Cover image, “French Flowers Unfurl in Georgia,” courtesy of Isabelle Gautier.
Masthead: Poetry Editor – Chani Zwibel Prose Editor – Jennifer Avery Interviews Conducted & Collected by – Sosha Pease, Holly Holt, D.L. Yancey II, Scott Thomas Outlar, Clifford Brooks, & Kaleb Garrett The Southern Collective Experience The Blue Mountain Review firstname.lastname@example.org
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Table of Contents Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 4 Isabelle Gautier ..................................................................................................................... 5-7 Rehan Qayoom ..................................................................................................................... 8 Heath Brougher ..................................................................................................................... 9 Steven Allan Porter................................................................................................................ 10-12 Neil Ellman ............................................................................................................................ 13 Doc Wallace ........................................................................................................................... 14-17 Barbara Turney Wieland ....................................................................................................... 19-23 Rob Plath ............................................................................................................................... 24 Bernice DeLucchi .................................................................................................................. 25 Dustin Pickering .................................................................................................................... 26 Michael Lee Johnson............................................................................................................. 27 Sanjeev Sethi ......................................................................................................................... 28-29 Michael Marrotti ................................................................................................................... 30 Drew Harris ........................................................................................................................... 31 T. C. Carter ............................................................................................................................ 32-38 Samantha Kendig .................................................................................................................. 39-40 Sandra Smith, Freedom Photography .................................................................................. 41 Jeanne Hewell-Chambers ..................................................................................................... 42-46 Thomas P. Balazs ................................................................................................................... 47-53 Zachary Steele ....................................................................................................................... 54-57 Tina Fowler ............................................................................................................................ 58-59 Book Review by Scott Thomas Outlar................................................................................... 60-62 Interview with Larry Griffith................................................................................................. 63-64 â˜†Feature Interview with Terence Hawkins ......................................................................... 65-69 Interview with Sarah Frances Moran ................................................................................... 70-75 Interview with Bill Friday ..................................................................................................... 76-79 Insider Interview with D.L. Yancey II ................................................................................... 80-82 Interview with J. L. Staton .................................................................................................... 83-86 Interview with Andrew Turman............................................................................................ 87-88 Peter Damian Bellis ............................................................................................................... 89 Faces of Faith Interview with Dr. Rozario Slack .................................................................. 90-94 Outro...................................................................................................................................... 95
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Introduction At the risk of shocking our sun-loving readers, I have to admit something. I hate summer. As the humidity rises and UV maxes out, my mind becomes overwhelmed by superfluous solar radiation as it floats about wreaking havoc on brown grass and black asphalt. Give me an Autumn breeze and a bold cacophony of turning leaves. I prefer those reds, oranges, and azures to Summer’s garish neons on a backdrop of parched brown. I may be as Southern as one can possibly be, but I’m genetically inclined toward cool humidity and lush meadows under a gauze of dense fog. But if I don’t hear the cicadas by July, I get worried. If there aren’t as many lightning bugs about as I think there should be, my year might as well be ruined. I look forward to the perfume of honeysuckle that always serves as the harbinger of a Georgia Summer. And nothing is as refreshing as a raucous Summer storm. I was convinced I could feel a bad storm coming when I was a little girl. Like my joints now, I could predict a toad-strangler when my belly felt funny. I got excited at the prospect of a storm so severe, it might bring down tree limbs and produce a spectacle of lightning - despite the inherent risk that our house might be destroyed in the fray. I longed for power outages. Not because we played board games or had family singalongs (which we didn’t), but because all was quiet and I could retreat into my brain to work on new characters and scenes as the storm raged outside. There’s inspiration in a storm. Although I’m not a scientist, I’m pretty sure it’s been proven that rain and lightning excite ions in the air and produce a feeling of euphoria (which is why a shower makes you feel renewed and the birth rate in India goes up nine months after monsoon season begins). Not only that, but the sight and sound of looming destruction is creative fuel for the artist whether you’re writing a “dark and stormy night” scene or not. It gives your belly that funny feeling; and the only cure is to write, make, paint, perform, or play something. Like when you can smell Autumn coming on a 95-degree day with a hundred percent humidity. —Jennifer Avery
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Isabelle Gautier I met Isabelle Gautier in the spring of 2016 while reading for the Tinderbox Writer’s Community, organized by Kimberly Brock. A brilliant group of authors, poets, essayists, and visual artists gathered at the gorgeous home of Mari Ann Stefanelli and spoke for hours on poetry, our particular expressive endeavors, and bridged a new connection to family I feel blessed to call friends. As the seminar wrapped up, cards were exchanged, hugs were given, great food shared, and at the last moment I noticed a gorgeous Impressionist painting on Mari Ann’s wall. I asked who created such a elegant piece and was delighted to find out that Isabelle Gautier was the one behind it. A passionate discussion immediately began between us. Several weeks later I went to the Ferrari Fine Art Gallery showcasing her work, and the work of other gifted women. One painting of Gautier’s in particular, the one that’s the cover of our summer issue, wouldn’t let my imagination go. I stared at it for hours. There are five flowers in the painting, but three seemed “closer”, as if they were sharing a secret. I carried that image in my mind for days before the poem “French Flowers Unfurl in Georgia” flickered from my fingertips. I originally intended it to be a simple show of respect for her delicate brush strokes, then she gave me the ultimate honor of including it in her portfolio that you can buy for $100.00 by sending her an email at IsabelleGautiersART@gmail.com. It is a stellar collection, and one I know you will return to again and again to find peace. What this started is a new addition to the Blue Mountain Review where a painter has the chance to team up with a poet to see if this same kind of lightning in a bottle can be captured, again. The Southern Collective Experience is about making art applicable and functional, not a decoration or means to fill space on a bookshelf. I pray that this gives you inspiration and hope for the future of all art. Be well. Dream big, but live bigger. Clifford Brooks
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French Flowers Unfurl in Georgia French flowers: subtle in the center, three, pliable whirls of purple wink. Unframed freshness, abstract flora, hangs for an evening in Georgia. To personify the trio as sassy ladies, or preening men, is a sin. No, it is itself: A painting. In this gallery there is currency not paid or pandered or sold, but on the contrary: Immortality takes center stage, conjured by their creatorâ€™s urgency to be happy, or be nothing. The scene is serene, but not silent. It exists in the easy company of an emigre, living in Atlanta, now. She shares simplicity on canvas the minimalist in me must digest alone. 6 | The Blue Mountain Review Issue 4
Three violet starlets stun the doldrums dour down my brow. Her (the artist) all of us – knowing or not – need to see this Parisian freesia frequently before closing. It is itself: A painting. French flowers: subtle in the center, three, pliable whirls of purple wink. “French Flowers Unfurl in Georgia” appears in: 28 glossy pages book. Isabelle Gautier 's florals. Athena Departs, expected pub. date: Fall, 2016.
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Isabelle Gautier’s art is a constant research and discovery of colors and compositions. Born in Normandy in Western France, she studied at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1999, Gautier moved to the States and began her professional career as an expressionist abstract painter. Her prolific work has a distinctive style that employs a rich balance of vibrant color and neutrals, abstraction and representation, movement and calm that transitions beautifully from her landscapes and abstracts to her flowers. Gautier’s work is best known for her unique florals recognizable by their minimalist shape.
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Rehan Qayoom Moon, After Parveen Shakir Both travellers But with one destiny Mine to be alone on Earth Yours to be suspended in space Love the Light You are the love that is the light And when there is no light there is the darkness And when there is the darkness there is no love And when there is no love it is death And when there is no death there is the light That is the love That is the life That is the darkness
Rehan Qayoom is a poet of English and Urdu, editor, translator and archivist, educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work internationally. He is the author of About Time and other books. 9 | The Blue Mountain Review Issue 4
Heath Brougher Alabaster Night Bleed the day throughout; suffer the nightâ€™s murderous whispers; rhapsodize to yourself in your solitude for to have noticed that every second is an eternity, these afflictions are made less stressful; sundogs in the sky are like any other gleaming: some kind of reflected, refracted light through atomic crystals.
Heath Brougher is the poetry editor of Five 2 One Magazine. He has published two pamphlets with Green Panda Press and his first chapbook A Curmudgeon Is Born is forthcoming from Yellow Chair Press. His work has appeared or is due to appear in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Chiron Review, Of/with, Main Street Rag, Crack the Spine, Mobius, SLAB, BlazeVOX, Foliate Oak, Indiana Voice Journal,Third Wednesday, eFiction India, and elsewhere. 10 | 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 4
Steven Allan Porter To Boddah for Kurt Cobain Born among cut timbers and trailer parks of an economically-washed out lumber town, his auto mechanic father and housewife mother see their son's blonde locks cover funereal eyes as he blows out candles on a birthday cake he'll come to miss. His father's sawdust trail leads him to an abandoned bridge. The Wishkah River's shallow waters wash over his guitar's ashes whispering, "Something in the Way." His parents' divorce burrows into his stomach like a parasite, feeding on heroin. His nightly, in-tune curdled screams spill onto a microphone. A hormonal nation's stench drives him further from his small town American dream and into faceless crowds of flannel shirts. He eludes his cardigan-clad clones, as Seattle's rain shrouds him on each corner. We can no longer see him, though, you can hear him through teenagers' open windows, escaping their overcrowded high schools and inattentive parents.
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Sorry, We're Out of Candles As the hearse pulls out the driveway, ravens and crows gather with limp carnations ensnared in their beaks. The deceased's family lower their heads and send their tears to thirsty ants below. A priest goes to comfort the mother, holding a candle in one hand and her silky, wrinkled fingers in the other. The wind teases the flame; a secret message to give itself over to birds' breath. Hot wax drips and burns the priest's hand. He quickly drops the candle to the ground, the flame extinguishes and then, the mother raises her head, believing she's heard her son's voice.
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Lament No More, For I Am a Fish I've forgotten what it feels like to be a fish. I naively drink my own home. I nibble bits of plant droppings. I spend too much time envying the birds. My conception of time is measured by raindrops splashing atop my roof. I've never seen a reflection of myself, nor do I understand what that means, but today, I notice a gleam of light above me, I lunge out of the water and see technicolor diamond prisms skim my scaly surface, surging northward toward the sun as it recedes into my home's oncoming, gray mother.
Steven Allan Porter was born February 5, 1992 in Coral Springs, FL to a Jewish mother and a German father. His influences include: Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Bob Kaufman, Nick Flynn, Steven Jesse Bernstein, Anne Sexton, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Simic, and Louis Ferdinand Celine. His work has appeared in Red Fez, Degenerate Literature, Wildflower Muse, Dead Snakes, UFO Gigolo, The Beatnik Cowboy, Wounwapi Literary Journal, and Syzygy Poetry Journal. He currently resides in Henderson, NV. 13 | 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 4
Neil Ellman From an Ethnographic Museum (after the collage by Hannah Hoch) It barely matters where her statue was carved what nation gave her a name and voice she speaks the naked truth in a monarchâ€™s face from her pedestal in a museum encased in glass as if she had never died
Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published more than 1,250 poems, most of which are ekphrastic and written in response to works of modern art, in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. 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 4
Doc Wallace APPALACHIAN DIALECT "Git on up, the sun's comin'," Pappy used ta' say. Guess I'll take n' show ya how ta' milk a cow today. Then we'll slop the hogs, mind don't get too close. Stay on 'tuther side o'the fence. They'll bull ya down with their nose. Let's go on down the holler on this red dog road. Watch the big chunks. Twist yer foot, gonna drop yer load. Watch that mine pony, he's a mean ol' hoss. Only way he'd eat wuz if'n he wuz boss... The electric fence was just one line, but that's all it took. Kept the cow and pony in the field. It made their legs unhook. One day, I'ze six, forgot about the fence. Runnin' full blast without a shirt. Hit the fence belly-high. It bowed out, sprung back, I sprawled out inna dirt! Gammy gonna kill a chicken for supper. "You go pick some corn". "Gonna be seven of us eatin'. Just givin' you a warn." After, Bob's gonna grab his guitar. Sugar Plum gonna do a Clog! Then we'd curl around an outside fire, singin' & listenin' ta' crickets & frogs
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THE WV ROOT DOCTOR What’s the writing on the jar, Maw? Say it was writ waaay long ago? What do you use it for, Maw? You say it stores souls in limbo? You tell me to stand and watch That chilliuns be seen and not heard So I stood and watched and remembered When you turned one into a bird!! You made me watch a lot back then When I was a little one And you brought the meanest ones inside Said it was your brand of fun. You said the mountains knew their hearts As they walked among the trees And the mountains knew the good from bad And told it to the bees. And the bees told you when they come near By giving me a little sting. You took to your witching spells right then when the Spell Bell needed to ring. You taught me the songs and taught me the rhymes, Taught me to add the herbs and roots Taught me to ring the Spell Bell just right To catch them by their boots. So the mean ones thought they were visiting To have some whitewater fun And to climb the cliffs around here Some were even nice to everyone. But the mountains could see their heart And the mountains knew their soul. So the mountains told bees and the bees stung me, And that caused Maw to set up her bowls. She’d catch them in the holler Right down from our shack They’d call for Help. We’d find them, Then bring them smilin’ on back. 16 | 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 4
First thing Maw’d do when they came in Is give them a bowl of stew, And some heady Apple jack to drink, They get to liking us too. But soon they’d fall fast asleep Right there at the table. We wouldn’t have to move them much Just lay them down since they weren’t able. Then Maw would grab a jar with writing Remove the lid and inhale deep Then breathe right down into their mouth While they were still asleep. Pretty soon she’d get to deciding What to do based on what they had done. If they were just mean to people, Maw would have a little fun! She’d turn them into a chicken or pig Sometimes a sheep would do, Then give them back their actual mind Just to watch what they would do! She’d bring them back and I’d open the door They’d always go right outside, Then run around in circles squealing Or take right off and fly! But the ones who were really bad; That caused mayhem, rape, or murder, Maw had a special thing she did, She called it her Justice Converter. She’d take down a different jar for them Pull the lid and breathe real deep, Then blow into their mouth real strong While they were still asleep. What it did was ugly! It would really put them in a bind. She’d find the cries of their victims past And stick it in their heart & mind.
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Then let them feel each anguish, Each torture and lament they'd view, And as the victim suffered Then the evil one would feel that too. It always killed them, payment due. And Maw would boil them in a stew or smoke the meat, it's true. To feed our new pigs and chickens, too. Yes, I learned Mawâ€™s ways in the West Virginia hollers, Became a Root Doctor for little pay. But I do some good for the mountain folk. And get rid of mean ones when they come our way.
