read.” And so it is with me. I am a constant and omnivorous reader, some would say to a fault. In addition to the external experiences and affiliations I have, there are vast internal events, mediated primarily through reading, that have also had a profound effect on me. I tend to look at life through the prism of books, see circumstances and choices, the past, present and future, through literature. Some would call that foolhardy. I think otherwise. So while my whole life informs my writing--my choice of focus, my language, my point of view--so also does my wide reading. My tone can be academic, but it can also be lyrical, formal but also emotional. I want my readers to see bits of my life in my writing. But I especially want them to look beyond my small life and see the wild beauty, deep truth, and never-ending mystery of our shared existence. 2) What makes "you" - You? There are things that I do—that we all do—that are not particularly exciting: sleeping, eating, exercising, paying bills, running errands. They are boring facts, but I think those things can be almost sacred if considered from the right perspective. A monk named Brother Lawrence wrote about “practicing the presence of God” as he washed dishes in a seventeenth-century monastery, and I try very hard to adopt his perspective, not to get lost in the details of life, but see them from a viewpoint of gratitude and higher meaning. Beyond these mundane happenings, or perhaps because of them, there seem to be some thematic regularities. At this point in my life there are three rubrics that tend to organize my thoughts and my efforts, three themes that have been a part of the core of my personality for almost my entire life. They are: science, literature, and for lack of a stronger word, spirituality. I have studied each as a discipline, and my thoughts tend to circulate around one or all of them at any given time. I love the regularity of science, the fact that we live in a world that can be systematically studied and understood according to patterns and laws. The human body, the dance of galaxies, the counterintuitive reality of the subatomic world are all beautiful and mysterious and magnificent. I also love literature, the music of language, the power of story, the depths of the human spirit that can be expressed and explored. C.S. Lewis said he had yet to find a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to satisfy him. I have to agree with Professor Lewis. I love falling into books and finding a life there I couldn’t have imagined before I started the first page. My reading habit led to a writing habit as I wanted to share the magic 159 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
of words that I had learned to love as a child with others, to add my own voice to the conversation of the ages, to join the celebration of life and humanity that all writers seemed to share. And finally I tend to look at my life and my broader involvement in the world from a spiritual perspective. I almost hesitate to say that, not out of shame, but rather because of the imprecision of the word. It has been used to justify all sorts of nonsense, ambiguity, and even villainy over the years. But I mean it in the highest sense that we are essentially spiritual beings that happen to be borrowing a body for a few years, personal essences that are meant for something higher and deeper than just getting to the end of the day to sleep before another one begins. St. Augustine’s prayer at the beginning of his Confessions, “Lord, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” is one of my favorite lines among the ancient writers. We were meant for more. We were meant for fulfillment, not in cash or fancy degrees or flashy careers, but in God. I grew up in the church and like most, I still find myself on an ongoing spiritual journey. Because of my background and sense of my own identity, I tend to see things through the Christian tradition, but because of my education and wide experiences I also respect and can utilize the wisdom of other practices to live a more purposeful and intentional life. I love to run, hike, play squash, watch old movies, travel and have new experiences, but this triad of science, literature and spirituality best describes me now and I suspect always will. 3) What is a question(s) you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? Maybe it’s this one. Of course no one wants to be asked, “Is that your real hair?” “Do you know where that smell is coming from?” or “Are you ever going to finish your book?” But perhaps mine would be, “Why are you so quiet?” Introverted writers will know what I’m talking about. A rich inner life is important for a writer, but the world loves extroverts and doesn’t always understand those of us who would rather listen than speak, read than go to cocktail parties, and write more than anything else at all. 4) What are your favorite practices in writing? Is it spiritually fulfilling? What keeps you banging at words on the page even when if feels like you're beating your head against a wall? I love the feel of pen nib on paper, but I do most of my writing on my laptop. In spite of the technology, though, I find writing to be a supremely spiritual experience. I used to think there was nothing that compared to running long distances when you were in shape. There was something transcendent about gliding through the woods, body moving in perfectly elegant rhythm as a beautiful machine. Head clear, breathing steady, limbs in concert. Truly lovely. I think writing can be a similar experience. There is a blessed moment in writing when syntax is not a struggle, words are not elusive and plotlines are not agony, when you are immersed in your story or your argument or your poetry and you forget you are typing, when you have almost a Zen-like meditative union with whatever truth you are trying to express. That doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but is absolutely beautiful when it does. That experience is spiritually fulfilling, but it is also fulfilling when I come to an idea in the process of writing it out that surprises me, that appears like a little flash of light that makes me see a little further, that pushes back the darkness, that allows me to see myself and my place in this world a little better. That’s what keeps me writing, this irrepressible hope that somehow as I string words together that something good and true may come of it, a glimmer, a flash, a clicking together of two things that had never been joined together in my mind before. Of the process itself, I love the research, the chasing of one fact after another that links in retrospect to become a bright chain of truth. I love the detective work, the tracking down of information that eventually, inextricably leads to some deeper insight. I also love that moment when it all seems to fall beautifully into place, when you can see the entire story or essay as a lovely whole, when all the little parts that you’ve been diligently gathering over months or years work together. And I love the messiness of wrangling thoughts into words. I really love the whole process. The sinking feeling that it’s not going to work, that you don’t have the talent, that your scribblings are utter 160 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
