Current Issue

Spring Quarterly – (Spring 2016 / 16.4)

See a Penny by Adam Kluger

See a Penny by Adam Kluger

Artist, Adam Kluger, a NYC born artist & writer, has had artwork and short stories published in such literary-arts magazines as Story Shack, Outsider, Meat for Tea, Literally Stories, Jotters United, Turk’s Head Review, Empty Sink, Smokebox, Winamop, Spelk, No Extra Words, Former People, Flash Frontier, Third Wednesday, Zombie Logic, Head Stuff, and Literary Juice.

***

Karla Linn Merrifield

With the Dark Touch of Global Warming
You Are Sentencing the Trees of Florida

I want to know exactly which tree.
Fungus-ridden sweet bay?
Beetle-riddled spruce? The ash borers’
hoards of ash-host trees? The Earth’s
warming Ocala wildfire trees? Chain-
sawn Osceola trees? Young, soft Pinus
elliotti
pulp-to-be trees? Old-growth Pinus
palustrus
trees reduce to clear-cut stumps?

Recite for me every genus & species
of extinction. Torreya taxifolia,
the blighted Apalachicolan yew?
Be explicit about mangrove trees of spiders,
and lysiloma trees of snails swallowed
whole in their forests as the peninsula
falls below rising oceans of salt.
Cypress, cedar, oak, palm, myrtle—
all the green tree people
in these blue latitudes drown,
sentenced to burial at sea.
Your darkness touches bottom.

Karla Linn Merrifield has ten books to her credit, the newest of which are Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Mercury Heartlink) and Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems (FootHills Publishing). She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.

~

Katharine Crawford Robey

Cardinal Coat

Blocking Fleur’s path to Yost’s Dress Shop were a hundred rifles. Pale sunlight glinted off fixed bayonets, sharp as knives. It was eerily still.

She advanced to within ten yards of the Guardsmen and stopped, shivering in her thin denim jacket. Suddenly one of the Guards, a freckle-faced boy about her own age, butted his helmeted head into the shoulder of the boy next to him like a billy goat. In the gap that his body made, Fleur saw the red coat she needed, wanted. It still hung in the shop window. Next to it was a sign that read, “Sale Ends Today.” She fingered the wallet in her back pocket.

The coat was orange-red like her favorite bird, the cardinal. It even had a hood, like a cardinal’s crest. In it she’d be warm as that bird inside his feathers. She’d just seen one, perched deep and safe inside a holly bush outside her dorm. What’s more, she in the coat would cheer her boyfriend, Kirk. Poor Kirk, starving himself to avoid the draft. Last weigh-in it had worked.

The freckle-faced Guard righted himself. Fleur took four careful steps closer and looked directly into his teasing blue eyes. (He and the others were on the sidewalk, she on the icy street. They towered over her.)

She made herself speak. “I need to shop.”

He shrugged, gave her a big smile, stepped back, and waved her through. It was that easy.

Inside the chilly shop, a clerk in high heels leaned against the counter, reading the headline: VIETNAM CASUALTIES MOUNT.

The clerk looked up. Her eyes bored into the peace emblem Fleur had embroidered onto the chest pocket of her jacket. She quickly covered it with her mitten- she’d never thrown a brick or fire bombed the old Red Gym. She was at the UW to learn about birds- and boys.

“I’d like to try on that coat, please.”

Heatless sunlight flooded the clerk’s path as she clicked over the floor, took the coat off the mannequin, and thrust it at Fleur. “Hurry up. I want to close.”

She tore off her jacket and let it drop to the floor. The cardinal garment melded with her body. For the first time all winter she stopped shivering. Fleur checked her reflection in the shop window. The coat fit. Pivoting she felt the sweep of its hemline. It would be dusk, downy snowflakes would be falling, she would fly down Bascomb Hill on Kirk’s arm. He would be in his fringed suede jacket and laugh and say again he was so tall he could smell the sea.

Wind rattled the glass, pushed clouds over the sun. Something red fluttered across the Square. She squinted. It was a red flag with a gold star, held high. She recognized it immediately as the North Vietnamese flag. Her roommate had hung one in the window of their dorm room.

Crossing the square, passing the Capitol, advancing through the trees, was it possible, fifty student demonstrators.

“Pay and leave. Now!” barked the clerk.

Fleur threw all the cash she had onto the counter and dashed outside. The wind was biting cold. She buttoned herself into the coat with trembling fingers, dared tap the freckle-faced Guard on the shoulder of his drab uniform.

“Let me through.”

He jumped and turned halfway around.

“WE DON’T WANT NO FUCKING WAR!”

The chant was loud, angry.

The boy turned his rigid body sideways. She saw his mouth in a grim line.

Fleur burst onto the icy street just yards away from the on-coming protestors. There were even more students now, as if some bird had scratched apart an ant hill.

She began to tremble, her feet wouldn’t move. The mob drew nearer and fanned out opposite the Guard. She made out a boy in her zoology class, the one growing a mustache. He bent down in front of her, picked up a clod of icy snow thrown off by a tire, and hurled it in her direction. She ducked. A window shattered behind her.

“HO HO HO CHI MINH.”

Fleur put up her hood and on weak legs, ran toward the advancing students. If only she could make it to State Street. She was meeting Kirk there for tea. She ricocheted this way and that through the crowd, bouncing off bodies. Someone raised a brick, another a knife. Her breath came fast, her knees nearly gave way.

A siren. A black and white squad car squealed to a stop in her path. She stopped, chest heaving, started around back of it.

BANG! A whirling bottle hit the car and it burst into flames.

Wind fanned the fire. Heat. The smell of singed wool on her hood. Police swinging billy clubs appeared. In a blur, she saw blood spurt out of the moustached boy’s hair. Her body shook inside the coat and she huddled just out of the path of the flames like a frightened bird below a hawk’s eyes.

Smoke billowed up, rippled over her like a storm cloud. Her eyes stung, tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn’t see.

“Remember Kent State!” someone shouted.

A sharp blow to the top of her hood. Fleur weaved, began to fall in slow, fluffy motion. Ah, the most beautiful tinsel snowflakes floated before her eyes. The hard ground jolted her awake. Through the whirling smoke she saw the red flag again. She grabbed the arm of the boy holding it, pulled herself to her feet.

