THE COLUMBIA REVIEW Vol. 100 | Issue 2 | Spring 2019
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An Editors’ Note “Let’s put it on the website!”
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THE COLUMBIA REVIEW Contents
Domenica Martinello 6
Now At Your Lips
Chad Bennett 8
Jane Huffman 9
Eran Eads 11
Aimee Fredericksen 12
Soon-To-Be-Innocent Fun / Let’s See
Chad Bennett 13
On the Town
Patty Nash 14
we’ve got to do something … save the children …
Benjamin Krusling 15
Jane Huffman 17
Found Material, Syntax, Brevity, and the Beauty of Awkward Prose: Forms and Influences IV
Lydia Davis 18
On the Day Mary Oliver Died
Domenica Martinello 30
Every Black Kid Over Thirty Has a Story About Picking Their Own Switch
William Evans 33
I Went to the Funeral
Amy Gong Liu 34
St. Cassian of the Pens
John Blair 35
Self-Portrait as a Centaur
Morgan Levine 37
My Mother Gives a Man Permission
Katie Condon 39
Bernadette Bridges 40
Stevie Edwards 41
Emma Winsor Wood 42
Perry Levitch 44
Eran Eads 45
The Waves, Parts 1 and 2
Jane Huffman 46
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GOOD WANT Domenica Martinello
1 there are many things i want to do with a pairing knife unburden the world of its softness disrobed in one endless uncoiling peel pears are winter fruits, i am too
whatever you think that means.
2 itâ€™s unwise to leave ripeness unattended when i let things go things come back to hurt me. i left my fruit on a nail & woke up a spring nettle begging to be boiled into tea. 3 minds go loose as fruit flies in a summer metaphor juice runs down the chin of some glib ancient mountain ash plastering the hot & heavy sky overlooked because she doesnâ€™t know how to dress herself.
4 i wanted the good want of girls with their girlish necks, roped around with friendship. i flashed smooth lavender beneath my school skirt, nothing. i hit myself against their numb popsicle lips & burst into hives. 5 the leaves lisp girlishly to me in windy solidarity i am open to any & all secrets. trees rehearsing the voice of seeds on a thread, i fashion my own necklace,
sow it to my neck.
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NOW AT YOUR LIPS Chad Bennett
Now at your lips each fleet thing recedes: history you know is a boy asleep, his clavicle’s kiss or tonight’s queer bark thick with the spit of your chewmarked tongue between history’s teeth in the grinning dark. History is a boy you know asleep: you can sing his fingers’ collapsed grasp, sing hair that starts but slow at his wrist, sing this palimpsest: forearm, sheets, slope of his chest: clavicula, Latin for little key. When it turns you know history is a boy asleep: know his body’s code holds a century’s dreams so sound their deep, unsounded, seems the terrible pleasure of being deceived.
THE MOSQUITO Jane Huffman
The mosquito rejects her prime, the summertime. Rejects her onus to be born in inch-deep water. She rejects it like rejecting sleep. Like sleep without integrity. Rejects the raft, her peers, the itch. The inchdeep mere. The water deep as mirror glass.
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The mosquito rejects me. Her sense, her millisecond. In her wake, a welt. All summer long, I fan myself. Gape at the size of certain sunflowers. Rattle at the bolted door between her death and me. When she dies, she conquers me. I scratch the itch of certainty.
Phlox Eran Eads
With enough prayer a prolapse could stop before it protruded into cattle waste, becoming infected. But we didnâ€™t believe or we would have left Phlox in the field, her calf still inside her and her eyes wide and barely moving. As the worshippers prayed, we hit her with sticks and got her up to the barn. Call it cesarean; it was crudely cut. We pulled the stillborn and my lips touched it as Phloxâ€™s body was being raised behind me. The sound of the hoist was recognition and there was a moment that I breathed for it.
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Hush Garden Aimee Fredericksen Girls with mistletoe eyes, anaerobic, doefooted, readied for discovery for in the disturbed soil lies the key to the hush garden where the snap willow whips and reprimands, where the skullcap reminds us all things are ultimate, where in their admiration, the girls fail to see dead ringers: like Daphne or the gross heliotrope, Here I smell fear the smell of chlorophyll, fragrance as sick as a housewifeâ€™s wine. The olfactory is all wrong. For perfume only comes when flowers are tread upon, and even the sound of the rain canâ€™t be the same through the darting birds, hissing things, creeping vines and trees as dark as black yet somehow still green, How strange to step and hear nothing but the carpet sigh, beds shy of light and fingering poor plot, poor thing, molested, unable to express her grief, her vexation will proliferate over the seasons falsely dormant it was festering, multiplying like cells in the wedding veil moss, in the Spanish fly larvae, consuming gates and stone walls in the overgrowth, in the greedy seedlings,
where, in time, the garden will eat the remnants of men and their touch like cinnamon, where the sizzle bugs and the fungi eat unforgiving as she-cats eat their stillborn kittens,
No, you girls will never want to leave the walled, hush garden wherein cries can be heard, and from them, there can always be found the work of men.
SOON-TO-BE INNOCENT FUN / LETâ€™S SEE Chad Bennett
what a weird-ass memory and what does it augur oh well now the street turns on have I been here before where the night sparks quick against blood-pink traffic (I was thinking of you but you never answer) repeat the search with the omitted results included
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ON THE TOWN Patty Nash
Last night, the imitation emerald diamond chandelier earrings didn’t weigh superheavy on my earlobes or make Cheerio Os of the holes I was 13 years old on the day on the day I got them made. If I’m honest, I don’t super remember the implement called “piercing gun” pierce me, only that I didn’t dot the saline solution in the a.m. nor the p.m. in the six months thereafter, which is what you’re, according to the instructions, supposed to do. “That’s nothing,” M. said, flicking my merely mildly irritated flaps of skin that made me feel exceptionally glamorous. Once, they got so inflected… Actually, I won’t finish that. It’s nothing you need to know.
we’ve got to do something ... save the children ... Benjamin Krusling
the real has that bad color now . my surprise was fluid so bright when I discovered it , the sun gushed smoothly down my forehead , lips , etc. the red flags cracked the black of the air . I thought kids , in this climate , with these class relations ? these bullets “flying” I’m eating a candy called Little Secrets and the secrets are all peanut butter . my blinds are shut so often , my visual sense is stunted . when attachments are stunned by punishment , the blinds just close themselves . my work , let’s say , in its restrained way , is strewn about the room and I hear this is america from the apartment next door – my little world is so ugly ! but I’m beginning to like it as I look forward to its changing soon . ours too , james confirms , is an age of propaganda . in my various educations I had the shape of an idea about myself . black , working class (“lower middle class,” dad after asking what class I thought we were) , on the far side of war and domination . but when I said my life was ugly , I was wrong for what I meant by it . there’s no place for that kind of punching of the clock . I was scrolling when I was thinking , words were hammering away . and I saw my little cousin then my mind was filled by the light on my face . the blue light , the black lightning . this year , I’m thinking of wearing brighter colors . I’m a fun person , imagine ,
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demanding , imagine . Iâ€™m so blood and carbon , so , in my restrained way , superstitious , dis-eased . in my youth , itâ€™s said , I suffered quite vigorously . real color , big blinds . gil scott-heron is so eloquent about it .