drivel that would embarrass your beloved English teachers and sink any hope of a writing career—I don’t like that. But even the uncertainty that pops up in almost every project is useful as a motivator and extractor of creative energy. Memories of those glorious moments, those moments of genius and transcendence, those are what keep me going, driven by the hope that they appeared not just in the past but will again in the future. 5) What helps you maintain balance in the world of literature? I think that’s a funny question because I started writing more regularly as a source of balance against other areas of my life. While my days are spent in analysis and my sometimes tedious life in a medical laboratory, books and writing keep my sanity intact and my imagination fresh. The enchantment of books and the discipline of writing keep me thinking, feeling, and most importantly living a life that is not defined by the restrictions of my otherwise ordinary existence. I suppose the key is balance. If you have the privilege of being a full-time writer, then balance needs to come from long walks and some unusual hobby, for instance. For me, that’s not (yet!) the case, so literature is my balance. I was fortunate to find a community of writers in Atlanta called the Atlanta Writers Club about a decade ago. They have provided the balance of other writers to offset the solitary nature of writing itself and have been a wonderful source of encouragement, support, and challenge as I’ve explored this whole business of writing, honed my skills, and met others on the same path. And now, in addition to the AWC, I am delighted to have been introduced to the Southern Collective Experience. I always love meeting others who know how to use a semi colon and don’t run screaming in the other direction when you admit your love of Don Quixote and Umberto Eco. 6) What are some initial thoughts about the Southern Collective Experience? What role do you play, or want to play? I’m still new to this whole assortment of artistic types called the SCE. I love the fact that it wants to preserve and contribute to the legacy of the creative universe that produced Faulkner, O’Connor, and Mitchell. I love that it honors the world I grew up in, both the sophisticated and international world of Atlanta and the world of soybeans and back porch swings of my farmer-grandparents. I love that it is struggling to make a place for art in a society that typically undervalues such expression. And I love the energy and the courage of the group. I have no role beyond “Exploratory Probationer” in the SCE now, but we’ll see where it leads. I am always anxious to expand my circle of writer-friends, musicians and poets. Thanks for granting me the privilege of learning more about you and your stories.
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New Member Interview with Damian Rucci Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. What music do you want them to hear when they read you? What feelings are you attempting to stir? I’m just a working class guy who carries the music of the streets with him. I’m twenty-four and I’ve lived a troubled life by course and design. I’m getting better at living though. But in the past I’ve dropped out of college half a dozen times, worked a bunch of dead end jobs, been at the end of the road more times than I could count but I managed to find the poetry in those scenarios. Not every poem needs to be about the beauty of something or be sweet and quaint. In my poems, I like to be narrative, I like to tell stories about the underdogs. I strive for originality. When I write a poem, I think about the guys I used to go to the bar with or work with and I try to write a poem that they would read and say “wow, I feel that way too” 2) What makes "you" - You? I'm just a guy with a head full of ideas, a belly full of fire, and the determination to sacrifice everything I have to pursue my dreams. 3) What is a question(s) you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? At a poetry reading in Easton, Pennsylvania, a professor from The University of Kutztown looked me dead in my eyes and said “you're too loud to be a poet. Do you consider yourself a white rapper?” 4) What are your favorite practices in writing? Is it spiritually fulfilling? What keeps you banging at words on the page even when if feels like you're beating your head against a wall? I have struggled in the past with consistency. I always wanted to be more dedicated and wake up at 4 am and bang away like my friend poet Charles Joseph does. I'm not sure about spirituality but I do think that poets and artists are just conduits to something. I get hit with a poem and then I write it. I do sit down at the keyboard for several hours a day. If I don't write I get depressed. I write to keep sane. If not the ideas swell in my head. They have to come out. 5) What helps you maintain balance in the world of literature? I read a lot and I write a lot. I keep in the loop just enough to know what's going on but I stay out of the drama and toxic call out culture that plagues contemporary literature. I try and just focus on creating the best work I can and working on continuing to improve. I do a lot on the road. Even though I'm doing a lot of touring now, I still hit open mikes. I record every set I do and listen to it over 162 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
to get better. I am a student of word and I learn more everyday. This is how I try and keep my head right in this poetry game. 6) What are you up to right now? I'm finishing up touring my split The Former Lives of Saints (EMP w/ Ezhno Martin). Iâ€™m going to be doing readings in Pennsylvania, New York City, North Jersey, and wrapping it all up in St. Louis in September. I've been writing a lot of new poems and I am working on a manuscript for my first full length that Spartan Press is publishing next summer. Right now I'm just working on locking down my voice. I have a poetry series Poetry in the Port that is running to an end in October. So I'm just doing the damned thing and after the show comes to an end I'm leaving New Jersey and moving to Kansas City, Missouri. (Bonus) What are some initial thoughts about the Southern Collective Experience? What role do you play, or want to play? I love it. The Southern Collective Experience is a group of hard working artists coming together to put in work and push each other to the next level. I'm new to the group but I am all about it. I just started running the social media and I am now one of the poetry editors for the Blue Mountain Review.
