the blue collection 6: collaboration (Winter 2015 / 15.25)

the blue collection 6: collaboration

(Winter 2015 / 15.25)


Kelly Cherry and James Owens

Dianna Henning and Steven Golden

Tina Barry and Mia Avramut

Susanna Crossman and Dorothee Lang

Frederick Pollack and Claire Beynon

Ed. note: For blue collection 6, the editors reversed the order employed in previous years and started with five new works by poets and fiction writers — three poems and two flashes — and then asked artists to respond to the pieces in any way they felt suitable. The connections between the art, poetry, flash, and commentaries are a testament to the possibilities of the creative process.


Kelly Cherry

One Hundred Years of Solitude: Cliffs Notes

Ice appears in the town
for the first time. Ants
in single file follow.
Butterflies trail a pretty girl
like a veil, a silk screen.
We see the new world
for the first time. And
didn’t it take your breath away,
those trees capped with clouds,
those crowds of hibiscus and hydrangeas
jostling in the market?
Didn’t it seem the words were like bluebirds
in the house in the field, wary
but claiming a right to settle
where they chose, in the reader’s mind?

Time hung from the trees like fruit.

Sunlight and shadow married
each other and lived ever after.

James Owens

Long Moment in a Brief Century

Long Moment in Brief Century by James Owens

Long Moment in Brief Century by James Owens

Owens’s commentary:
My proposed photo for Kelly Cherry’s work (and I’ve hesitated) doesn’t correspond very specifically to anything in her poem (unless it would be the married sunlight and shadow), but every time I consider my options, I come back to this one. It seems to me that this full-frame, warm burst, both patterned and random, answers something in the richness and color of her imagery (and in Marquez’s novel, of course).



Dianna Henning


Much like Saint Bartholomew in Rembrandt’s painting, the incarcerated man has become so intent that his pencil is nearly a finger as he bends over the drawing of his daughters Sofia and Sonia. Were it possible to accurately portray the man, his skin mapped in tattoos, I would start with his eyes, tell you how I see in them the brown loaves of bread his mother made, his mouth about to form what he is unable to easily say in English. If there is a heaven of words, or at the very least storage of some kind, what remains unspoken must go there. It’s nearly yard recall and the man still draws his daughters, his head so close to the paper that he could be outlining himself — the shapes of their lovely mouths, butterflies with spread wings.

Steven Golden

Steve Golden DEc Collab

Monk by Steven Golden

Golden’s commentary:
When I first read the story, the image here immediately came to mind; I chose this image because it is all about the eyes. While the story suggests Europe, the other images– skin with tattoos, the eyes, the in ability to express oneself in English– reminded me more of Southeast Asia, where monks have tattoos on leathery skin, and sit in silence with intense expressions. The monk’s incarceration is self-imposed, yet he was sitting within a enclosed space at the foot of Buddha, not unlike a prisoner in a cell. My encounter with him was all unspoken. Does he have daughters? Is he thinking about home? Was he incarcerated? I’ll never know.


Tina Barry

Find Me

I told my friends my father had joined the circus. Then I wrote a story about it.
Now I read the story to remember my father.

I told people:
            I put my tongue in the mouth of an old man who winked at me
            I wore silk underwear then returned it to the lingerie shop
            I pierced the nipple of a carny in his ring-toss booth
            I spent a night in a motel in Albuquerque: One mustache hair on the
            bathroom mirror. Something about a bearded lady.

(I think some of that is true.)

My jobs:
            McDonald’s: Terrible acne from French fry machine
            Bloomingdale’s: Towel department
            Baby sitter: Painting of a couple embracing in a misty pastel cloud
            Lifeguard: Removed lining from swimsuit (translucent when wet)
            Nut Shoppe: Never cleaned inside of soft serve machine
            Design studio: Many conversations concerning shades of black

(Possible employment. Or stories told to me.)

I wore:
            A necklace strung with crystals from the dining room chandelier
            A metallic jumpsuit cinched with an alligator belt
            Hot pants and no top
            A blouse inspired by Princess Diana’s wedding dress
            Sky Blue mules topped with feathers

(My outfits or clothing worn by friends and celebrities.)

Vera, a pink planet spanning the width of two hands, was born.

(This is true.)