COVE OCTAVE Jane Huffman
1. Even at its most light-peaked, the crab fat in the basalt sand is still eaten, and the eating is still swept from the sewing table with the ripper, the zippers, with the ragged seams. 2. The crag, more of a circle than a wall. The nesting grounds. A print of scat in the shale, in the mixture. A plover, more image than bird. Not an incline from within in the midst of it. 3. My broken-off engagement to the fragment. And half a liverdotted egg. 4. A single debris. A yellow mop, severed from the stick, wedged into a reach within an inset crevice. So close in form and function to something dogged from the sea. 5. Snake-shaped relief in the hard palette, in the silt, in the stove-black sand, like a heap of rope dropped suddenly from a hatch, like flesh turned into skin and bald, reborn, and here is where it bled. 6. And here is where it slivered back into the tall asparagus. 7. On the overpass, above the hollow, shy of Disappointment, old photos piped to a display, grim at the edges: a row of women posing on a dune in cone-shaped, satin bikinis. 8. On excess: I hawked it all. I could have supped on it.
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Found Material, Syntax, Brevity, and the Beauty of Awkward Prose: Forms and Influences IV Lydia Davis In this essay I will continue several topics from earlier discussions, including: the origins of some of my stories; using found material or appropriating; complex and simple syntax; brevity in pieces of writing; and the beauty of awkward prose. I’ll start by talking about another poem of mine— one actually written, or arranged, to be a poem with broken lines—that uses found material from an email, this time an email from a stranger, in other words not meant for me personally.
its inadvertent pathos. I have searched for the original email to see how I changed it, but I could not find it. (I am somewhat irrationally afraid of keeping scam mail, for fear of infection.) But I remember moving phrases around, inserting line breaks, and no doubt cutting.
1. Another email-inspired piece: “Hello Dear”
I enjoy awkward non-professional writing and incorrect language use partly because of the unexpected combinations that simply wouldn’t be produced by the brain of a practiced writer of English—such as “with so much full heartily”—or, if attempted, might not be as good.
2. Modified found material: Dream pieces
Hello dear, do you remember how we communicated with you? Long ago you could not see, but I am Marina—with Russia. Do you remember me? I am writing this mail to you with heavy tears in my eyes and great sorrow in my heart. Come to my page. I want you please to consider me with so much full heartily. Please—let us talk. I’m waiting!
I was drawn to this material by the awkward language and the lyricism of it— some deliberate and some accidental—and
Another adventure in the use of found material resulted in a long series of what I have called dream pieces, amounting to about 28 in all, at latest count. In this case, the raw material was, mostly, my own dreams and those of friends, as well as some waking experiences of ours that resembled dreams. Dreams are strange phenomena: you try to tell someone your dream in the morning and he’s usually pretty bored. That is because there is a radical difference between your experience of your dream and his experience of hearing about it. To you, the experience was real, as it was happening, and often you reacted with the full depth of feeling to the dream experience that you would have brought to a waking experience. You were sitting with your mother, who, though in reality dead, was alive
again. Or you were in love with some lovely man who also loved you. Or you were at the top of a cliff with—really—no way down and you were terrified. Etc. But to your listener, these experiences were all thin and colorless, simply because they weren’t real. I recently learned that a part of the brain is in fact “turned off” while you’re dreaming, a part whose name I can’t remember; this is the part that would have told you that what you were experiencing couldn’t be true. This part of your brain is actually inoperative, and that’s why you believe you are talking to your deceased mother, or that your twenty-four-year-old son is only eleven and is already smoking, or that a rather dim-witted gym teacher has instructed his team of basketball players to keep their eyes shut while they’re throwing and catching the ball so that they don’t risk hurting them. Dreams have been used to predict the future; they have been used in psychotherapy to expose psychological trauma; they have been used as the starting point for making a piece of art, as when Coleridge dreamed of Kubla Khan. I had not been particularly interested in my dreams before, as possible subjects for writing, only as occasionally fantastic entertainment. The dream pieces started from a conjunction of at least two things: a book I had read some time before and an experience I had while out driving. (Often—or maybe always—it is the conjunction of at least two things that inspires a form or an individual piece of writing, one example being my story “Jury Duty,” which arose from my actual experience of jury duty and my interest in the form of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.) I had some time ago read a book by the
French Surrealist and ethnographer Michel Leiris called, in the English translation by Richard Sieburth, Nights as Day, Days as Night. This book was a collection of the more interesting dreams Leiris had recorded over forty years. The Surrealists, of course, were very interested in the potential of dreams, since their project was to use irrationality to disrupt reality and its conventions. What was particularly interesting about Michel Leiris’s book was that besides collecting all of his interesting dreams, he also mixed them in with accounts of waking experiences that resembled dreams. He seemed to be demonstrating how fine the line was between the irrationality of the dramas that take place while one is asleep and the weirdness of events in everyday waking life, some events being obviously strange even as they happen and others including elements of strangeness that can be isolated in a piece of writing by excluding the more familiar aspects of the experience. In other words, the account of the waking experience can be written in such a way as to include only the strange elements and leave out the elements that might have “normalized” it in the telling. I’ll quote three of the shortest of Leiris’s dream accounts, all working in slightly different ways. The first is almost no more than an image: Nov 20–21, 1923 Racing across fields, in pursuit of my thoughts. The sun low on the horizon, and my feet in the furrows of the plowed earth. The bicycle so graceful, so light I hop on it for greater speed. The second is longer, more typically dream-like, still sounding like the report of a dream, but now also like a tiny story:
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April 12–13, 1923
One evening, upon entering my room, I see myself sitting on my bed. With a single punch, I annihilate the phantom who has stolen my appearance. At this point my mother appears at a door while her double, a perfect replica of the model, enters through a facing door. I scream very loudly, but my brother turns up unexpectedly, also accompanied by his double who orders me to be quiet, claiming I will frighten my mother.
And lastly, one that Leiris dreamt nearly 40 years later, that to me sounds like a complete little story: Nov. 6–7, 1960 “Charity! Charity!” I am wandering through the streets of an unfamiliar neighborhood, trying to catch a small dog who bears the name of this theological virtue. He was given to me by a baker; I was careless enough to walk him without a leash, and he ran away. A butcher (or some other shopkeeper) has already had a good laugh hearing me call after the dog that he has just watched race by. Shouting at the top of my lungs like some incensed beggar, I could very well be taken for a village idiot or for an escaped lunatic whom the police will swiftly move to arrest. Who cares. I go on shouting as loudly as I can, not only because I am so mortified at the loss of the little dog but also because I am drunk with the sound of my own voice: “Charity! Charity!”