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Poets Like Us There are poets whose poems are written on dollar bills whose parents bought them a degree in Iowa whose good looks fill workshops in Manhattan There are poets like us who chase America — whose poems are written from dirty fingers who smoke dope on the roofs of bars counting the hundreds of Missouri stars who chase down despair with cheap bear and laughter Who carve the American highways with tire treads who read to basement dwellers in small town Kansas who breath American not football on Sunday’s American not bombs in the Middle East American not Trails of Tears American but the America that Whitman breathed that Emerson that Twain that Dickinson that Angelou — the America that Kerouac searched for There are poets who die forgotten whose words become symphonies in the wind whose heart beats become our rhythm whose books sit on shelves waiting for lost poets to find them in corner bookstores whose spirits become our ethos whose names we can't remember and this is the future we share even Neal Cassady died alone on those railroad tracks II Along the highways of mother America hidden from cool glow of strip mall America shunned from the university America there are poets who read poems to strangers & friends & other lost souls & those nights are dirty & holy & inspiring & the street poets search for the truth between each line of poetry sung into the microphone bled into the page 164 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
their doctrines are in the manifestos of the gas station bathroom walls the soul graffiti of the wayward bustards drifting West past the Mississippi in pursuit of cheap rent and peace with nothing but hope in their bellies & words in their head Somewhere in Blue Springs, Missouri Jason Baldinger tells me it's about the road the books will sell & sometimes they don't sell but it's about the adventure between the stops the drives through Kansas blasting Jazz the faces along the back roads of America it's about the poetry you can find out there the poetry that needs to be found III Outside of Waffle House on the highway Shawn Pavey reads us a poem about Waffle House we laugh in the parking lot smiling as the lone moon grows full above the clouds we waive goodbye too soon the adventure is over by the morning we will head back to our home & our jobs but the road will keep on moving the sun will rise and set behind strange landscapes there are easier paths in this life there are jobs that trade the human spirit for credit cards & jewels but the street poet is born to be outside of it all born to take to the streets with poems in hand born to follow the vagabond sunset to its coast & I can feel this in my bones
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The Street Poets of the Lost America I walked out of Prospero’s Books, lit a cigarette, and talked to Shawn Pavey and Brandon Whitehead on the corner of West 39th in Kansas City, Missouri. The three day Kansas City Poetry Throwdown just wound down to an end and the stragglers that remained outside the bookstore were good and drunk talking about poetry and finding the next drink. I held in my hand a copy of Burning Down Oz From The Inside by the late Victor Smith who I hadn’t heard of until two hours before when the host Jason Ryberg read several of his poems in between sets at the reading. I was twenty-three sitting in a room full of over sixty poets from all over the country, most much older than me who had been writing poetry longer than I had been alive. Ryberg read one last poem of Smith’s and his voice boomed as he recited “the promise of lightning is that all poets will die empty and the ghosts of their words will become heroes in hell” I caught a cab back to the sleaziest hotel in the entire state of Missouri, picked up some Kansas brick weed from the front desk guy and barreled up to the third floor where my girlfriend Rebecca was in bed reading through the pile of new books of poetry we had strewn across the bed from trades with the other poets. We drank our beer and smoked our pot shouting in excitement as we read Smith’s book front to back over and over again. We just went from book to book reading poems aloud, absorbed and entranced by the new world we had just stumbled into. This poetry wasn’t the poetry you would hear in a college class. It was concrete. It was trying to say something with nuance yet edge. It was narrative and provocative. It didn’t try to fit into any parameters. It was wild and rebellious. It reminded me of the the poetry that captured me as a teenager the poems of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Patti Smith, and Bob Kaufman-- different in style but possessing that same fire that electrified me. Before this, I had been writing poetry again seriously for six months. Charles Joseph of Indigent Press published my first chapbook A Symphony of Crows and I had read it around the state with a group of poets who didn’t fit the mold of the current scene. I was excited to be doing readings again and knew I had to get better so I took any gig I could find. John Dorsey, a crusader of the small press and prolific poet, reached out to me about the throwdown and launched me into this thriving poetry scene hiding in the underground of American contemporary literature. The street poet is just that-- a poet who writes from the throes of the modern world, who isn’t just observing the society that they’re in but a part of it. They walk the same trodden streets, they write of the continuing human condition and are a voice for those without a creative amplifier. Walt Whitman called for an American voice and the street poet is the continued embodiment of that experiment in personal narrative. These poets work behind the scenes. They read in small bookstores, coffee shops, basements, and tattoo shops. Their poetry embodies the pages of zines, chapbooks, and limited run books. *** Poetry has fallen from contemporary thought in the modern world. It has lost shelf space in brick and mortar stores, never caught the wave of the e-book boom of the Aughts, and among the everyday people has become more of a meme as boring, out of touch, and elitist. We’re living in a world of video streaming, smartphones, and the internet while vinyl and print books are still being created. Analog isn’t dead. It just can’t compete with the digital world and it doesn’t have to .Physical books have fallen from a point of convenience and become one of personal value. Poetry needs to reach farther in 2017. It needs to grab the reader. It needs to speak in their own language. It needs to be about the world that they know. It needs to be relatable. 166 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
