GROWING SEASONS: On Plants and Poetry A Craft Essay by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett Like most things, it began with beauty: My first apartment after college overlooked the backyard of several Crown Heights buildings, which had become an unofficial dump with stained mattresses, twisted remnants of recliners, and an impressive pack of raccoons. I’d just escaped an abusive relationship with a woman who’d unraveled my self-esteem and told me I’d never be a writer, and was working at a pizza shop by Union Square. I’d climb onto the fire escape outside my bedroom window to smoke and look down on this compromised patch of wildness, snow-draped in winter and then bursting—if you looked hard enough—into blossom by spring. I didn’t have my own plants then, but as I tapped my cigarette on the rusted railing and watched ash dance toward the green tangle below, I had a building sense that I’d traveled … chop! chop! read more!
SHOW, THEN TELL: Crafting Fiction with Alive Exposition by Grace Evans While writing a first draft of a novel, I turned one scene and an economical one-paragraph description of a mother-daughter relationship into seven scenes dramatizing every aspect of their dynamic. Why? A writing craft book advised me to focus on plotting and crafting scenes, and that eventually I would string all my scenes together and find myself with a complete manuscript. So, I stretched every idea into a scene that included conjuring an event, developing conflict, and fleshing out character. I invented beginnings, middles, and ends. My draft got longer and slower. It started to bore even me. I didn’t end up with a decent manuscript draft, but with a realization: a novel should be some scenes, maybe even mostly scenes, but not every character detail or piece of information deserves a whole scene. To be sure I wasn’t … chop! chop! read more!
MAKING EACH STORY ITS OWN a Craft Conversation with Tony Taddei author of THE SONS OF THE SANTORELLI speaking with fiction editor Andrea Caswell Tony Taddei’s debut story collection, The Sons of the Santorelli, is a fast read: the prose is smart and snappy, the characters are funny and flawed, and we can’t look away from the situations Taddei has put them in, situations he believes “best evoke their mortality and individual points of view.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with the author about his book and the craft of short fiction. The discussion included reflections on writing family sagas, the do’s and don’ts of assembling a linked story collection, finding just the right words, and how Taddei’s training as an actor has helped him as a fiction writer. Our conversation has been edited for clarity. —AC, May 2022 Andrea Caswell: Tell us about the title and the … chop! chop! read more!
A LESSON FROM MY THIRD-GRADE SELF On Writing from the Heart, A Craft Essay by Vivian Conan I was fifty-two when I chanced upon the bright marigold flyer taped to a streetlight in my Manhattan neighborhood. The Writer’s Voice at the West Side YMCA, it said. One of the courses listed: The Personal Essay. I had never heard that term, but it sounded like just what I’d been looking for. From the time I learned to print, I’d wanted to be a writer, even though on a parallel track, I believed all the books that were ever going to be written had already been written. I got this impression from the pictures on a card game called Authors that I played with my brother. With old-fashioned hairstyles and names like Sir Walter Scott, authors were, most assuredly, all dead. In third grade, I learned cursive, the grownup way of writing, … chop! chop! read more!
A Conversation with Ann de Forest Editor of the Anthology WAYS OF WALKING New Door Press, 258 pages Interview by Amy Beth Sisson I met writer Ann de Forest many years ago, but during the pandemic we formed a new connection around poetry. We became critique partners and attended Claire Oleson’s Poetic Anatomies class. Ann is an accomplished writer in multiple genres who often focuses on the resonance of place. When she mentioned she was editing an anthology of essays about walking, I knew it was something that I, as a walker, reader, and writer, wanted to get my hands on. After reading the advance reader copy, I was impressed not only by the excellent essays but by the thoughtful structure of the collection. I was delighted to have this conversation with Ann about the project. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.) —ABS, April 2021 Amy Beth: … chop! chop! read more!
THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN AND OTHER STORIES OF DIRTY COMPUTER by Janelle Monáe Harper Voyager, 321 Pages reviewed by Kristie Gadson In her latest album Dirty Computer, songstress and visionary Janelle Monáe sings of a future bathed in the blinding light of a new regime. In a world where an individual’s inner circuitry—their deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires—faces judgment from the illuminating eye of New Dawn, freedom is sought out by those who find liberation in the shadows. Monáe’s songs follow the story of Jane 57821, whose queerness made society view her as a deviant with unclean coding—a “dirty computer.” Dreaming of a better future, Jane 57821 broke free of the chains of New Dawn by daring to remember who she really was, sowing the seeds of revolution in her wake. The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer is a collaborative work with influential writers of the Afrofuturism genre, … chop! chop! read more!
