To The Bone is a book about the particular sort of remembering that accompanies losing a parent to Alzheimer’s. The poet’s mother is brought tenuously, haltingly, on the page. A sense of slippage is accomplished through layering, repetitions, and fluctuating temporality to reveal how a disease of memory appears to the mind struggling to find shore in presence.chop! chop! read more!
It’s a damp, drizzly November night—Thanksgiving—and I can’t help but think of Melville’s famous orphan, who sets out from this insular city of the Manhattoes, goes to sea with branded Ahab, and eats hardtack with his shipmates aboard the doomed Pequod. ■ Blinky grew up on a cattle ranch in Miami. As a boy, he spent time in foster homes, on the street. He tells me about his father—then asks me to leave him out of it. Saw his mother for the first time when he was 12 or 13, around the time he started smoking crack. Saw her again—and for the last time—a few years later.chop! chop! read more!
Tables need at least three legs to stand; guitar strings only ring when taut around two points. Minor Detail, Adania Shibli’s third novel, takes its title as a challenge: how much can hinge upon one moment? How can a single moment of pain bridge the past to the present?chop! chop! read more!
The thing I believe writers (and perhaps also readers) need to know about the big warm house is that it’s built on a foundation of contradiction. Everyone who lives inside must crave solitude but instead find themselves bumping up against furniture, beds, each other, themselves. They must be forced into intimacy and driven apart by failing to understand one another. The fictional house must always be full of people but also profoundly lonely. The house must represent safety but also danger—a waystation between two worlds, though never exposing in which direction lies folly and which salvation. Most importantly, the inhabitants of the story house must be torn between desperately wanting to get away, and wanting never to leave.chop! chop! read more!
THE PROPULSIVE PICTURE Image as an Engine in Poetry Taught by Cleaver Poetry Editor Claire Oleson 5 weeks July 11-August 15 SOLD OUT Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] In this course, we will explore how images can serve as the engine in a poem: driving the language as a plot might in a story or novel. We will work primarily on generating new work, encouraging participants to push their boundaries and hone their voice to create memorable and authentic pieces. The workshop model will facilitate constructive responses from both peers and the instructor. Particular attention will be placed on the visual life of the poetry we read and write. We will read a few selections of poetry weekly that demonstrate the potential of images as communicative engines. The readings will be brief but rich, with the intent of inviting multiple re-readings, close readings, note-taking and flexibility for everyone’s lives and … chop! chop! read more!
TELLING TRUE STORIES A Workshop in Creative Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Editor Sydney Tammarine 5 weeks October 19–November 20 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Writer Dinty W. Moore says that creative nonfiction equals curiosity plus truth. CNF comes in a variety of forms: from expansive memoir to intimate personal essay to the lightbulb “eureka!” of flash. But in any form, the CNF writer is a guiding voice in the dark: a storyteller seeking truth, thinking alongside the reader toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. In this class, we’ll practice the essay in its most dynamic form: a verb that means “to test; to practice; to taste; to try to do, accomplish, or make (anything difficult).” Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example essays and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor feedback. This workshop has weekly … chop! chop! read more!
THE ART OF THE SCENE A Workshop in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Taught by Lisa Borders 5 weeks August 2 – September 4 introductory Zoom meeting at 2 pm ET on Sun Aug 2 SOLD OUT $200 early bird / $225 regular Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] The writer Sandra Scofield describes a “pulse”—that spark that makes the story come alive— as a vital element to all scenes. This pulse is especially crucial for opening scenes, as many agents and editors report that if they are not hooked on a manuscript within the first five pages, they will not read on. But what is a “pulse,” and how can a writer ensure that each scene—not just the opening— has one? How can we write in such a way that our characters come to life, that a scene breathes emotion and urgency, while moving the plot forward and keeping tension taut? … chop! chop! read more!