Doc Wallace has poems appearing in Under the Fable, Quatrain.Fish, V0Ella, Micropoetry Society, Tomb of Words, and seven of his own poetry books on Amazon Kindle. He is a member of the Micropoetry Society and the Academy of American Poets, and hangs out on Facebook at the secret group of professional poets called "Modern Poetry". 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 4
Barbara Turney Wieland The Sin of Listening Twisted in sheets, listen whet your tongue moisten your ear and hear down on the crumpled street sparrows lifted in the wind whirring motors felt out whistling voices Send out your senses, listen into underlying layers of doubtful asphalt to playful veins blue below full of bloods and sticky juices Listen for the moaning coming from this misted perfume coming to me from your rose-strewn bosom Vibrating deep inside far-away distance soaked in tears on a pillow washed already a hundred times
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A word in the dark at night I sit on darkness listen see the outline of the shore permanently crumbling bedrock is left to dip into at least toes go white lips are purple words are blue dark, dark blue, go past winter ice, marbled and treacherous plunging into the wake looking for anything bright-like at the bottom of paper bags gone soft these blazes are weathered and grey tree blood hardened and difficult to lick
space echoes silently while I try hard bent into it with knees and elbows and lips seeking the real, the alive, the spark too easy in the light
blazes of snapped branches blown down by the wind once
the trick, whispered, is to see the thing before it sees me I renounce my motionlessness. lethargy only lasts for as long as a word spoken in darkness Listen 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 4
Pebbles under my tongue Looking for anything a taste, a meditation, a pose, any message out-lined on the shore naturally realized; to lie down like a memory horizon released at dusk like a darkness which is like no other watching stars in the mornings permanently crumbling beginnings, endings always the same pebbles underfoot slick immersed in summer forgetting the sins of winter winter iced over fingers twitching patched and treacherous paths toes go blue scars go purple, lips puckered with things they cannot tell letting go of the tails of stars complexion relenting lull reactivating fires after heart-stopping cold a warm place to rest pebbles under tongue waterâ€™s warm toes go pink again plumping up toward the next place gasping for breath and finding it waiting
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Lillian in Love Lillian leaves river shivering with ripplique joy She trails the whiteness of her fingers through the music of a harp rendered happy Ten fingers and none of them touched me Not one I knew other numbers. Other notes washed over me Flute milk-white against the moon I hear only blue and green pale grace streaks the sky I long for love to begin Singing my soul carmine and rose untainted by other colours but hers Rain-patter begins another rhythm replicated Love is left by the river
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Ten past midnight Ten past midnight and I’m still in the room loiter in quiet corners discreet no-one notices unannounced the moon peeking patiently like a stalker keeping distance in it’s pocket just in case it’s presence upsets me How considerate velvet settles the shadows collecting on feathers soothes me back to obscurity
Barbara Turney Wieland is an artist/painter who always described herself as “a frustrated writer who paints instead” She finally found the courage and inspiration to start gathering the words that have been flying around inside her head and started putting them to paper about a year ago. Satisfied, she can now say that she has begun to be published too. (The Mulberry Fork Review / Threeline poetry/ Rat’s Ass Review) She lives and works in Switzerland with her family but hails from the Uk and Australia. 23 | 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 4
Rob Plath UNTITLED cigarettes sizzling in yr wounds now & again the universe kindly removes a bullet ah, but that twisted fuck just wants a bloody ashtray PHONING THE DEAD Ma, the slant of Sunday morning light made me forget & i almost dialed yr number Ma, poems are a way of phoning the dead Ma, the love lies bleeding in my little garden finally flowered Ma, it poured for days after you left here—it was soothing—the opposite of when yr father died & the mocking sun threw its wild hooks down at you Ma, after the hard rain the cottonwood tree released its fuzzy seeds into the air & it looked like summer snow—you always tried yr best to be outside for the first flakes of the season Ma, i discovered a nest of kittens under a bush on yr birthday Ma, yr out of the straightjacket of the human shape Ma, yr free of those semi-murderous doctors Ma, it wasn’t you anymore in the nursing home bed that Saturday afternoon when i waved my hands in front of yr blank face & shook you hard by the knee Ma, you fooled the dark car that discreetly pulls around the back to those large doors Ma, yr in the rings of the oaks now Ma, yr in the canopies of the maples now Ma, yr in the breakers of the Atlantic now Ma, yr in the irises of Our Lady of the Flowers now
Rob Plath is the author of numerous collections of poetry. He is most known for his monster collection A Bellyful of Anarchy (Epic Rites Press). Besides publishing poetry books, he has also published a play, a children's book, a creative writing exercise book and has a novel forthcoming this year. Rob lives in New York with his cat Daisy and is a vegan. You can check his work at robplath.com. 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 4
Bernice DeLucchi MEMORIES She listens to music and reflects on days long past, the births of her children, the rainy afternoon she became 'Mrs Someone', And tries to remember the exact moment she got lost in the muddled chaos of life. Swallowed whole, she now drinks cups of tea and smokes, her stained memories try to fill the black hole inside her. She touches her skin, time has seared its journey into her once smooth face; hair a faded, almost-forgotten shade from her youth; Eyes, dark stones dimmed by regrets of the years that passed by almost unnoticed. Yet, still she dreams, Beautiful unreachable dreams, framed in a golden hue of nostalgia, that belong to her alone.
About Bernice DeLucchi: I'm a South African woman who lives in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and watched over by the magestic Table Mountain. I have always loved writing stories, and more recently poetry. Painting is another passion of mine. I'm a bit of a loner and usually live inside my head, thinking and dreaming, or sitting on the beach people-watching. 25 | 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 4
Dustin Pickering Sad Lucifer
The servant spoke to his lord. “I see myself in you,” he said, “and I grasp for the shutters of my eye.”
If this is what God does to men, imagine what She will do to the animal soul. We shall be subjugated to our own luck. The lusts of unknowing flesh are sustained.
Leave the world with tears and lonely hallucinations. The themes of sacredness are broken alms. Drums echo silently— nothing, nothing, the drip of chaos.
Dustin Pickering is founder of Transcendent Zero Press, publisher of the awardnominated Harbinger Asylum. He is also a visual artist, songwriter, and event coordinator. He is published at Tower Journal, Pyrokinection, Storm Cycle 2016, Texas Poetry Calendar 2016, di-verse-city 2013 and 2015, among others. He is a lifelong devoted artist even in rough times. He recently released Salt and Sorrow, a chapbook collection of terse lines that reveal the Biblical God, from Citrangi in India. 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 4
Michael Lee Johnson Harvest Time (V8) A MĂŠtis lady, drunkhands folded, blanketed as in prayer over a large brown fruit basket naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard inside-approaches the Edmonton, Alberta adoption agency. There are only spirit gods inside her empty purse. Inside the basket, an infant, restrained from life, with a fruity winesap apple wedged like a teaspoon of autumn sun inside its mouth. A shallow pool of tears mounts in his native baby blue eyes. Snuffling, the mother offers a slim smile, turns away. She slithers voyeuristically through near slum streets and alleyways, looking for drinking buddies to share a hefty pint of applejack wine. Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. He has been published in more than 880 small press magazines in 27 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites. Author's website http://poetryman.mysite.com/. Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN: 978-0-595-460915, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems. He also has over 93 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos. Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL. nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015. Visit his Facebook Poetry Group and join https://www.facebook.com/groups/807679459328998/ He is also the editor/publisher of anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762 & https://www.createspace.com/6126977. 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 4
Sanjeev Sethi INNER GUIDE As a coda to my nightly worship, I beseech the Almighty to bless some people. Other than my immediate circle it is those who cross me during the course of my quotidian curve. Last weekend my innards rebelled. Is it right to supplicate God with a roll call? Betterment by dipping into an anonymous bank account of kindness without any obligations? SEPTET (1) Words collate to create a chiaroscuro of certitudes, one learns the grammar of grief: growing up, eh? (2) In nothingness things happen like connections without understanding why the rain came unasked. (3) What is it about sadness? A happy, smiling portrait of my God distracts when I seek His attention. Can the blind dream in color?
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(4) Nowadays everyone is Editor, Times of Self on Face book. Unlike newspapers camouflaging intent, the brief on FB is crisp: For the self, by the self, of the self. (5) Their diel of caterwauling quicker than any cannonball enters my area without hesitations drumming hub of a sixty year hambone. (6) In acrimonies of mind I seek letup through wage of words. In this Logos live my violations, my whitewash (7) Subvocalize imaginary conversations with you. In distance you’re dearer than dread of togetherness.
Sanjeev Sethi has published three books of poetry. This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015) is his latest. His poems have found a home in Off the Coast Literary Journal, Literary Orphans, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Café Dissensus Everyday, Anti-Heroin Chic, Revolution John, Futures Trading, The Aerogram, Thirteen Myna Birds, Creative Talents Unleashed, Chronogram, The Corner Club Press, The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Ink Sweat and Tears, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, New English Review, The Galway Review, A New Ulster, In Between Hangovers, Otoliths, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India. 29 | 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 4
Michael Marrotti Mother Perspiration accompanied my arrival to the house of discord disorders and disbelief Clammy hands are incapable of opening stubborn doors I knock three times One for each personality disorder which waits fermenting like cheap vodka Stereotypical behavior by the one who never made it to the twelfth step After the third glass of hundred proof came malicious comments that would disrupt the most content of smiles I left the same way I came Trying to retain what was before this thirteenth hour
Michael Marrotti is an author from Pittsburgh using words instead of violence to mitigate the suffering of life in a callous world of redundancy. His primary goal is to help other people. He considers poetry to be a form of philanthropy. When he's not writing, he's volunteering at the Light Of Life homeless shelter on a weekly basis. If you appreciate the man's work, please check out his blog: www.thoughtsofapoeticmind.blogspot.com for his latest poetry and short stories.
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Drew Harris The Name Elwood's running amok again. The bastard's even gone ahead and named himself, dipping his pale toes into my inkwell. Well, I won't stand for this, or else you'll find me sitting. You could argue the man's just a name but I don't know his game-do you? When's the last time I saw a purple sky? Much less flew across-oh, gracious, no Elwood would be furious... He likes that, you know. The Name. Makes him feel special as he tears words from parchment. Once, I saw him save the sticky residue and eat it whole. He's a monster, he is. Elwood's a real Beast.
Drew Harris was born in Pottstown, PA, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware. Majored in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Works currently as a carpenter's assistant. Favorite color has been consistently green. 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 4
T. C. Carter DOC HOLLIDAY’S ACCOUNTING for “Doc” Clifford Brooks Being of relatively sound mind but rapidly failing body I have determined to execute a brief accounting of my life with the assistance of my saintly nurse Sister Rebecca of the order of the Sisters of Mercy She comes here to the Hotel Glenwood twice a day to attend to my needs and has agreed to transcribe my words I have ceased availing myself of the sulphur vapors of the famous Yampah Hot Springs as I have seen no help or cure forthcoming and I have grown too weak to make the effort My dearly beloved Mother perished when I was but a lad of fifteen years from this scourge of tuberculosis that has ravaged me 32 | 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 4
She and my father provided a genteel upbringing for me in Griffin, Georgia and I studied for a career in the field of dentistry but when I became ill I traveled west hoping a different climate would aid my condition I became proficient in the use of firearms and skillful in the art of gambling I discovered the medicinal qualities of consuming generous prescriptions of whiskey This chronicle is not meant to substitute for a last will and testament as I have nothing left to bequeath to anyone I have no family left that I am aware of and since my departure from Tombstone, Arizona have had no contact with my one-time traveling companion and lover, Kate Horony widely known as Big Nose Kate There have been many tales of my murderous adventures in the west many of which I fabricated myself 33 | 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 4
for the purpose of instilling fear in other men It proved to be a useful tool when unpleasant disagreements had to be settled Although I have engaged in a number of altercations involving the employment of gunplay I had never killed a man until the day I shot and killed Tom Mclaury near the O.K. corral Although there is some contention and uncertainty in the matter I believe it was my bullet that dispatched his brother Frank McLaury, as well I was compliant in the killing of other men as I abetted Wyatt Earp in raining down vengeance on the cowboys who assassinated his brother Morgan and maimed brother Virgil Wyatt Earp was my friend the only one who ever stood solidly with me and the only man 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 4
I would have given my life for We said our last goodbye before I came here to Glenwood Springs, Colorado I wanted our parting to take place while I was still able to care for myself not in a place such as this where the grim reaper occupies every shadow At my request Wyatt agreed not to make any attempt to see me again We both knew what the weight of that agreement meant It seems there has been considerable attention given to the gunfight in Tombstone by the pulp fiction writers and others attempting to profit in some way But, I expect that will pass in time and Wyatt and I will be forgotten along with the Clantons and the McLaurys and others on the edges of what the public has come to know as gunfight at the O.K. corral Perhaps itâ€™s best that way 35 | 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 4
WHAT COWBOYS DO Dark clouds forming in the western sky Smell of rain is on the wind Cattle bawl and mill about Caught up in the pen Slickers on, buttoned tight To keep the cowboys dry ‘Cause sure as hell the rain will fall From that blackened sky Already in the saddle they eat what grub they can ‘Cause if them bovines spook and run There’s no way to tell a’tall When they might eat ag’in Thunder rolls acros’t the boiling sky Like cannon balls acros’t a wooden floor And lightening slashes through the mass And lights up the soggy core A bolt from hellish heaven strikes a piñon tree And turns it’s light to fire Cattle, wild- eyed and terrified Stampede as one from the funeral pyre The water breaks in mother sky And floods down on the plain The race is on to save the herd In the driving rain The storm plays out it’s symphony From first note to it’s last And soon enough the sun breaks through As the storm has passed But now it’s two days in the gather Cattle tired, men and horses too A few winks of saddle sleep, not much to eat But we don’t quit until we’re through You might say we’re crazy And we might agree it’s true But the way we see the life we live It’s just what cowboys do 36 | 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 4
LETTER TO SIS 2/12/2015 Dear Sis, I thought I might come see you this spring When the trees start to bud and the flowers start to bloom I sure would like to see you again If you can tolerate this old cowboy taking up room If I have my druthers I won’t be no particular bother at night I’ll bring my bedroll along and sleep out under the stars If it won’t scandalize your neighbors too much or give ‘em a fright In fair weather I never did cotton to bunking under shelter I like to stretch out where there ain’t nothing between me and my maker ‘Cept fer a sky full of what He put up there You know, sis, I never had much schooling or churching So, I figger you’ll think me and the Lord to be a peculiar pair But He has helped me t’ mend my ways…considerable Don’t cuss near what I used to do; Oh, I’ll still take a drink or two But ain’t been what you’d call drunk fer nigh on to a year or so Today was payday; some of the boys went to town but I decided…I wouldn’t go Recon I’m gettin’ old; been stomped on too many times By cattle and horses….sometimes by men I could always be knocked down, ya know, but I never could be kept down Too much pride in my character, but I hope it ain’t enough to make it a sin One time or t’other I’ve cowboyed from Montana down to Texas Rough-necked once up in the Oklahoma oil patch, Didn’t like it; moved around at lot, like most cowboys Seems like we git a itch, we just gotta give it a scratch But I’m headin’ into my third year here on Mr. Will Johnson’s spread He’s a good man and fair to a fault and I’ve always said He treats horses right and men better ’n most of us deserve I’m thinking ‘bout settling down here if he’ll have me I reckon I’d be coming out of Dallas on the train It’s a long ways from here to Baltimore And I ain’t never bucked out one them contraptions before If I was still a young man I’d come on horseback
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But the boys will see to my horse and saddle And what little bit of plunder I got They say a rolling stone don’t gather no moss And I reckon that’s right cause I sure don’t have a lot But I will say this, Sis, I don’t have many regrets neither Not much I’d want to change about my life ‘less’n it’d be that time I got shot down in El Paso.... But that made me a believer…..so reckon I’d leave that alone too Well now, you give John and the rest of your family my best regards And if the good Lord don’t call my number and the creek don’t rise I’ll see you later on in the springtime And we’ll do a little bit of.. catching up.. on our lives Your loving brother, T.C. Carter 29 December 1899
T.C. Carter left his hometown of Danville, Va. at age seventeen for military service. Following that he spent the next thirty-five years somewhere in the west, most of it in northwestern Kansas. He wrote his first poem in 2012 at age 72 and hasn’t been able to stop despite the daily feeling that he has no more to say. He fell in love with reading for audiences starting at the Holly Theater underground in Dahlonega, Ga. Cowboy poetry is the cornerstone of his writing, however, he writes about his childhood and young adult life among a variety of other subjects both real and imagined. He recently recorded “Out West,” his first CD, composed of eighteen cowboy poems. 38 | 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 4
Samantha Kendig All of Me I look for me in you, for you created a tapestry and of it I came into existence fragile, wide-eyed, inquisitive a concoction of heat and lightning. The ferocity with which you shook life stings in my ears, carries my soul to discover my place amidst the grays where you emphatically hid. I fought to create my being, let out my own cry, waged my own war until deep-rooted ideals, confused values burst through awakened senses to evolve in a body of unwelcome understanding. The curls tucked inward; the wrinkles lay smooth to create a curious image of the you before me, the ferocity a façade against realities I couldn’t comprehend, the lost boy, a gray man indelibly woven into my own contrived tapestry. I take in each breath, mixing it with my own exhale the fight, tangled, complicated roots reaching out in a desperate prayer as you instinctively caress that final itch. I’ll wait to reclaim all of me on Blueberry Hill, for now, I understand, all of me is from you.
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Modern Addiction Tumbling admissions of fantasies, sweet nothings reaching out through digital waves entice me. An eyeless koi fish frozen in my mind, an apple hollowed by addiction dances in my dreams. You always want what you cannot have. I get a taste, and I become the addict searching the waves for a musing. One beautiful, fucked up mind fueled by the passionate ramblings of another. I refresh in sheer desperation for more.