I have talked before about surprises in a short piece, and surprises in general, and how you should in some way keep surprising the reader, not be predictable. In this little dream of Leiris’s, the opening, the name of the dog, is a surprise, as is the image of this man wandering the streets calling “Charity!” New information is constantly added in the piece. And after repeating more familiar information—that he regrets the loss of the dog—it ends with yet another piece of new information— that he is drunk with the sound of his own
voice. The image of the narrator wandering the streets like a lunatic reminds me of an image that has stayed with me for a long time: the French Marxist philosopher Althusser went through periods of mental instability and during one such period, toward the end of his life, murdered his wife (this was in 1980). After his release from the psychiatric hospital, he used to wander the streets of Paris shouting: “I am the great Althusser!” What interests me about this is that he was indeed, if not great, at least important. A person wandering the streets shouting something that is not delusional can still be described as a bit of a lunatic. To return to Leiris and his dream pieces, what interested me first was not so much, in fact, how to narrate a dream, though I liked the idea of giving the shape of a little story to the sometimes sprawling and incoherent narrative of an actual dream, by selecting from it. I was more interested in how to narrate a waking experience as though it had been a dream. And then, I was interested in combining actual dreams and waking experiences intermingled in the same group so as to blur the line between waking and sleeping. As I said above, I used not only my own dreams and waking experiences, but those of friends, too. As for the writing of these pieces, I had to figure out what it was about the narration of a dream made it sound like a dream, and then work to make the piece fit those requirements. For one thing, the material had to include some element of the irrational or the surreal, to a greater or lesser extent. For another, it had to be told in a dream narrative style, meaning: in short sentences (mimicking our style as we grope to remember or reproduce a dream); with
some (optional) element of uncertainty; maybe with some mystery as to the identities of people and places; sometimes or always with strong and striking imagery. And it had to be just long enough to sound like a complete dream experience. These two are actual dreams, though I was half awake in the first. Awake in the Night I can’t go to sleep, in this hotel room in this strange city. It is very late, two in the morning, then three, then four. I am lying in the dark. What is the problem? Oh, maybe I am missing him, the person I sleep next to. Then I hear a door shut somewhere nearby. Another guest has come in, very late. Now I have the answer. I will go to this person’s room and get in bed next to him, and then I will be able to sleep. Dinner I am still in bed when friends of ours arrive at the house for dinner. My bed is in the kitchen. I get up to see what I can make for them. I find three or four packages of hamburger in the refrigerator, some partly used and some untouched. I think I can put all of the hamburger together and make a meatloaf. This would take an hour, but nothing else occurs to me. I go back to bed for a while to think about it.
And this last was a real life experience told as a dream. In the Train Station The train station is very crowded. People are walking in every direction at once, though some are standing still. A Tibetan Buddhist monk with shaved head and long wine-colored robe is in the crowd, looking worried. I am standing still, watching him. I have plenty of time before my train leaves, because I have just missed a train. The monk sees me watching him. He comes up to me and tells me he is looking for Track 3. I know where the tracks are. I show him the way.
3. Drastically shortened dream pieces Some of the pieces that I wrote intending them to be dream pieces were, in their final versions, too short to feel like dream narrations. I liked them, but no longer considered them dream pieces. One of those was “Can’t and Won’t.” Can’t and Won’t I was recently denied a writing prize because, they said, I was lazy. What they meant by lazy was that I used to many contractions: for instance, I would not write out in full the words cannot and will not, but instead contracted them to can’t and won’t.
Another that became too short was “PhD.” The original material for this piece was the recurring anxiety dream of a friend of mine who, in the dream, believed that because she had failed to take one important exam, though she had done all the other required work—the course work and the thesis— had in fact never been awarded her PhD. In its original version, that dream was fully recounted, including the missed exam. Then I cut the piece more and more until in its final form it reads, simply: PhD All these years, I thought I had a PhD. But I do not have a PhD.
(In truth, she did earn her PhD at NYU, her thesis—the result of long and extremely meticulous editing—being The Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn.) 4. From Dream Accounts to Bernhard stories At the time when I was working on the dream pieces, I discovered a very helpful book by Thomas Bernhard that presented me with yet another model for a tightly
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organized and written very short story, ensuring that the dream pieces would be not solely dependent on the impact of the dream material for their effect, but fully developed and integrated and well structured pieces in themselves, though approached in this new way, coming from the perspective of seeing life as material for dream pieces.
ter divisions, which would have implied control. I wanted to convey the sense, from the tone of the narration, that this was an autobiographical confession. Other models were Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights and Marguerite Duras’s War and The Lover.
The way I discovered the Bernhard book was this: changing planes in O’Hare Airport, I had a lot of time to kill, discovered a surprisingly good bookstore there in the airport, and went in. Instead of browsing idly through the fiction section, which was quite large, I decided, in one of those impulses of slightly fanatical orderliness that we all have from time to time, to proceed alphabetically, starting with the very first book in the A section and looking at every title. When I was just a short way into the B’s, I was astonished to discover a book by Thomas Bernhard that I had never heard of and that couldn’t have been better suited to me just then.
5. Thomas Bernhard as novelist Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989) was a rather misanthropic and vitriolic Austrian writer, mainly a novelist, the author of Concrete, The Old Masters, The Loser, Gargoyles, Correction, and Wittgenstein’s Nephew, among others. It is typical for him to rage against the horrors of his own country, Austria. His writing is moving and horrifying, but also funny. His first-person narrators rave and fume, and the form of his novels is often one long paragraph. The writing is entrancing, spell-binding. His books were an important model for me when I was working on my own novel, The End of the Story, since what I was looking for was a sustained, emotional, controlled, single-breath, one-voice outburst—I included pauses (white spaces) but no chap-
Here is the beginning of Bernhard’s 1975 novel Correction—a single sentence:
After a mild pulmonary infection, tended too little and too late, had suddenly turned into a severe pneumonia that took its toll on my entire body and laid me up for at least three months at nearby Wels, which has a hospital renowned in the field of so-called internal medicine, I accepted an invitation from Hoeller, a so-called taxidermist in the Aurach valley, not for the end of October, as the doctors urged, but for early in October, as I insisted, and then went on my own so-called responsibility straight to the Aurach valley and to Hoeller’s house, without even a detour to visit my parents in Stocket, straight into the so-called Hoeller garret, to begin sifting and perhaps even arranging the literary remains of my friend, who was also a friend of the taxidermist Hoeller, Roithamer, after Roithamer’s suicide, I went to work sifting and sorting the papers he had willed to me, consisting of thousands of slips covered with Roithamer’s handwriting plus a bulky manuscript entitled “About Altensam and everything connected with Altensam, with special attention to the Cone.”