THE ORIGINAL GLITCH by Melanie Moyer Lanternfish Press, 362 pages reviewed by Michael Sasso “Jesus was a carpenter, King Arthur was an orphan, and Laura was a broke, lonely millennial.” This is how Laura, the artificially intelligent protagonist, is summed up in Melanie Moyer’s sophomore novel, The Original Glitch (Lanternfish Press, October 2021). Every generation envisions its savior as one of its most unassuming: so, while the Wachowskis gave us introverted, Gen-X cyberhacker Neo in The Matrix films, Moyer provides Laura, the downtrodden but culturally-aware Millennial. Unlike Neo, however, Laura cannot escape her virtual prison, and her “magical” digital powers are lackluster. It is telling of the Millennial ethos that, even though the novel is about saving the world, the universe of The Original Glitch is familiar, ordinary, prosaic. Laura is created in reaction to a malevolent AI named Theo. When Theo’s creator, Dr. Kent, starts to believe that he’s … chop! chop! read more!
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EXTRA CREDIT by Colette Parris The three of us together constitute a smidge of impurity in what would otherwise be an unadulterated cup of salt. Not the Himalania Fine Pink Salt that will run you $8.99 for ten ounces at Whole Foods. (That’s right. I just googled the price of pink salt at Whole Foods, because I’m all about precision. And while I was at it, I checked to see if gluten-free blueberry waffles are back in stock. Alas, no.) I mean the regular iodized salt that you can get for less than a dollar at Target, the salt that comes in the dark blue cylinder with the yellow-dress girl and her wholly unnecessary umbrella. What do umbrellas have to do with salt? For that matter, what do girls in yellow dresses have to do with salt? I digress. By “the three of us,” I mean me, Lakeisha, and Annette. … chop! chop! read more!
ODE ON BRAISES (AND ODES) by Gregory Emilio For we, which now behold these present days, Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise. —Shakespeare, “Sonnet 106,” lines 13-14 “Rhyme,” according to the poet and classicist A.E. Stallings, “is an irrational, sensual link between two words. It is chemical. It is alchemical” (Stallings 2009). It is fascinating to think of how words are connected by sound—that similar sounding words may be drawn to each other like magnets. Praise and days: some subterranean, implicit contract, light giving unto light, phoneme of the first letter, the sound of dawn. And to think that consonants and vowels are all we have to work with to create the kindred spirits of rhymes. Vowels expand, billow up with breath, while consonants crack open and/or shear off the edges. In the word “praise,” the vowel sound “a” gets buoyed up by the plosive “p,” sustained … chop! chop! read more!
BROOD X by Gwen Mullins Brood X is the largest brood of 17-year cicadas. This brood is found in three separate areas centering around Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, Indiana, and eastern Tennessee. The largest emergence of Brood X appears as adults only once every 17 years. —National Park Service Back then, everyone still called me Gwendy, so it was in the body-in-progress of thirteen-year-old Gwendy that I first encountered the cicadas of Brood X. The emerging insects, like my boy cousins, were four years my senior. I was intrigued but disgusted by the intricate carapaces the cicadas left behind, and a delicious tingle of fear shivered across my skin when the living bugs slapped against my legs or tangled in my hair, their unwieldy, red-eyed forms a harbinger of anxieties that had not yet surfaced. I spent a lot of time alone in those days—meandering through the town that is, … chop! chop! read more!
SKATE HAVEN by Amy R. Martin I’m already roller skating when the DJ announces it’s time for a “Couples Skate” and I see the sign light up on the wall next to the clock and the rink lights dim and I feel a whoosh and Sean—the boy who pops wheelies in front of my house every summer morning on his Schwinn while I eat Lucky Charms and watch The Richard Simmons Show, the boy who one day soon will give me an ID bracelet that I will have to return because my mom will say I’m too young and won’t let me keep it, the boy who one day after high school will move to Texas with a red-haired girl who everyone will call a slut and far worse things besides—reaches his hand out to me. He is the best athlete at school, and he has light brown skin and hazel … chop! chop! read more!