Jenn Shapland’s hybridized memoir and biography straddles what its seemingly-impossible title suggests: an ability to write about oneself by writing about someone else. Far from taking on a myopic or narcissistic project, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is eager to talk about the self for the sake of empathy, to revive written-off lives, to question presumed heterosexualities, and to make a bodily connection with now-irrecoverable marginalized bodies.chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY, Part 1 of Two A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing open to all levels and genres Parts 1 and 2 may be repeated or taken out of order taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park 5 weeks Sept 19, 26, Oct 3, 10, 17. 5 Zoom classes, Saturdays 2-4 pm Eastern Time $200 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] [This session is sold out. Consider Session II, starting Nov 7. Sessions can be repeated and can be taken out of sequence.] EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY is a five-week online generative writing course for writers of all levels and genres. In these days of uncertainty and rapid change, it’s difficult to know what to hang onto. And social distancing leaves us struggling to maintain our mental wellness during this undetermined period of isolation. But what if we can use this time to develop a skill; start a new project; follow a passion? What if … chop! chop! read more!
Dispatches from inner and outer space…chop! chop! read more!
TELLING TRUE STORIES A Workshop in Creative Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Editor Sydney Tammarine 5 weeks July 27 – August 28 [sold out] Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Writer Dinty W. Moore says that creative nonfiction equals curiosity plus truth. CNF comes in a variety of forms: from expansive memoir to intimate personal essay to the lightbulb “eureka!” of flash. But in any form, the CNF writer is a guiding voice in the dark: a storyteller seeking truth, thinking alongside the reader toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. In this class, we’ll practice the essay in its most dynamic form: a verb that means “to test; to practice; to taste; to try to do, accomplish, or make (anything difficult).” Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example essays and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor feedback. This … chop! chop! read more!
THE ART OF FLASH A Workshop in Fiction and Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Flash Editor Kathryn Kulpa Both sessions of Kathryn Kulpa’s The Art of Flash are sold out—new classes by Kathryn will be announced shortly! Session 2: 5 weeks June 20 — July 25, 2020 $125 early bird / $150 regular Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] [sold out] Session 1: 5 weeks May 9 — June 6, 2020 $125 early bird / $150 regular Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] [sold out] Flash is a genre defined by brevity: vivid emotions and images compressed into a compact form. We most often see flash fiction, but flash can also encompass prose poetry, micro memoir, lyric essays, and hybrid works. In this class, we will take a close look at different styles and forms of flash fiction, as well as flash nonfiction, hybrid, and experimental works. Each week, we will read and … chop! chop! read more!
During the day and a half that I ravenously read Ramiza Shamoun Koya’s debut novel, The Royal Abduls, I asked myself these questions. I leaned into the lives of Koya’s magnificently drawn characters, into the nest of troubles they inadvertently twigged together, into the love they did not know how to express. Or forgot to express. Or ran out of time to express.chop! chop! read more!
First, let me apologize to you for not having posted in so long. What with one thing and another, my alter ego in the real word became preoccupied. But the pandemic has vastly increased her free time: once she has decontaminated the day’s deliveries, Zoomed for an hour or two, walked the dog, done a little reading and writing, sent off a few irate messages to our elected (who knows how, as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say) officials, and beaten back despair and other existential stuff with carbs and Netflix, there’s really nothing left to do except cleaning and giving advice. So here I am; and, happily, my re-emergence has coincided with a flurry of novel-coronavirus questions. Ahem!
—Love, Junechop! chop! read more!
Claire Oleson’s chapbook, Things From the Creek Bed We Could Have Been, is the winner of the Newfound 2019 Prose Prize, awarded annually to a chapbook-length work of exceptional fiction or nonfiction that explores how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding.
In this following interview by Andrea Caswell, Claire discusses the work, and how making art can reshape our understanding of what we see in the world.chop! chop! read more!
Don’t miss Emily Steinberg’s take on new trends for Spring 2020 face masks!
The Wall Streeter, tailored and minimal, this conical face covering oozes quiet authority. Exemplary for Zoom board meetings and other social-distancing-approved company functions.
The Boho, groovy and iconoclastic. Puts your free spirit front and center. Totes rad for riding the waves, catching the rays in Malibu, or wine tasting in Petaluma.