On the other side of the squad car, was that tall Kirk waving to her? She fumbled with the buttons of her overcoat, coughing, trembling dropped out of it. Spreading the cardinal coat above her head, she let wind soar under it, bearing her along and away.

Katharine Robey has lived in Atlanta, GA, for 38 years but spends every summer in NW Michigan. She has two grown children, two young grandchildren, one husband of 38 years, and one red standard poodle named Willa Cather Robey. Her stories have appeared in many online and print journals.

~

Jay Sizemore

Grave robbing a life

You’re not my father,
see how your skin sags
like old cheesecloth
wrapped around bones?

Sure, half your chromosomes,
but so what? I taught myself
how to gray,
you never even played a guitar.

All I remember are piles
of dented Old Milwaukee,
your cat-pissed carpet,
cigarettes crawling from ashtrays.

My whole life I’ve been afraid
of turning into you,
of abandoning the son
I wouldn’t let myself have,

a conversation
held thirty years too late
between a shovel
and the ground.

Jay Sizemore doesn’t win awards. Founder of Crow Hollow Books, he writes poems and stories and scribbles his name a lot onto electronic pads for material possessions. He listens to Ryan Adams and drinks Four Roses. You can find his work online in places if you go looking, including his chapbook Confessions of a Porn Addict, available on Amazon. Find him at http://www.jaysizemore.com.

~

David Atkinson

Hernández de Biedma Owes Me a Weekend

I wish I hadn’t mixed up the assembly instructions for my IKEA bookshelf with the cooking steps on that box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It blew my whole Sunday, and now I have to keep my books buried in individual spots in the yard like the squirrels. Maybe I’ll be more careful next time, or get my shelves at Walmart instead.

The boiling wasn’t so bad. The shelves got soggy and smelled like old paste, but you have to expect that kind of thing. The trouble really started when I stirred the parts packet in with a quarter cup of milk and a pat of low fat butter. Next thing I knew, I’d joined Hernando de Soto’s 1539 expedition to North America.

What are the odds of that?

I was supposed to be finding him a land route to a package of Chinet, but he wasn’t really buying: “It’s over there. Just take a left.” If it hadn’t been for the as of yet unborn ghost of Ronald Reagan’s midwife and a lucky misplacing of the expedition’s crates of Manifest Destiny, I probably wouldn’t have made it out alive.

Though…if I’d known I was going to end up working as a peanut wrangler for a marmot circus in Civil War era Mexico City, maybe I would have told the Gipper’s helper to hold off. Oh well, live and learn I suppose. At least De Soto never figured out who kept swiping his Zagnut bars whenever he was off pretending to be the sun god yet again.

Luckily, the circus decided to go on the road and, coincidentally enough, one of the planned stops was in modern day Boulder. I simply hopped off at that point (unfortunately resulting in the deaths of seventeen deaf harpists) and took a bus, which worked out well since moments later Neil deGrasse Tyson flattened all the marmots with a meteor as part of an elaborate practical joke to impress Jody Foster. She laughed, but didn’t really go for it, and I already didn’t end up getting home until seven.

An entire Sunday down the drain, and I’ve got to be up early tomorrow to start my new job electroplating hobos for the Mattress King. Hopefully everything goes okay at dinner with the mac and cheese.

It’s the cheesiest.

David S. Atkinson is the author of Not Quite so Stories (forthcoming from “Literary Wanderlust”), The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist), and Bones Buried in the Dirt (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist). His writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Atticus Review, and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.

 

~

Karen Head

Settling Down

We are on a beach in Tarragona, Spain. It’s a Friday afternoon in June. The sun slips in and out of the white clouds. I almost need a sweater. We have changed into our swimsuits here in the open. We could just as well be naked. The wind and sand are blasting our skin. I cannot stop squinting. The water feels like the blue color it is. You bounce to warm yourself, and look giddy in the photo I take. You are giddy. So am I. There is no one to take a photo of us together. I bury my face in the hollow near your left shoulder. In less than an hour we will be forced to pack it in. How can I say this without it being a love poem? Months from now, sand will spill from the totebag’s pocket onto our bedroom floor in Atlanta—the grains settling quickly between the planks.

Karen Head is the author of Sassing (WordTech Press, 2009), My Paris Year (All Nations Press, 2008), and Shadow Boxes (All Nations Press, 2003). Along with three colleagues, she recently published an anthology of occasional verse, On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year (Poetry Atlanta Press, 2014). Her poetry appears in a number of national and international journals and anthologies. Her first digital poetry project, Poetic Rub, was featured at the E-Poetry 2007 festival in Paris. Another digital project was a collaborative exquisite corpse poem created via Twitter while she stood atop the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Antony Gormley’s One and Other Project. She was the winner of the 2011 Oxford International Women’s Festival Poetry Prize. She teaches at Georgia Tech, serves on the Poetry Atlanta Board, and in the summer of 2016 she will become the Editor of the Atlanta Review.

~

Ralph Uttaro

Just Like That

I don’t remember how we ended up together. It was just another off-campus party. It was early December, a sleety rain falling, the windows all open but the living room hot, thick with people. A pony keg sat sweating in a red plastic trash can, the music turned up so high that the floor vibrated. The small house was dingy, grey paint peeling from weathered shingles. I didn’t even know who lived there.

Mandy Richardson was in my Modern American Literature class. She had short hair, dark skin, blazing white teeth. I sat three rows behind her and a little to her right where I could admire her without anyone noticing. Now, suddenly, I was sitting in her lap. Just like that. Her arms were clasped loosely around my waist, a cup of beer sloshing in her hand.

A shirtless guy wearing a sombrero was walking around with a tray full of Jell-O shots. Mandy pinched a wobbly orange cube between her thumb and forefinger and slid it into my mouth, then she took a lime green one for herself. She moved her hands up behind my neck and pulled me closer. Her tongue was hot and sweet and slippery.

Someone was shaking Mandy on the shoulder. It was Ellen Mahan, the girl who always sat beside her in class.

“Man-dee. We need to go,” Ellen said. She had her coat on.

Mandy curled her lips into an exaggerated pout. She paused like she was inviting me to make a move. I froze.