EVEN IN THE DARK by Cristina Trapani-Scott 1. You make sourdough bread because it’s easier to focus on the simplicity of water and flour than on anything else. You marvel at how water and flour blended can start life. You think of science and the way this pairing draws yeast from air. You remember the air in the hospital waiting room, the sour chill, and the way your yeasty thoughts bloomed faster than you could breathe, faster than you could form sentences, so the words came out lonely florets. Please, won’t walk, will walk, maybe, I don’t know. 2. Now, you speak to flour and water in full sentences. You whisper to yeast the way you might a plant, like you did your child lying in the hospital bed. You cajole it with a gentle voice, urging it to expand and breathe, to grow and move. Bread sustains us, you … chop! chop! read more!
A POEM WHEREIN I TRY, AND FAIL, TO IDENTIFY MY TUESDAY GENDER by Quinn Rennerfeldt Have you ever been forced ………….to swallow a pill of light ………….………….unguided hands rubbing the tract of your throat ………….to slip it past the chokepoint ………….………….like a shhh and something blue and lamplike then resides ………….inside you, threading the acids ………….………….of your stomach like an anxious goldfish irradiating ………….the viscous liquids ………….………….in small neon pings shining scales amongst darkness ………….morse code messages in bubbles ………….………….trying to regurgitate themselves from your mouth ………….agitate against the fishtank ………….………….of molars and stress-clenched jaw and yet you are still a stranger ………….always have been but now ………….………….you have an aquatic carcinogen to fault, furtive bioluminescent flame ………….lighting the way for doubt ………….………….and the feelings cramped in the fake sand, slowly stirring ………….the blonde grains from dormancy ………….………….like a creature where it oughtn’t be Quinn Rennerfeldt is a queer poet … chop! chop! read more!
WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE STUCK by Louella Lester On the fifth day of the heat wave, even though the asthmatic air conditioner is faltering, Char stops going outside. Not to get fresh air. Or to exercise. Or to soak up the sun’s Vitamin D, of which a lack could cause her to…well, she isn’t sure what it will cause, but people are always talking about it like it matters. She just doesn’t give a shit anymore. When Seth left, two months before, she lied about her feelings—told friends it was over long ago. “If he didn’t leave, I would have. Don’t worry, I’m enjoying the time alone.” So, the heat is a relief. A real excuse to stay home. A simple explanation. Wearing only panties and a tank top she melts into the chair nearest the aquarium that Seth left behind, getting up only to go to the toilet. … chop! chop! read more!
THE CONTENTS OF MY EXES’ REFRIGERATORS by Michelle Ross Andrew It was a mini fridge, so not much. Also, it was college, so mostly beer most of the time until we drank those Heineken, one by one winnowing down to whatever else remained: a package of sliced extra sharp cheddar; a Yoplait with its silver, reflective seal that you peel off, making me think of Andrew’s tube of anti-itch cream; a crinkly plastic bag holding a few wrinkled, mushy green grapes. “Are you going to eat those?” I asked him that afternoon. Unless we were making out, I sat on Andrew’s desk chair. His bedding left a slightly sour smell on my skin. “I might,” he said. “But they’re mushy and gross,” I said. “Some of them might not be,” he said. “Even if some aren’t, they will be soon because of the company they keep,” I said. Andrew plucked … chop! chop! read more!
RUNNING ALONE AT NIGHT by Charlotte Moretti She chewed on a jagged piece of skin that she had pulled along her thumbnail as she drove, her right wrist dangling limply on the steering wheel. She drove quickly as she snuck glances at me—sharp, suspicious looks. I watched through a shaft of sunlight coming in from the windshield as dust billowed in through the open windows of the Jeep and settled, lazy and drifting, on my lap. Her arm was freckled like I remembered, but now the skin was loose, bunching and drooping. I wanted to touch it, to lift it up back into place; it was as though I had closed my eyes and she had melted by the time I opened them. I leaned down and pulled out a cigarette from the pack that was nestled in my bag between a few of my other things—a pair of gas … chop! chop! read more!