The Prep, flawless on the links, at the club, or yachting off Nantucket, with easy straw access for a steady supply of gin and tonics…chop! chop! read more!
In a short piece of writing on “London Under Siege,” written during World War II, Virginia Woolf wrote that “everybody is feeling the same thing: therefore no one is feeling anything in particular. The individual is merged in the mob.” Reading these words now, as we live through a different collective social crisis, I am reminded of the significance of individual intellectual and emotional life as a key form of sustenance and even political action.chop! chop! read more!
On a recent Sunday under quarantine, my spouse Susan Sheu and I donned costume wigs for our Zoom meeting. Twelve volunteers from the Los Angeles area sat at our respective kitchen tables, couches, and easy chairs and wrote postcards for California 38th District assembly member Christy Smith, who is running for Congress via a special election on May 12. Susan came up with the concept “wigging out for Democracy”; she thought that wearing wigs would be a festive and interesting way to make the Zoom meeting less tedious. It worked well: despite the quarantine and general malaise, wearing the wigs did add levity and made the afternoon go by faster.
Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Tufts University, believes that Zoom meetings like this are critical for progressives. In his new book, Politics is for Power, he contrasts volunteer activity with posting rants on Facebook or watching the news, which he brands “hobbyism”. For decades, organizers from Saul Alinsky, infamous ‘radical’ and author of the classic Rules for Radicals, and Harvard Professor Marshall Ganz, the intellectual godfather of Obama For America, have pondered how to get liberals off their couches (and off social media) to take meaningful action.chop! chop! read more!
RING THE BELLS A Visual Narrative by Emily Steinberg Emily Steinberg is an artist, writer, and educator whose work has been shown across the United States and Europe. She has been named the first Artist in Residence at Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia, where she works with medical students to translate their medical school experiences into words and images. Her visual narratives have been regularly published in Cleaver Magazine where she has recently taken on the role of Visual Narrative Editor. Her memoir, Graphic Therapy, was published serially in Smith Magazine and her short comic “Blogging Towards Oblivion,” was included in The Moment (HarperCollins). She is a Lecturer in Fine Art at Penn State University. Steinberg earned her MFA. and BFA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. To submit graphic narratives for consideration in Cleaver, contact Emily at [email protected]chop! chop! read more!
SIX STAGES OF GRIEF
I. you are going to a Danish pastry down on Jung-gu road to sell your soul to the devil itself no one’s seen you will clutch your handbag once filled with perfumes and lotions full of cards of queens kings you do not recognize how upset you would be when the royalties can not accept your only gift as it withered and is wearing the helm of Hades that you wish existedchop! chop! read more!
Adrienne lay on the floor of her apartment, thinking that her life had become what she wanted it to be, when her phone began to ring. Sophia sat next to her, cross-legged, with a glass of wine, flipping flashcards and nodding when Adrienne said the right answer. Grassy late-April air drifted through the open window and the sound of crickets came to a swell outside. Neither Adrienne nor Sophia reached for the phone, letting the sound of fluttering bells continue.chop! chop! read more!
I have a mother who once said car, lake,
who said, I couldn’t stand holding
your sticky hands any longer,
who said, I found a lake deep enough.
After we order the chicken for two, I run a theory by my friend Lois: certain professions are more conducive to being a good spouse than others. I’m not referring to practical considerations here, like the wear and tear a surgeon’s hours (both long and unpredictable) will inflict on her marriage. Rather, the same qualities that make people good at certain jobs make them decent spouses. “Architects, for instance,” I say, “like me. We need to be meticulous, we need imagination and long-range vision. Looking at a building pared to drywall and studs, we picture the pristine home it will become. We gravitate to the fixer-upper.”chop! chop! read more!