“Man-dee,” Ellen said again.

“Okay, just a sec.”

Mandy’s voice was soft, gauzy. She gave me one long, last, slow kiss, then squirmed out from under me. Just like that.

“See you around?” she said. It sounded like an invitation.

I envied the easy swagger of the hounds who always knew the right thing to say, who never went home alone at the end of the night. I was the type of guy who was short on confidence, the guy that was willing to take no for an answer. I went to the keg and poured another beer.

The headline in the campus daily on Monday read: Co-eds in Fatal Crash. It happened early Sunday morning. A Toyota Corolla in a muddy ditch. Ellen was in the hospital in critical condition. Mandy was dead. Gone. Just like that.

I still think about that last kiss, how Mandy had hesitated right before, how the taste lingered in my mouth. I should have insisted that she stay, but the words didn’t come.

Ralph Uttaro’s work has most recently appeared in Cortland Review, Apeiron Review, and Literary Orphans. His short stories have twice been nominated for the storySouth Million Writers Award. He lives in Rochester, New York with his wife Pamela.

~

Hedy Habra

Or What Did You Expect, An Eternal Status Quo?

Upon Admiring Underwater Sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor

At first sight, one might think of a table set for dinner with Poseidon, decorated with starfish and corals. But these must be the remnants of Tantalus’ feast, eroded by centuries of retelling, and since no one gave it an end, let me tell you what really happened: with time, these fruits were covered with a green fur of algae and moss, starfish nested in their pores, encrusted every interstice.

Gods grew tired of holding a grudge, weary of the elusive offerings that kept alive his unforgivable offense. Can you imagine the inconceivable attempt to have them ingest the flesh of their flesh! One morning, they decided to dissolve in deep blue the memory of every sign of life reminiscent of former dissidence. They didn’t bother to erase footsteps or leftovers, leaving traces for bards to reconstruct the story of those who would dare sit at this same table, transformed into a coral reef.

It’s all left for us to admire and write about! Watch what fills this amphora, jug and agate glass bowls: soft blue-green and purple clouds. These iridescent vessels, no longer bearing pulpous fruits, have become artifacts, what you would now call a ready-made, more beautiful than the sunken Phoenician treasures displayed at the Met.

Hedy Habra is the author of a poetry collection, Tea in Heliopolis, finalist for the 2014 International Book Award and a story collection, Flying Carpets, winner of the 2013 Arab American National Book Award’s Honorable Mention. Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including Connotation Press, Poetic Diversity, Nimrod, Drunken Boat, Diode, Cutthroat, Bitter Oleander, and Poet Lore. Please visit here.

~

Eileen Merriman

Hawking’s Comet

Tom thought it’d be funny if he named his cat Stephen Hawking. Tracey thought it’d be funny if she named her cat Albert Einstein.

Hilarious, until they moved in together.

From the start, Einstein wanted to scratch Hawking’s eyes out. Hawking took his black hole everywhere with him, convinced it could be a gateway to another universe. Einstein, upset that Hawking was outshining him, peed in Hawking’s kitty litter and said he was so fat he was distorting space-time. Hawking said time was an illusion, and Einstein was past his prime.

Fuming, Einstein rang his friend Schrödinger, who arrived with the tools for a dastardly experiment. As a result, Hawking was neither alive nor dead and collapsed into a singularity, thus proving time travel was possible. Defeated, Einstein chased his tail until he fell over. Then he lay yowling at the moon, as Hawking shot past like a comet.

Eileen Merriman’s work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Orphans, the 2015 Bath Short Story Anthology, The Island Review, the Sunday Star Times, Takahe, Headland, and Flash Frontier. She was the second place winner in the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction award, commended in the Bath Short Story award, and third place winner in the 2014 and 2015 Sunday Star Times competitions.

~

Darryl Price

This isn’t just another perfectly wasted day

To me. From here for instance it’s
Still bursting full of little yellow flowers
Growing out and over the rock walls

And with wild zooming honey bees barely
Missing your face as they chase the
Alluring fragrance to its central sticky source.
The soft sky is like a long

Silk covered road leading somewhere into a
Faraway dream. I breathe it all in
And smile. And in the middle of
All that free wonder I’m striding all

Alone down a leaf strewn bike path
Listening to a bunch of noisy insect
Camps talking over each other about the
End of this particular summer’s time on

The yearly stage. A few butterflies spark
And wave as they tumble past on
Their somersaulting way, hurrying to the secret
Mystic summit of their ancient societies. Perhaps

They’ll come up with a clever butterfly
Plan to save the planet from disappearing
Before I’m no longer able to participate.
One can always hope. There’s no smoke

In the air today. I don’t know
If that’s a good thing or a
Bad, but I’m taking it as a
Sign for now of miracles to come.

Darryl Price has published dozens of chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals. He edits Olentangy Review.

~

Kim Farleigh

What Could Have Been

Mariano closed that left eye and said: “He was my wife’s brother-in-law. His father called him Useless. ‘You’re never going to do anything,’ his father always said. ‘You’re useless.’ Then the son won the lottery: two million. He didn’t just live it up. He wanted to prove his father wrong. The father was tough, from a poor rural background; the father never learnt how to encourage; he confused encouragement with criticism; but the son didn’t understand that. Anyway, the son wanted to prove the father wrong, so the son started a printing business. The son had been working in a printing business as a normal employee when he won the lottery. He built a big factory, no clients or marketing experience. You have to advertise for months to get clients. He should have invested in an existing company. But he wanted to impress his father. Things didn’t take off. They just went from bad to worse. Finally, he said he needed help. He asked me and a few others to look at his accounts and to organise a strategy for renegotiating the debt he had had with a bank. When he was about to show us the accounts, he suddenly said: ‘No, no, no, don’t worry. Forget it. It’s okay. Don’t worry. I can fix it. There’s no big problem.’ And we said: ‘Are you sure? We can deal with it.’ ‘No, no, no, there’s no big problem.’ But there was. He started drinking, using up the remaining money. He drank for two months. Home every night drunk. One day, he brought a long tube. He just disappeared. After two days, my sister-in-law contacted her mother. The mother had heard nothing from him. They found him dead in his car, the tube connected to the exhaust. The place he did it in……”

Mariano opened his left eye. Those green, grey-blue lakes seemed rounder. The shadow on his face darkened. We were under an umbrella in a café’s terrace. The sun had just been blocked by a cloud.