That’s the opening sentence, more than ten lines long. (According to a note I made in the book, the first ll pages have only 16 sentences.) It is worth repeating, however, what I have previously said about Proust: that to be exact and economical does not necessarily mean to be brief. One can be verbose in a short poem and one can be succinct in a long novel full of long sentences. About the voice in that opening: it is immediately established as a voice filled with conviction. The sense of conviction is cre-
ated by several things at once, stylistically: the almost pedantically correct construction of it, indicating high seriousness (and a degree of self-importance); the urgency of it, the sense we get that the narrator wants to tells us all about this; the level of detail about such things as the narrator’s illness and Roithamer’s manuscript; the narrator’s strong opinions—his sarcasm in his references to such things as internal medicine and taxidermy; the use of italics stressing his opinion versus the doctors’; the naming of the people and places, as though the narrator, and we the readers, too, recognize that these particular facts are important. For me, Bernhard was already an admired and studied writer when I discovered this book of his in the O’Hare Airport. The book was The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott. The 104 stories are each a paragraph long. I had not even known that he had written tiny stories. 6. Thomas Bernhard’s short works and complex constructions What is remarkable about these stories is not only the tight structure, completeness, and negativity of attitude, but also the hyper-complex syntax of some of the sentences, as in the opening of Correction. I have given students in writing classes the assignment to read, analyze, and then imitate stylistically one of Bernhard’s small stories. Younger writers these days often have trouble constructing long, complex sentences. They often restrict themselves to short, simple sentences, and when they try a longer, more complex one, they run into trouble. I see this in otherwise good writers—including good published writers. In this case, the translator, Northcott, has reproduced the complexity with a skill that appears effortless.
In the following little story, about half its length is contained in the first sentence, the second and third sentences are fairly short, though not simple, and the last is, again, long and complex. (I have numbered the sentences for ease in finding them.) Consistency (1) At the end of a philosophical discussion that had tormented two professors from the University of Graz for decades and had brought not only them but also their families to total ruin and which, as they are reported to have perceptively told a third colleague one day, like all philosophical discussions led to nothing and which, finally, in the nature of things, ruined and actually drove this colleague, who had also become embroiled in their discussion, insane, the two professors from Graz, after inviting their third colleague and adversary, out of habit, so to speak, into the house they had rented jointly for the sole purpose of their philosophical discussion, had blown the house up. (2) They had spent all the money they had left on the dynamite necessary for the purpose. (3) Since the families of all three professors were present in the house at the time of the explosion, they had also blown up their families. (4) The surviving relatives of one of the professors and adversaries, for whom the decades-long philosophical discussion—as they themselves had clearly demonstrated—had proved fatal, considered suing the state because they were of the opinion that the state’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy had driven all three to their deaths, but they did not bring such an action after all, because they realized the futility of such an action.
Notice, again, how new material is introduced throughout even such a brief story, especially the idea of the state’s responsibility introduced in the last sentence, which could not have been anticipated earlier. Another tiny Bernhard story returns us for a moment to the territory of dreams. As with the first little story, the opening sentence is, in itself, about half the length
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of the story. (Again, I have numbered the sentences.) Near Sulden (1) Near Sulden, years ago, in a quiet inn to which I had withdrawn for several weeks so as to see as few people as possible and to have contact only with what was absolutely necessary, for which the area around Sulden is suited like no other—and it was above all for the sake of my diseased lung that I had gone to the remoteness of Sulden, which I knew from earlier days—a Herr Natter from Innsbruck, the only guest in the inn aside from myself, who stated that he had once been rector of the University of Innsbruck but had been dismissed from office because of a libelous attack and had actually been thrown into prison, though shortly thereafter his innocence had been established, told me each day what he had dreamed the previous night. (2) In one of the dreams he told me about, he had run around to hundreds of Tirolean authorities to get permission to have his father’s grave opened, but this had been denied him, whereupon he had tried to open his father’s grave himself and, after hours of the most exhausting digging, had finally succeeded. (3) He said he had wanted to see his father once more. (4) However, when he opened the coffin and actually removed the lid, it was not his father lying in the coffin but a dead pig. (5) As usual, Natter wanted to know, in this case, as well, what his dream meant.
Notice how the fourth sentence is carefully constructed to end with the unexpected element: the dead pig. Bernhard does not stop there, which would have left the story depending entirely on that surprise for its impact, but returns us to this character Natter’s obsession with dream interpretation and his persistence, which are comical. The last sentence, though following naturally from earlier material, is still somewhat surprising. 7. A Bernhardian story One of my own, quite recent, pieces was surely inspired by Bernhard, though it
originated, like “Nancy Brown Will Be in Town” and “Hello Dear,” both discussed earlier, in the material of an email. Once again, there are (at least) two sources for the inspiration: 1) my analytical reading of Bernhard’s short pieces, all the closer since I was working on this with a class; and, more immediately, 2) the raw material— the email I encountered. The emotional impetus for the piece—since there is always, for me, strong feeling behind a piece of writing—was at least twofold: 3) amusement at what Bernhard does in his brief stories and at the content of the email; and 4) admiration for Bernhard’s writing and a desire to do something similar, although I did not see the influence of Bernhard (obvious to me now) until after I had written it. My story, however, does not contain the elaborate Bernhardian constructions and is longer than his. Negative Emotions A well-meaning teacher, inspired by a text he had been reading, once sent all the other teachers in his school a message about negative emotions. The message consisted entirely of advice quoted from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk: Emotion, said the monk, is like a storm: it stays for a while and then it goes. Upon perceiving the emotion (like a coming storm), one should put oneself in a stable position. One should sit or lie down. One should focus on one’s abdomen. One should focus, specifically, on the area just below one’s navel, and practice mindful breathing. If one can identify the emotion as an emotion, it may then be easier to handle. The other teachers were puzzled. They did not understand why their colleague had sent a message to them about negative emotions. They resented the message, and they resented their colleague. They thought he was accusing them of having negative emotions and needing advice about how to handle them. Some of them were, in fact, angry. The teachers did not choose to regard their an-
ger as a coming storm. They did not focus on their abdomens. They did not focus on the area just below their navels. Instead, they wrote back immediately, declaring that because they did not understand why he had sent it, his message had filled them with negative emotions. They told him that it would take a lot of practice for them to get over the negative emotions caused by his message. But, they went on, they did not intend to do this practice. Far from being troubled by their negative emotions, they said, they in fact liked having negative emotions, particularly about him and his message.
That is the piece as it stands, but it went through another change, and then a change back to its present form. After I had written it and saw the possibility that Bernhard had in part inspired it, I had the idea of making it even more Bernhardian by adding overt violence to it. I added another paragraph, the following: Only one teacher was so angered by the message that for several days he was speechless. Then, instead of writing back, he went out in the middle of the night with a bag of excrement to the home of the teacher who had sent the message and wrote on his front porch, in excrement, “Negative Emotion.”
I had doubts about that last paragraph. I sent the whole piece to a friend of mine to whom I send pieces occasionally. I told her I had a question about the piece which I would ask her after she read it. She wrote back that she liked it very much, but she didn’t think the last paragraph belonged, somehow. Or rather, that was my interpretation of what I remembered of what she said. (This was some months ago.) Memory often falsifies, at least a little, and usually in the direction of the way you want to remember something. Her exact words, now that I’ve found them, were: “I don’t know why I don’t like the last paragraph as much. If I don’t know why, I’m not sure I should even say it. Somehow I like it ending with the seeming paradox of their liking having
negative emotions (even though I know they were being sarcastic). But maybe I’m wrong.” She was confirming my own doubts, so I immediately got rid of that added paragraph. 8. The Three-Sentence Daily Diary Entry I recently had the idea of recording, every day, one brief experience in the form of three fairly short sentences. (I say “short” to preclude the sorts of sentences written by Bernhard in the very short stories above.) I haven’t yet done more than two of these brief descriptions, and I like only one of them, but I like the idea. Certainly it is an interesting way of imposing on yourself the daily diary entry—yes, I must make a daily entry, but it can be one that requires a careful choice of subject and then a careful choice of how to express the experience, and it can remain short. Here is the first one I tried. Since I did not write it down right away, as I so fervently recommend to others, I lost some of the wording, which I think was better. The wind blew hard across the fields behind the old farmhouse. We were out for a walk, heading down toward the railway bridge. Below the road, a woman filling some bottles at an artesian well looked up and smiled.