LEAVE NO TRACE by Robin Neidorf the full moon rises in the cleft ……………………………between rock and green-turning- gold on gravel trails twenty miles ……………………..northwest of this circle of stones today’s bootprints start to erode under those traces lie yesterday’s …………………………… …………………………… …………lower still are strata dyed maroon and olive then grey again each line demarcates a slow disaster ninety-five percent of species gone in the blink …………………………… …………………………… ………of a few million years …………………………… ……………………………… …………………………..the glaciers are receding …………………………… …………………………… ……………………………..the data do not lie ………………………….. ……………………………………….. ………………….each season frees another era’s liquid ………………………….. ………and debris ………………………….. …………………………..once rock met ………………………….. …………………………………………………..rock and hove upwards now every raindrop makes its choice …………………………south to delta silts ^^ west to crashing waves and saturated sunsets take one breath …………………………….another the owl’s wings beat no soundwaves glacial pond’s surface still as fossil come December will we remember how … chop! chop! read more!
DESPINA a visual narrative by Jennifer Hayden Jennifer Hayden is a graphic novelist based in New Jersey. She is the author and artist of The Story of My Tits, a graphic memoir about her life and her experience with breast cancer, which was nominated for an Eisner Award and has been translated into Italian and Spanish, soon to be out in French. It was named one of the best graphic novels of 2015 by The New York Times, Library Journal, GQ, Comic Book Resources, Paste, Mental Floss, Forbes, and NPR. Hayden’s first collection Underwire was excerpted in The Best American Comics 2013. She has also self-published two collections of her online comic strips, Rushes: A Comix Diary and A Flight of Chickens. Recently she finished a graphic travel novella called Le Chat Noir about her disastrous yet hopeful love for France. Hayden has lectured at Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, … chop! chop! read more!
LAYERING LIGHT Paintings by Bette Ridgeway Bette Ridgeway is best known for her large-scale, luminous poured canvases that push the boundaries of light, color, and design. Her youth spent in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and her extensive global travel has informed her colorful palette. For the past two decades, the high desert light of Santa Fe, NM has fueled Ridgeway’s art practice. Her three decades of mentorship by the acclaimed Abstract Expressionist Paul Jenkins set her on her lifetime journey of non-objective painting on large canvas. She explores the interrelation and change of color in various conditions and on a variety of surfaces. Her artistic foundations in line drawing, watercolor, graphic design, and oils gave way to acrylics, which she found to be more versatile for her layering technique. Ridgeway has spent the last thirty years developing her signature technique, called “layering light,” in which she … chop! chop! read more!
WHEN YOU’RE THE CONTORTIONIST by Candace Hartsuyker It happens like this: your sister is skipping with a jump rope, her feet slap slapping the sidewalk. You go into the house to get a glass of water, and when you come back, your sister, her sneakers that are bright as Wite-Out, and her sparkly pink jump rope are gone. After her disappearance, your father’s restless hands will hold a length of rope: he’ll tie and untie it, reconstruct the sailor’s knots he learned when he was a boy. The figure eight, the bowline, the clove hitch. You will deal with your grief by tying yourself into an intricate pattern of knots. You’ll step onto the living room coffee table and slowly go into a backbend. It will remind you of the game of Twister you played at parties, a foot sliding backwards and to the right, a leg crossing under someone … chop! chop! read more!
DON’T KICK THE DOG by Phillip Schaefer Just last week doves glued to the beach, stuck between physics and chemistry. Beneath the Puget Sound. No guns, no sharks. A simple conundrum. There is a history within history, angles prior to geometry. Names predating language. Before before, we thrived. Now we thumb the doldrums of memory like cattle lost on an interstate in a country where cars hunt with their headlights. Last week a murder in Moab: a Mormon with a throat-knife tighter than an oath on a ledge. So we buy cheap groceries to keep our pantomime legitimate. We smack the television out of its static. It feels good to drink milk right out of the carton & it feels good to apologize for nothing. Cancer comes then goes until something worse arrives in the hearse of our bones. Life echoes quietly backwards. Only one person may attend the trapeze … chop! chop! read more!