Samantha Kendig is a native of Roswell, Georgia, from a time before its current, bustling state. She found adventure and contentment in her southern childhood despite the regular chaos created by tumultuously passionate parents, who have been the inspiration for much of her writing thus far. An avid reader in her youth, Samâ€™s literary spirit was further developed during her English undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia, from which she graduated in 2004. She went on to passionately teach a wide breadth of students as an English teacher at her alma mater, Roswell High School, where she found herself and her voice amongst the beauty, obstinacy, and curiosity of the young minds she eagerly found ways to guide and inspire. She is now a resident of Alpharetta, Georgia; a wife; a mother to Olivia and Ethan, who have shown her true love and purpose; a runner; an entrepreneurial hustler; and a hopeful writer. She has dabbled in writing since first picking up a pencil but has just begun her focused writing journey less than a year ago after a chance meeting with Kimberly Brock, author of The River Witch. Sam creates fiction and poetry from her emotional understanding of her own little world and the world at large. 40 | 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 4
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Jeanne Hewell-Chambers 70,273 Our small Southern town was her world. The highly-decorated yard on Church Street was her haven. Her shoes were her transportation, a grocery cart her pocketbook. Geneva, a formidable forager before they made tv shows about such things, spent her days pushing her grocery cart through town, filling it with flags, toys left outside, real estate and, when they were in season, political signs. Garden statuaries never escaped her notice, and, if small enough to lift, her cart. Geneva made pin money by taking on pick-up jobs, money she spent not on food or utilities, but on yard jewelry she’d coveted in other people’s yards that had been too heavy for her to get over the side of her grocery cart. Women hired her to help them with special projects. My friend’s mother hired Geneva to help her get ready for a party, and by mid-afternoon when the house was cleaned, the food was cooked, and the furniture moved around to their liking, Miss Eloise went out to pull weeds and sweep the driveway, leaving Geneva inside to polish the silver. When Miss Eloise came in for a glass of water and to sit a spell to get rested up before the festivities, Geneva was nowhere to be found. Thinking she’d left through the back door and gone on home, Miss Eloise went in the bedroom to take a shower, and that’s where she found Geneva - piled up in the bed taking a nap. She was worn slap out. Every small Southern town worth its salt eventually has a sesquicentennial to celebrate, and when it came time for ours, Geneva was the hands-down favorite to be Grand Marshall for the parade. Some of the ladies got together and sewed her a fancy new dress special for the occasion out of the same pattern they used to make dresses for the tellers at the bank. Because she would be out in the sun, they made Geneva a matching parasol . . . which she carried in the grocery cart she pushed through the parade start to finish. A cart that was filled with flags, signs, balloons, candy, and other assorted parade scree by the time she got home that night. When he injured his leg, LaVerne traded in his bicycle for a lawnmower and rode it all over town, stopping in to check on women he knew to be home, hollering to them from the driveway to see if he could bother them for a drink of water. Every kitchen cabinet along his route held a special LaVerne-only glass, and we all knew he liked his water cold enough to make the glass sweat profusely.
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While Geneva was pushing her cart and LaVerne was riding his red Comet around town, Lord Bruce was running along the side of the road. Carrying a big hiking-sized stick. Running backwards. The man ran everywhere he went, and he ran backwards. Always. We don’t know why, and I’m betting nobody ever asked him. It’s just what he did. Folks hid their leftover paint from Johnny Henderson because he was bad to take it upon himself to paint things - big things - like houses and cars and trucks. He was a man with big aspirations, our Johnny was. A man with goals, commitment, determination. When his disappointment with the way the children of our town were being education reached a certain point, Johnny knew the only thing for him to do was become Superintendent of Schools. Having no time to waste on the election process, he walked himself right on down to the school board building and asked for an office to call his own. And some paper to make a sign for his door so folks would know where to find him. One day it dawned on Johnny that Uncle Felt McElroy - his employer at the time - was aging, so Johnny spent his lunch break walking to the nearest lawyer’s office to ask Mr. Charlie to get him the deed for McElroy Furniture Company. The way Johnny reckoned, holding the deed to the building meant he’d never be without a job. After that shortlived stint as Superintendent of Schools, job security was everything to Johnny. Every small Southern town has their Boo Radleys, their characters. And these were ours. While some folks might call them abnormal or “teched” or odd, around here we call them friends and treat them like family. We see them as normal for themselves. It’s the Southern way. We respect them as individuals, watch out for them, make sure they have food, water, and heat. Shoot, we even revere them, might even envy them a little for their ability to stay clear of the societal norms that have a way of strangling and stifling the rest of us. While we are busy trying to fit in and not get into trouble, trying to make our families proud and get ahead in life, the Johnnys, Genevas, Lord Bruces, and LaVernes are living life on their own terms every single day. At the beginning of World War II, German Nazis held parades for their Genevas, Johnnys, Lord Bruces, and LaVernes, too, but with one distinct difference. Between January 1940 and August 1941, German physicians paraded 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people right on into the gas chambers, calling them “unfit”, “a drag on the economy”, “unworthy of life”. Euthanasia was all the rage in scientific circles at the time. Mercy deaths, they called them in Nazi-occupied Germany. Hitler penned the order in October 1939, but backdated it to September, 1939 to give it the appearance of being a legitimate act necessitated by the beginning of World War II. Hitler’s Action T4 created a new bureaucracy - one headed by physicians and dedicated to the extermination of anyone deemed to have “a life unworthy of living.”
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Doctors made their evaluations based not on the actual person - they weren’t required to so much as lay eyes on them - only on their medical records or forms submitted by institutions. When two of three doctors placed a red X at the bottom of the form, the person was rounded up and murdered . . . usually in less than two hours. Children were killed by starvation and lethal injection. More “efficient” methods were required for adults, so asphyxiation by poison gas became the preferred killing technique. SS staff members charged with transporting the disabled to their death wore white coats to make it appear like an official medical procedure. Lists of plausible causes of natural death were kept, used to falsify death records, and referred to when penning condolence letters to families. They wanted the families to be comforted, you see. If requested, families received urns of ashes. Authorities didn’t merely justify their actions under Action T4, they glorified themselves by citing compassion, alleviation of suffering, cost effectiveness, and relieving pressure on the national budget as reasons for eradicating these 70,273 people. They convinced themselves and tried to convince others that they were ending the suffering of the “incurably ill”. The murders of these 70,273 people was best for all concerned, they said. On April 3, 1940 - in the midst of the ongoing T4 atrocity - local authorities convened to hear Viktor Brack, organizer of the T4 Program, speak about the social and economic benefits of the program (http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/euthan/index.html): “In many hospitals and nursing homes of the Reich there are countless people with incurable diseases of every kind, people who are of no use at all to the rest of humanity, who are only a burden on society, incurring endless costs for their maintenance, and there is absolutely no prospect of these people ever recovering and becoming useful members of society again. They sit and vegetate like animals, they are social misfits undeserving of life – and yet physically they are perfectly healthy human beings who may well live on for many more years. They eat the food that could be given to others, and in many cases they need twice or three times as much nursing care. The rest of society needs to be protected against these people. Given that we need to make provision now for keeping healthy people alive, it is all the more necessary to get rid of these creatures first, even if only to take better care for now of the curable patients in our hospitals and nursing homes. The space thus freed up is needed for all kinds of things essential to the war effort: military hospitals, civilian hospitals and auxiliary hospitals.” Read this sentence out loud: “70,273 people were murdered because they were different, because they were “not perfect”, because they were disabled.” If that doesn’t give you chills, make you clench your teeth and stomp your foot, I don’t know what will. Some 43 years ago, I married a man - Andy, or The Engineer as he’s known in social media - who has a sister with mental disabilities resulting from brain trauma that occurred when she was three years old. For reasons we are left to wonder about, neighborhood hoodlums decided it would be great fun to hang her by the neck from a swing set. Bringing Nancy into my life is, without a doubt, one of the Best Gifts Ever. 44 | 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 4
She is a woman of few words and many needs; a woman of little intellect and much wisdom, and had she lived in Germany in 1940-41, she most certainly would have been one of the 70,273. I don’t care how many times it happens, I can’t type that sentence without setting off an avalanche of tears. When The Idea came to call, I was doing what I’ve done since June 2012: stitching her drawings. Her marks, some would say. Meaningless marks, others call them. Art, I call it. Ask me what I’m doing, and I’ll tell you flat-out: I’m stitching Nancy’s art. She draws, I stitch, we collaborate. It was one of those ideas that creative people spend a lifetime hoping for. An idea that came in fully formed, ready to start, in just-add-heart-form. I am gathering 70,273 quilt blocks from around the world to commemorate the 70,273 disabled people who were so casually and callously murdered and to celebrate the people with special needs who live among us today. Commemorate. And Celebrate. Both. I did the math: if I make a block a day, it will take me 192-and-a-half years, so I need your help. The quilt blocks - and promise you’ll keep reading without letting the word “quilt” scare you away - are a white base, representing the medical records on which are placed two red X’s, representing the death sentence. There will be, according to The Engineer who knows such things, more than 800 quilts when all is said and done, and not all blocks are stitched. Some folks are using markers, glue, or paint to lay down their red X’s*. Whatever method you choose, check your insecurities and perfectionism at the door and remember who we commemorate and celebrate: those who are perfectly imperfect. Once the quilts are made, they will travel the world - sometimes together, sometimes in small groups of 1-10, whatever different venues can accommodate - always reminding people of this atrocity and ensuring that the good people it took are not forgotten. Would you like to become a part of The 70273 Project? (Oh please say yes.) There are many ways to become part of The 70273 Tribe. We need quilt blocks, of course, and we need people to piece the blocks into quilt tops and people to add batting, backing fabric, and binding and quilt the quilts. Maybe you want to donate bleached muslin fabric for the backs of the quilts or batting for the middles of the quilts. Maybe you’d rather make a monetary donation to pay for things like storage space for the quilts, postage and shipping, office supplies. Maybe you’d like to host a fundraiser or a block-making party. Maybe you know of possible exhibit venues or would like to have me come tell your group about The 70273 Project. Or maybe you can think of ways to help that I haven’t thought of yet. Any and all contributions and efforts are hugely appreciated. And hey, even if all you do is read this, I thank you and say May we never, ever forget this atrocity, because that just paves the way for it to happen again and again and again.
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~~~~~~~ * Important note: It’s better if the markers and paints are specially made for use on fabric and if you read the directions because some require heat setting, which is simply giving it a once-over with a hot iron. MORE INFORMATION: ~ the blog: www.TheBarefootHeart.com ~ the introductory post: http://thebarefootheart.com/introducing-the-70273-project/ ~ specific information on making blocks: http://thebarefootheart.com/making-blocksfor-the-70273-project-fabric-info/ ~ facebook group (a campfire for those who want more engagement with other contributors: https://www.facebook.com/groups/the70273project/ ~ facebook page (a drive-through for those who want to keep updated, but prefer less engagement): https://www.facebook.com/the70723project/?fref=ts ~ to subscribe to the blog: http://eepurl.com/CkEZz Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is a complicated simple red dirt girl fluent only in English and Southern, Charming and Cranky who feels most beautiful when wearing earrings that dangle and skirts that caper. Coming from a long line of story tenders, cloth workers, and caregivers, Jeanne uses ink, breath, and thread to stitch what Southern women talk about while sitting in the swing on the front porch, shelling the butterbeans and shucking the corn they picked early in the morning when it was cool enough to move around. She has survived two teenagers, a Cesarean delivery without anesthesia, being hit by a car, hanging wallpaper with her husband, and Christmas, 1993. Though she’s received many awards and honors for her work as a professional storyteller and community volunteer, and though she has a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master’s degree in Transformative Language Arts, Jeanne’s most proud of the fact that she never, ever had to attend a PTA meeting under an assumed name.
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Thomas P. Balazs ELEGY FOR CTHULHU She knew she shouldn’t have accepted the cutting. She had a brown thumb, a black thumb, the thumb of death. She had killed three spider plants since moving out on her own. Spider plants! Virtually indestructible, they told her at Gethsemane Gardens. She couldn’t remember to water them or she left them outside too late in the season or too long in sunlight, and they withered to a mass of brittle, khaki-colored papier-mâché leaves. What were the chances this little slice of bambooish plant would live out the weekend? But she took it because she liked plants even though she didn’t like to take care of them and she wanted something green in her half-furnished apartment. She just couldn’t bring herself to buy plastic plants despite the fact that no one, really, could tell the difference without touching them, and if she hung them from the ceilings and put them on top of bookshelves, who could reach? Ha. Hang from the ceilings. She had managed to mount one hook for the first spider plant after drilling four holes. She would turn the ceiling to Swiss cheese if she tried to put up any more. And yet the stupid cutting with its thick green-and-white leaves shaped like aces of spades not only survived the long car ride home from Palatine wrapped in damp paper towels, but even lived out the weekend when she forgot it in the backseat of her car. Well, “forgot” was a kind word. It was too much trouble to carry it up to the third floor that Friday; she had too many other things: her briefcase, her laptop, the kale-andpeach smoothie she had picked up at Earth Fare. But then Monday morning before work she eyed the plant lying back there and felt sorry for it, so she took it upstairs and
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plopped it in a souvenir Hurricane glass from Pat O’Brian’s and there it stayed for the next six months living off nothing but H2O and sometimes not much of that. The Hurricane glass was a souvenir from New Orleans—one of two. She wondered if they still sell Hurricanes in the French Quarter in a post-Katrina world. But of course they do. There were probably folks in the back room of Pat O’Brian’s sucking them down all through the storm and flooding that hit the city that year. New Orleans was a city of survivors; the kind who could withstand all manner of turmoil—lampposts snapped like toothpicks, streets turned into rivers, roofs and front walls caved in, looting. Sharon remembered a photo sent around the Internet in the aftermath of the storm: a wiry, shirtless goat-teed redneck wading through four feet of water, his girlfriend in a sleeveless orange T and short black shorts floating along beside him on a wide white door they had turned into an impromptu barge, hugging her knees complacently beside a six-pack of Coors Light in cans. It didn’t matter what kinds of toxic chemicals or fetid bacteria swirled about in that New Orleans street stew. She was sure that couple would survive.
Because the cutting was right on the kitchen counter next to the sink, she would sometimes notice when the water had all been sucked up or evaporated; though usually only when it was pretty close to empty and chalky calcium deposits coated the glass. Then she’d give the plant a fresh drink, amazed it hadn’t croaked yet and that it had in fact expanded from three to five leaves; that it was almost thriving. There was something vaguely repulsive about the source of the leaves. The stem had turned soft and brown and mushy in the water and had sent out a tangle of twisting roots that floated at the bottom of the glass like tentacles. It called to Sharon’s mind images from 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 4
H.P. Lovecraft of Cthulhu the sightless – the Old One – lurking octopus-like at the darkest depths of the ocean waiting to be awakened; waiting for her day to return and reclaim the Earth for the demon race. She had devoured Lovecraft as a teenager, attracted at first by the bizarre, ghoulish, surrealistic covers, then put off by the interminable paragraphs and long, slow, turgid sentences; and finally won over by the accretion of obscure allusions to primordial dark terrors, the panic and the paranoia, the sense of privileged access to an arcane universe only slightly buried beneath our own. She liked that no one else at school read Lovecraft or had even heard of him. She experienced a rare sense of superiority when her friends, inspired by her fascination, would pick up a collection of the stories and then give up before finishing because they found it difficult or boring. She was glad when they went back to Suzanne Collins while she remained with the master. But that was a long time ago. She had more patience then for difficult things.
The cutting, it seemed, had a sort of patience of its own. Apparently it didn’t need soil to survive. Maybe, she thought, she had finally found something she could keep alive. Maybe this was some kind of special plant; a super plant stronger than the spider and more powerful than a rhododendron, able to leap tall ivy trellises. . . . She had read too many comics and watched too much TV as a child; a latchkey kid before there were enough latchkey kids to warrant the cliché. She didn’t know what kind of plant it was. The secretary who had brought it to the office probably told her, but she forgot the name and didn’t want to ask Debbie because then she would ask after its health and she would have to say, “It’s doing amazing, considering it’s just been sitting in a glass of water for half a year.” She 49 | 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 4
sometimes thought of bringing it to Gethsemane for identification and getting it a proper red-clay pot filled with rich black dirt and white pellets of fertilizer, but now she had become superstitious of keeping it in the glass. Maybe putting it in soil would kill it – suffocate those delicate Cthulhu tentacles. Like the old ten-gallon fish tank in her parents’ kitchen. The filter broke and no one bothered to fix it, and all the fish died but one. One flat white fish the size of a halfdollar; a kissing fish that had lost its mate in the plague of algae coating the sides of the tank. The creature lived for years largely hidden from sight but occasionally showing flashes of white through the murk of thick green water, surviving only on bits of food Sharon’s mother occasionally remembered to feed it and perhaps on the very vegetation that killed off the rest of its community. And then one day, her father decided enough was enough and caught the fish in a net and placed it in a deep bowl of distilled water at room temperature like the tank’s, drained the tank, rinsed it, put in a clean bed of pebbles, a new filter, plants, and clear distilled water. Then he returned the kissing fish to the tank where it swam about in the crystal clean environs for an evening. The next morning, they found it floating on its side, after which the aquarium ran pristine and empty for nearly a year before her father unplugged it, emptied it, and put it in the basement. There was a lesson there. Some creatures thrive on benign neglect, but their survival depends on a stable environment. She was like that. She could go for weeks without talking to another person outside of work. She slipped into sweats and a t-shirt the moment she got home from work, lounging in them, shopping in them, not even bothering to change them to go to sleep. She had five work suits she rotated and about three-dozen pairs of panties so that she didn’t have to do a wash more than once a 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 4
month. She kept her hair short so it didn’t need much attention. She didn’t wear makeup, didn’t wear a bra. She was a low-maintenance girl, leading a low-maintenance life, and she was okay with that even if it meant swimming alone in a murky green tank. She wasn’t so sure about the plant. Clearly it was a survivor, but did it require stasis or was it storm resistant? She supposed an amputated plant limb that had come to life after three nights lying in the back of her Subaru was by definition adaptable, but then it had been very cold that weekend. Maybe it had survived in some kind of deep freeze and now was content to laze about in the glass of water, blooming from the top, disintegrating from the bottom. Yes, she would leave the cutting in its Hurricane glass which was itself a delicate tulip shaped vessel that would like as not get knocked over one day and shatter upon impact with the counter or the floor.