Very simple—Zen practice would say “Nothing much.” I first imagined this would be a little prose paragraph. Then, when I typed it out, I started each sentence on a separate line and found that it had a different effect, something of the effect of a haiku. In an earlier version, the first and third lines were longer than the middle one, so that symmetry added to the haiku
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effect, and that could be part of the prescribed form, if you liked. Of course, in the case of the haiku, the middle line is longer, not shorter. 9. Félix Fénéon Maybe I was influenced, in conceiving of this form, by reading a few years ago the French man of letters, publisher, translator, and newspaper reporter Félix Fénéon (1861–1944). Fénéon did not publish a book of his own while he was alive. In response to a proposal to publish a collection of his own work, he remarked, “I aspire only to silence.” He did, among his many other literary activities, write little fillers for the newspaper, very brief accounts of crimes or accidents, what we would call Police Blotter material and what the French call faits divers, which literally means “various facts or deeds.” Fénéon restricted these accounts to three lines of type (not necessarily three sentences), and worked carefully over making them, within the prescribed length and presentation of the facts, as vivid and expressive as possible, sometimes macabre, sometimes humorous or bizarre. After his death and then that of his mistress of fifty years, it was found that she had carefully preserved all his faits divers in an album. These were collected and published—there were 1220 of them—and a few years ago a selection was translated into English by Luc Sante and published by New York Review Books under the title Novels in Three Lines. Here are some of Fénéon’s fait divers, or police blotter notices: At five o’clock in the morning, M.P. Bouget was accosted by two men on Rue Fondary. One put out his right eye, the other his left. In Necker. There was a gas explosion at the home of Larrieux, in Bordeaux. He was injured. His mother-in-law’s hair caught on fire. The ceiling caved
in. In Le Havre, a sailor, Scouarnec, threw himself under a locomotive. His intestines were gathered up in a cloth. Notary Limard killed himself on the landing stage in Lagny. So that he would not float away if he fell in, he had anchored himself with string. Charles Delievre, a consumptive potter of Choisy-le-Roi, lit two burners and died amid the flowers he had strewn on his bed. The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Menard, snail collector.
Sante, in his introduction, compares Fénéon’s three-line novels to Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony, a book-length poem which derived all its material from transcripts of criminal court cases. (Trial transcripts, by the way, along with oral histories, are productive resources for a writer studying how people, a wide variety, actually speak.) Reznikoff’s research was massive: as he explained, he might go through a thousand pages of transcripts to find the material for a single poem. His accounts of, usually, disturbing incidents are, like Fénéon’s, terse and abruptly concluded. Both these works—Fénéon’s three-line “novels” and Reznikoff’s Testimony—may have served as models, years after the fact, for a recent piece of mine called “Local Obits.” This story consists of a number of very brief extracts from obituaries of local, more or less ordinary people—e.g. Ethel, 83, who loved to garden, or Richard, 89, who was a WWII vet and sang in the Polish glee club. Here, like Reznikoff (1894–1976), I am working with found material about strangers. Unlike Reznikoff, who composed poems of varying lengths with lines short and long from a considerable amount of material, I am confining the extract to, usually, just a few lines in
newspaper obituary style. The entries are brief, like Fénéon’s, but unlike Fénéon, I am selecting the material, not rewriting it, and I am not interested in the sensational but in the oft-repeated ordinary. I heard George Saunders say in an interview on the radio a few years ago that he believes the subconscious is not only very rich but also very well organized—which was a new idea for me. I had always known it was rich in accumulated material, but I had thought it was rather chaotic. If I apply what I think he meant to the way influence works for me, I’d say that the subconscious is storing things away, things like the Fénéon three-line “novels” and the Reznikoff Testimony, and that then, when I read the obituaries in my local paper and am touched by these lives and also by the way the obits are written, the influences of Fénéon and Reznikoff assert themselves, still without my knowing it, still subconsciously, and I write a piece in the form of “Local Obits.” Maybe Saunders would say that the material was neatly shelved in my subconscious and filed under various headings, and that my efficient retrieval system zipped through and found them as models. 10. Sets of three lines and haiku: Padgett Proceeding by association here, I’ll go on from compositions in sets of three sentences or three lines to a little more about the haiku. A writer friend of mine once said, whether seriously or not, that the only poem he had ever memorized was also one of the most useful, and that was the poet Rod Padgett’s definition of the haiku, which is a haiku. It’s called “Haiku”:
Neat, and memorable. 11. Basho and his most famous haiku For years, I’ve read, off and on, a slim little work by the seventeenth-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho—his Narrow Road to the Interior, translated by Sam Hamill, which I first knew in a different translation probably called Narrow Road to the Deep North. It has several captivating qualities: the beauty of the imagery, the spirit behind it, the moments of humor, the compactness, and particularly the form in which it is written. It is an account of a journey into Japan’s remote northeastern region, or, metaphorically, into the poet’s inner self. It is written mostly in prose but interrupted now and then by a haiku that describes or distills a physical or emotional moment at that point in the journey. There is thus a pleasing alternation—a moment of relief from the prose; then back to the prose. The form actually has a name in Japanese: haiban. But I did not know until very recently about a famous haiku attributed to Basho, one that is not in Narrow Road to the Interior. I discovered it through reading an article in The New York Review of Books by Ian Buruma, Dutch writer and academic, about Japan: Matsushima, known since the 17th century as one of Japan’s ‘Three Great Views,’ is . . . an archipelago of more than 250 tiny islands sprouting fine pine trees, like elegant little rock gardens arranged pleasingly in a Pacific Ocean bay. . . . The great poet Matsuo Basho, traveling in the northeast of Japan in 1689, was so overcome by the beauty of . . . Matsushima that he could only express his near speechlessness in what became one of his most famous haiku:
First, five syllables. Second, seven syllables. Third, five syllables.
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Matsushima ah! A-ah, Matsushima, ah! Matsushima ah!
Here is what James Campbell in the Times Literary Supplement had to say about him, quoting the poem:
I associate this near speechlessness with several things: Fénéon’s remark that he aspired to silence; the fact that certain poets chose to stop writing poetry, either for many years, as in the case of Gerard Manley Hopkins and George Oppen, or forever, as in the case of Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891), who gave it up before he was 20; and Proust’s character Marcel in Swann’s Way, when he was quite young, whose reaction to the assault of inspiration was the expressive but unrefined utterance: “Zut, zut, zut, zut!” (A complicated translation problem, by the way . . .)