Mariano’s face hid his goodness. Horn-like lines a centimetre apart left the ends of each of his eyebrows above the nose, crossing horizontal forehead lines, producing a devil’s look. His wrinkles resembled rugged earth beside his eyes’ green, grey-blue lakes. A devil’s eyes would have been ebony. Red lightning would have streaked the white skies of a devil’s eyes. Mariano’s whites resembled bone-hued porcelain. He often closed his left eye when speaking, revealing a gentle, black line of lashes.

Mariano’s left eye closed again.

“The place,” he said, “was where he and his brothers and his friends used to play football as kids. There were many places where he could have done it; but he chose that place. Imagine it: where he had felt most comfortable and most hopeful, like returning to the yardstick by which to measure change, the place and time where he had had a future. In that place there was probably an instance where something could have turned out differently, changing his life forever, creating a different path. He must have imagined that moment. Imagine the nostalgia he must have felt for that time and place. He had even said a week before he died that his father had been right about him. Imagine that. Then he had gone to that place where he had felt the freest he had ever felt in his life and the pain of that memory, with the pain caused by knowing how he blew the lottery money….well, imagine that.”

The black lashes over the closed left eye flickered.

Kim Farleigh has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq, and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes fine wine, art, and bullfighting, which probably explains why this Australian lives in Madrid. 130 of his stories have been accepted by 80 different magazines.

 

~

Claudia Serea

Welcome to the museum of our lives

We’re the curators, the visitors, and the paintings that paint themselves. The plump woman and her dog are an installation in red with purple lips. She’s my best friend from high school. I trace a stripe of glistening blue on the cheek of the tall bride in black, my former French teacher. In the group, I spot Pinocchio, my math teacher, with his long nose and cropped pants. They walk around and whisper to each other.
I can’t join the conversation, though, because I just gave birth.

Wait a minute! the artist in a top hat says. This tableau needs some snow. He sifts flour over our heads and squirts whipped cream over the baby’s ruffles. There! It’s perfect now. The small dog yelps on two feet, balancing a teaspoon on its nose.

*

The next exhibit is the New York City subway.

A man plays a tango on the violin,
and a little girl hands me
a bouquet of red flowers.

Large dahlias bloom in the tunnel.

*

Madness, the rabbit you pull out of the magician’s hat.
Or is it love?

*

I invite you in my cave full of candles and lions. I offer you two golden apples with glowing areolas. You’re trying to decipher my poem, but can’t get past the spiders on the veins. Or the areolas. Your curse is to forever detangle love’s knots. Look at the bright side, though: at least my name isn’t Circe.

*

Heaven must be
a well-lit place,

a Broadway show
full of long legs
tapping in unison.

*

In one of the rooms, all the clothes from the closets are thrown on the floor. Mother is kneeling on top of them, searching the pockets. I had a $5 bill and an important note in one of the coats, she says. What did the note say? I ask. I don’t remember, but it was secret and very important. Something about D Day, and what kind of soup I was supposed to make.

*

In the next room, I think of summer,
of time that doesn’t touch us.

Of my parents,
far, far away.

*

Water, blue like paint, up to our waist. You slurp the small snake like spaghetti. What are you doing? I yell. Sorry, you say, and regurgitate the snake’s head, but couldn’t cough up the tail. The snake winks at me and swims away.

*

Meanwhile, night soil piles outside the windows. Mountains of night.
Our windows twinkle in the valleys,

so bright,
so isolated.

*

The next exhibit is the city, a howl of windows and walls. No one is here, but you know that people pulsate just out of sight. The moon plays a mean sax in the sky, and you keep looking for the exit, but all you can find is the forest with dreams hanging low on branches.

*

Two unshaven guys,
dressed as Mickey and Minnie,
walk down 8th Avenue,
holding their large cartoon heads
under their arms.

*

Take the moon keys and open the drawer where you keep the baby teeth. Take the sun keys and open the drawer with birdsong. Take the Florida Keys and open the drawer with winter: Thousands of hands will clap at once.

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, 5 a.m., Meridian, Word Riot, Apple Valley Review, among others. A four-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada, 2012), A Dirt Road Hangs From the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada, 2013), To Part Is to Die a Little (Cervena Barva Press, 2015), and Nothing Important Happened Today (Broadstone Books, forthcoming). Serea co-hosts The Williams Readings poetry series in Rutherford, NJ. She is the founding editor of National Translation Month. More at cserea.tumblr.com.

~

Lily Herman

Day 9

I am searching for that old note from you: Just now remembering that at midnight I wrote to New Zealand to say, I wish I had gotten tea with you when you were in town in 2012. Maybe I would be helping to birth calves on a farm outside of Wellington now. Once you told me that you were reading a book on the Manhattan Bridge and thought, what would Rimbaud do with this shitty book? He’d throw it into the river. But then you looked angry, like a son realizing his father is fallible for the first time, and you said, I’m tired of doing what I think Rimbaud would do.

When you start to remember lives you feel couldn’t possibly have been yours: The two days you came to Baltimore, or maybe it was a week, and we fucked backwards in the Cork Factory, because of the way our bodies fit together, or perhaps because we were trying to cheat time. We chewed licorice root in the grass beside an exit ramp off of I-83 and I told you about my dreams in a way that made you think you should move to Baltimore. Later you wrote a song about what I said to you: If we lived in the same city I’d be falling in love with you, and then you couldn’t understand why I refused to fall in love with you when you moved. How in fact, I hated you for trying to make my prophecies come so literally alive.

Before this, even, there was a dinner: Once Diane di Prima wrote about a woman who galvanized their whole group of friends by systematically falling in love with each of them, or maybe it was making each of them fall in love with her. The guest list for the dinner was like that. Three poet men and Adrian, and my head spun from fermented apples and the sense that I couldn’t stop to focus on any of them, so much was I swooning for the whole tribe. The playwright who smeared dirt inside of my books and wrote a letter as I sat across the room from him about how I was fire. Whose bed I always slept in when he was out of town, unequipped as we were to arrive there at the same time. The academic who more wholly loved the same woman I admired from a thousand different angles–our mutual appreciation perhaps our most common ground. His beard growing as if into the soil of his skin. And you, watching a pie plate blow around Fort Greene Park, or maybe that wasn’t you, maybe I don’t remember anything about you except for your name and phrases you spoke like captions for the time we spent together.