She sometimes imagined the plant had been given to her or sent to her to take revenge for all those spider plants she had killed and it was simply biding its time in the Hurricane glass. The leaves were a distraction. It was the tentacles that mattered. Soon there would be no stem or leaves at all, only a mass of roots so complicated they would constitute a life of their own. And then one night when she was sleeping, they would overflow and burst the vessel and slink downstairs to the basement bathroom she hardly ever used and crawl into the toilet and lodge there for weeks before she went down to do her laundry and discovered the tangled mess in the bowl. And then she would flush and flush, but the Cthulhu tentacles wouldn’t go down and so she would put on rubber gloves and try to pull them out of the bowl, but they would be too slippery to get hold of. Besides, by then they would have extended themselves far back into the piping and would not be dislodged. They would in fact 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 4
begin poking out of the drain of the kitchen sink upstairs and sending slithery scouts up into the clean white porcelain bowl of the first-floor toilet. She would be afraid to sit there even just to pee for fear the roots would suddenly shoot upwards, penetrate her, wrap themselves inside and around her, and suck her down into the bathroom hardware. “It’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars,” the plumber would say. “We’re going to have to root out every inch of piping in the house. Where did it begin?” She would tell the plumber “in the basement bathroom,” and the worker would go down to have a look and when she didn’t return for an hour, Sharon would go see what was going on, but there’d be no one there: just the plumber’s toolbox. Then the infested toilet bowl would send forth a gurgle, a bubble of air, a belch. And she wouldn’t call any more plumbers. Or maybe she would. Maybe once a week or so, she would phone a new one, send him down to the basement to investigate and thus pay tribute to the great Cthulhu. And bouquets of green-and-white leaves, shaped like aces of spades, would bloom from the commodes and from the sinks and in the bathtub, and she would leave all the faucets on in the basins and in the shower, pouring endless amounts of water into the heart of the mysterious entity that had now literally become a house plant. And she, herself, wouldn’t need anything anymore; just water and white-and-green leaves.
But that’s not what happened. What happened was one day she bought one of those air popcorn machines because it was lonely watching movies on TV alone and she needed something to 52 | 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 4
distract her. At Target, the machine reminded her of the thing her college girlfriend used to have and it was a lot more fun than microwaved popcorn, though not so much fun as the Jiffy-Pop she remembered roasting once a year over the stove as a child. And she sat the machine next to Cthulhu and made batch after batch of Styrofoamy kernels that she doused in salt and butter and grated Parmesan cheese and sat eating and watching all the grotesque and politically questionable horror movies she had denied herself for years: Wes Craven, Cronenberg, Romero. And all that time, Cthulhu sat next to the blower which, like a yellow plastic dragon plugged into the wall, vomited forth hot dry air along with popped kernels and Sharon didn’t notice her mistake until it was too late and the plant’s leaves hung limp and dead. She cut off the withered foliage, hoping to spur the cutting to bloom again and left it in the water for a long, long time, regularly refilling the glass, sometimes reading to it excerpts from The Dunwich Horror thinking that might call forth new leaves. But they never came. All that was left were the tangled roots and the mushy brown stem. Eventually, she simply accepted Cthulhu’s death; like the spider plants, like the white kissing fish, like the marriage.
Thomas P. Balazs teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and is the author of the short story collection Omicron Ceti III (Aqueous Books 2012). Thomas' work has appeared in numerous literary journals including The North American Review and The Southern Humanities Review. He am a regular participant in the Meacham Writers’ Conference. 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 4
Zachary Steele Bowling for Jesus It’s probably a good thing I can write. Not to say that I am, or have been, incapable of doing anything else. I know how to make toast, after all. That’s an accomplishment. No, really, it is. I mean, if the difference between starvation and survival onward to tomorrow is a slightly browned piece of bread with butter and jelly, I’ve got it covered. Not that I’m about to break into a refrain from “I Will Survive,” or anything, but if you hear some crunching in the corner, that might be me. Anyway, enough about toast. We can all make toast, right? Please say yes. Good. I don’t remember my sixth-grade math teacher’s name and it’s been bugging me for an hour. Come to it, I can’t even remember what he looks like, though I do quite clearly remember it being a he. Of course, I only remember one classmate–a boy by the name of Scott. And I only remember him for that unfortunate vomiting incident that caused me to plead to my mother for new shoes and forever altered how I respond to the smell of sawdust. Sorry Scott. Wherever you are, I hope you aren’t vomiting on someone’s shoes. In an effort to actually move forward, I’ll call my teacher Mister Mister Sir, and get on with it. Mister Mister Sir did a rather curious thing in class. Each month he chose a Student Of The Month (the first letters were always in CAPS, lest the importance of the honor be diminished). Being honored as Student Of The Month is, in almost every case, a worthy title bestowed upon the one student that either kissed enough tush or cheated on enough tests to have the highest grade in the class. It so happened I managed both with great skill. But being Student Of The Month wasn’t merely a title in Mister Mister Sir’s class. No, it came with benefits; the primary of which was that you were relocated to the High Throne, a teacher-sized desk near the door where the greatest of tasks included grading papers for an hour then dumping them into the Grade Book so that Mister Mister Sir could focus on more important matters such as reading the paper.
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The awesome nature of this power cannot be overlooked. However, it wasn’t the greatest of the honors bestowed upon the Loyal Brotherhood of the Student Of The Monthers. That honor came by way of a Polaroid picture taped to a piece of construction paper (mine was red as I recall–odd that I can remember that but not Mister Mister Sir’s real name) with a brief bio underneath. It was a typical roll-call of information: Name, Age, birth date, favorite food. I remember looking over the list and happily making it known to the world how incredibly special I was. They would know all the most important information about me and envy me each and every one of those thirty days I sat upon the High Throne of Goodness. The kicker was the last question – the one that would define my entire life, post-Sir’s class. What do you want to be when you grow up? Oh, boy. That was the question. The Question. But I knew the answer. I didn’t need to hesitate. Didn’t need to take even a second of time to contemplate exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to bowl for Jesus. Mister Mister Sir mistakenly translated this not-simply-a-tidbit of self-definition and noted for all to see that I wanted to be a Professional Bowler. Honored though I was to sit upon the High Throne and spend a month of my adolescence not learning a damned thing, I felt it was quite necessary to help Mister Mister Sir understand–to enlighten him, even–the error in his interpretation. “Mister Mister Sir, sir,” I had said to him, early one morning before class began. “I believe you may have made a mistake on my biography. I don’t want to be a professional bowler. I want to bowl for Jesus.” Mister Mister Sir seemed a little put off by that; or so the limits of my youthful perception offered. I now understand his blank stare grew from a dire need for coffee. I see the same face every morning in the mirror. “I don’t understand,” he said, which I found to be an obvious redundancy. Of course he didn’t understand. That was my point. “I want to bowl for Jesus,” I repeated, arm swinging as if weighted by a ten-pound mass of swirly-colored ball. “You know, stand up with my ball of reckoning, keep my approach straight and balanced, steer clear of the gutters, and roll my way through the ten pins with a proper angel.” “You mean ‘angle’?” 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 4
“No, angel.” His stare seemed an invite to continue and possible comprehension. “The proper angel is important. You can’t just take the ten pins lightly, straight on. You have to have an angel to guide you through and help you to, you know, get a strike.” “What?” My frustration grew, small hands set to my forehead, as if the act alone might rub the correct approach free. Months I had worked on this, trying to get every bit of it just right. Yet here was a teacher I greatly respected for choosing me as Student Of The Month, understanding nothing of the burgeoning yearning of my soul. “The Ten Pins?” I tried. “What about them?” “It’s a parallel, Mister Mister Sir. Ten Pins, Ten Commandments. Angels and staying clear of the gutters–you know,” and here I whispered, “Satan?” “Oh,” he said, a rather dry and indifferent sigh of stale breath blasting me a few steps back. “This is a religious thing, isn’t it?” I felt my shoulders drop below my knees. “Well no. I mean, yeah, kind of. But not, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of a religious sort of thing that I talked to my preacher about, which doesn’t mean it’s a religious thing as much as a religious-based thing. Of course he didn’t understand either, but I think that was just because the Idiot Gnomes got to him.” “The Idiot Gnomes.” It wasn’t a question. It was an expression of exhaustion only adults who deal with kids on a regular basis can accomplish. “Yeah. The Idiot Gnomes. That’s what my father calls them, anyway. They seek out people who don’t spend a lot of time imagining stuff and steal their brain cells through their ears. They turn people into idiots. That’s why I try to come up with good ideas all the time. It’s the only way to ward them off. I don’t want to be an idiot.” “But you want to Bowl for Jesus?” “Yes!” Mister Mister Sir smiled, laughed a little behind a meaty fist, then walked to the wall where my beaming visage sat in all its Polaroid-glory, pen-cap popping at the flick of a finger. He removed the construction paper, made quite a scene of crossing out Professional Bowler with a marker, quickly wrote something I couldn’t make out, then re-posted my shrine of glory. 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 4
With a simple nod, he returned to his desk, collapsed in his squeaky chair, and downed nearly a full cup of coffee in one gulp. Lost in a world of hesitation, I surveyed the wall to take in the biographical edit. Two minutes passed in a whirl of contemplation. “You can bowl for Jesus all you want, kiddo,” said Mister Mister Sir, now standing behind me, pinching my shoulder in a tight vice of fingers. “But you damn well better write about it afterward. Weirdness breeds entertainment and I’m pretty sure you’re gonna breed just fine.” With that, he walked out of the room. I’m not sure at what point in the month Scott vomited on my shoes, but I know that it was about the same time I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up: if not for Mister Mister Sir and his biographical misunderstanding, then for my wardrobe. I wanted to wear nice clean, warm slippers all day, somewhere free of random vomit and the gag-inducing smell of sawdust. It’s a good thing I can write.
Zachary Steele is the author of Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO and Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction. He has been featured by NPR,The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Publishers Weekly, Baby Got Books, Shelf Awareness, and was nominated for the 2010 Sidewise Award for Alternate Fiction. Currently, he is hard at work finalizing The Storyteller and the Shadowheart of Darkness, a middlegrade fantasy, while at work on his next MG project, The Kindred. You can follow his ramblings on writing and life at http://zacharysteele.com/. 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 4
The Last Train South
Bailey Townsend, Lead Vocalist/Guitarist
Randall Townsend, Bass Player
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Tina Fowler The North Georgia Mountains have been my home for all of my 45 years. Me and my brother, Jason Fowler, were raised on a 15 acre chicken farm. My belief in God, strong family ties, work ethics, and honor were all taught to me by my parents, JD and Shirley Fowler. My dad has been gone since 2003, but not a day goes by that I can’t close my eyes and hear him say, “Tina, you can do anything you set your mind to do,” and “If you’re gonna do something don’t half do it, do the best that you can.” My mom, Shirley Henson, has taught me strength as a mother, love, and that you are never too old to do what you want to by getting her GED and becoming a CNA after my father passed away. People will probably think, “Why wait so long to pursue your passion for drawing?” Well, the answer is, I had two children, a boy and a girl. I am a single mother and, when you have children, it is your job to support them and make sure their needs are met. My oldest is already grown and out of the Navy, while my baby is now a senior graduating in the upcoming year. Already they have both achieved many things in life. Luckily for me, I lived to see them grow. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. I endured the chemo treatments, radiation treatments, and surgeries. I am a truly blessed person to have been given more time. After all that, however, I developed anxiety. I stopped living, drawing, and enjoying anything. Then, one day I woke up, God gave me more time; He gave me talent. I would be foolish to waste my time and talents with all the gifts that He’s given me. So here I am; I go fishing, I draw, and I enjoy my time with family and friends. Life is too short and precious to waste. A door was opened just as another door is beginning to close. I have been a mother for 25 years. I worked the hard jobs that had to be done to raise them. I have loved seeing them come this far, as I will love seeing them take their own paths to find out who they are. Both Hayden and Jessica Fowler are talented artists and have their own personalities, opinions, dreams and ambitions. As for mine, they are finally coming true. - Tina
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Book Review by Scott Thomas Outlar of The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics Charles Clifford Brooks III is a friend, an ally, and a brother in The Southern Collective Experience. But more importantly than all that, certainly, is the fact that he is a great writer. My opinion, it could be argued, is biased … but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Indeed, my prejudices in the matter are supported by the many award nominations his book, The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics, garnered him upon its release, including for the Pushcart, the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and Georgia Author of the Year. Simply stated, I rest my case. The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics is actually two books in one. It also includes an extra piece at the end, Gateman’s Hymn of Ignoracium, which was written as an homage to one of Brooks’ influences, Dante. That, folks, is what is called getting a bang for your buck. In this review, I’ll be focusing on the first book, The Draw of Broken Eyes. Brooks’ work is of a type which is perfectly suited for sitting on one’s front porch, breathing plenty of fresh air, relaxing temporarily from the woes of the world, and fully immersing into the emotions elicited from this brilliant southern writer. So that is exactly where I’ve parked myself at the moment. His work covers the gamut of human experiences, so any sort of weather is ideal. It happens to be raining heavily this afternoon, but my reflections on the poetry will not be clouded. In “Shouldering Divorce” Brooks begins with a confession. “I did it all wrong,” he reveals. The reader knows from the jump that this will not be a book that hides from the truth, but rather embraces it head on, consequences be damned. Such is the path that any genuine artist must travel. Brooks walks the walk with honesty and grace. Brooks is not concerned with rhyming schemes per se, and he needn’t be, for his work flows with internal rhythms that breathe the magic of music into each piece. He is able to skillfully produce that which only a select few can with their craft: uniqueness. His voice is his own. It sings between syllables while dancing from line to line. It effortlessly 60 | 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 4
(though, of course, the truth is that there are countless hours of hard work put in during the time no one but he is privy to) pulls the reader in, making them wont to join the chorus. A single line from “August in a Bad Place” sparks curiosity: Maybe love isn’t enough like God. Love is not enough, the same as God is not enough? Love is not enough, but God is? Love is not similar enough to God? These three questions could leave one pondering the basic tenets of amore and creation for ages. They leave Brooks: [Groaning alone, sitting in the shower, pounded by hot water.] But from such an abyss, Brooks still seeks upward. In “Prayer” he raises his voice on high with promises of better days ahead: Let’s woo ‘em into our fold and sing Redemption Song. We rowdy few shall rejoice, and throw dice with angels. I have ventured in the past to suggest that the main concern of poetry is to find a balance point between the micro and macro. To fuse the world of flesh with the cycles of divine nature. In part three of “Melody between the Moon and Earth” Brooks does just such a thing: You are the warm tongue on my jaw, the tickle, the melody between the moon and earth. The book hits a crescendo of introspection and, to a certain degree, desperation in “The Soma of a Fevered Condition.” Where previously the reader has been fed a steady diet of short, machine gun bursts of poetic verse, now we are given a full dose of heady prose. There is no sugar spiked into the medicine, for it is not meant to go down easy. In order to heal in life, we must first go through both heaven and hell: Provide me a small, white cup with wafers water washes down to make all this palatable, carpet more comfortable, the conditional affection of one lady with a ravenous need to test me less repugnant. 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 4