EVEN THE DOGS by Ronda Broatch The horses hid the day I walked out to pasture to catch my appaloosa. Ferro, eluding the drape of lead rope over his withers. I found him deep in woods I’d never entered, and slipped the halter over his dappled head. Time and distance enough to mute the shot it took to fell the bull back at the barn, meat truck parked, everyone gathered around, beers in hand, to watch. I tied Ferro to the post, curried and saddled him for our ride along the slough, past winery and autumn fields, years before the bike path, down the stretch of dirt we raced until my eyes ran, Ferro’s body sinking closer to ground as he flew, as was his birth right. Sweating, we returned, the bull’s headless torso dismantled, chatter of onlookers bartering who got what. I opened the gate, led Ferro back to … chop! chop! read more!
ABLATION by Lisa Lebduska Faced with a choice between freezing or burning, my mother chose burning. Her decision surprised me because she hated Florida, where she had never lived, and she hated summers in New York, where she spent July and August with a crochet-edged hankie tucked behind her ears to catch drips of perspiration. Never known for her tractability, my mother, daughter of an odd-jobs man, had a heart that insisted its own wild beat, and a passion for cheesecake, chianti, and despising my father, who had, as she put it, “traded her in for a newer model” at the age of sixty-five. The cardiologist diagnosed her with both tachycardia (beating too fast) and arrhythmia (irregular beating) and prescribed a phalanx of pills to block the renegade signals in her atria. Over time, the meds stopped working. “She’s breaking through,” her cardiologist said. I pictured her driving a motorcycle … chop! chop! read more!
MEANINGFUL DEPARTURES by Eric Rasmussen I. McKenzie sees it coming. The party’s host is drunk: she’s laughing loud, touching everyone nearby, gesturing with the knife she’s using to cut whole pickles into spears for bloody marys. McKenzie should say something or take the knife, but this woman is the boss of the guy she came with. By the time the host raises the blade again, it’s too late. Her pinky is in the exact wrong place. McKenzie tries to yell, but her synapses can’t work that fast. The woman slams the knife down and cuts off most of her finger. Besides the thunk, McKenzie’s gasp is the loudest sound in the room. Within moments the kitchen enters full meltdown. The host’s husband wraps his wife’s hand in a white cloth napkin, asking “What happened?” over and over. A semi-circle of partygoers around the island pulls out their phones to call ambulances … chop! chop! read more!
N ̓X̌AX̌AITKʷ, 1984 by AJ Strosahl A monster named Ogopogo lived in Lake Okanagan and Sylvester’s father Clyde had once seen it drown a bear, face first. It happened a few years before Sylvester was born, when Clyde was almost a boy himself. Clyde told Sylvester that it happened as these things do, which is to say: out of nowhere, on an unremarkable day. Clyde was fishing for perch on a stretch of shore where you could wade in, waist-deep, with your feet anchored in the silty lake bed. It was late in the day, with the sun high and the air thick with pollen and light. Clyde had just felt a tug on his line when a silence fell. It was the loudest silence he’d ever heard. “It was kind of . . . respectful,” Clyde said, when Sylvester asked how he’d known to cease all movement, to still … chop! chop! read more!
WALKING ON THE FURNITURE by Jessica Klimesh In fourth grade, after Ellee and I learned how thin the crust was, how hot the mantle and core were, how fragile Earth in general was, we spoke in cautious whispers. What if? You think? Shh. We spoke of boys the same way. Curiosity mixed with innocence and fear. At sleepovers, we held tight to the covers of our shared bed and to each other, our dreams fixed and frantic. Where were we safest? In a few years, we would explore the softness of our own bodies, the way it felt to press into another’s. But in fourth grade, shielded by darkness, we simply lied about the boys we had kissed, speaking in wary whispers, our bodies delicately intwined. And when the sun came up, we floated from footstool to coffee table to easy chair, walking on the furniture and tiptoeing lithely if … chop! chop! read more!
THE OTHER SIDE by Ann Stoney When you wake up in the night, don’t flush or wash your hands. Go straight back to bed. This helps. You’ve been awake on and off. Dreams take the shape of lightning. Exaggerated versions of yourself, they crash unexpectedly, then fade away—a tide that rips, then spits you on the shore of waking. You think of tomorrow. You’ll divide the day into three parts: (1) a business activity, something practical, (2) a bit of exercise, (3) something creative, whatever that is. But when tomorrow comes, you fill the day with useless things and once again are left with the night to figure it all out. So you do. You consider taking the yoga class in the morning, but it starts too early, you’ll never make it. Not now, when you’ve been up half the night. Let’s face it, they’re all over—the mice. This keeps … chop! chop! read more!