My father and I compare notes on our ability to ingratiate ourselves to people, to read the room, tailor ourselves in tiny ways to make ourselves charming to the particular audience. The word is always magnetic when someone wants me to understand how I’ve made them feel–which makes me feel like a ghost it is so impersonal. It is not inauthentic so much as curated, not maniacal so much as manipulated. I wonder if they realize it is not actually a feeling they’re having but a dress I’ve got on. My dad says, that’s the Herman side of the family–We know how to get what we want from people, including reactions. I say, I call it The Lily Show, when I get gregarious so that no one will suspect me of being uncomfortable. Any time I walk into a room, I like to give the impression that I was born there.

Which is how I remember my time with you, if you are most people. Not what you were like, but how I behaved. If I was funny enough and my face was well lit. Which one of us ended up ignoring the others’ phone calls in the end, and therefore who won. Or if we both stopped talking at the same time, as if agreeing to enter into the silence, where we could memorialize bits of each other as we grow older, trying to paint ourselves.

Lily Herman is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise poet from and around Baltimore, Maryland. She is the author of four chapbooks, including Each Day There is a Little Love in a Book for You through Dryad Press. She is the poetry curator at Fields Festival and her work can be found at www.ancientchrome.tumblr.com.

~

James Valvis

Gypsy Girl on the Beach, Picasso

Scattered against her will,
she sits a moment on beach,
giving her feet a twisting burial,
as if to plant herself in sand.
Overhead, gulls curve across
washed out sky saturated
with blue. A factory of foam
these waves never break
for lunch, just pause a moment
as if for breath, sizzling like fat
in a pan, then slap sand again.
She loves a sailor, this place,
this now, but must move on,
as we all, once commenced,
must continue until we cease.
Soon she will be called away.
The sea knows this, speaks,
scolds her even for pausing.
Every silence heads to the ocean
to die. This is why eyes are awash
with sound. This is why, fully dressed,
she sighs and dreams of drowning.

James Valvis has placed poems or stories in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Ploughshares, River Styx, The Sun, and many others. His poetry was featured in Verse Daily. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.

~

Mark Crimmins

About the Author

1964

Vince Cuthbert is an intelligent little boy and I am glad to have him in the class. He is very keen about writing and has written a clever story about a little boy who pulls the tales of animals until he grows one himself.

1974

Vince Cuthbert is one of the student editors of Brooke High School’s Arnoldian. “Michael Schepp” (Arnoldian, 2:3) is his first published story. He is already working on his first novel, Hall of Tangerine Dreams.

1984

Vince Cuthbert graduated in English Literature from Burly College. He is on the editorial staff of Burly’s Brikabrak Review. “Remembering Snotkins” (BR 7.2) is his first published story. He is also writing a play, A Play on Words.

1994

Vince Cuthbert teaches Creative Writing at Smithills College. He
published his first story, “Anne of the Wandering Eyes,” in
Skuttlefish in 1989. Since then he has published widely in a broad
variety of literary journals and magazines. He is currently completing his first collection of stories, Tumwater Tales, and a novel, Balls of Ivy.

2004

Vince Cuthbert is the Norma Covington Jones Memorial Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Stony Head and acting Chair of Creative Writing. He has been awarded a Teaching Excellence Award by the College of Arts. He is also the recipient of awards for his writing, which has been published in numerous literary journals and magazines. His book, How to Publish a Short Story and Essays on Other Impossible Acts, has been awarded the Templeton Widsney Award for Excellence in Academic Writing and has been translated into three languages. Professor Cuthbert is currently completing his first book of short stories, Never Before Yet Once Again.

2014

Vince Cuthbert’s books, articles, essays, short stories, and poetry
have been published widely in the United States and abroad. His work has received a great number of awards. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on the craft of writing. His service to the University of Stony Head was recently recognized by a major grant from the Council of Scholarly Societies, a distinction that will give Professor Cuthbert time off from his busy teaching schedule to finish his much-anticipated book of poetry, The Transcendentalist?s Guide to Ultimate Fighting.

2024

The College of Arts at Stony Head University regrets to announce the passing of Professor Vincent Cuthbert of the Department of English. Professor Cuthbert was a great teacher and a great writer. In almost five decades of the writing life he published widely, including scholarly works, essays, poetry, and short stories. His writing about writing in particular was widely admired. How to Publish a Short Story and Essays on Other Impossible Acts–while it was Professor Cuthbert’s
only book-length publication–was warmly received and has been translated into four languages. While many of Professor Cuthbert’s creative projects remain at the manuscript stage, his papers have been donated to Stony Head’s Special Collections Department, and it is hoped that the editing of Professor Cuthbert’s papers by his adoring students will lead to a posthumous publication history worthy of his literary stature. Vince, we will miss you and your charming tales!

Mark Crimmins’s fiction was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His flash fictions have been published in Happy, theNewerYork, White Rabbit, Columbia, Tampa Review online, Eunoia Review, Flash Frontier, Portland Review, Pif, Gravel, Eastlit, Restless, Prick of the Spindle, Atticus Review, and Apocrypha and Abstractions. His latest flash is forthcoming in the UK’s Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.

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J.T. Whitehead

Nocturne No. 41

The silver chimes in the freezing wind do not sound

like an ancient gladiator’s breaking bones, punctuating

a frenzied din . . . But the wooden chimes . . .

J. T. Whitehead writes, “I have had over 160 poems accepted for print by over 75 publications, some of which have actually gone on to print me. Credits include Gargoyle, Lilliput Review, and Left Curve. I am a Pushcart Prize-nominated short story author, a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and I am the Editor in Chief of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. My first full length collection of poetry, The Table of the Elements, published by The Broadkill River Press, was nominated for the National Book Award. I am also the winner of the Margaret Randall Poetry Prize (2015).”