Later in the same poem, Brooks laments: Conditioned towards paranoia, self-conscious, owing I’m sorry too often, foolish over weakness, this wicked last year, my penchant to use, and use, and use. Morphine is a fan of forgetfulness. Reading about compulsive disorders, night terrors, and grinding teeth there is the truth it may not get better, always lack sex, never become an oasis. Away from here, eager for nothing. I’m determined to see only daises, hear only Vivaldi, ignore any more tedious stories. After the chaotic storm, comes order and simplicity. In “brevity” Brooks breaks life down to the bare essentials: shave words to their marrow. the meaning lasts. So, too, do the reverberations felt from reading this book last. Brooks does just what a bard is meant to: takes the reader on a journey. Whether revealing the state of his heart, espousing the deep insights of his core philosophy, or simply describing the scenes of his southern surroundings with a careful pen, Brooks expertly draws the reader into each moment. We smell the local flowers. We watch the bird discard empty shells to the ground as it feasts on the seeds from a perch. We succumb to the charms of feminine wiles. We wobble and weep after a few too many drinks. We lounge in the grass, soaking up rays from a sweltering sun. We witness as the archetypal myths of days long past are resurrected to teach their lessons anew in a modern context. We are carried away in the dreams of the gods, only to, in the end, realize that which we must: our true humanity. — Scott Thomas Outlar
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Interview with Larry Griffith Information Compiled & Composed by Kaleb Garrett I was introduced to Larry's videos, and instantly felt a natural connection to the music he was creating. The similarity in our musical styles gave me the sense that our personalities would resonate. I was lucky enough to communicate with Larry through email, and, as expected, I was drawn to his opinions on music and him as a person. I have nothing but respect for a very talented musician that I am lucky to know, and will hopefully one day get to make music with. Where are you from and what's your history? I was born and raised in the inner city of Cincinnati, Ohio by a single parent along with nine other siblings. We were dirt poor, and not a churchgoing, religious family. My familyâ€™s gathering and rallying point was always music; we listened to everything from Motown to Johnny Cash. What got you into music and how long have you been at it? My mother was the first one that noticed that I was glued to the television set whenever anything musical came on. She asked me which instrument I liked best and might be interested in learning to play, and I said guitar and vocals. When my 9th or 10th birthday came around, my mother purchased me a small drum set and microphone from the local pawn shop, explaining that the guitar and amplifier were much too expensive for us to afford. It was love at first sight and sound. Who are your top 3 guitar influences? I started my musical career on the drums; the guitar came much, much later. As a matter of fact, I have only been playing the guitar for a little over 13 years. I love so many guitar players for so many different reasons, but if I was forced to choose three main influences on guitar they would probably be Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Magic Sam. Were there any other musicians that didn't play guitar that influenced you? Yes, there was Miles Davis, John Coltrane, the Great Blues Storyteller songwriter, Willie Dixon, and Buddy Miles. With such a heavily saturated musical culture, where do you think blues is going? Blues music is just like life itself: it goes around and comes around. There's really nothing new under the sun. True blues is not really interested in innovation; it just wants the butt-naked truth. Where would you like to see it go? I would like to see a return to a lot less screaming guitar to an emphasis on great storytelling, which, in my opinion, is the essence of why the blues was created in the first place. 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 4
What is your go-to guitar rig of choice? I am anything but a guitar tech type of guy. If the power comes on and both the guitar and the amplifier work, then I'm good! No effects or pedals for me either. What kind of music do you think Hendrix would be making if he was still around? I read in the Miles Davis book that he and Miles were planning on doing a Jazz record. Hendrix seemed to have a wondering musical spirit, so I imagine he would have probably experimented with fusion as Miles Davis did on The Bitches Brew album, and also caught the hippie jam band fever with the likes of Government Mule, Grateful Dead, and that whole scene before winding his way back to acoustic country blues. What are some of your future plans for your musical career? My only plan is what I'm doing right now, which is recording every two weeks. I've written over 100 songs that I've never recorded. I have 3 CDs on the market now of all the original music and I continue to record new material every two weeks. Whether that material someday becomes more CDs or songs for other artists, which I've also had the pleasure of doing, I don't knowâ€”but what I do know is that I do not want to leave this plane of existence with one song left inside of me. Where can people listen to your music and see you next? I can be found at larrygriffithmusic.com as well as my own station on Pandora radio; Music Choice Television; Blue Bridge Network out of Hamburg, Germany handles all of my overseas touring affairs. We have a very strong online presence so, when in doubt, just Google me! Social Media Links: Larry Griffith, Official Website - http://www.larrygriffithmusic.com/ Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/LarryGriffithBand Twitter - https://twitter.com/lgriffith99 Instagram - www.instagram.com/larrygriffith99
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Feature Interview with Terence Hawkins Information Compiled & Composed by Clifford Brooks Terence Hawkins is a visionary without the trappings of an impractical mind. He has suffered the battlefield of literature and come out clean on the other side. His appearance is neat-as-a-pin, but he wields a humor that’s irreverent sans the sting of disrespect. After a handful of phone calls and more emails, I can say with confidence that Terence Hawkins has encyclopedic intellect. However, it doesn’t hamper his ability to connect with the human experience where “book learning” often affixes others to only facts and footnotes. In the answers below you will gain access to his wisdom, his books, and how to reach out for further clarification. No matter what you decide, the only wrong choice you can make is to disregard this uncommon dialogue. There isn’t a hint of condescension or pompous air in this gentleman. Terence tells the truth without thumbing you in the eye. It is refreshing. It is a moment of quiet in a society inundated with chatter. 1) Please provide the readers of the Blue Mountain Review with some details of your current employment, social media outlets, and/or contributions to the art scene. This may include your birth, education, past employers, awards, and other accolades you find most important. I was born and raised in Uniontown PA, a coal-mining town in the very southwest corner of the state. It featured in both Philipp Meyers’ American Rust and the original Night of the Living Dead. Somehow I not only got into but graduated from Yale. I would have written there but I was intimidated by the obvious superiority of my classmates. Correctly—one was Julia Glass, who won the National Book Award with her first novel. I started the Yale Writers’ Conference in 2011 and ran it through 2015. I now manage the Company of Writers In addition to the workshops we’ll discuss below, we offer writers’ services including manuscript consultation, editing, and proofreading. I haunt the web here, tweet @yalewriters, and of course may be found on Facebook. 2) What is one, definitive moment in your youth or young adulthood that cemented your determination to become an author? That’s hard to say. I made a stab at a book when I was seven. It began “during world war II.” No caps. That’s as far as I got. Between the ages of thirteen or so and fifteen I wrote a science fiction novel called The Peacemakers’ War that was basically an exercise in plagiarism in which I pasted together every cool idea I’d run into in Heinlein or Clarke or Niven or whoever I’d just read. Steal from the best, I guess. Eventually I was distracted by testosterone. But in my adult life there came a moment when I realized that I wasn’t writing because it was a good way of never finding out I had no talent. So 65 | 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 4
in my mid-thirties I signed up for the old Yale summer writing program. That was the game-changer. 3) Who was the first to see the promise of your creative labors and push you to keep going even when you might have wanted to throw in the towel? I had a junior high science teacher named Mrs. Patronas who read the book for me, which I found very encouraging. But I’d have to see the critical moment was a meeting with Kate Walbert, who ran my group at the Yale program I just mentioned. I expected her to say hey, you’re a funny guy and a good writer but keep the day job. Instead she told me I was a natural novelist with a distinct middle-aged male voice and suggested I take a year off to write a book. Well, ok then! I also met Richard Selzer, who sadly passed away last week, who was an unbelievably generous source of encouragement. And Tom Perrotta has been unsparing with his time and support—he gave me a one-sentence piece of advice that completely changed American Neolithic. 4) What are some real world pieces of advice you have for those out there who are trying to make it in this field? There are a ton of them out there, but you've made some serious waves in this industry, and feel that your brand of wisdom is priceless. As we’ve all heard, the difference between published and unpublished is persistence. And boy does my career prove it. I did have a moment at a workshop in which my first effort at a novel was savaged so badly that I asked a cab driver if he could find me a bar that sold morphine. I abandoned that book. I didn’t write for weeks. But then I started fooling around with what turned out to be my first novel, The Rage of Achilles. So don’t give up. And get yourself out there. Talk to other writers. Go to conferences. Give readings. You never know what will happen. I did a reading once at a wee tiny venue in Pittsburgh called Cyberpunk Apocalypse. It was late November or early December. The place wasn’t heated. I made an amusing remark about the temperature. Six weeks later my wife called and said I was in the New York Times. Apparently the Home section had run a front-page piece on unheated workspaces. They mentioned Cyberpunk Apocalypse. And me. Slightly misquoted. But Still the Times. Here’s a link to what I said and here’s what the Times said. 5) What are three of your biggest pet peeves about the publishing world, or common misconceptions you'd like to see wiped from the books? Where to begin? I think one of the biggest problems with Big Lit is its conservatism. Of course it’s the result of the high cost of a press run and the number of sales needed to go into the black. Nevertheless editors are painfully conscious that one mistake can be a career ender. I wish the big presses felt more comfortable taking chances on new writers and edgier material. Second, at the other end of the spectrum, at least in terms of size, is characterizing self-publishing as “independent.” It’s misleading, selfaggrandizing, and ultimately deeply damaging to the true indies. Third would be self66 | 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 4
publication itself. While I do think it has a place, I also think its explosive growth has created so much background noise that its made it much more difficult for small presses to be heard. Also, in some ways its diluted the value of the published book itself, which at one point was a product the author had to persuade someone else to invest in, which implied a degree of curation absent from the self-published. (And it shows, sometimes.) 6) Who are your biggest heroes in life, from any walk of life, in any area of the human experience? When sixty approaches you find yourself with fewer heroes, including yourself. But for our purposes I’d have to name my late friend Richard Selzer, who started writing seriously in his late thirties but continued to practice general surgery until the age of 58. I asked him how he’d practiced a profession while writing what was then nearly a dozen books. Without blinking he said, “I gave up everything else.” And he did. He was entirely devoted to his art and as generous a friend and mentor as any beginning writer could hope for. 7) Please tell us about the series of seminars you currently run and how people can get involved. What we’re trying to provide is the same immersive, intensive experience we’d had at the Yale Writers’ Conference for authors who can’t commit the same time or money. For that reason, they’re only a day or two long but with limited enrollment and world-class faculty. Thus far we’ve held three: fiction with Amy Bloom; fiction with Colum McCann; and cross-genre and literary fiction with Louis Bayard and John Crowley. We’re now looking into a poetry group in late July. Also under development is a weekly workshop to meet in person or online with visiting faculty drawn from the same pool. Venues have included New Haven and Brooklyn, but I’m eager to find an excuse to head south. 8) Your novel, American Neolithic, hit me deep in the core of my understanding of society, and the farce our political scene can be. The story is embedded in the human condition and what makes us truly human. What are a few of the inspirational points that brought the idea of the work to a point you couldn't put off its composition any longer? There were a number of different factors. One was something I’d read as a kid to the effect that whales and dolphins, seagoing mammals, were descended from a land animal that had gone back to the sea. Their fins still contain toe bones. I wondered what would have happened if they’d stayed on shore. One afternoon I was dropping off to sleep on a train headed back to Pennsylvania and the image of a 67 | 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 4
land-whale woke me up. The notion of alternate evolutionary paths stayed with me. A year or so later my wife asked me what I thought Neanderthals would be doing if they were still among us—why I don’t know—and without thinking I answered “hiphop”— again, why I don’t know. And finally the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was the product of a National Guard unit recruited in and around my home town. Those factors, as well as my constant state of rage during the Bush administration, made the book inevitable. 9) Do you see your novel, American Neolithic, as I dare say "prophetic" in this current political scene we see now in the news for our next leader of the free world? Funny you should ask. Recently I was trying to get an indie bookstore to stock the novel. I described it as science fiction and political satire. The owner looked it up online and said, “Doesn’t sound like fiction to me.” I’m completely dismayed that reality seems to be catching up to the pretty bleak future I’d imagined. On a more positive note, when I started to fool around with the book, the co-existence of Neanderthals with modern humans was purely speculative. But as I wrote the evidence for interbreeding first appeared and then became conclusive. Next the Little People of Flores were proven to be an entirely distinct proto-human species that existed as recently as 16,000 years ago. Then came the discovery of the Denisovans, neither modern human nor Neanderthal, whose DNA is all over Asia. So we have at least four human species existing at the same time. So I console myself with the thought that the book anticipated developments in anthropology as well as politics. 10) You dig deeper, and on a much more "human" level into Achilles. What was your inspiration for this much more Odysseus-esque inspired view of Achilles, the character? Do you think it reflects more of man's nature of innate gluttony, and/or need for violence? With Achilles, the character, as with every character but one, I tried to bear in mind that the consciousness of Bronze Age warriors was very different from our own. I mean “consciousness” literally—Julian Jaynes hypothesized that true modern selfconsciousness emerged very suddenly about 1100 BCE and relied in part on linguistic clues from The Iliad. So I imagined them to have been much more subject to their appetites and emotions, and less capable of forethought, than ourselves. Clearly the story’s initiating event— Achilles’ withdrawal from a war he’d been fighting for nine years because he’s pissed—isn’t the behavior of an ordinary adult, yet Homer 68 | 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 4
(the committee) presents it not only as sane, but laudable. Also, I tried to remember that he, like all the combatants, had killed a lot of people at very close range, which doesn’t make for empathy. Yet, at the same time he was capable of equating Priam’s grief with his own father’s to such an extent that he returned the body of his lover’s killer. So there were moments when I thought of him as a psychopathic narcissistic killing machine and others when I thought he was briefly capable of human feeling. But he’s not a modern man—there’s only one in the book, but I won’t drop a spoiler here. 11) I am dead-bang in agreement in your portrayal of Paris' truly naive impulsiveness and Keatsian-pouty immaturity. Why did you choose to highlight that vein of his personality? What does it say about the current day's view of romance? Paris’ impulsivity and immaturity go farther than Achilles.’ He stole his host’s wife. In doing so he violated one of the most fundamental laws of the ancient world—hospitality. Only an offense against the gods of this magnitude could have triggered the formation of the Greek alliance against Troy. What kind of idiot would do this? Clearly a spoiled idiot—his family, far from setting the Golden Boy on fire as expiation and sending Helen back to Menelaus with as much money as they could find, instead fight a ten year war to hang onto her. I thought this was an extreme version of the maxim that the King can do no wrong, and so depicted the Royal Family as semi-divine—definitely not a Greek idea. As to the contrast between ancient and modern views of romance, it’s pretty clear that in the former case, because women were purely chattels, there was no question of having an emotional relationship that we could recognize. Speaking of Paris and Menelaus, I wanted to mention something I noticed when I was writing the book. The beef is between Menelaus and Paris, but the war is prosecuted by Agamemnon and Hector—their older brothers. Clearly this is no accident, but I haven’t yet figured out its significance. Perhaps your readers can weigh in!