TIMOUN, or, LITTLE WORLD by Richard Casimir There is an image etched in my childhood memory from Haiti, which I find hard to erase. I admit I never try to block it out because it looks like a natural backdrop in my field of vision. It is indeed a troubling view but one from which I cannot escape. Therefore, I grow accustomed to it, absorbing it, despite myself, into my world of thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. My vision of the image has altered over time, dimming some details, such as the age of the little boy it features, sitting on a school bench, sobbing inconsolably, under the menacing eyes of an exasperated teacher waving a leather whip. I do not recall the circumstances which prompted his punishment. But I remember the mournful tune of his lament, hovering over the dissonant sound of a merciless whip searing into his flesh. Finally, … chop! chop! read more!
BREAKFAST SOLILOQUY by William Erickson After breakfast I discovered an accretion disk around the empty container of raspberries, an iridescent plate of ablated drupelets circling recyclable clamshell like discarded astral projects on the kitchen counter. God is summer fruits and moldy gauze. God is absorption. Our new light fixture is the Hubble beaming images of war and elections over history while the dishwasher counts another minute from its dry cycle. An arid star blinking the name of cleanliness. We do not understand, but nonetheless we orbit one another’s names like the last ring of cereal, saturated and without integrity, evading the spoon in an expanse of milk as thick as the emptiness contained in our daily need to eat. God is an expiration date. The streaky windowpane is an event horizon. William Erickson is a poet and memoirist from Vancouver, Washington. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in West Branch, … chop! chop! read more!
WE WERE NOT SO BIG by Windy Lynn Harris There were three marriages and three sets of children, a pair for each union. For some reason, my father could only hold four children at a time. He told me this once, really tried to explain it to me. What I remember most was his sincerity in that moment. He wanted me to know things were different for me. When my father called, I would listen to him tell me what he wanted me to know about his life and then I would ask about his family. He would tell me what he wanted me to know about them, too. He’d ask about me, politely, and I knew he’d report some of my things to the rest of them, but that wasn’t the same as being part of a family. It wasn’t the same thing at all. It was a while … chop! chop! read more!
A CONVERSATION WITH NAMRATA PODDAR, AUTHOR OF BORDER LESS 7.13 Books, 157 pages Interview by Grace Singh Smith Full disclosure: I met Namrata Poddar—writer, editor, UCLA professor of writing and literature—in a room filled with Vermont sunlight, at Bennington Writing Seminars. But what I should actually say here is that I met Joohi Mittal, a widow whose fortunes have fallen (“Poor Joohi, Mount Sinai duplex to Malava cubicle!” Mount Sinai. Need we know more?). Joohi appeared in Namrata’s story, “Silk Stole”, which we were “workshopping.” I don’t remember any of our comments, helpful or not; what I remember is a day in Joohi’s life unlike no other in her recent memory, where, thanks to an unexpected return from an investment, this mother of three—who works “three plus jobs”—allows herself a window into her lost life. She buys a designer silk stole, a drink at an Americanized café (Coffee Keen!), and—if … chop! chop! read more!
GOLD by Rumi translated by Haleh Liza Gafori New York Review Books, 112 pages reviewed by Dylan Cook There’s no way to talk about Gold without sounding like a flower child spreading the gospel of peace and love, but is that such a bad thing? Love, after all, is the thing that brings us into this world, ties us together, and makes the days pass more pleasantly. Don’t we love to live and live to love? And aren’t all the best songs love songs? Yet, offering up love as a balm to life’s problems feels cheap. We’re often skeptical, understandably so, that love alone can save us from issues like debt, disease, and desolation. In Gold, Rumi speaks to our inner skeptics. Line by line, he tries to show us how love only helps and never hurts. “If you plunge like a fish into Love’s ocean,” he asks, “what will … chop! chop! read more!
A Conversation with Kathleen Courtenay Stone, author of the collective biography, THEY CALLED US GIRLS: STORIES OF FEMALE AMBITION FROM SUFFRAGE TO MAD MEN Cynren Press, 222 pages Interview by Jean Hey I met Kathleen Stone during a residency at Bennington College while we were working toward our MFA degrees. We were both from Boston, and Kathleen invited me to attend BookLab, a vibrant literary salon that she runs. But our friendship really took off in coffee shops. Once a month we met — and would still, if it weren’t for Covid — to discuss our projects, share writing advice and cheer each other on. Kathleen was working on a collective biography about women in male-oriented jobs in the mid-twentieth century, when prejudice and gender discrimination were the order of the day. She told me she was struggling with certain aspects of it, such as whether or not to insert … chop! chop! read more!