UMBRELLAS COULD HAVE BRAINS Paintings by Serge Lecomte The real world for me is a mix of images where two realities or more cross. Take two known objects and connect them in some other way. As a teen I saw the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and was taken by the surreal world he envisioned. The world was never the same for me after that. Images were no longer meant to stagnate in their inert state. Rocks weren’t simply rocks. They could become loaves of bread. And fish could turn into young maidens. Leaves on a tree could turn into birds and vice versa. And umbrellas could have brains. After all, they have to open and close. Words have always inspired images to me. I began my career as a poet and novelist. Then one day, I quit writing because I thought painting would be a better way of expressing ideas. … chop! chop! read more!
The fiery fist above slowly loses its hold / and the musky lungs of autumn grow dry. At last, fall staggers and drops upon the rattling grass / breaking the arched back of summer…chop! chop! read more!
When I come home from school, Papa is pruning the roses. His back hunched, an oval of sweat creasing his white shirt that la Señora Francisca had pressed this morning. He isn’t wearing the gardening gloves that Mama bought him because he insists that it doesn’t let him talk to the roses. They can only hear him through his skin and the rough canvas of the gloves offends their delicate temperament.
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He knew how it would be—should have.Forgetting the keys on the table, / doors locked, window’s open, returning / on a loop of memories / to finding and un-find / the forgotten un-begotten.chop! chop! read more!
the first step is to love someone who will let you touch their hair. this is very important and cannot be avoided. next, to find them one day in their kitchen, shoulders so tense you think of cliffsides taut with stone—so you take them by the hand, pull them to their living room and sit them on the floor in front of their couch.chop! chop! read more!
T NIGHT THE WOMAN’S DOORBELL RINGS. IN HER DOORWAY, THE MAN HOLDS HIS DOG IN HIS ARMS.
Is that a dead dog, she says, moving so the man can puncture her otherwise quiet house.chop! chop! read more!
The first of my brother’s birthdays that he wasn’t there for was three months and two days after he passed. He would have been twenty-two on the 22nd day of June, but he wasn’t. We let twenty-two lanterns go over Shanksville school.chop! chop! read more!
The infection needs ten hours at most to take your life, the doctors tell you. Nothing will buy you more time: not pills, not potions, not prayers, not even amputation. The fungus forms a second body under your skin, shadowing your veins, wrapping around your bones. Its spongy mass smells like roses, if you slice a bit free of the host and hold it up to your nose.chop! chop! read more!
Even though she sometimes wanders off on her own, which is strictly forbidden, of course, especially now that she is pregnant and about to pop, the Good Samaritans need people like Jillian. Well, they need all the help they can get, but especially from people, like Jillian—those have a second sense about where they can find the nearly-dying-from-thirst even if they are hiding.chop! chop! read more!
The children make a ball the size of a cantaloupe out of looseleaf paper and book tape. They throw it across the classroom, not listening to my adult cries of “Stop it!” All I want is quiet. These children don’t know how to behave. They are boisterous and loud, and I wonder what their parents would do if they were left alone with them for five minutes. I don’t even want to be here with these children. I am substituting, a thing I do when I am only left with ramen and frozen corn in my larder. Substituting is the emergency brake of my life, the ripcord on the parachute. It keeps me from crashing harder, falling farther than I otherwise would.chop! chop! read more!
“This closet can hold many dead bodies. At least fifty.”
That was the first thing I told my roommate when I first met her.
The closets in our bedrooms really are huge. They are wide. They are tall. You could stack corpses up in there like sacks of rice. One on top of the other, rows of stacks. Many tall stacks. Not moving, not breathing.chop! chop! read more!
You cannot cross train tracks without holding your breath, nor can you drive over a bridge without a lungful of air. Your children witness your fears, think it’s a game, and they, too, hold their breath going over tracks or bridges. You would like to tell them it’s not a game, like Duck Duck Goose or Red Rover, but you decide that the universe will drop its own bomb of terror on them, and what possible good would come of your own unburdening?chop! chop! read more!
Today has dawned a nude beginning. The male truck idles
at the curfew and the bruisepaper waits on the porch. Already
children climb the pill to their elementary scheme. Today
has dreamed a new pretending. I rub my sighs and put coffins
on to brew.