The future and continued progression of American poetry isn’t going to come out of the universities like it has for the last several decades, it’s going to come out of the underground. From New Hampshire to California there are poets on Greyhounds bouncing from bar readings and coffee shops to the next, selling chapbooks, and reading poems to crowds in work boots with their punch cards still in their pockets. This isn’t your quiet poetry. This isn’t your upper class poetry. This is poetry of the people. While poetry in general hasn’t capitalized on the digital world much-- the internet has served as a cable bringing all of these bubbles of activity together into a thriving national scene where poets can rise from being an open miker at a coffee shop in a small town to touring the country. The scene is being propelled through individuals who are making it happen on their own without any corporate or political sponsorship. They are creating their own presses. Rejecting publishing norms and embracing the short print run focusing on the actual artistic process and value of their work. If you're looking to get into poetry you don't need to worry about a five figure student loan debt collar or looking to an antiquated past— the poetry scene is thriving again and it's coming from the street.
Damian Rucci is a writer and poet from New Jersey whose work has recently appeared in Beatdom, Eunoia Review, Poems for All, Indiana Voice Journal and basements and coffee shops across the country. He is the author of The Former Lives of Saints (EMP 2017 w/ Ezhno Martin), Tweet and Other Poems (Maverick Duck Press), and A Symphony of Crows (Indigent Press 2015). He is the host of the Poetry in the Port reading series, poetry editor at The Blue Mountain Review, and a member of The Southern Collective Experience. www.damianrucci.net/ www.facebook.com/dfrucci/ www.twitter.com/damianrucci/ firstname.lastname@example.org 167 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
New Member Interview with Debbie Hennessey Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. I have always believed I was very lucky to grow up at the time in music history that I did. There was such a mix of styles to be exposed to on the radio, especially AM radio when I was little. In an hour you might hear rock, soul, country, pop, and blues all on the same station. It was also a time of rapid change within musical styles. If you listen to any genre from the beginning or middle of a decade, especially the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, it will have completely changed in style and tone by the end of that ten-year period. It’s not that music isn’t always evolving because it is, but it doesn’t seem to be as rapid or as drastic as it was at that time. Obviously, I wasn’t around when it started, but rock ‘n’ roll really did change the sonic and social landscape forever. I believe we are all influenced the most by the music we hear in our first 25 years and it sticks with us. That has certainly been the case for me though I do enjoy discovering someone I haven’t heard before whose music I love. 2) What makes "you" - You? Oh boy, my sarcastic and sometimes dark sense of humor - thank you to my Irish ancestors for that. I never give up. It’s simply not in my nature and can be both a blessing and a curse. However, in my music, it has absolutely been a blessing. You have to be tenacious to be an indie artist, to see your vision through to the final product, whether it’s a song, a CD, a video, whatever it is, you have to have that drive and desire to keep going no matter what. When I am being creative, I think very visually, whether it’s a song, a video, or an album cover, it always starts with a visual in my head, and I make that vision come to life. But when it comes to writing, I tend to self-edit and over think so that can be a bit of a battle within myself. 3) What is a question(s) you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? Anything political. My music is not about politics and I simply won’t go there. My music is there to entertain and connect people to their feelings. I won’t connect my music with politics, which is not to say I won’t stand up as a private citizen for issues that I believe in and need to be addressed, but I won’t tie my music to anything political. 4) What are your favorite practices in writing? Is it spiritually fulfilling? What keeps you banging at words on the page even when if feels like you're beating your head against a wall? Good lord, I would have to say 99% of my writing is me banging my head against the wall! However, words and how they are used, especially in lyrics, has been a lifelong obsession for me. The initial spark of an idea is an amazing feeling. Whether it’s a title, a hook, an idea, a line, or the way something makes me feel, whatever that initial idea is, is always exciting. The possibilities, how I envision it, that is the fun part. The hard part is when you sit down to flush that out, especially if you are working with a co-writer 168 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