The event that might have pleased him most . . . was the publication of Dreams and Other Nightmares: New and Uncollected Poems. The book gives equal space to two faces of [Morgan] with which his readers will be familiar—the lunatic lexicographer and the anxious confessor—and contains the wittiest one-word poem ever written, “Homage to Zukofsky”:
I would also relate Basho’s Matsushima haiku to the paradox that when we are most powerfully moved, we are often least articulate—and this is something a fiction writer has to keep in mind when putting dialogue in the mouths of characters at emotional moments. Basho’s haiku may also remind us of the careful balance we need to maintain, as writers. We may aspire to a certain degree of articulateness and eloquence in whatever our chosen form may be, but we must guard against crossing the line and indulging in an excessive eloquence or cleverness, one that distracts the reader from the work itself: we must be willing to stay modestly in the background and let the focus of attention be on the work itself. 12. Edwin Morgan and Louis Zukofsky And following from the idea of silence, and brevity, I will end with what must be one of the shortest poems in print, having a three-word title and a one-word text. The poem is by a prominent Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, who died in 2010 at the age of 90.
This is actually a good illustration of the importance of a title in a short piece of writing, where it may do half the work, or even more than half: it prepares us for the text or body of the poem. Without the title, in this case, we would have only the word “the.” We would be left bewildered. As it is, the title here tells us that the poem is an homage to someone whose name we may or may not recognize. As Campbell goes on to say: “It helps to know that Louis Zukofsky [1904–1978] is the author of the book-length poem ‘A’.)” If we know this, and have even read some of Zukofsky’s “A” (an 826-page poem in 24 sections, written over about fifty years), only then can we appreciate the wit of Morgan’s poem. (One section of “A”, by the way, is only four words long.) Morgan may also have had in mind a poem of Zukofsky’s that he wrote at age 22 and that is regarded as his first major work. It is called “Poem Beginning ‘The’” and is seen as a partly satirical response to his predecessors in the poetry world and in particular to T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”. The poem much impressed Ezra Pound. Edwin Morgan’s “Homage to Zukofsky” certainly brings up once again a question that is regularly raised—how much does a reader have to know beforehand, in order
to receive the full impact of a piece of writing, and is it all right for a reader not to receive that full impact? I had to pose myself that question, though I was not troubled by it, in the case of my short piece called “Samuel Johnson is Indignant.” The full body of the story is: “that Scotland has so few trees.” I think the story works even if you do not know who Samuel Johnson is, though it has more impact if you do. In the case of Morgan’s poem, perhaps a reader needs to know several things beforehand in order to get anything at all out of it. But I don’t believe that this should stop Morgan from writing the poem exactly as it is, as he thinks best, and I don’t believe that he needs to provide a footnote. Any piece of writing, after all, has only a particular, and limited, audience or readership. It is not necessary to try and appeal to everyone, or even to explain oneself. 2013
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ON THE DAY MARY OLIVER DIED Domenica Martinello
Gino and I get into a fight and I escape into the mid-moan of summer have you ever had a girlhood friend with palms so clammy she’d make the bus pole drip? B.E.W.T.: Bodies Experiencing Weather Together wow believe me
I find sunsets interesting our proximity condensed to a collective drawl if you don’t find it profound that’s your fault how else will I share with complete strangers mid-January and what if the soft animal of my body is a little shih zhu I’ve never loved? on the bus free-bleeding near the boys and my comrade the dripping bus pole yes this is where I decide to go a sweater around my waist and my best friend who I miss just far enough away rain move differently different landscape of our lives all our years up to no good
that the sun and clear pebbles of
and her final transformation: two big dogs and a husband in the country an actual family and a mortgage
a sweet spot
where sunsets over the lake are never cliché
where the local weed dealer plays with your kids at the neighbourhood cookout
hey excuse me I’m still here you know
yeah I know me too hands plunged into the soapy sink water of it all I don’t understand why you start shit then disappear yeah well
I never said I was good
meanwhile the world goes on my body’s a little pageant dog yes I am Trixie with a bow in my hair eating my own shit bark at my shadow while losing a fight I lost my friend to a home
with some geese at the park with two dogs in the country
now I need to be carried everywhere in a bag is that love or is it yapping am I now some art school bitch who finds sunsets “commonplace” my high school boyfriend told me the more beautiful a sunset the more likely we’re all going to die of smog poisoning I thought he was so smart and then he paid for our pad thai
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in university I gave a presentation on Mary Oliver and someone made fun of me
if our poetic influences are our chosen family you dumb dog?
you’re gonna go with someone like Mary Oliver she seemed to say
I thought she was so smart
a true intellectual
meanwhile Gino pets my smelly fur (I’m shivering now) I’m not a dumb dog I’m a dumb woman! meanwhile I live in the city we have weather here too I announce my place
in the prairies and deep trees clotting the gutter of my imagination
that imperfect escape hatch if you find it trite that’s on you
grief drips down my leg whoever you are you’re there with me, too.
EVERY BLACK KID OVER 30 HAS A STORY ABOUT PICKING THEIR OWN SWITCH William Evans
Even if it was a belt, really. Even if their hood didn’t have trees. Nobody wants to believe any bullets fired around them wasn’t meant for them if they survive it. If your God is truly merciful, may you be blessed with all the scars. Suffered the diminished hearing in your left from the summer Wu-Tang took you hostage. You know the world wants to hollow you out because you loved someone that was once your age and now they no longer have an age. You don’t know shit about flowers, but you remember the auntie that bloomed once a year when the cops would finally take her husband and his hands to jail for a week. Elders are the only folks who take cruises because they took a lifetime to get over crossing that much water. If you are to keep religion let the thin trees with air whip branches, but nothing tall enough to swing from, be the totem. Let the man that blocked your exit remain one man and not every man that moves into a vacancy on your street. Everyone has an idea of what their savior’s face looks like but never wonders what the bastard is holding behind his back. You haven’t been right since your high school teacher told you to stop showing off in class. Now you get nauseous when your daughter aces her spelling test. When you were younger, your father overheard you talking to your white friends and told you codeswitching will kill you. You remembered the day he took you to work with him and replied, you first.
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I Went to the Funeral Amy Gong Liu I forgot how hot the summers got. I ate a steak. I went to the funeral. On the bus, my fingers made themselves uncomfortable. I jammed all of the dirt together. I deleted my voicemails. The children were speaking Chinese. I had an accident. I broke the thermometer and had to clean up the mercury with a mask over my lips. I chose the tiny thing over the big thing. I read the words on the program, but didnâ€™t pay too much attention to the speeches. I ignored fear. I just got the call yesterday. Tossed. I stood close. I remembered advice. The frogs on the mantel were golden, and the television was always on. I was fourteen. This is my stop. I ended up wearing the jewelry after all. I stood too close. I was transparent. The candle was still burning. I paid and promptly left.
St. Cassian of the Pens John Blair
. . .was condemned to perish at the hands of his hundred pupils. These boys pierced him to death with their styli. . . The Book of Saints In rain the fall begins to fall through scrims of trees, and one pale saint impaled with pens and glees of spite annoys the world with poetry. All those who teach are sacks with lies inside like cards. Are rusting cans of gravity and random news, are dog-whistles and gales of why in every fallâ€™s begin again. We hate them so for their knowing, for their starting always over in their withered seasons. We stab them holy with styli and bland ennui. They are the all we leave behind when something better comes merrily. Needful is not necessary, is not the light of our mornings and our goodbyes.