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Quarter Notes: Essays, Reviews, Interviews

Review: Jennifer Finstrom on Hélène Cardona’s Dreaming My Animal Selves/Le Songe de mes Âmes Animales

Dreaming My Animal Selves/Le Songe de mes Âmes Animales by Hélène Cardona
Salmon Poetry, bilingual edition, 2013
80 pages

THE LANGUAGE OF BECOMING: TRANSFORMATION THROUGH HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO

In Hélène Cardona’s Dreaming My Animal Selves/Le Songe de mes Âmes Animales, every boundary is permeable. Landscapes shift and blur, just as the outward appearances of animals and other entities blur as well. As the title suggests, animals occupy nearly every poem: the familiar creatures that we know like swans and fish and horses are spoken of in the same breath as centaurs and mermaids and elves. And while these mythological beings are not animals per se, we are, of course, aware that centaurs and mermaids are part one thing and part another, creatures belonging to two worlds. And while the human is in these poems in abundance, we also meet gods and goddesses, ghosts and living statues, ancestors and the dead.

One dream-like image stands out to me from the many that populate this bilingual French and English collection. “Night Messenger” begins in a way that isn’t necessarily unexpected (though it gets there), and as a reader, I am grounded in time and place immediately. “I wake,” the poem starts out, “In a meadow / braided with wild grasses and flowers / notes of music from a harp.” This is lovely, and I feel more as if I’m in a fairy tale than a dream, though that boundary too is blurred throughout. And then the unexpected happens: “A penguin is running,” and in my first (and every subsequent) reading, I can see this unforeseen penguin so very clearly. The speaker of the poem follows the penguin (as do I, the reader) to where he lies “on a leaf, / lets the current carry him / and says, this stream is your life, / instead of watching from the meadow, / flow with its rhythm.”

This one encapsulated scene represents for me the collection as a whole and what we can expect to see in it, and, indeed, we are given an idea of this dreamlike world even before this in the book’s prologue through the single poem there, “Dreams like Water.” This opening poem provides a sort of manifesto for what is to come. There, the speaker “trace[s] patterns in dreams / through beings disguised.” Dreaming My Animal Selves is filled with transformations, and in “Dreams like Water,” it is the beings that the speaker sees in dreams that are disguised—and it is through these disguised/transformed beings that patterns in the volume become perceptible. However, even if you read “beings” as “being” (as I did in my first reading) and think it is the speaker who is disguised, even that idea of disguise can inform your reading of this book.

Returning to the penguin (who appears to remain a penguin throughout), he is one of only a few creatures to be given a voice. The speaker of the poems also receives verbal guidance from a crane, a seagull, and a horse. In “Isle of the Immortals,” a crane guides a boat to this island where the reader sees a possibility to “cultivate a relationship with the future,” first telling the poem’s speaker that “it can be windy, hang on to me. / You’re learning to live in two worlds at once.” In “Illumination,” this speaker is lifted up again, this time by a seagull who says “everything is taken care of, / it’s so easy on the other side.” And in the final poem of the collection “Parallel Keys,” a horse says “Hold on to the mane.” We are being told to flow with the rhythm of life and all will be well (the penguin and the seagull) and hang on as things are figured out (the crane and the horse)—but in each instance, there is motion and transport, movement from one world to the next where we meet our true selves in another guise.

The various animals, the language of transformation, the names of other poets and artists, the names of gods and goddesses—I noticed all of these, but these are by no means all that this work contains. I feel convinced that in repeated readings the work will shift again and I’ll notice something different, something that will make my own life look new and strange when I emerge transformed from having swum in this magical book.

Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates writing groups at DePaul University. She is the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine, and recent publications include Escape Into Life, Extract(s), Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and NEAT. She also has work appearing in The Great Gatsby Anthology, Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, and forthcoming in the Alice in Wonderland Anthology, all from Silver Birch Press.
Hélène Cardona is a poet, linguist, literary translator and actress, author of Dreaming My Animal Selves (Salmon Poetry, 2013), Pinnacle Book Award & Readers’ Favorite Book Award winner, The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press, 2006), Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016), and Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne, 2014), her translation of What We Carry by Dorianne Laux. Beyond Elsewhere, her translation of Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac’s Plus loin qu’ailleurs is forthcoming from White Pine Press in 2016. She holds a Master’s in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University, and received the Poiesis Award of Honor and fellowships from the Goethe-Institut & Universidad Internacional de Andalucía. She is Chief Executive Editor of Dublin Poetry Review and Levure Littéraire, and Managing Editor of Fulcrum. Publications include Washington Square, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Warwick Review, Irish Literary Times, and many more. Acting credits include Chocolat, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, etc. For Serendipity, she co-wrote with Peter Chelsom & Alan Silvestri the song “Lucienne,” which she also sang.

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Essay: Bill Yarrow

THE BADNESS OF HART CRANE

“To Brooklyn Bridge”
Hart Crane, 1889 – 1932

I want to talk about badness in writing and how to avoid it.

Criticism of contemporary writing is largely praise, but what’s praised, nay, even celebrated, is often just mediocre, and, frequently, it’s downright lousy. But Johnson is dead, Mencken is dead, Housman is dead. The scathing voices have been silenced by time and over time repressed by a louder kindness. It’s considered impolite to criticize. Arrogant. Unkind. People have feelings, you know!

Nonetheless, I would like to see the return of honest assessment.

But that, perhaps, is a vain hope.

Of course, it’s always OK to talk about the dead, so let me talk about Hart Crane. He’s been dead for eighty-six years.

I do not like Hart Crane. I think he’s a bad poet. That is to say, I think he wrote some very bad poetry. What makes poetry bad? What makes his poetry especially bad? Lack of clarity. Willful confusion. Pretentious difficulty. I have no problem with difficulty in poetry, but the difficulty of Crane is invented, not organic. It doesn’t grow out of his poetry but is inserted into it, grafted onto it. Thus, the difficulty is misplaced. It’s a function of language, not of thought. Crane complicated language when he should have complicated thought. If you compare him to other Modernist poets like Eliot or Stevens or Williams (all difficult but never unclear), you will see what I mean.

I will criticize “To Brooklyn Bridge,” his “proem” to The Bridge not on the basis of its images or its associations or even its ideas but solely on the basis of its language—how it uses and abuses its words.