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Interview with Sarah Frances Moran Information Compiled & Composed by Scott Thomas Outlar I’ve been following Sarah Frances Moran’s steady progress since she first burst upon the “poetry scene” a couple of years ago. Our paths have run a parallel course in some ways, as we both had been writing for many years before finally deciding to dive headfirst into the water and begin submitting such work for publication. After experiencing a flurry of initial success, Sarah quickly took matters one step further by launching Yellow Chair Review. She has been kind enough to include my poetry in a number of the issues since the journal debuted, and I’m quite thankful for that fact because reading through each issue has led me to eventually make the acquaintance of several fantastic writers. Each edition of YCR that has been released so far, including their first print anthology published earlier this year, has been jam-packed with talent, and I would recommend anyone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to read through them to do so ASAP. Sarah wears many hats these days, and she graciously granted some of her time recently to discuss several forthcoming projects… Scott Thomas Outlar: Thank you for agreeing to take part in this interview, Sarah. First off, congratulations on your forthcoming poetry collection, Evergreen, which is set to be released soon through Weasel Press. Please tell us a bit about the book and how the idea for it came about. Sarah Frances Moran: Thank you! The idea for the book only came about around the poems. I suppose what I mean is that I didn't go into writing the work included in Evergreen as a way to create Evergreen. The poems included in this collection are about family and mostly they're about my journey of healing. I grew up with an alcoholic father and then when my parents divorced my mother began dating a man that would eventually begin sexually assaulting me. So these poems have been a process of healing, of understanding, of finding peace. The title of the book comes from the poem "This Evergreen Is Locking Up Everyone Who's Ever Laid A Finger On Me." I like to think of this book as a prison for those memories. They never go away but they also can no longer harm me. Outlar: That's one of the wonderful aspects of writing poetry – that the effort can be a liberating process. Having followed your progress on the indie scene (which has been quite impressive, by the way) during the past year or so, I'm familiar with the intensity of some of your more personal work, but Evergreen sounds like it pushes the level up another notch. I'm really looking forward to reading a copy of what sounds to be a powerful piece of work. While we're on the subject of books, I've heard rumblings that 70 | 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 4
you also have a couple of others in the pipeline. Care to give us a preview of what else you have in store? Moran: Yes! I do have two other chapbooks that are forthcoming. I Am A Terrorist is being published by Dark Heart Press and is a collection of my more political work. It's an exploration of sexuality and the way homosexuality is demonized by the far right. La Bella Muerte is being published by Crisis Chronicles Press and is a collection of calaveras. Calaveras are a style of satirical poetry originating in Mexico. They're written like epitaphs and are typically political in nature. My collection ranges from the political to the personal. Outlar: Aside from the books you have coming out, I've noticed that you also maintain a real tenacity in submitting to journals. Does this help keep you focused on creating new work? Do you have specific habits and patterns when it comes to your writing, or is it more of a random process? Moran: I try to send work out weekly. I specifically strive to send three submissions in a week. Typically I write more than enough to keep up with this trend but there are times when I'm like...damn I need to write more. In the past I've just written what I want, as it comes to me with no direction or theme in mind. Recently I've changed that a bit. I wanted more structure to my writing so I'm currently working on a project that has me writing a poem for each card in the deck of the Mexican bingo game, LoterĂa. I also wanted a way to explore my heritage/culture more in depth in my writing and felt this was a good way to accomplish that. There are 54 cards in the deck. I've written 30 so far and have 24 to go. It's been tough attempting to stick to a schedule and theme. I've never structured my writing. Now as far as timing and schedule I still write whenever it hits me. I don't have a set writing time or anything. Sometimes poems hit me as I'm driving and I'll talk them into my phone. It's very sporadic in that sense. Outlar: Have you always been drawn to poetry, or was there a specific moment in your life that made you realize that this was what you wanted to do? On a larger scale, what do you think the role of poetry is in the world today? You've mentioned the political nature your work sometimes takes on. Does the poet/artist have a social responsibility? Moran: I've always been drawn to reading. It wasn't until I was in High School that I got into poetry and it was somewhat forced on me with a project. I was always very drawn to music (still am) and song lyrics. Stevie Nicks was a big influence on me and my writing. I remember my first poems being very Stevie-like (and cheesy!)
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As far as its importance I'd argue that any art is highly influential. Poetry, writing, music, art, etc. is all essential to our ability to communicate emotion and ideas in creative ways that appeal to different people. Of course I also feel that everyone's idea on this varies greatly. My work tends to be more political and social justice focused because that's who I am as a person. My writing reflects my beliefs and opinions pretty directly. I don't know that a poet or artist has a social responsibility. I lean on yes. I think that humans in general should have a social responsibility and that certainly bleeds into your art. That's not to say that everything you write should have a message but I think that there is responsibility when you have an audience. A lot of artists/writers have a tendency to pull the free speech and no-censorship cards when they put inappropriate or harmful things into the world. I don't believe writing should be banned, by any means, but I do think that when we encounter writing (and art for that matter) that perpetuates hatred, violence, etc. that it is a social responsibility to call it out and to create a dialogue about it and to stress that you find it unacceptable. If those reactions lead to art being removed from spaces/journals etc. that does not equate censorship nor banning. I believe it equates accountability. Outlar: Well said. Speaking of journals, I first came into contact with you back when your publication Yellow Chair Review was launched last year. I've found the writing you publish to be quite diverse, granting a space to different voices and opinions. What motivated you to start your own journal? What have you learned so far from being an editor-in-chief? Moran: I started Yellow Chair out of a desire to become more involved in the community but also because I wanted to create a space where responses were quick and the work was released quickly. That was my initial motivation. I think now it's more about getting as much quality work into the world as possible and insuring that marginalized voices are given proper space. More and more I see how skewed those numbers are. That doesn't mean we won't continue to publish work from all groups of people; it's simply that we're more focused than most journals on making sure we are truly diverse in what we publish. Outlar: You've quickly expanded during the course of your first year into the arena of publishing chapbooks. I've had the pleasure of reading (and so can highly recommend) the winning entry in your 2015 contest, A Clock of Human Bones by Matthew Borczon, as well as your newest release, A Curmudgeon Is Born by Heath Brougher (who is also a contributor in this issue). Are there more contests in the works? What is your vision for the future of YCR? Moran: Yeah we expanded quickly. The original idea was to publish one chapbook a year but I tend to be ambitious so what was to be one a year has turned into eight. We grabbed five of our titles from last yearâ€™s competition: A Clock of Human Bones by Matthew Borczon, Special Delivery by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios, BloodStories by Jenuine Poetess, Wake Dreams by Joe Nicholas, and QueerSexWords by Caseyrenee Lopez. The other three were sent as queries and I believed deeply in the projects so we
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took them on for 2016 also: A Curmudgeon Is Born by Heath Brougher, After Bullet by Casandra Lopez, and his strange boy eye by Eric Cline. We are running the contest again in 2016. Over the year we've collected more donations and we're excited about the prospect of taking on another 5-10 chapbooks from the contest as well as the winner. Logen Cure is our judge this year and we're also very excited about having her choose our winner. The future. To continue what we're doing now. Ideally I'd like to be able to publish 10-12 chapbooks a year and eventually 1-2 full-length collections. We've been very poetry focused with our books and I would like to expand into short-fiction collections, memoir, etc. I figure it will all come in time and with as fast as we're moving along, it will probably come along sooner than I imagine. Outlar: With your combination of talent, motivation, and ambition I'd say the future is looking bright, indeed, for YCR. Thank you again for granting us some time out of your busy schedule to do this interview, and best of luck with all your forthcoming projects. In closing, are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave our readers with? Moran: Thank you, Scott. I'd just encourage the readers to continue putting their work into the world. Persistence is so important. I appreciate you and The Blue Mountain Review for taking the time to interview me and showcase all the many things I have going on!
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Always Blue My breath is held hostage by fear of touch, so long I have Stockholm Syndrome and have evolved with full-blown gills along my ribcage. I turn blue with you. I swim upstream in currents of your memories, all the time. The woman I wanted to be, died somewhere inside the girl you found, and couldn’t keep your hands outside of. Your waves slam against the shores of my dreams and run red inside nightmares that quietly bubble up throughout my days. She said she loves, she does. The ink on your arms, like a River Styx through my life. When they said writing on yourself would give you ink poisoning, I never thought of how you poisoned my insides. Now we share a love of skin art and women, like you planted seeds of pleasure in my guts. The flick of a tongue. A finger in and out and whispers; so many fucking whispered pleadings. Tickled my gills. Know this – the fish I have become is so fierce, so frozen, blue – with you so trapped by my hate – of you constantly tied and bound – to you
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The Child Is Gone I wondered if there was something inside me you needed. Not just physical, but something beyond needing to touch me. I wondered if you ever just wanted to split me at my back, pour into my inner insides and find what is it you lacked in yourself. I think you just became further lost in your pursuit. No amount of touch was ever going to mend all the broken you held inside. Back then I wondered about how you wondered about me. Now I wonder about you, about where all youâ€™ve continued your search. What rooms you occupy. What corners you lurk in and whose bed you creep into at night. Do you still tiptoe hobble through houses at midnight? Do you still search for the child that reminds you of you? Do you still peek your head into the windows that boggle you? When you hear that songbird does it still rip you apart?
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Interview with Bill Friday Information Compiled & Composed by Clifford Brooks Bill Friday is an intelligent, wry guy. I’ve silently watched his career, and social media outlets, for the last five years. In that time I made note to approach him about an interview if I was ever a part of some vehicle of literature that allowed me the chance. The moment the spring issue of the Blue Mountain Review hit the internet, I shot Bill a note over Facebook to request the honor of his attention. He was understandably cautious, kind, and soon agreed to this series of questions set before you. Bill Friday writes in a way, whether to note his emotions/thoughts on some subject, or in his methodical ability to tell his story, that eases you into his world without the reader realizing the depth of understanding Bill is about to plunge your perception. Yet, when you’re there, deep, deep beneath anything you thought you could come to terms with, there is not shock-jock punches to the gut. He expresses nothing but for the virtue of honesty. This yardstick of truth is what attracted me, first. You will see this in his answers. Please, buy his book and track him down online. You will not be sorry in the money or time you spend to sit in his history, or know him in the present. It is a true pleasure to provide you with a glimpse of Mr. Bill Friday. 1) What first sparked your interest in the arts? This is a question that many ask, but what in particular, the feelings a writer or event evoked, that reached so deep in you, your knew the written word would never let you go? Baseball. No, seriously: Baseball. There’s this something in the world that pretty much only people from Los Angeles know about. This something is the voice of Vin Scully, play-by-play announcer of the Los Angeles Dodgers (and Brooklyn before that) for the past 67 years. Growing up loving, and listening to, baseball, with his spontaneous prose as my constant guide, was my introduction to how words can shape the memories of a child who would end up writing poetry. So, without baseball, there never would have been “A Death on Skunk Street”. 2) What are some of the side jobs you have, and enjoy, that take your mind off the ethereal and ground you in the "real world"? Hmmm... Explaining the side jobs is easy. Deciding if I actually ‘enjoy’ them? Might be a little tough. As far as what pays the bills, I work in the freight and transportation industry for a small company very near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Lots of those hours are spent in a warehouse, playing with forklifts and cherry pickers, all the Tonka toys kids play with as a child, but all grown up. Lots of other hours, I drive all over the southern 76 | 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 4
half of the state, picking up and delivering parcels in the middle of the night, because that’s when the roads are almost empty, and the sky is as dark as a loosely-rhyming eulogy. Most of the words that I end up writing are formed in this world. And without it, two things would NOT happen. I would not eat, and I would not write. And I kinda can’t live without either. 3) What "real world" advice can you give our readers to help them navigate the often choppy waters of being a creator? Best advice that I’ve never read is this... every moment is a ‘creative’ moment. If you’re on the 405 freeway at 4:42 am and one phrase, one word, pops into your head, write itthumb type it-record it, before it gets away. Those ‘randoms’ aren’t coming back if you let them wander off far enough. I always wished I had the kind of life where I sat down in the same chair, at the same time, facing the same direction, with the same resolve every day. But that’s not MY creative life. It’s someone else’s. I can only be responsible for being who I am, everywhere I go. Including creatively. 4) What are the hardships you've faced, and overcome, to be a stronger person, and artist? My hardships have been those that are common to all humanity. Deaths. Broken relationships. Money, or lack of it. And all the bad decisions that come from desperation. But it was the hardships of this life that gave me the words that spill out of me now. And you don’t get the one without the other. As far as being a stronger person? Don’t die. And if you accomplish the first part, do the second. Don’t quit. There’s a lot to be said for being a creative ‘grinder’. It might be nice to be remembered for the free-flowing ease that seems to surround many creatives. I don’t have that luxury. My writing, like my life, is blue collar. Even if the words I write sound like I may have darkened the door of a classroom or two. 5) Who are three of your life heroes, living or deceased, continue to keep your fire stoked to forge ahead in this eccentric vocation? I’ve always said... okay, I said it last week... that if I could spend just one day three people from history, they would be Abraham Lincoln, Jackie Robinson, and Salma Hayek. But really, if a person were to read my work to date, they would easily see that so far, only two people who have meant that much to my writing. My dad, and my granddaughter. Those two are the ones whose input, whose actual influence, has meant more than the collective voices of all others... so far. My dad, a pilot and flight instructor at the time, was the first in the family to be published, though in just one article found in an aviation magazine from back in 1960. The article was a first-person account of his unscheduled landing in a Southern California bean field. He was literate without being literary, and so much of who I am was handed down directly from him. When I allow myself to reminisce about things like childhood, his being is usually at the center of it. 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 4
And my granddaughter is the distillation of all the generations from my dad, right through me and my daughter (her mother). This is a child who, at the age of 8, chooses to be lulled to sleep at night listening to Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits, and can’t make up her mind whether she will be a scientist or a comedy writer when she grows up. My money's on both. I’ll have to let you know the next time around who makes it to number three on that list. 6)
What ritual(s) do you go through before you sit down to work?