It starts with a ring you buy at an antique shop in your neighborhood which you hadn’t noticed before—a dusty little place of creaky floorboards and a name to match: Gaslight and Shadows.chop! chop! read more!
Shouldn’t it let me buy everything
and pay with negative interest?
All those swirling golden stars
teeming, unbalanced in the sky
Since I was Vincent in a past life
I told the collector on the phone
A measured man. Had he dealt
with my unlikely work before?
There are five Hinnefeld stories, four of them previously published in literary journals, in The Beauty of Their Youth, a release from the Wolfson Press American Storytellers series. One is about the legacy of a “pool of desire.” One is about the accessorizing of a family crime. One is about the tragedy of idle desires, another about an artist and his elastic resume, and another about a mother and daughter on a trip abroad and the reverb of the personal past. The stories take us to Bucks County, PA, inside the pages of a Carson McCullers book, toward Everglades gators and gun shows, through the annals of art, across parts of Greece and Rome—a tour of landscape and psyche that is seamless, self-assured, quietly inventive. Hinnefeld doesn’t break her own spells. She doesn’t remind you that she’s writing.chop! chop! read more!
In his new heartbreaking and affirming book of poems, his seventh, Gregory Djanikian writes past complexity toward the elemental and the binding. He unites the “beautiful and the raw,” plays no tricks, displays no tics, exploits nothing but the moment and the thought that accompanies it. He finds the reader wherever the reader is, then webs her into his space and time, a place where a hand run along the back of a cat returns “the animality of my own skin/the trees in slanting light,/ the blue sky breathing its blue/down to the greening fields.” (“What Is a Cat But a Voice Among All the Other Voices”) In Djanikian’s space and time, the end may be near, it may be hastening toward us, but it is still, as yet, a yonder.chop! chop! read more!
HOW TO BUILD A HEART by Maria Padian Algonquin Young Readers, 339 pages reviewed by Kristie Gadson Purchase this book to benefit Cleaver Isabella Crawford doesn’t keep secrets, she guards them. Protects them: People love to talk about themselves, and if you keep directing the conversation and questions back to them, they leave the interaction with the impression you’re the absolute best. Even though you haven’t told them a damn thing. I’m crazy good at this game. And I’ve had years of practice. For Izzy, a failure to safeguard a secret means the life she meticulously crafted for herself is in jeopardy. She’d prefer not to keep most of her life hidden away; but she also knows that the less you share about yourself, the less you get hurt. In her new novel How to Build a Heart, Maria Padian brings us into Izzy’s world with one of her biggest secrets: … chop! chop! read more!
Who is the Italian novelist we call Elena Ferrante? Since her first novel’s publication in 1992, she—with the help of her publishers—has carefully maintained the real author’s anonymity. Many readers have treated this guarded privacy as a playful challenge, making theories and guesses, particularly in recent years as Ferrante has become increasingly celebrated. The Italian philologist Marco Santagata, after analyzing her oeuvre, suggested she might be the writer Marcella Marmo (Marmo and her publisher denied this). More controversially, the journalist Claudio Gatti dug up financial records to claim that Anita Raja is the author behind Ferrante—others suggest it may be Raja’s husband. One can imagine the confirmation of one of these claims could incite a variety of reactions in Ferrante’s readership, but there’s a more fundamental question behind that of the author’s identity: why do people want to know?chop! chop! read more!
OUTSIDE MYSELF by Kristen Witucki Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 232 pages reviewed by Donna W. Hill Purchase this book to benefit Cleaver Superbly written, Outside Myself by Kristen Witucki gets to the heart of the human experience. Blended and broken families struggle with issues that tear parents and children apart. Trying to do their best, they are fettered by incomplete and often false information. At the center of it all, two very different blind characters, determined to create their own place in the world, grapple with the negativity in their families, communities and themselves. Outside Myself covers roughly fifteen months from May 1994 to August 1995. It is told by two narrators; Tallie, a young and precocious blind girl, and Benjamin, a withdrawn grandfather who works at a library for the blind. They represent different age groups, genders, races, belief systems and causes of blindness, growing up in different eras with different … chop! chop! read more!