          How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
          The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
          Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
          Over the chained bay waters Liberty–

Good writing is clear. Good writing is direct.

How many dawns
That’s fine but where’s the rest of the sentence, the rest of the thought?

chill from his rippling rest
There’s no antecedent for “his.” To place the antecedent after the pronoun is poor writing. The antecedent for “his” is seagull, but seagull does not even appear in the poem. The phrase “seagull’s wings” does. “His” does not work as an antecedent of “seagull’s wings.” This is one example of how to write poorly.

Crane likes sonics in poetry. So do I.

chill—rippling—wings—dip—pivot—rings—shedding = assonance, short i
white—high = assonance, long i
chained—bay = assonance, long a
many—Liberty = assonance, y [long e sound]
chill—rippling-seagull’s—shall—tumult = consonance, l
rippling—rest—rings—waters—Liberty = consonance, r
rippling rest = alliteration, r

I have no problem with the sounds here. I do, however, have a problem with the sense.

white rings of tumult
A matter of taste whether you consider this brilliant or crap.

Over the chained bay waters Liberty
Grammatically, what is the word “Liberty” doing in this sentence? If it refers to the Statue of Liberty so much the worse. Because of its ungrammatical placement and lack of clarifying punctuation, it’s unclear.

In all good writing, clarity is a goal. Clarity allows for ambiguity. Clarity neither forbids not precludes multiple meanings. Puns in writing suggest multiple meanings but they are always clear: “She was only the bootlegger’s daughter, but he loved her still.” Or see the wonderfully funny poems of Thomas Hood like “Tim Turpin,” “Faithless Sally Brown,” or “Faithless Nellie Gray.”

           ‘O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!’
          Is this your love so warm?
          The love that loves a scarlet coat
          Should be more uniform.

If one were to rewrite Crane (I would never write such a poem), the poem might sound something like this:

          How many dawns has this chill seagull
          risen from his rippling rest upon the waves?
          How many dawns have his wings dipped
          and pivoted him as he, shedding white
          rings of tumult, builds high over
          the chained bay waters toward Liberty?

The change is a movement (I won’t say improvement) toward clarity.

It’s essential to be clear in poems. Poems are no longer (not since the Middle Ages anyway) riddles. Poems are not codes, not ciphers. They are stories. They are the clear expression of feelings (pace Auden).1 Good poems always make clear what’s going on. Poems that are not clear are, pure and simple, bad poems.

          Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
          As apparitional as sails that cross
          Some page of figures to be filed away;
          —Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

Sonics:

inviolate—eyes—filed = assonance, long i
forsake—sails—page—away—elevators—day = assonance, long a
inviolate—apparitional—figures—till = assonance, short i
apparitional—sails—cross—some—figures—us = consonance, s
figures—filed-from = alliteration, f

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
Who forsakes our eyes? There is no subject here. Presumably, the seagull is the subject. In other words, the bird flies out of sight. Personally, I find the use of “forsake” in “forsake our eyes” pretentious and contemptible, and also I find the use of “from” in “drop us from our day” nonsensical and inelegant. Both are examples of bad writing pretending not to be bad writing by pretending to be poetry.

As apparitional as sails that cross / Some page of figures to be filed away; / —Till elevators drop us from our day.2
In these lines, Crane does something similar to what Andrei Bely does in his novel Petersburg (or St. Petersburg) which Vladimir Nabokov considered, along with Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Joyce’s Ulysses, and Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time), one of the four prose masterpieces of the 20th century. That is, he provides transitions through puns and shifting meanings. “Sails” becomes also “sales,” which then suggests “page of figures to be filed away,” which suggests the business world (as do “page” and “till”), which suggests the work day and elevators. Bely was a poet as well as a novelist and Petersburg is written and structured like a poem.

inviolate curve
another matter of taste whether you consider this brilliant or crap.

drop us from our day
and another matter of taste whether you consider this brilliant or crap.

          I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
          With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
          Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
          Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights / With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene / Never disclosed.
Well, this is uninteresting (except for “flashing scene,” which is a nice phrase suggesting multiple meanings, “flashing” as in the literal flashing of projected still images of a movie projector and “flashing” as in insightful), but at least it is grammatical. How a projected scene can not be, and can never be, disclosed is not a clear idea. Is the scene “hastened to again” or is there a new, undisclosed missing subject here, as in the previous stanzas? “Foretold” recalls “forsake” in the previous stanza, but “foretold to” eyes is odd, but not in a good way. Eyes “on” the same screen or merely “watching” the same screen? Again and again, Crane will not (out of what I will call poetic perversity) say what he means. I assume he’s capable of saying what he means (I’ve read his letters, which are direct and to the point3), but when he obscures his meaning, he’s indistinguishable from the bad writer who, lacking the means of expression, is not capable of saying what he wants to say.

          And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
          As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
          Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,–
          Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Oy vey.

The Bridge was published in 1930. “Thee” and “thy” in 1930? Why? “Took step of”? “Some motion ever unspent in thy stride”? If you think this, completely devoid of any irony,4 is good writing, then you and I violently disagree.

Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!
This is not English. This is “a language which nobody hears from his mother or his nurse, … a language in which nobody ever quarrels, or drives bargains, or makes love, … a language in which nobody ever thinks.” In a word, this is Cranish.5

          Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
          A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
          Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
          A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft / A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets, / Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A crazy person climbs the bridge to attempt suicide. The writing is good here. “Bedlamite” (inmate of Bedlam) is interesting and works, but “thy parapets” is a metaphor that fails; it falls on the sword of its pretension. “Tilting” is nicely ambiguous suggesting both swaying and struggling fecklessly as in “tilting at windmills.” “Shrill shirt ballooning” deserves only praise.

A jest falls from the speechless caravan.
My objection here is not grammatical but practical. The line tries to do too many things simultaneously and, suffers the fate of modern multitasking; it withers into muddle. Does “jest” refer to the “bedlamite” or to an exclamation from the “speechless” (i.e. horrified) “caravan,” (presumably people crowded on the bridge)? This line, revealing an action, cannot sustain ambiguity. That’s where ambiguity draws its line. A zygote could have worked; this falls flat.

          Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
          A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene;
          All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
          Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

OK, here’s the stanza containing the most famous and most celebrated line in this “proem”:

A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene.

Before I consider that line, let me first comment on Crane’s use of verbs. In this stanza, Crane shows himself to be a capable poet by concentrating the strength of the line where it should be concentrated, in the verb6. “Leaks” is a terrific word to describe the visual advent of noon, absolutely perfect, le mot juste, but why is it “down wall” and not down the wall, why “from girder into street” and not from the girder into the street? The absence of articles makes the line precious. Contemporary poets, stop amputating! Stop imitating this annoying affectation!

“Cloud-flown derricks” is an absurd phrase, but “turn” is a good verb here as is “breathe” in reference to the bridge’s suspension cables.” But “Breathe the North Atlantic still” is a Cranish phrase, insensible to sensible English, yet the word “still” has an admirable ambiguity.

A rip-tooth of the sky’s acetylene.7
It’s graphic. It’s vivid. It’s unexpected. It’s arresting. “Acetylene” is a great word here, fitting beautifully with the other industrial words “girder” and “derricks,” and also suggesting the sun as a welding torch. “Rip-tooth” is odd and exciting, its ambiguity rich and expansive. I wish the whole poem was made of lapidary phrases like this.

          And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
          Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
          Of anonymity time cannot raise:
          Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

A stanza illustrating most of the faults of Crane: stiltedness, unintelligibleness, inane juxtapositions, horrifying syntactical inversions, foolish verbs, and absurd adjectives.

          O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
           (How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
          Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,
          Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry,—

Some alliteration is admirable, but let’s be honest. Of all the poetic effects, alliteration is the easiest to wield. “Fury fused” is miserable. “Terrific threshold” is banal. “Prophet’s pledge” is acceptable, that is until “prayer of pariah” weakens its power. The stanza is a disaster. “How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!” Apt criticism of this quatrain itself!

          Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
          Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
          Beading thy path–condense eternity:
          And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

“Thy…idiom,” “beading thy path,” “thine arms”—write normally!
Listen to Wordsworth: strive for “language really used by men.”
“Skim” and “condense” and even “lifted” (in its context here) are strong verbs.
“thy swift / Unfractioned idiom”—horrible choice of adjectives
“immaculate sigh of stars”—“sigh of stars” is strong. “immaculate sigh” is Cransihly inept.
“condense eternity”—a great idea memorably expressed. Crane can write well, but those moments seem almost accidental.
“And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.”—replace “thine” and we have a lovely line, reminiscent of these other lovely lines from “Chaplinesque”: “but we have seen / The moon in lonely alleys make / A grail of laughter of an empty ash can”

          Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
          Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
          The City’s fiery parcels all undone,
          Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

And almost out of nowhere comes a beautiful stanza. Simple, clear, uncluttered, direct. Only two adjectives (fiery” and “iron”) in the stanza, both apt and neither absurd. Get rid of the two “thy”s, add a verb to line three, voilà—something to write home about!

          O Sleepless as the river under thee,
          Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,
          Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
          And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

O well, maybe a good ending to the poem is too much to hope for. The terrible, ungrammatical transition from “O Sleepless as the river under thee” to “Vaulting the sea” (it is, of course, the bridge that “vaults” (or is a vault over) the sea. The illogic and infelicity of “the prairies’ dreaming sod” next to “the sea.” The inverted mind-numbing Cranishness of “Unto us lowliest sometime sweep.” The ineptitude and impenetrability of “curveship” (though it has the word “ship” in it! And “curve recalls the “inviolate curve” from stanza two!). But all is not lost. “Sweep,” “descend” and “lend” are lean, virile verbs, and “lend a myth to God,” if it does nothing else, leaves us hard at thought: baffled though exhausted, we ask ourselves, “Cheez, I wonder what he meant by that.”

Endnotes

1. “Poetry is the clear expression of mixed feelings.” W. H. Auden.

2. Cf. “Till human voices wake us and we drown” (Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)

3. In one of his letters, he admits “My writing is hard deciphering.” Not something to be proud of!

4. Compare, for example, Gregory Corso’s fun use of this kind of antique language in a poem like “Discord” from The Happy Birthday of Death (New Directions, 1960).

       I mean if I pass by with a rainball ball
                  should I pass by with a jackinthebox instead?
             Confused I’d best leave wonder and candy and school
       and go find amid ruin the peremptory corsair.

5. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s 1831 review of John Croker’s edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson contains the following passage, which is analogous to my criticism of Hart Crane above:

When he [Samuel Johnson] talked, he clothed his wit and his sense in forcible and natural expressions. As soon as he took his pen in his hand to write for the public, his style became systematically vicious. All his books are written in a learned language, in a language which nobody hears from his mother or his nurse, in a language in which nobody ever quarrels, or drives bargains, or makes love, in a language in which nobody ever thinks. It is clear that Johnson himself did not think in the dialect in which he wrote. The expressions which came first to his tongue were simple, energetic, and picturesque. When he wrote for publication, he did his sentences out of English into Johnsonese. His letters from the Hebrides to Mrs. Thrale are the original of that work of which the Journey to the Hebrides is the translation; and it is amusing to compare the two versions. “When we were taken up stairs,” says he in one of his letters, “a dirty fellow bounced out of the bed on which one of us was to lie.” This incident is recorded in the Journey as follows: “Out of one of the beds on which we were to repose started up, at our entrance, a man black as a Cyclops from the forge.” Sometimes Johnson translated aloud. “The Rehearsal,” he said, very unjustly, “has not wit enough to keep it sweet;” then, after a pause, “it has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction.”

6. For example: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” (Yeats, “The Second Coming”)

7. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (called “the caffeine of Europe”) often writes like this in his futurist manifestos, e.g. “The bridges leaping like athletes hurled over the diabolical cutlery of sunny rivers” (“Futurist Manifesto”). See also Tristan Tzara’s “Seven Dadaist Manifestos.” “I shall come back once in the guise of your renascent urine as the obstetric wind of joie de vivre” (“Manifesto of Monsieur AA the Antiphilosopher”).

Bill Yarrow, non-fiction editor for Blue Fifth Review, is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012) and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, FRiGG, THRUSH, Gargoyle, and PANK. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film.


 
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