Coffee. As often as possible. I have friends who live by the adage that drinking is a good writing option. “Write drunk, edit sober.” But when I drink, I only have the attention span to watch reruns of bad movies on Syfy Channel, so that does NOT work for me. Anyway, coffee is my go to, whether at home, work, or sitting in a place where more coffee is served. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to capture my words in public places, but outside of a few angry poems about baristas and the people taking space and making noise around me, not much good came of it. I now limit my writing to home and, believe it or not, work... when the boss won’t catch me. Since writing, for me, is a free-flowing, amorphous, living thing, I tend to be able to capture my better thoughts in venues where there is at least the perception of quiet. Good news is, it doesn’t take much. 7) What hidden talents do you have that most folks have no clue you've mastered? The useless ones... I’m a middling juggler. I can still, at the age of 55, throw a football 50 yards on the fly. I can palm a basketball. Though not a fast typist, I am more accurate when I don’t look at the keys. And, I can recount every retired uniform number for the Los Angeles Dodgers, from lowest to highest. On the flipside, I have an incredible inability to memorize my own poems. I attend readings all the time where poets and spoken word artists speak their own words, verbatim. I am always reading my own stuff, and often feel like I haven’t ever read what’s on the page right in front of me. Other people seem to know my writing better than I do. 8) If you could have one wish, and not to wish for more wishes, what would you wish for to put you in the ideal place of happiness on earth? Of course, as a writer, there are the selfish things that always come to mind first. To be left alone to write, although I know I would quickly tire of just my own company. To have all my creative ventures be sufficient to pay all my bills, but then, where would I go to come up with all my distraction-filled inspiration for stories. But what I really want is for my words to have the power to change for the better the way human beings think about themselves. I know, lofty goal. But I believe that at the core of a writer’s being is the desire to have their words bring into existence something greater in the world than the way we found it before we began. And even if we never achieved it, we tried. 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 4
9) What upcoming projects are on the verge of coming to fruition that the public need to be on the lookout for? Ah, the projects! Okay, in order... This fall, my second solo book of poetry, “A Hopeful Man: A Second Life in Poems”, will be available from my publisher, Hostile 17 Print (hostile17print.com). Then, in June of 2017, the release of my first novel, also from Hostile 17 Print. It feels a little like everything is happening all at once. But really, after waiting as long as I did to get this writing life started, there’s no time better than right now. Please look to these links to find the work of Bill Friday: https://billfriday.com https://hostile17print https://billfriday.com/a-death-on-skunk-street/ https://www.amazon.com/Death-Skunk-Street-lifepoems/dp/0692701591/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467280474&sr=11&keywords=a+death+on+skunk+street
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Insider Interview with D.L. Yancey II Information Compiled & Composed by Clifford Brooks D.L. Yancey II is a member of the Southern Collective Experience that’s had the most influence on me over the last year. I met D.L. at a recording of Dante’s Old South, the SCE’s NPR show in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a soulful, direct, sharp cat with a heart as big as his love of God. A family man who juggles (successfully) the job of engineer and musician, many would think it impossible that he is also able to catch his breath, much less pitch in with our crew. However, he does all of these things with grace. D.L. Yancey II possesses a personality that calms folks just by being in the room. I can’t count the times we’ve talked to navigate the future of our rowdy crew. Every time doubt or confusion or fear crept into my rapid speech, he’d throw in a comment that broke those dark clouds into cool, spring sunshine. He is rare. It is a blessing to have him aboard. There is a great deal of laughter, but he is serious when it comes to whatever he dedicates himself to. He has a direct gaze and a heaven-sent attention to detail. His music arrested me immediately, and his song “Mr. Soul” is one of my all-time favorites from anyone in any genre. His melodies call back to the harmony of Mo-Town laced with gospel. I think D.L.’s hook is hope. The tunes he begs out of his guitar are laden with hope this world desperately needs. I pray that you check him out after you read this and find the same kind of solace I, and many, have come to cherish. 1) How do you juggle a job as an engineer, husband, father of 6, and create such focused, dead-bang tracks in this day and age? Beyond the usual, "Why do you sing" kind of queries, how you pull it altogether amazes me in a world where those with a fraction of your load seem only able to produce excuses, and not results. In reality it takes a lot of practice dealing with time management and it requires a whole lot of faith. The wife and I had our first child during our sophomore year at college and it was the ultimate challenge for me to manage being a new dad, finishing a degree in nuclear engineering, and playing collegiate football. During those years, I was forced to develop a "survival of the fittest" work ethic. I would wake up at 5 am for morning workouts, then have classes from 7- 3, football practice from 4:00 to 7:30 at night then I would go home and do family time along with school assignments. It was literally late nights and early mornings all the time. So I had to learn how to strategically distribute my workload so I wouldn't over-exhaust myself, but still be effective and efficient. So the concept of time management was huge for me. That was my mind frame as I was going through the process during that 5 year stretch. But, looking back at it, I realize it 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 4
was only through the grace of God I was able to finish the journey. I didn't realize how close to failure I really was. The possibility of dropping out, quitting football, or walking out on my family was as close as the possibility of death in a war. And that's how I looked at it. It was life or death for me because the finish line seemed like the promise land while giving up felt like going back to captivity in Egypt. So my “why” was bigger than my “how”! Therefore my faith had to be bigger than my obstacle. A person has to have a huge desire to be ambitious and have a high level of commitment to achieve ambitious goals. I don't take credit for being a special person; I give credit to God for his blessings. 2) Without dropping names or details you don't want on the web, what is one of the most painful, but helpful experiences you've faced in the music business? I've had a pleasurable experience so far. The beauty about this industry is that you have the ability to facilitate your own experience. However, the difficulty in creating that experience is challenging. I've had producers sell their beats to me and then try to make a package deal with me on the promise of putting the recordings in the "right hands". Many have been good intentions, many have been part of the hustle, but there are no rules or regulations on how to do conduct business when you're independent. But that's one of the reasons I learned to play the guitar so it was helpful. Also I've experienced how "cliquish" the local musician scene can be. Sometimes it's easy to be viewed as the "engineer trying to do music" which makes it tough to be included at times. I've reached out to other artists to include them in things to never hear from them again. But again, I don't do things expecting people to return the favor. I believe that when you exert positive energy into the universe it's bound to return no matter where it comes from. Laws of physics baby!! But it's taught me the power of nurturing relationships, and I'm always up to learning. 3) What led you into the field of engineering? Does the harmony and delicate mathematics of both it and music complement one another? Have you ever designed something and felt that it had a song to sing, too? Beautiful question man! I've been interested in the arts and sciences from a young boy and I excelled in math and science all throughout grade school. So my father helped me understand that I was naturally an engineer. So when it came time to decide what to major in or what to do for a living, it was a no brainer because it was instilled in me early on. However, initially I wanted to study audio engineering but there weren't many programs offering that curriculum at the time. But through learning the guitar I've found my way back to my initial engineering interests. So I study acoustics, resonance, harmonics...etc., and I'm learning some intriguing connections. I’ve always "felt" the connection between the two but now I see how they're connected. So now I'm able to apply the delicate mathematics of harmonies and melodies into the songwriting process and it opens up a new world of creativity! In the engineering world, I work in the project management space. In project management, there's an artistic approach that's unique for every project. In the process of getting the project birthed and laid to rest, there lies a myriad of songs from the experiences you witness through the interactions of 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 4
people developing a technology. So there are several projects I've worked on in which the product and the people created beautiful songs to sing! 4) You have both feet, soul, and mind planted firmly in the church. How do you feel that keeps you and yours together, and do you see that devotion beginning to lag in our society in general? I come from a lineage of preachers and gospel musicians so my foundation was built through the teachings in church. However I've learned over the years that a relationship with God is the primary principle on which the church stands. I think our society has drifted away from that primary principle and has allowed church to become a social club. I had a conversation the other day about ethics. Our society has come to a point to where sub-societal ethics are beginning to trump Godly principles. People are beginning to treat people based upon how well they uphold the rules and values of whatever common organization, group, or community they may be a part of instead of treating people the way God instructs us to. Yes I know its Godly principle to adhere to the laws of the land, but the law of the land don't override the fundamental principle of "love thy neighbor as thyself". But that's part of the problem because there's a lack of understanding on how to properly "love thyself". This leads to people mistreating each other and devaluing the spiritual richness in carnal harmony. So for me and my family, having an extended church family who holds high value in upholding Godly principle keeps us knitted strong as a unit. 5) What are a few thoughts on the Collective? How do you feel it fits you? What makes the group different? How would you like to see it improve? I believe it's a beautiful concept. To be able to capture a variety of poetry, literature, music, fashion, and spirituality in one collective issue of a magazine is genius. This is especially true for one using an online outlet. It's versatile and provides a common platform to expose a wide range of different art forms. Thatâ€™s what makes it different. I'm not just an engineer, or just a musician, or just a songwriter or writer. Iâ€™m an individual who has been blessed to have a collective mixture of science, art, and spirituality. So the Collective is a good fit for folks like me. America, including the south, has grown into this grand artistic masterpiece of a melting pot for different cultures. I challenge the Collective to be the platform to put the "melting pot" on display. People need to see the beauty in what's been created. Find more on Mr. D.L. Yancey II by following: 1) www.dly2.com 2) Instagram@dly2
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Interview with J. L. Staton Information Compiled & Composed by Holly Holt I have known Jennifer Staton off and on for the past few years. She started her journey as a teacher at Chattahoochee Tech through the Adult Ed department, and has since gone on to become a full-time English teacher. On first meeting her, she immediately struck me as being a creative likemind. She is quick to laugh; fun to be around; and her students adore her—and affectionately call her Jen. When I first learned that she had published a book, I jumped at the chance to interview her for The Blue Mountain Review. My hope is that this interview has captured her spark for life that she exudes effortlessly. *** Some writers start young; others, a bit older. At what age did you start? I have loved to write since I could put pencil to paper. English was always my favorite subject in school. I was a story-teller even before that. My grandmother used to write down the stories I told her before I, myself, could write them down. What is the first story you remember writing? My first published piece was a poem I wrote in seventh grade. It was published in the school literary magazine as well as the local newspaper. Could you please name some of your favorite authors, and the impact they’ve made in your own writing—or life? I know this is a toughie, but: Do you have a favorite book? My favorite authors are Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams. I love Hemingway’s ability to weave a compelling tale with dialogue alone. Steinbeck’s descriptions are something I try to emulate. And, I’ve always been interested in script and screen writing. That’s what fascinates me about Williams. My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. I also love Grapes of Wrath, Wuthering Heights, The Color Purple, and oddly enough, The Night Circus. I prefer classic literature more than contemporary work, and magical realism isn’t a favorite genre of mine, but The Night Circus changed the way I looked at both of these styles of writing. Do you face any struggles getting onto paper what is circulating in your mind? If so, how do you overcome these struggles? I think all writers hit roadblocks now and again. My biggest hurdle is usually making the time to just sit and write. When I am having trouble finding my voice, I usually just write it out. I will start by jotting down some lines to songs I’ve heard recently. I try to make playlists that inspire my characters or settings. Then, the creative juices start flowing pretty well.
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What do you enjoy most about writing fiction? Least? My favorite thing about writing fiction is living the life I’ve always wanted to live. Through a character, I can see the world in a new and brilliant way. I love the way writing makes me look at the tiny details as well as the big picture. The thing that I least like about writing is honestly selfdoubt. I always compare myself to the “greats” and seemingly fall short. Are you one whose prose is more plot-driven or character-driven? I am most certainly character driven. I do like to sketch a loose plot before getting started on a short story or novel, but the characters take me where they want to go. Have you always written fiction? If so, what do you feel is the strongest pull you have towards prose, as opposed to poetry? I enjoy writing poetry, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in my poetry. I love words, and I like to get involved with my writing. Prose gives me that opportunity. Is there a routine that you follow when writing? Do you write more in the morning or during the night? I like to write very early in the morning. It’s when I am most fresh. I like to wake up at 4:30 or 5 and start writing with a hot cup of black coffee as my company. I know you’re a teacher, as well as a wife and a mom. How much of the dayto-day gets into your writing? Scenarios and everyday life situations certainly play a role in my work. It’s hard for them not to do so. I think being a mother makes me see the world in a softer way than I normally would. Being a teacher has greatly improved my writing. I teach my students to plan and edit, and my work has grown leaps and bounds from taking my own advice. On average, how much of the day do you devote to writing? Are you a seasonal writer, or one who can write year-round without issue? I am certainly more of a seasonal writer. My best work comes in the late fall and winter months. It’s when I’m broody. That dark side of me that rarely comes out is very good for my writing psyche. Do you think a story should be valued based on its complexity of thought or connection to the reader? This is a wonderful question, and I have to give a vague answer. I think it’s both. I love complex writers who make their audience think and contemplate. But sometimes, a good entertaining read is the perfect escape from an otherwise crazy life. Do you believe that having a presence on social media works for (or against) you? I think social media is the key to success for writers today. It has proven to be the best form of advertising for me. Even though we may fight against technology, there are certainly ways we can use it in our favor. I know you recently published a book, Paper Lantern Promises. Walk me through your experience so far. My experience with my first published novel has been surreal. It’s been sizably more successfully than I thought it would be, and I have 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 4
been humbled by the outpouring of positive comments about these characters that I’ve loved so dearly for so long. Paper Lantern Promises was three years in the making, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the way it’s been received. What part of Paper Lantern Promises was your favorite? Care to share an excerpt with us? I have a lot of favorite moments in the novel, not because I think I did a super awesome job writing those scenes, but because in my mind, those moments were so very important to my characters. I’d love to share an excerpt. This scene is when Jocelyn had first gotten her new camera. Life had taken her away from her passion, but as she was regaining her independence and confidence, she treated herself and started working on her skill again. I love this part so much because she’s finally walking on her own two feet again with her head held high. Her first subject was an old car. She snapped pictures as she explored. The rust had eaten away at any color the vehicle once had, and the tires were rotten and weathering away. Weeds and grass grew up through the motor, climbing towards the sunlight through cracks and holes in the hood. The seats were missing. They’d probably been sold years ago, so the floor boards and parts of the frame were showing. Suddenly, Jocelyn realized a mama bird had made its home on the dash beneath the cracked windshield. Retreating slowly, she searched for a new angle. She didn’t want to spook the birds for fear that the mama would abandon her babies. Jocelyn used the zoom on her camera to get the illusion that she was inches away from the nest. She grabbed a few more shots around the junkyard as she scurried from spot to spot, Van trailing behind her with every move. She found a squirrel perched on the edge of an old barrel that seemed to have once been purposed as a burning receptacle. Jocelyn also grabbed some photos of a broken down jon boat, pieces of fishing rods and torn apart reels scattered around and in it. Her last series of clicks grabbed some pictures of a rusting Pepsi Cola sign. She knew her Grams would love those. As they got back into his car, Van turned to Jocelyn, “I really love watching you work. You shine. Your passion makes you glow, if that makes any sense.” Knowingly, Jocelyn nodded her head, “I know exactly what you mean. It’s how I feel when I watch you play.” He grabbed her then kissed her. Her toes curled, and something sweet burned in her stomach. “Okay, slow down. One more stop, then I’m all yours,” she said. (Chapter 20, pp. 135-136) What advice can you give other writers, particularly those just starting out who are struggling to get their work recognized? The first thing I learned in graduate school was to, “Keep Writing.” In fact, that was the mantra for my first every writers’ group. We still have the key chains. In order to have something publishable, you 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 4
must complete a manuscript. The only other thing is take the leap of faith. Selling your writing is no different than selling anything else. Many writers are introverts and have a hard time selling their names. Find someone that will sell for you. Historically, literary agents weren’t the best way to get published. Today, if you want to be a best seller, you need an agent. But, is that your goal? It wasn’t my goal. My goal was to release my work out into the universe so that I could share my words. I don’t mind selling my own work, so I went with an indie publisher. Make specific goals and go after them until you reach them. Your first goal should always be: Write more and often. *** J.L. Staton is an up and coming author from just north of Atlanta, Georgia. She writes dramatic and realistic, contemporary fiction. Staton is a graduate from the MAPW program at Kennesaw State University. She is currently an English instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College. When she’s not writing and teaching, she’s spending time with her husband and their two daughters, usually in the great outdoors. Links: jlstaton.blogspot.com, facebook.com/authorjlstaton, (the “Shop Now” button connects to the publisher) facebook.com/amandajbyrdphotography, (photo credit) goodreads.com/author/show/15181476.J_L_Staton
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Interview with Andrew Turman Information Compiled & Composed by Sosha Pease On May 3rd 2016, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing one of the great minds weâ€™re acquainted with in The Southern Collective Experience. Andrew Turman is a poet, writer, and artist. With all his many talents, we at TSCE decided that showcasing a few of them would shine some light on Turman, the man and the artist. Q. What was it that inspired you to become an artist? A. There was NO inspiration to become an artist. I was inspired by William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson to become a writer, in the Beat, Gonzo and journalistic tradition. I am basically an editor on a psychopharmacological cocktail... I became an artist by chance and necessity. My first hospitalization happened when I was rooming with a Fine Arts major... I was the head photographer for my high school and undergraduate yearbook and newspaper; and the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and undergrad newspaper. I have almost a major (33 semester hours) in German, as I lived there for seven years: first in kindergarten, then as an undergraduate; three years my Daddy's first tour, four the second. I was speaking German and American at age five...but I failed "scissors." Q. Did you pull any influence from your German experiences? A. The love of language. I am fluent in American, German, and American Sign Language. Some English and Latin... Q. Do your art and writing coincide with each other? A. Yes and no. I listen to a lot of music, Tom Waits specifically. Many of my paints are derived from listening to his sounds. However, I can create a word equation that I express in acrylic paint. Q. What would you say your best moment was? A. My best move, personally, was when I decided to get a Master's degree in Special Education. I wanted to be a third grade teacher. When I discovered my newborn son had special needs, I changed my major to "Education of the Exceptional Child," in order to be a better father. My art IS my life. It is what helps keep me on this planet... 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 4
Q. So you said that you went to school for Education for the Exceptional Child. Do you think that the experiences with your son influenced any shifts in your art? A. I was always edgy growing up, which has never changed. Having a child with special needs is not easy on anyone. It turned my world upside down, and it forced me to be more creative. I had to pick up cues from my disabled son, who was not able to communicate clearly: intuition, empathy, creativity—all qualities that my son helped me develop. When I am painting, the experience is like touching the face of a God that I do not believe in. It is the closest I get to the feeling of ecstasy, not to be melodramatic. After our long discussion about everything, Turman ended our conversation with this: “We are counting the days but making the days count.” – Andrew Turman A few samples of Andrew Turman’s work
My response to the crisis in Syria Acrylic on canvas, 2' X 3' W. A. Turman, 2016
Neon spirit lines... acrylic on canvas, 8" X 10" W. A. Turman, 2016
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Peter Damian Bellis A Personal Reflection It occurs to me this morning that opposites do not exist. Light is not the opposite of darkness. Each contains the other within it, a dappled tapestry of both. The same is true for every dichotomy we can think of, we can imagine, we can contemplate. Now the implication of this insight is startling, for if opposites do not exist, then a God of Light does not exist, just as a God of darkness does not exist. So what is God? One might say that God is the ocean of everything, but that seems more of a tenet of Unitarian Universalism then an apt description of God. If opposites do not exist, then one must say that God is everything and God is nothing, or that the everything that is God contains all manner of nothing, and the nothing that is God contains all manner of everything. This odd nature of God does not make sense to us in terms of our practical, earthly experience. But it makes perfect sense if we think of God in terms of consciousness, not just of ourselves, but of the Universe itself, of all reality. Jesuit theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is correct: God, the Omega state, is absolute awareness, and all existence, the purpose of the journey, is to evolve from complete unawareness towards this final state of being. God is also the process of this evolution. God is contained in all the elements within the Universe making this journey, so God as absolute awareness is self-contained within the absolute unawareness of the most rudimentary forms (from atoms to rocks), just as this absolute awareness is selfcontained within the partial awareness of â€˜consciousâ€™ beings (from animals to humanity to beyond). The spark of absolute awareness which is God is in all things and is that which impels all things towards greater and greater levels of complex consciousness. So what happens when all elements within the boundaries of the self-contained God become one with the absolute awareness that is God? Perhaps God takes another deep breath and exhales and the whole process begins again. Anyway, this is what I was thinking about this morning. Peter Damian Bellis is the author of One Last Dance with Lawrence Welk & Other Stories, which was a 1997 Minnesota Book Award Finalist, and The Conjure Man (2010), a novel set in the low country of South Carolina. He teaches writing at Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is also the Publisher of River Boat Books (St. Paul), and the Managing Editor of Bay Bridge Books (San Francisco). 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 4
Faces of Faith Interview with Dr. Rozario Slack Information Compiled & Composed by D.L. Yancey II Dr. Slack is a much sought-after speaker who travels across the country to conduct seminars in the areas of marriage, fathering and other issues that profoundly impact children and families. Dr. Slack works with a cross section of people, challenging them to develop healthy, wholesome family, marital, and dating relationships. Along with his wife, Chattanooga pediatrician, Dr. Angela Smith-Slack, he has developed a ten session guide to building better relationships called “10 Great Dates for Black Couples” based on the award-winning program, “10 Great Dates,” by David and Claudia Arp. In addition to 10 Great Dates, Dr. Slack is coauthor of “Basic Training for Couples” an eight session marriage curriculum designed for couples to use in the comfort of their home, marriage educators working with couples, and facilitators in group sessions. Dr. Slack has also co-produced Understanding the Heart of a Man, a DVD series to help women come to a deeper understanding of their husbands and teaches techniques to develop a greater intimacy in their relationships. Dr. Slack is CEO of Rozario Slack Enterprises, LLC and received his masters and doctorate degrees from Interdenominational Theological Center at the Atlanta University Center. He is the academic dean of ITC’s alternative seminary program in Chattanooga, TN, and pastor of Temple of Faith Deliverance Church of God in Christ, volunteers for various community organizations, and serves on several organizational boards. The Slacks are the parents of three children: Will, Pamela and Taylor.