because no matter what, it changes from the initial idea and there are two struggles that happen. The first is always the struggle to try and stay true to that original idea. Most of the time you have to let it go to make any progress, and because that co-writer’s always brings their own perspective, experiences, and influences they are bring to the session. The second struggle, especially in music, is finding the right words. You are trying to tell an entire story in 3 minutes and every word counts. It has to move the story forward and/or relate the story to the listener in a way that is clear and touches them, and you, emotionally. It has to touch me emotionally otherwise what is the point. So I may come up with several different ways to say one line and have to pick the one that fits the best. Sometimes it may come down to just one word. It also has to sing well. It may be the best most descriptive word in the world but if it doesn’t sing well it’s out. In music we have the issue of prosody, the lyrics have to fit the mood of the music the vast majority of the time otherwise you can end up with crap. However, there are times when having opposing lyric, melody, or music can be amazing if it’s done correctly. A couple of examples of songs that don’t follow standard prosody but work are: the Everly Brother’s Bye, Bye Love, or the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, where the lyrics are sad but the music is upbeat. I think it was more common in the early days of early rock ‘n’ roll and Motown. Though it does still happen today and when it’s done correctly it can be amazing. But, I’m getting a little off track here, so getting back to the two struggles. I find the really interesting thing is that most of the time I ultimately do end up with something that represents that original idea pretty closely, and it’s better because of the struggle to find the right words or incorporate another’s ideas. 5) What feelings are you attempting to stir? I don’t intentionally set out to make someone feel something in particular because I’m writing from what I’m feeling or seeing but I am conscious of how what I write may affect others. Even if I’m writing about something that is particularly personal or painful to me I want there to be some sense of hope in it. Especially as a woman, I want to empower other women to be themselves and accept themselves, even if I’m not feeling particularly strong about the latter at that moment. In a way, these songs are my legacy and what I will leave behind in this world. Even if they never reach that many people, I want them to have had a positive impact on those that do hear them even if it’s just tapping their toes to the beat. It doesn’t have to mean any more than that unless they want it to. I want people to take their own meaning from a song, to view it through their life experiences. Once it’s out there it’s no longer just mine in a way. That is pretty true of most forms of art but especially music. Hearing and smell seem to be the two senses that can take us back to another time and place faster than any of the others and I hope that my songs do that for people some day. 6) What helps you maintain balance in the world of music? What is this word “balance” of which you speak?! Honestly, that has become increasingly more difficult as the music business has become so overrun with tech companies basically using our music for free, raking in the bucks for themselves, and not compensating songwriters and musicians for the product they use to make millions upon millions. It’s as if Target just never paid the people whose products they sell. It’s stealing. It really is that simple. It’s a long and complicated situation I won’t go into here but many are working to change that and I am actively involved as well. 169 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
As an indie recording artist, you are juggling so many things at once. You have to be writer, musician, artist, manager, public relations person, booking agent, the list goes on and on. At times, I find I’m doing way more business than actually creating music, so that’s the first hurdle, to make sure your creativity gets the time it deserves. You really have to say, nope that “insert pressing business deadline here” can wait one more day, it’s more important I have a vocal rehearsal, play guitar, or have a songwriting session. Thanks to the tech situation I mentioned above, money that should be coming in just isn’t and like most musicians, I’m juggling a few jobs. Luckily, one of my other jobs is a company I created to work with other artists helping them with their publishing, publicity, licensing, and whatever else they may need on the business or even creative side. Sometimes it even leads to singing gigs, so that’s great. Then there is trying to find a life balance, to actually have a life. That’s always a work in progress but I try to make sure I take time for myself, exercise, spend time with the people that matter to me, and having pets is a great joy. 7) Who are the authors you enjoy and/or songwriters that inspire you? My book collection consists of mostly history, biography, mystery, action-adventure usually involving some kind of historical element, and there are probably far more reference books in my house than is normal but that comes from my editorial background. As far as songwriters, musicians, and genres go, the list is simply too long so here are a few that had a big impact on those really early years, I just remember playing these records over and over: anything by the Eagles; Motown, especially the Holland-Dozier-Holland songs; Johnny Cash; Journey – Steve Perry’s voice is one of my favorites of all time; Rod Stewart; early Tom Petty; 60’s and 70’s Neil Diamond songs; Glen Campbell, especially the Jimmy Webb songs; Queen; Heart; Cheap Trick; Bob Seger; Elton John; Alice Cooper; Beach Boys; Gladys Knight, Sam Cooke, Fleetwood Mac, The Runaways; ABBA; Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, even The Partridge Family – ok, that was really early years, I was probably seven years old - but those songs were written by some amazing writers and recorded by The Wrecking Crew, who along with the guys that did the Motown records, where the top studio musicians of their time. There are movies on both groups people should check out. There are so many other artists and songwriters who have influenced me over the years and I keep finding others, some new, some old, I wish I could list more but really anything that has a solid hook, great vocals and harmonies, lyrics that speak to me, and some kick-ass music, is going to get me, it doesn’t matter the genre, which is probably why my music is such a mix of genres. I think this all comes from those early years of listening to the radio and buying singles. 