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We kill because we love our sweet transgressions. We transgress because we love ourselves. Teach us, holy one, to let all that loves us go.
Self-Portrait as a Centaur Morgan Levine
after Natalie Diaz I am who I have touched – Lace arrows piercing the skin and hurtling synaptic gaps like a showhorse: blindly. Wind pulling my lips back from my mouth, sweat shining electric on my flanks, my human hands holding my breasts, stomach, and skull like fruit stacked delicate over this animal body – Red dust cast in the shape of those who have feared me – Horsehair lining a West Texas fence, waiting for some grandmother’s hands. There’s no coarseness that can’t be burnt into pottery. Long, thick hair, almost pubic. How lack can be the most tangible thing. Two hands, expectant, traveling the promise of my abdomen, finding nothing below. Hair. Horse. Another chest. Hooves of granite. Two hearts pumping, one lagging behind and the other huge, proud. Fighting like siblings, the shy one and the dancer. Each pulling different directions, toward or away from tethers, touch. My first lover’s forehead barely touched my stomach, which he kissed, again and again –
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A string spread taut between two beasts â€“ Legs that slow for no one and run for anyone, run when I donâ€™t want to. Run me into trees and away from love. My eye useless and soft as a tadpole. His eyes losing their shape and color as he fell out of sight. Only half of me is thick-skinned, and the two skins are not so stitched together. My two skins are like the moment a smile becomes a snarl, lips baring teeth. Who longs for teeth? Only the toothless.
The legend got it wrong: I am barely half a woman and more than half a horse.
My Mother Gives a Man Permission Katie Condon
to slit her throat. The incision no larger than a vulva’s inner lips, the surgeon slips his slender tools in. It is simpler than her first time, he says—the nodules curled in the throat almost at peace. Rain, & in the late morning my knees scraped from kneeling at the mouth of the lake. Simpler, but not the last time, he says—death growing again & again because it grew the first time. My first lover forever dressing in my car’s backseat by the lake. In her neck, death’s conception like a hand curling to a fist. In the hospital, my mother willing birth & so I was. In the hospital, some man willing life & so she is, still. Death curls & hardens, rain gaining speed, rising heat in the backseat & I was—am far— from the edge of forgiving my mother for giving me a body. Gaining speed, she wakes, sewn. Rain, late morning, shore so familiar it bleeds.
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The Dashboard Bernadette Bridges
I lived in the front seat of a Volkswagen sedan in Philadelphia at the Bus stop for two years. He was stuck like that – with his glasses in his hands – I was practicing saying I love you. America is for the women who can do the labor in the still-quiet. I can do the labor in the car seat. When the time was up, his hand fell on my shoulder and he told me he was hurting. I had practiced for this moment: I love you. The sun was blinking through the windshield. The bus was gearing up to go. He pointed to my luggage in the backseat. I left my earrings in the cupholder then cried goodbye. He didn’t kiss me. The bus drove so slow. I should’ve asked him to remember the mountain, the snow, the strawberries. I should’ve painted green and blue on the dashboard. I love you, America, every little star that’s falling in pieces. Somewhere there’s a train whistling April and sliding between blue mountains in Canada. Between these blue hands.
TAPPING THERAPY Stevie Edwards
I Google the word muumuu and am very sorry my life has come to this desire for shapelessness. I am a blob of pain in the recliner this summer my hip on fire, pleading for water. And it gets worse: it would not be wrong to call today’s sack dress, a muumuu. The doctor says to ice my ass six times a day until the bursitis calms. Carol, my sweet psychologist friend, Skypes from Oregon to talk about pain, about how I’ve stored bad stories in my hip too long. She tells me to tap my face and chest and say I can love myself with the pain, with the stories. And I sob for my uncle’s bad hip, his never enough opiates or alcohol, embalmed middle-aged corpse, my own young wildness—the overdose, paramedics who dropped my body like heavy groceries down a steep stairwell and gave me a new crooked gait. She says I have wound shame into a small ball and stored it in my hip for years. And she is right. And my sobbing is right, but I don’t know if the muumuu is right. If it’s a form of acceptance or quitting. My love comes home early from a party and asks what I am doing why I am crying and touching my face. I say I’m busy doing a weird thing with Carol. He wouldn’t understand her methods, would want something more scientific than this beautiful woman instructing me to tap my face and let the old stories end.
a doctor would collect your urine, inject it into a live female rabbit, then cut her
In the 1950s, the most common way to determine whether or not you were pregnant was the rabbit test:
I was given her name.
The rabbit was his little sister, who died a few years ago after losing the names of all eight of her children.
When he was just out of high school, my grandfather wrote a short story called â€œA Very Young Rabbit.â€?
Nostalgia comes from misremembering, he says.
I felt ambivalent when I graduated, I say, yet now feel high school was one of the happiest times of my life.
Later, back in the room I grew up in, I call C.:
to high schoolâ€”to be tired, waiting?
when I say I want to return
Is that what I want
I nod though I miss that feeling and mourned it when I married, another milestone in the rearview.
N. says over the speakers in the dimly-lit hangar that used to be filled with ice in the winter.
It was so tiring to be that age, just waiting,
E m m a W i n s o r Wo o d
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for me to go on, but I have made my point
is swaying drunkenly beneath a cowboy hat, and N. is waiting
To my right, the girl I made out with once in college is hitting on a boy she never talked to in high school; to my left, the first boy I kissed, dumped, and later loved
as surely as leaving them there—
would kill them
though I knew moving them
when I picked them up, in leather garden gloves, to move them to the other side
exposing four young rabbits that barely filled my palm
that, last spring, the dogs dug out a burrow in our backyard
and I am thinking of the ice melting in my vodka soda on the table a few feet away, not about poetry, as I tell him
raising his eyebrows in what can only be disapproval when I say I’ve written an entire manuscript in the span of a few months,
dead champagne in the dimly-lit hangar where N.’s still speaking to me, asking how California’s changed my poems,
It reminds me of the old test for witches: tie the woman up—if she floats, she’s a witch. Of course, they all sank. Dead women, dead rabbits,
If not, her ovaries showed nothing, and now she was dead.
open. If you were pregnant, her ovaries would show “follicular maturation.”
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Dog-Fight/Stretch-Cotton Pe r r y L e v i t c h
At home I slip in and out of the small economy of socks and underwear circulating between mysisterandme. Easy, my body’s blooming matters only within this rate of exchange.
Last night my girl dreamt I was a prince and her mother said that means she’s in love with me when really it means I’m in love with her.
Step-aunt bewailing pronouns over the mashed potatoes in a strangled little voice coming from her God-Given -Heft is in its springtime upswing so mysisterandme take plumped shoulders to Ikea, measure against the wingspans of armchairs.