To learn more, visit: www.rozarioslack.com Interview with Dr. Slack Dr. Rozario Slack is more renown that he will ever give himself credit for and his humbleness is one of the things I admire most about him. Dr. Slack has been my pastor for the past 5 years and almost immediately adopted my family as his own. It’s almost impossible to travel in the city of Chattanooga with him without someone stopping him to talk. Everyone knows him and he loves everybody. He’s one of those types of individuals that meet no stranger. So you can only imagine what the day was like when I finally got the chance to interview him. 90 | 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 4
First, he walks into the seminary school and teases one of the admins about always keeping her husband waiting, then he proceeds to inform me on the day he spent with his wife. In the middle of that conversation, something he said reminded him of an important phone call he had to make. After confirming it was ok, he called and, divinely, the man on the phone began to ask him questions that were almost in the identical direction I was intending for the interview. The phone conversation ended with a discussion about a fatherhood program Dr. Slack is currently involved in. Thirty seconds later, a pastor friend walks in the room and the divine irony happens again. The pastor begins to tell us about how he just had a fatherhood conversation with a lady, and how she lit up when he mentioned Dr. Slack’s name! Of course she already knew who he was. He has that type of impact on people. After an adventurous 30 minutes, we finally proceeded with an organic conversation. DLY2: You’ve traveled all over the United States doing speaking engagements including travel out of the country. Out of all of your experiences, what has been the most impactful or most memorable? Dr. Slack: First thing that struck me was the preparation for the ministry but when I got called to the ministry I went to seminary. In doing so I was presented with the opportunity to go to Egypt and Israel. Having had the opportunity to walk in the places I read and fascinated about as a child, and to see myself in that context, was so enlightening and enriching but also burdening. It was burdensome because it started me on, as what I now know, a potential journey of survival guilt. A mental journey where I began to ask myself questions like, "How did I get the opportunity to be here when so many others like me don't have the opportunity or the resources to be able to experience what I'm experiencing, why me?" But, instead of taking that journey, I allowed myself to rechannel that energy by challenging myself to bring the experience back to my people. I learned very quickly that God didn’t allow me to witness this incredibly amazing experience just for me to gloat and relish in "the rubbing of the elbows." But it was for me to pull back my elbows and work with those who don't have the opportunity. So it helped me reframe my perspective of my purpose in life. God allowed me to see myself as a representative. Those who didn't get there were now there through me. DLY2: You mentioned the word purpose. Are there any particular experiences that helped you confidently determine your purpose? Dr. Slack: One of my most powerful experiences was speaking on behalf of President Bush's healthy marriage initiative at the national press conference in Washington, DC. At this conference for healthy marriages, I opened up with a message that was sent directly from fathers who were incarcerated in the Hamilton county jail. Before I left for Washington to speak, some of them said to me, “Tell them we all aren't deadbeat dads trying to get away from our responsibility, but some of us chose bad routes in an attempt to be responsible.” So at the conference, after I was introduced and it was my turn to 91 | 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 4
speak, I said, “Hello, I bring you greetings from a group of fathers in the Hamilton County jail system, and they wanted me to tell you…,” and I gave them the message! There are a myriad of those types of experiences that have continued to energize me and charge me with… not the glory of what God is teaching me, but more about the responsibility God has given me. It’s not about me trying to be "Dr. Slack," but understanding that "Dr. Slack" can get into places and be the voice of those who go unheard, who may never have the opportunity to go to those places. And the risk of not being invited back to those places doesn't compare to the worth of the one opportunity in being able to bring those people with me. I’ve never been back there to speak by the way, lol! DLY2: That’s amazing to me because most people would’ve been too engulfed in themselves and the “topic” for which brought them to that place. And most would’ve been more concerned with “performing” well enough to get an applause and follow up invitation! Dr. Slack: I believe people are never created by the places that they speak at or go to. See that really doesn't make you who are and if it does, you're a bit shallow to have a place augment you as a person. But the question we must ask ourselves is: How do we live out the integrity of the call? We're not called for ourselves, so God has continued to put those people in my path; that I for sure know how they feel. God then reminds me of how it would've felt if a couple of things would've went the other way. I would be in any one of those situations. So there's no need to act like I've arrived and I'm unscathed because they are me. I remember walking through Cairo, Egypt and hearing people say "my American brother.” Things like that keep me grounded. Another powerful experience was when we were preparing to leave Jerusalem and a young man saying to me, "Take me back to America with you, take me back; I want the opportunities that you all have." DLY2: That's funny because most people here in America see circumstances as limiting or shackling but those out of the country see this as the land of opportunity. I recall a previous conversation we had where you mentioned how the sense of purpose in life is lacking in this society. What contributes to people here developing that type of perspective? What makes this lack of purpose so evident? Dr. Slack: There are several factors that make it evident. For instance this society has a stigma for where the rich prey on the poor. You can drive through different communities and see the” buy here, pay here,” “payday loans,” things of that nature. There’s this whole magnification of "let me get mine at your expense" and that's just one part of it. There’s also the disparity of the have and have not’s, the educated vs the non; it’s even evident when looking at how certain schools have adequate resources. It's the whole dichotomy or dualism that's been going on forever. heaven and hell, good and 92 | 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 4
bad, right and wrong, up, down , white hat, black hat, but it's evident that people can do better if they choose to. DLY2: People develop a selfish mentality in this society as a result of the nature of what this society as evolved too, yet you say that it’s a choice to do better. Some would say that choice is difficult to make. What helps you to make this choice to do better? Dr. Slack: All of us are standing on somebody's shoulders. There's not a day that goes by where I don't think about those people who couldn't afford to go to college who gave me money to go to school and told me, "go and make something of yourself " because, in essence, they were going to college through me. If I made it, they all made it! The only way I can pay them back is to spread what I've learned to those who would've gotten help from those who helped me if they were still here. It taught me an object lesson of the African concept of parts per total—meaning “part” is “part of the whole” and if I can help part, I help the whole. If I can give someone part of what I have, that's helping them become more than they could've been. So that's why I say if we could all just change our focus, just slightly, you don't have to give everything away but you can't take it all with you. Out of all my years of life, I've never seen a U-Haul connected to a hearse. DLY2: Ha! Now that’s sight that would be funny and foolish all at the same time. But I feel you mean more than just a physical U-Haul. Dr. Slack: People shouldn’t hold on to things too tightly because it hurts when God has to pry your fingers off of it. This life is not about what you have gained but most importantly it's about the impact you've made. For example, anyone can become a part of an organization but it takes a selfless person to make the organization better. So the question we must ask ourselves is, “How’s the world any different because of my existence?” It's not about status. What good is it to have a royal status with no real quality of life? That's the type of society that's been internalized by those living here. DLY2: How does this lack of purpose amongst members within this society affect the connectivity of people, what's the impact on social interaction, communication, and relationships? Dr. Slack: That's a great question and I have to go back to Myles Munroe when he said, "When the purpose of a thing is not known, then abuse is inevitable!" If you don't know why your brother is here, it's easy to take him out! If you don't know why you're here, then you're subject to place yourself in conditions you weren’t designed to be in. DLY2 : What's the solution , what is the critical message that people need to receive ?
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Dr. Slack: I think there's a combination of solutions. One solution is for people to find out what their purpose is and then focus their life on it. Our purpose can't be just to gain more money. If everybody determines they want to see a change, then determine to be that change, change is inevitable. Individually we have to stop waiting for the government to do it and stop leaning on the work of the former leaders. I'm not saying you should go out here and start cold calling people but, when people that you love tell you stuff that doesn’t make any sense, challenge it and then channel it! It’s really simple to do. I’ve learned to use the knowledge I’ve gained and the data I’ve collected through my experiences and take risks to tell people the truth. I’d rather tell them the hard truth than try to be their “friend” or get on their good side. DLY2: That’s so true. Most people in conversations find themselves finding relative points of interest to seem relatable and, instead of teaching a truth, they convey a complaint. I’ve been in conversations with people where they begin to start telling you what’s wrong with the world…lol. What’s the driving force behind this? Dr. Slack: The anxiety that most people feel is the anxiety of their divine call and what gets on their nerves is a call for them to do something about it. The masses have to realize that the very thing they feel needs to change in the world, is the very thing they need to do. People must stop waiting for somebody else to do it, but do it themselves. The beauty of it is that they don’t have to do all of it. If we just do something and let someone else do something too, nobody really has to do a lot. Then the key is to teach the people you do something for to give back. At the end of the day, it’s not about any of us, but it’s about passing what we’ve learned on to the next generation. We can change the world one person at a time but everybody has to do something. Everybody has a part in this play. I was so struck when I heard that the radio announcer for the San Antonio Spurs a few years ago received a championship ring. He didn’t shoot any free throws, didn’t attend any workouts, but he was still a part of the team. God doesn’t expect for you to do anything you don’t know, but what you know you’re held accountable for, so people should do! Ancient wisdom literature doesn’t know anything about people who know stuff but didn’t do what they know. The word “know” is relative to the word “intimacy.” In-to-me, you have to see in to me if you’re going to be intimate and, if you see something, you have to help deposit in to me what needs to be deposited, so that I can stop you from being frustrated. To whom much is given, much is required, and to whom little is given, little is required. We need what everybody has and nothing is too small. Even the little can make a difference. Who knows, the people you help save might end up discovering what you need. Robert Shula said it best, “Any fool can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” So everybody should do something. None of us have the benefit of knowing when we’re going to die so we shouldn’t act like it. Do something to help someone else and do it today.
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Isolation, natural collaboration, tone, and the visitation of exterior motivation
I started writing poetry relatively late in life. Although I wrote some poetry in high school (early 1990’s) for then-girlfriends, it wasn’t until 1/1/2000 a perceptual guidance inserted its control and I sat down to write a poem. I was 25 years old. Sure, depending on context, 25 is/isn’t old. I’ve talked to many other writers, though, and most have told me they started writing when they were children. As a youngster, I partook in ordinary and typical activities, —school, of course, and hanging out with friends, riding bikes, playing video games, etc. The only activity in which I participated that was abnormal to my friend’s activities, is that I studied Tae Kwon Do. I did this from age five until age 22, and received my black belt at age 15. Although I belonged to a school, studying and training in martial arts was often a solitary endeavor. I’ve been shy since childhood, although I always had a handful of friends. In thinking about writing this outro, a realization visited me in that when I began to write and study poetry, which paralleled my devotion to listening to and studying jazz (a few years prior to the beginning of studying philosophy)—these sacred and key aspects of my life, although I’ve found a wonderful community to discuss these topics—both internal and external to The Southern Collective Experience—I realize that these passions involve intense personal attention. So much attention, that I began to unconsciously isolate myself because these activities brought such an intense form of pleasure. Dr. Cornel West said “There's a certain pleasure in the life of the mind that cannot be denied. It's true that you might be socially isolated, because you're in the library, at home and so on. But you're intensely alive.” When I was asked to be part of The Southern Collective Experience I did not hesitate. Poetry has been a dominant but balancing aspect of my life for over 16 years. My writing room/study is a sacred environment; I have all I need here: computer, typewriter, jazz collection, floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with books, art, family photos, collectibles, quotes, scripture, etc. My youngest daughter and grandson often spend time with me here while I’m writing. Mostly, though, I write without others around me, and this is a mirror of a dual reflection of when I first started writing, and to my typical, introverted disposition. My role for the Collective, by choice, has been in the background. I lay out all the issues for the Blue Mountain Review, and bring them together into what you’re reading now. Being part of this talented and loyal group has come natural to me in the context of feeling comforted within the interaction and in the responsibilities I have with the journal. Writing poetry is a naturalized aspect of my daily responsibilities. I write so often because it brings such joy; again, though, this is a solitary practice. I am excited to be part of the Collective because this group of people have a strong desire to create art that isn’t cliché; and they desire to create art that will be long lasting. The hope for me is that through my small input, The Southern Collective Experience will reflect each of our desires to create and sustain the importance of art, and continue to incorporate it into cultural desires to reach out and interact with others. —Felino A. Soriano 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 4
Visit Cliffâ€™s website for locations where you can purchase his book, or make direct contact with the author. For special offers (like the following), consider contributing to this GoFundMe page. Donate $30 and you will receive a copy "The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics." /// Donate $20 and you will receive a handwritten poem with a drawing. /// Donate $50 and you will receive a SIGNED copy of "The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics" with an original, handwritten poem. /// Donate $100 and receive everything at the $50 range, with a CD included of me reading a few of the poems.
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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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The Writer’s High Retreat™
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SPRING/SUMMER CONTESTS AT THE SONG IS…
Poems and flash fiction inspired by jazz musicians born in the 1920s… Poems and flash fiction inspired by Latin culture…. photos of Latin culture by Juan Tituana deadline: 8/19/16 to email@example.com
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Kimberly Brock is the author of The River Witch, featured by two national book clubs and praised by RT and Huffington Post reviews as a “solemn journey of redemption, enlightenment and love,” and evocative of “the stories of Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers.” Brock was awarded the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award for debut fiction by the Georgia Writer’s Association. To find out more, please visit: http://kimberlybrockbooks.com/
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http://noetic-series.com/ 102 | 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 4
Tinderbox Workshops set out to inspire, educate, and encourage creative collaboration between women readers, writers and aspiring artisans of all kinds.
Tinderbox is a declaration, a prayer, an intention and a guide to inspire women to connect through their stories and learn to live from their Creative Core... to live from their Tinderbox, the divine spark to create!
Because we all have a journey to take, a truth to speak and a story to tell!
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William S. Tribell's interests are varied, he is a published photographer, a musician, he paints and sometimes writes for newspapers - receiving the 2015 Lighthouse Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with erratic sleep patterns and a penchant for travel. Tribell was an early member of the Southern Collective Experience. His work appears in journals and magazines around the world, including Mensa's Calliope, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and Cowboys & Indians magazine. Many of his poems have been recorded spoken word and with instrumentation by Radio Hall of Fame inductee Gary Burbank, actor John Blyth Barrymore, Red State Update's Travis Harmon and many others. Tribell is also featured in Black Madonna's 2015's release "Repressions," a collection of poems by JL Carey, Tina Twito and himself. Tribell is a member of the Tri-State Paranormal Investigators. He is a writer, director, producer and cast member of TSPI's television production "The Paranormal Journeys", and he hosts a weekly radio show called Spectrum that airs every Wednesday at midnight est. on Appalshop's WMMT 88.7 FM. In 2016 Tribell was appointed Executive Director of the Bell County Historical Society and Museum in Middlesboro Kentucky.
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Founded over 100 years ago, the Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) offers more benefits than ever for its members, including: - Ten meetings each year with two or more speakers to educate you about the craft and business of writing, as well as a June picnic and a half-day July workshop, all on the 3rd Saturday of each month. - Free members-only workshops throughout the year. - Over two dozen critique groups across the metro Atlanta area and online. - Increased prize money in our annual writing contest categories, which honor Terry Kay (for fiction), Rick Bragg (for nonfiction), and Natasha Trethewey (for poetry) in the named awards. - Two Atlanta Writers Conferences each year, where you can pitch to--and get your writing critiqued by--publishing house editors and literary agents and also attend educational panel discussions, seminars, and workshops. - Monthly online eQull newsletter with more than twenty pages of opportunities and information for writers. You are invited to attend your first AWC meeting for free to determine whether the Club is a good fit for your needs. Annual membership dues are only $50 for 365 days, with discounts for students and families of AWC members. Complete details about the AWC are at www.atlantawritersclub.org. 105 | 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 4
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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. 113 | 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 4
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WISH Poetry Press
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Issue 4 of The Blue Mountain Review