DREADFUL SORRY: Essays on an American Nostalgia by Jennifer Niesslein Belt Publishing, 162 pages Reviewed by Beth Kephart I have been reading Jennifer Niesslein’s new collection of essays—Dreadful Sorry: Essays on an American Nostalgia—on a suddenly warm February afternoon. Outside on the deck I sit, the white stones of a fire pit glowing by my feet, the neighborhood kids riding their remarkably loud vehicles up and down and up and down the nearest driveway. Somewhere in Russia, Vladimir Putin is addressing his people with a long list of grievances. He is stamping his figurative foot, wishing for a yester-year, a yester-century, even. And because Putin wants what so long ago was, there are nearly 200,000 troops massed on the Ukrainian border. Putin’s nostalgia is maniacal. A pretext for death, destruction, war. Putin’s nostalgia is a bullying. It’s what he wants, and how he wants it, and the fact that he … chop! chop! read more!
THE TENDEREST OF STRINGS by Steven Schwartz Regal House Publishing, 260 pages reviewed by Ellen Prentiss Campbell Steven Schwartz’s new novel The Tenderest of Strings is the story of a marriage and a family in trouble, an exploration of how family ties constrain and sustain, stretch and snap. Reuben and Ardith Rosenfeld and sons Harry and Jamie are recent transplants to Welden, Colorado. They moved from Chicago, “looking for a small-town cure and a fresh start” to Reuben’s professional struggles, Harry’s emotional and social problems, Jamie’s asthma, and increasing distance in the marriage. But rather than providing a geographic cure, the move to this small town exacerbates the Rosenfelds’ problems. There’s no synagogue. Their Victorian house is a money pit, and so is the financially strapped local paper where Reuben is editor in chief. Jamie’s asthma is worse. Harry is sullen. Ardith and Reuben haven’t made love in months. There’s … chop! chop! read more!
SINGING LESSONS FOR THE STYLISH CANARY by Laura Stanfill Lanternfish Press, 352 pages An appreciation by Beth Kephart On Sale: April 19, 2022 Picture a serinette: Music in a box. Notes arranged as pins. Crank it, and here it comes: the auditory sensation of someone whistling, maybe, or the chirp of cheerful birds. Now place that serinette into a quiet, magical village—an imaginary French town called Mireville, where women work lace and men craft these intricate music boxes and the sun shines ever so persistently, thanks to an incident some time ago, when a baby stopped crying and the clouds—well, they parted. A boy named Henri lives in the town of Mireville. His father, Georges, is the master serinette maker; serinettes are the family affair. Georges is also the long-ago baby who stopped crying, otherwise known as The Sun-Bringer. He is, additionally, not the very best father in the world, … chop! chop! read more!
COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS: On Lewis Hyde’s Advice for Creativity, and How I Became an Artist in the Modern World A Craft Essay by Geoff Watkinson During the fall of my senior year of college, I took my first creative writing class and began to think that I might want to be a writer. I was a history major, read hungrily, and chose electives like Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Film, Modern Speculative Fiction. I remember thinking that writers (and artists in general) were born. There was a mystical quality to Albert Camus, whose books I’d started reading at age sixteen and Jim Morrison, whose poster hung on my wall and records spun on my turntable. I wondered if I might have that quality, too. I idolized the artists that were altering my worldview one book and one album at a time but struggled with how I, too, could be an artist. … chop! chop! read more!
THE NICK OF TIME by Rosmarie Waldrop New Directions, 160 pages reviewed by Candela Rivero The week before reading Nick of Time by Rosmarie Waldrop, an American poet, translator, and editor, I had a conversation with one of my best friends as we drove back from the mall. “Do you believe in parallel universes?” I asked her. It has been a burning question in the back of my mind –– like a twinkling star threatening to become stardust. “Well, that depends,” she answered. “The only thing between us and that other universe is choices– and time.” A week later, as I delved into Waldrop’s world, I felt understood. My uncertainties about the universe echoed her own philosophical questions. Nick of Time is structured in ten chapters, some composed of individual poems and others like “Velocity but No Location” being a chapter-long poem. The last chapter, “Rehearsing the Symptoms,” includes eleven … chop! chop! read more!