The hum: dream-bestowed gold-fringed epaulettes. Only bulwark against catastrophe: the pink cotton, its naming mysisterandme skin-and-skin same
Holding me and holding me in all of this washable upholstery
Harvest, â€˜99 Eran Eads
my hand was outstretched and heavy with grain. a pig explored the absolute and ordinary dirt. we called the water dispenser the pigyard fountain. the only way out was through. the gate was open and the green grass was outside the gate. the pig saw my hand. there was still grain there. the first bullet was surprise. the next and the next followed.
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THE WAVES, PARTS 1 AND 2 Jane Huffman
I mean what I donâ€™t say: that I cannot take more than what I took. That in The Waves, Virginia Woolf describes the waves. Gestalt, the math, the public bath. Red fish swimming in her actions. Red fish swimming in her pause.1
I tried description.
A bead of sweat. A string
of sweat. Sweat like
a quivering bead on a string.
I tried form. I wavered:
That a parachute wonâ€™t save me underwater. That I looked in the direction that I looked. That the soup of the sublime cannot be served without the ladle.
a red tassel of hair caught in a fishnet. A red tassel of fish caught in a hairnet.
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C O N T R I B U TO R S
Chad Bennett is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Word of Mouth: Gossip and American Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). His first book of poems, Your New Feeling Is the Artifact of a Bygone Era, won the 2018 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and is forthcoming from Sarabande Books. John Blair has published six books, the most recent of which is Playful Song Called Beautiful (U. of Iowa Press, 2016), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Bernadette Bridges is a senior in Columbia College at Columbia University, where she studies creative writing with a concentration in poetry. Her work has been featured in Quarto, Ratrock, and elsewhere. Katie Condon’s debut collection of poetry, Praying Naked, is the winner of the Charles B. Wheeler Prize in Poetry and will be published by Ohio State University Press next year. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New Yorker, Tin House, and Prairie Schooner. Lydia Davis’s ESSAYS I, her first nonfiction book, will be published this fall. Her most recent collection of stories is Can’t and Won’t (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). She is also the author of The Collected Stories (FSG, 2009), as well as translations of Proust’s Swann’s Way (Viking Penguin, 2002) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Viking Penguin, 2010), among other works. Her translation of Proust’s Letters to His Neighbor appeared in 2017 from New Directions, who will also be publishing her translation from the Dutch of the very short stories of A.L. Snijders in 2020. Eran Eads is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He teaches writing at the UMUC and is the Social Media Editor at Coldfront Magazine. Born and raised in a rural Alaskan commune, Eran received a BA from University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studied with the late Derick Burleson. His chapbook FAT is available from Atomic Theory Micro Press. Check out his Instagram @eraneads.
Stevie Edwards is the founder and editor-in-chief of Muzzle Magazine and senior editor in book development at YesYes Books. She is the author of poetry collections Good Grief (Write Bloody, 2012) and Humanly (Small Doggies, 2015), as well as poetry chapbook Sadness Workshop (Button Poetry, 2018). She holds an MFA from Cornell University and is a PhD candidate at University of North Texas. Her poems have been published in Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, Pleaides, 32 Poems, Redivider, West Branch, and elsewhere. William Evans is a writer from Columbus, OH, a Callaloo Fellow, The Watering Hole Fellow and the founder of the Writing Wrongs Poetry Slam (September 2008). In addition to being the editor-in-chief of Blacknerdproblems.com, William has published two collections of poetry on Penmanship Books with a third collection Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair from Button Poetry. His work can be found online or forthcoming in Rattle, Winter Tangerine, Muzzle Magazine, The Offing, and other online publications Aimee Fredericksen is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, where she studied Creative Writing and Art History. Her work has appeared in earthwords and the 2017-2018 University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Annual Report. Jane Huffman has an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa, where she is currently an instructor for the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, The New Yorker, Ninth Letter, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is editor-in-chief of Guesthouse, a literary journal. Twitter @janechuffman Benjamin Krusling is the Provost Visiting Writer in Poetry at the University of Iowa and the author of a chapbook, GRAPES (Projective Industries, 2018), and a forthcoming digital chapbook, I Have Too Much to Hide, from Triple Canopy. Work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Black Warrior Review, The Recluse, and elsewhere. Morgan Levine is a multimedia poet studying English and Creative Writing at Columbia University. Her work has been featured in The Columbia Review, Quarto, Gigantic Sequins and elsewhere. Morgan is from Houston, Texas. Perry Levitch is graduating from Barnard College this spring, where she majored in English and minored in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is a re-
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cipient of the Sidney Miner Poetry Prize and the Helene Searcy Puls Prize. This is her second time in The Columbia Review. Amy Gong Liu is a recent graduate of Columbia University where she majored in Human Rights and Asian-American Studies. Amy is the author of the chapbook Line Symmetry, and her work has been published in Quarto, Echoes, Tabula Rasa, and Ratrock Magazine. Domenica Martinello is a writer from Montréal, Quebec and the author of All Day I Dream About Sirens (Coach House Books, 2019). She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was the recipient of the Deena Davidson Friedman Prize for Poetry. Patty Nash is a poet and translator. Her work appears in the Denver Quarterly, Bennington Review, Prelude, Foundry, and elsewhere. She tweets at @pattynashdj and lives in Berlin. Joyce Polance is a Chicago-based painter working in oils. Her work consists of expressionist portraits and landscapes which explore the chaotic inner worlds of their subjects—both as depiction of the subjects’ own vulnerabilities and of their connections to the tumultuous political atmosphere we are currently living in. Polance has exhibited internationally and is the recipient of multiple grants and awards including six Chicago CAAP grants, a George Sugarman Foundation grant, two Judith Dawn Memorial grants, and a fellowship at Spertus Institute in Chicago. Her paintings are held internationally in private and corporate collections. Polance was born in New York City in 1965. She attended Wesleyan University and received a BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is represented by Judy Ferrara Gallery in Three Oaks, MI and Elephant Room in Chicago, IL. Her paintings may be viewed on her website, www.joycepolance.com. Originally from New York City, Emma Winsor Wood teaches writing and edits Stone Soup, the literary and art magazine for kids, in Santa Cruz, CA. Her poetry has been published a number of places you can find enumerated on her website. She recently translated A Failed Performance: Selected Plays and Sketches of Daniil Kharms.
David Ehmcke Sofia Montrone Maddie Woda
Managing Editor Sam Wilcox
Associate Managing Editor Spencer Grayson
Art Editor Hanna Andrews
Web Editor Clare Jamieson
Editorial Board Salmaan Amin Zachariah Crutchfield Ryan Daar Belle Harris Abby McLaughlin
Evan Mortimer Charlie Munns Cassidy Sattler Emily Sun Coleman Yorke
THE COLUMBIA REVIEW
Cover Art Joyce Polance The Columbia Review is published twice yearly by the students of Columbia University, New York, with support from the Activities Board at Columbia. This issue is sponsored in part by the Arts Initiative of Columbia University. This funding is made possible through a generous gift from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Enquiries to: Columbia Review, Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Email: email@example.com. Books and media sent for possible review become the property of The Columbia Review.Visit us online at: http://columbiareviewmag.com/. Copyright ÂŠ 2016 by The Columbia Review. All rights reserved. Reproduction or translation of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the US Copyright Law without permission of the publishers is unlawful.