Herein lies the problem: being a writer who surfs, a surfer who writes. When there is a wave to be ridden, everything else in life—dogs, loved ones, deadlines and writing—gets put on hold. To make matters worse, once you’re completely and totally stoked from the waves, writing a coherent thought, especially one that attempts to describe the sublime experience of riding waves, becomes virtually impossible.chop! chop! read more!
SKETCHES OF THE CRIMINAL WORLD: FURTHER KOLYMA STORIES by Varlam Shalamov translated by Donald Rayfield New York Review Books, 576 pages reviewed by Dylan Cook Purchase this book to benefit Cleaver A man gets ready to murder his boss with a pickaxe. A woman is grateful that her newborn twins don’t survive. A doctor refuses to treat new patients, fearing that someone has been sent to kill him. Characters like these populate Varlam Shalamov’s criminal world, the depraved underbelly of society born and bred in the Soviet prison system. Many of the criminal world’s citizens were locked up under vague pretenses of “counterrevolutionary activity,” so why should they uphold the laws that failed them in the first place? Why not murder and steal before your neighbor beats you to it? Morals, after a while, can become relative. Life in prison may get easier without a domineering boss, cheaper without children … chop! chop! read more!
YEAR BY YEAR: Poems by Lynne Sachs Tender Buttons Press, 64 pages reviewed by Sharon Harrigan Purchase this book to benefit Cleaver When Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she asked herself one simple question: How have the private, most intimate moments of her life been affected by the public world beyond? The poems she wrote in response turned into this book. One poem for each year. Sachs is a well-known experimental filmmaker. Year by Year is her first book of poetry, and in many ways it can be appreciated as the logical extension of her career as a visual storyteller. She describes her films as combining “memoir with experimental, documentary, and fictional modes.” Such a description might also be applied to her poems. Year by Year dips into memoir when it recounts events in her personal life. The glimpses into current events have a documentary feel. When Sachs describes moments she … chop! chop! read more!
I saw it happen before I heard it. My phone dropped from my grip, pulling my earbuds out and to the ground with it. A cellist played in my head. My breath hot, fogging and unfogging my glasses. I licked my chapped lips before doubling over to retch onto my rubber boots.chop! chop! read more!
WELCOME TO MY GALLERY OF GENUINE LOOK-ALIKES by Anne McGouran 1 That grating drone is the wind off Nottawasaga Bay whipping along Main Street. The Freshii outlet just duct-taped their front window and Happy Hooka Bait & Tackle closed one hour early. As I struggle to stay vertical, a Gandalf lookalike falls into step beside me. We walk abreast for several blocks and I stare at his perfectly shaped cigarette ash. He turns into the Molly Bloom Pub where he’ll trot out his magic-cigarette-ash bar trick for all the old vets and rooming house drifters. In the Arboretum, a man who sleeps rough near the meditative labyrinth is examining the Trembling Aspen’s memorial plaque. Arms around its pale white trunk, he’s a dead ringer for the epic-bearded cigarette ash guy. Homeless people make me nervous, sad and guilty but I try to make conversation. “Hey man, did you know that … chop! chop! read more!
I’ve seen two angels and both were named Reginald.
The spirits appeared as a consequence of my life’s work: dentistry. I came by the profession naturally, as my father was a blacksmith in a small Missouri town. Before heading west, people needed help with their teeth as much as they needed wagon axles. And Pa was no butcher. As a child, time and time again, I witnessed his God’s gift with pliers.
“Nice ‘n slick,” he’d mutter from the side of his mouth, one hand gripping a customer’s jaw, his other hand wielding the steel tool. I’d have both palms on the customer’s sweaty forehead, pinning the head back against the high-backed chair. Pa’s knuckles would whiten and I’d close my eyes tight. Seconds later, I’d hear the pebbly sound of a tooth hitting the concrete floor, and the rattle of the pliers landing on the workbench. I’d tilt the head to let the blood stream down the chin.chop! chop! read more!