8) What are some initial thoughts about the Southern Collective Experience? What role do you play, or want to play? I’m just really starting to get into all the different aspects of SCE but I’m so impressed by the variety and quality of writers, musicians, and artists. I love any group that supports each other in their artistic endeavors. We need that as the world becomes more digital and people lose the importance in the value of the arts. The magazine is simply stunning. I spent many years as a magazine and directory editor, including several years at Variety, and I was so impressed by the layout and coverage. I believe you guys are finding some real gems right before they become more widely known and that’s really exciting. I also think that it has a unique voice in the landscape of the arts. I’m glad to be a small part of it and I can’t wait to see where SCE goes next. 170 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Bio and links: Debbie Hennessey was named AC40 Female Artist of the Year by New Music Weekly as well as charting a Top 20 Hit on NMWâ€™s AC40 Charts. Her song Believe was used in an episode of The Moment, which aired on USA and UHD Networks, and the music video for the song Good As Gone was featured on the broadcast TV shows Extra and The Next GAC Star. She was named a Semi-Finalist in the Song of the Year Contest and has received Honorable Mentions from the Billboard World Song Contest, Great American Song Contest and West Coast Songwriters Contest. She has been included on compilation CDs including CMT's New Music Collection, GoGirls MusicFest, Songsalive!, Beautiful-Women on the Move, among others, and named Best Vocalist of the Month by SingerUniverse. Debbie is a songwriter for Studio 51 Music, Pacifica Music, and others providing original music for their film and TV music libraries. She is a voting member of the NARAS/GRAMMYS, a writer/publisher member of ASCAP, as well as a member of AIMP, NARIP, and SONA. Debbie's three full-length CDs and six singles are all available through many music outlets including iTunes and CDBaby, or by calling 1800-BUY-MY-CD. To hear songs from her latest CD, No Longer Broken and watch the Every Song Is You music video visit www.DebbieHennessey.com. Important links: Official website: http://www.debbiehennessey.com Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DebbieHennesseyMusic YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbYtL8J3EC9P7cIkuO788jQ Every Song Is You music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53FwvtUjR74 iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/no-longer-broken/id1002655862 CD Baby link: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/debbiehennessey6
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New Member Interview with Marsha Cornelius Compiled and Composed by Clifford Brooks 1) Please provide the public with the details of your life thus far that feed best into your writing voice. I was raised in a small, conservative farming town in Northern Indiana. In fact, the town was all white; no blacks, no Asians or Hispanics. We did have a Jewish family so I guess that made us pretty progressive for the times. My father was a jokester and I guess I’ve got some of his genes in me. During high school, I cracked jokes and kidded with my friends. But it wasn’t until college and beyond that I truly honed my skills at sarcasm. Once I got into the real world of gays, and blacks, and liberated women, my education began. Hardly a day goes by now that I don’t see the irony of ‘good Christians’ and ‘fine upstanding citizens’ persecuting people who aren’t just like them. It’s fodder for my writing. 2) What makes "you" - You? I think the most important event that makes me who I am was the Vietnam War. I was in college at the time so I knew guys who got drafted and killed. Because I wrote for the campus newspaper, I got drawn into the war protests. That whole time was surreal: watching the war on the news; seeing Nixon resign; Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King being gunned down. Up until the late 60s, I lived in this bubble of privilege. But after all that, my eyes were opened and I’ve never wanted to go back to that ‘ignorance is bliss’ mindset of my youth. 3) What is a question you'd never like to be asked again as long as you live? ‘How old did you say you are?’ 4) What keeps you banging at words on the page even when it feels like you're beating your head against a wall? Writing, to me, is a bit like Dante’s seven layers of hell, although a couple of the layers are rewarding. When I first come up with an idea for a book, I’m very excited and I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful. I jot down tons of notes. Before I started writing my current work-in-progress, I had 23 pages of notes. But soon enough, the doubt sets in. Is the idea good enough for a whole book? I’m at fifteen thousand words and I have to get to at least eighty thousand. I’ll never make it. 172 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Once I’ve written a few chapters, I take a quick look at what I’ve got. That’s when the loathing sets in. This sucks! That’s got to go! And of course, I wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I’m writing the crappiest book ever written. I should give up writing and volunteer at a soup kitchen. Then, with the morning, comes some clarity. I re-read a chapter and decide it’s not that bad. I get caught up in some action, or chuckle at something I’ve written, and I’m back on track, merrily writing along until doubt comes crawling out of the woodwork again. 