REGENERATION by Brenda Taulbee I want to put my head down …………………….and sleep like I used to know …………………….………..how to sleep. …………………….I want my brain to be less like a rained out game …………………….of hopscotch, the lines all running. I never want to forget how the axolotl grows back its limbs. …………………….…………………….…………………….And the starfish. And the lizard. …………………….…………………….…………………….Snakes and their skin. …………………….………..I want to write a poem about …………………….a time I was brave and have you believe me. I want my mother to call me without my mother knowing …………………….…………………….…………..I want …………………….…………………….…………..her to call me. …………………….……………………I want to say I’m sorry and not sound condescending. …………………….…………………….…………..Same for I love you. …………………….…………………….……………………………………….Same for please stay. I never want to do what the pot does ……..……..……..to the lobster. The scream ……..……..……..……..……..……..…….. ……..……..of all that red. …………………….……………………I want you to read me without spoiling the ending. …………………….……………………………………..……..I want an … chop! chop! read more!
CLEANING HOUSE by Andrea Lynn Koohi “Right there,” I say, pointing to the spider on the wall before leaving the kitchen. I’d rather not kill things, so I make my husband do it. My only complaint is that he doesn’t kill faster. He has this habit of pausing an inch over the target, then moving in slowly with a gentle scoop and a delicate squeeze. I never understood why he prolongs the trauma. He says I shouldn’t criticize unless I want to do it myself. But today I leave the room for the moment of death. I sit on the sofa and scroll through my newsfeed while I wait for the deed to be done. It’s been reminding me too much of my own mortality. How easy it is to kill and be killed. Scroll. Plus, there’s that mouse still lounging in the attic, nestling undisturbed in the insulation. Jake … chop! chop! read more!
SHOW TUNES by Julie Benesh My ex- husband texting quotations, marked: “I know all about your standards…” Because July: ………….Music Man. last month was June’s ………….Carousel bustin’ out all over. (If I… ) Next month: ………….State Fair (Iowa, again, my home state). “…Irish imagination…” I know he is drinking red “…Iowa stubbornness…” wine “…library full of books…” for his heart. September, December ………….Fantasticks. May, always ………….Camelot Last line, un- punctuated: Don’t you ever think about being …? almost like being: it’s always Brigadoon Groundhog Day. A graduate of Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers, Julie Benesh is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant, and her writing can be found in Bestial Noise: A Tin House Fiction Reader, Tin House Magazine (print), Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Gulf Stream, Hobart, New World Writing, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and many other places. Read more at juliebenesh.com. … chop! chop! read more!
REFLECTIONS by Virginia Petrucci April 2012 I do one bump right before I pee and then another after I’ve washed my hands. I suck the lingering white crumbs off the tip of my apartment key like a rapacious baby. I was anticipating this for the entire bus ride across town. I look at myself in the mirror, and the horror and humor hit me at once: Ma’am, this is a Noah’s Bagels. It is eleven in the morning, and my expensive therapist awaits down the street. He knows about my brain, but the rest is out of his clinical reach. I leave Noah’s Bagels without buying anything. I light up a cigarette and decide that today is the day I tell my therapist about me and the mirrors I inhabit. The cocaine might be relevant, too. March 2012 “Every one of us has had a mirror moment. We take our … chop! chop! read more!
PUSHING AWAY THE SCUM by Benedicte Grima I have no recollection of being bathed before the age of five. Doubtless, long forgotten nannies took charge of that. But growing up in an old farmhouse with a French mother and an unreliable well water supply, I knew nothing of showers until I went away to school at age eleven. In the meantime, my younger sister and I bathed together in the upstairs tub on our own, squealing, fighting, and splashing. It was a Saturday ritual, before we dressed for Sunday mass. Our mother washed our hair separately in the kitchen sink, as we stood leaning over, submitting our heads to her massaging fingers. If we sullied ourselves between baths or just smelled bad, my mother would discreetly advise us, “Vas te laver le poum!” I have not managed to find poum in any French dictionary, although in Creole French it may … chop! chop! read more!