5) What helps you maintain balance in the world of literature? I have a couple side interests. My pet project right now is an event called A Novel Idea. On the third Wednesday of every month, I invite six authors to come read short excerpts from their latest work. Guests join us in the upstairs bar of a restaurant in downtown Canton for this fun evening of drinking, eating, and listening to award-winning local writers. I host the event, hand out door prizes, and sometimes (usually when I have a last-minute cancellation) I read from one of my books. Each month has a different theme, like mystery/suspense, science fiction, historical fiction. All of the details are on a Facebook page called A Novel Idea. Aside from the literary world, I teach exercise classes to seniors at a local fitness center. And trust me, this isn’t just sitting in a chair marching to Jimmy Dorsey. We sweat through belly crunches and leg lifts. I dare say our group has some of the tightest glutes in Milton. We even have a rockin’ routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, including the zombie walk and the Boris Karloff stomp. I also do a lot of walking in my neighborhood; usually two miles a day. It’s a great time to clear my head and enjoy my surroundings. No headphones for me, although I do carry a small notebook in case I get an inspiration for my latest book. I live in a rural area so there isn’t much traffic. If one of my neighbors happens to be on the road when I suddenly stop to write something down, they’re very patient. Just like when old Bessie gets out of her pen, they politely toot their horn or wait for me to amble to the side of the road. If you want to know more about me, feel free to friend me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMarshaCornelius/
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Faces of Faith Interview with Pastor Gerald L. Rice Compiled and Composed by Casanova Green Many people say what first catches their attention about Pastor Gerald L. Rice is his loving heart, deep humility, peaceful demeanor, and willingness to tell the truth in a way that brings people hope and revelation. As the Senior Pastor of Judah Christian Community in Columbus, OH, Pastor Rice shepherds a multicultural congregation of believers and advises pastors and leaders locally, nationally, and internationally. He is also the Founder and President of March for Freedom, an anti-human trafficking organization, and hosts a yearly march from Columbus City Hall to the Ohio Statehouse. He has traveled nationally and internationally preaching and teaching the Word of God and serving communities. Beyond the pulpit, he is a devoted family man and a talented musician and songwriter. I have the honor of calling him my pastor. He has been a part of my life since birth and I have watched and served with him in ministry most recently as Minister of Music at Judah from 2011 until 2016. Currently, he serves as the Apostolic Overseer for the church my wife and I pastor in Lancaster, OH, True Vision Christian Community. His influence and effect on the lives he touches is undeniable and he challenges people to be the best they can and always move forward. In our interview, we discuss music, racial reconciliation and the history of Judah, and advice for creatives who are looking to balance faith and their artistic gifts. 1) Tell us a little about yourself. I am a person who loves to talk to God and, by way of the Holy Spirit, can listen to what He has to say. That is the greatest thing you can experience other than your salvation. I feel like no matter how much you learn in this life, there is so much more to learn and it's best to live in the classroom of God. I am married to a wonderful women name Eileen who has brought a life full of joy to me. I have eight children and 18 grandchildren. I have been pastoring for 25 years which has taken me all over the world. I have preached in Kenya, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Thailand and other places in Asia. I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do next. I was saved at the age of 8 when my family bought a large Bible with lots of pictures in it. The stories in the old testament convinced me that God is real. 2) Many people know you not only as a pastor but as a talented, honestly virtuoso, guitarist. How did music become a major part of your life and ministry? Music has been a major part of my life since I was a little boy. I knew all the songs that I listened to from my dad and mom. I love having the ability to praise and worship using an instrument to express what I feel in my spirit. King David could change the atmosphere by using an instrument. My guitar is an extension of me. It speaks what my heart fills. 3) You and my mom inspired me to write music that glorifies God. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the floor watching you two playing and singing a song you wrote called "Unjustified Lives." What is your writing or creative process? I spend a lot of time each morning doing praise and worship by myself. The early morning inspires me to write. 4) One of the strengths of your over 30 years in ministry is your relevancy. I still listen to sermons from when I was a child and they speak volumes today. What makes you and your messages relevant to today's world? 174 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
The word of God to me is not just a history lesson but a road map for life. The things which we see happening in the Bible are the same things we experience today: â€œThere is nothing new under the sun" 5) You and Pastor Doug Duble managed to merge two established churches, one Black and the other White, into what we know as Judah Christian Community. Could you briefly share Judah's story? The Lord had me pastoring a church that consisted of 98% African Americans while Doug Duble was pastoring a church which was 98% percent white. The Lord placed upon our hearts that Heaven would not be this way and the church was never designed to be this way. I began to tell our church that we were going to be multicultural while at same time Doug Duble was telling his church the same thing. He and I met in 2003 when one of my elders met Doug Duble and gave him my telephone number. He and I and our wives became best friends. After a year, we spoke to each other and believed that God was leading us to merge our churches together. The process took almost a year and after much prayer, we became Judah Christian Community. Judah has become a great success and we are so glad that we followed the leading of the Lord. I would do it again and again if God led me to.
6) One of the battles that we had at Judah initially was blending worship music and expressions that were culturally and stylistically different. What lessons did you learn as a senior pastor and musician and what advice would you give to others? There were many challenges when it came to praise and worship and how it is expressed. You cannot give in to the pressure to accept one expression of worship over another. There is one race, the human race, but there are many cultures. How you see worship will be shaped by the culture you have been exposed to. 7) You have lived in Thailand, traveled extensively throughout the world for various reasons, and interacted with many cultural groups. However, we know that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. What do you believe are the keys to racial reconciliation within the church and in our society? The key to racial reconciliation in the church will be when we realize that no one group or culture owns the expression of worship in the church. How we respond to the Spirit of God is based on where we came to know God. To me, it's like a person who came to visit Columbus for the first time. Depending from what direction he came from, his view of Columbus would be totally different. The view coming from the north is totally different than from the south and the view from the west is totally different from the east. If each person described what Columbus looked like, it would be totally different. There are some cultures that are more expressive in their response to God than others and neither is wrong. This same line of thinking also is found in how we dress when we go to church. The African American culture for years has been inclined to dress more formal when going to church based on how they have been raised to wear your best when entering the house of God. This still exist in some White churches but the tendency has been to dress more relaxed when entering the house of God. The key to this is neither is wrong. Where you came to know God will determine how you want to express yourself in the presence of God. There is a deeper revelation about this that I cannot share at this time. At 175 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 8
Judah Christian Community, you will hear and see many expressions through worship that all reflect our personal relationship with God.
8) You have been one of my biggest cheerleaders in my creative journey and have constantly pushed me and others to create and release our talents to the world without restricting us only to Judah. Why do you believe it is important to provide a space for creative people to blossom and develop in their church? One of the many purposes of leadership in the body of Christ is to edify the body or build the body of Christ up. I think watching someone begin to reach their potential is the greatest joy I get in life. I went to summer camp this year and I was teaching one the boys how to float on his back in the swimming pool. To see the joy that was on his face being able to finally do what he has always wanted to do was exciting. I enjoy giving space for people to speak to God and have God speak to them, and discover what God has placed in them. There some things we need to learn from others, but there are some things that are best discovered on our own. When you are teaching someone how to ride a bike, at some point you have to let them go! 9) The biggest battle that many creative people have is balancing their Christianity and their creativity. Some people feel that they must stifle what they want to say to fit what is expected of a Christian painter, writer, singer, etc. What is your advice to those reading this who are trying to balance their gifts and talents and their walk with God? If what I want to say or do is an offense to God, I will not do it. But writing a love song about my wife is not an offense to God but to the glory of God. There is some creativity that's lying dormant in many Christians and fear of rejection has kept it under lock and key. There is a cost for blazing a trail; make sure your willing to pay it. 10) One of the topics you constantly teach about and talk about is legacy and duplication. What do you want people to remember you for and what do you want people to see in people like me who have been affected by your ministry and your life? When I think about my legacy, the most important thing will be â€œDid he believe the words he preached?â€? Did I truly love the people that God placed in my life? Have I made the world better by being here? I want people to see in you that you truly believe "all things are possible to him that believe." Dream BIG! For more information about Pastor Rice and Judah Christian Community, go to www.judahchristiancommunity.com. For more information about March for Freedom, go to www.marchforfreedomcolumbus.org.
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Photography & Paintings
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Hi I'm Chris my friends call me Po. My favorite color is white. It's simple and quiet. It gives life to all around it. I collect words and photographs. Taking pictures is an experience; itâ€™s something I must do. It allows me to see and capture what perhaps may be unseen, overlooked or missing. 1. Past memories lost in a fog, transparent but present, as light peers through; no longer hiding images limited, and now framed, in view. Title: Transparent but Present 2. Life beyond life uncovered as I traveled. I had been seen, not touched; talked about, not spoken to; life beyond life... uncovered and awakened. Title: traveled 3. Painted yellow wavy lines stand still in view, though your mind... travels still. Title: Still 4. All that remains, is thunder as it rolls by... a booming bass in life's movement. Title: Movement 5. The images I see create the stories to be known. They don't know you; they never will. Title: Life 6. I write in the air with my breath...it becomes the key to unlock my thoughts... my collected soul. Title: Breathless words
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Outro The hardest feelings for me to lose are the sweetest, as it takes me so long to recover them, from whatever distant cloud they’ve chosen to drift off to. I have undergone various changes this year: I resigned from a job I held for nine years; moved to Gainesville; and fell out of favor with my father, shortly before he passed away. For a while, I doubted my ability to do anything, especially to pursue my dreams with a steady, clear, happy focus that marks my soul for what it is: a hopeful one. I felt a fire raging in me to accomplish everything all at once, which – more often than not – resulted in me accomplishing nothing at all. I felt defeated, a failure, and entirely lost. In being part of the Southern Collective Experience and getting the chance to plan for the future of an organization that houses so many incredible minds and generous hearts, I have begun to reclaim who I am. I have started getting my life back together, and making it even better than before. Creative minds have a tendency to feel everything deeply – sometimes, too deeply. Yet, we have within us the capacity to transform every bleak, exasperating session of over thinking to work towards bettering our lives and the lives of those around us. We need only focus on one day at a time; on one brilliant magazine issue at a time. The future will come as it comes, just as fall comes, with its gentle breeze of change. It is what we do with the present that determines how the future arrives. Holly Holt “Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” - Epictetus
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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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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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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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Please consider donating to our cause: TSCE Collections.
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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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