Mia Avramut

No Angels

No Angel by Mia Avramut

No Angels by Mia Avramut

Avramut’s commentary:
What are we? Other than a collection of anonymous sins gathered in the deep frame of our dual, demoniac and angelic nature. What we remember? What we notice? What we display and disclose? What we deliberately hide? Whatever planets we birth? Whom we embrace in misty pastel clouds? In the end, we are what enables us to be found.



Susanna Crossman

Do you think men love more than women?

It was hot in the city. Sweat oozed like a river along the streets. It sat in the crease behind the knee of the waitress who was serving coffee to two women. It slid down the forehead of the bald man drinking beer. It drenched the woollen jumper of the French bébé, over-dressed by his Italian aupair.

Hot. Chaud.
xxxxIn the apartment, the girl poured a glass of water, fanned herself with a newspaper and smoked a cigarette. She drank another glass of water and telephoned a friend. She laughed on the phone and said goodbye. She ate a piece of bread and lay on the sofa.

…….It was too hot to think, too hot to talk and too hot to lie still. Trop chaud. The baby cried; his mother arrived. She saw he was overdressed and shouted at the aupair. The aupair didn’t like the mother, she told too many lies. Everyday, she lied to her husband that she had done nothing but lay ill in bed. The aupair knew the mother was having an affair. She told the mother this and the mother grew silent.

…….The waitress in the cafe could feel the sweat on her legs. She had once posed as a model for a group of artists. She had stood motionless for so long that sweat had trickled down her back. To keep still she had recited prayers; frozen in observance.

…….The girl in the apartment looked out of the window and saw the spire of the church. She took a piece of paper and began to draw. She smoked a cigarette and drank another glass of water.

…….The bald headed man was thinking of his sister. He was saving money from his job at the post office to pay his sister’s airfare from Morocco. He wanted her to come and visit for a month. He wanted his sister to live with him again.

The sun.
…….The sun was now in the mother’s eyes and the aupair saw them fill with tears. The mother pulled expensive sunglasses from her brown leather handbag. The sunglasses fell to the floor. The mother and the aupair moved to pick them up. Their heads crashed together.

La serveuse.
…….The waitress had been working at the cafe for a month. When she had started, the weather had been bad. Everyone had drunk chocolat chaud. It was tiring now, working in the heat. Sweat trickled down her leg, reached her black canvas shoes and the blister on her ankle.

Le bébé.
…….No one looked at the crying baby. The women lay on the floor. They gazed at the ceiling. The baby wriggled uncomfortably.
The church.
…….The church tower was difficult to draw. The difference in size between the first section of spire and the second was hard to estimate. She thought it was probably one to three. The lead in her pencil was slightly blunt. The strength of the sunlight blurred her vision.

…….She could hear a noise outside the apartment.

…….She looked out.

The head.
…….The bald man scratched his pale brown head. In the morning, he washed it with a flannel. Then, he made his breakfast, bread and butter. Then, he missed his sister. He missed her from the moment he finished his breakfast until he went to sleep, when the sky was dark.
…….He never missed her over breakfast since she had worked nights and he had eaten breakfast alone. It was twelve years since he had seen her. He did not think he could live much longer without his sister. He wiped the sweat from his head.

The aupair.
…….On the cool ceramic floor, the Italian aupair laughed. She laughed deeply. The shape of her hot limbs formed on the tiles. A shape made from sweat.

La mère.
…….The mother began laughing too. She looked at the aupair and she could not stop. Her belly hurt. But, she could not stop. Her belly began to heave, but the laughter kept on coming.

The waitress.
…….The waitress made more coffee for the two young women. They had been in the cafe all afternoon and had only drunk coffee and water. The girls did not say thank-you and the waitress felt cross.

The view of the hood.
…….From the apartment, the girl could now see a woman in the square, standing by the church. The woman appeared to be praying. She was wearing a purple coat with the hood pulled over her head. Her voice was loud. Her words were rhythmical, spoken like liturgy. The girl felt sorry for the woman.

Sa soeur.
…….The bald-headed man finished half of his beer. It was the cheapest drink you could buy which was why he always drank it.
xxxxHe couldn’t believe his luck when his sister contacted him. For years, he had checked his post-box hopefully each morning. One day, a letter had arrived from Marakesh. In three months, she would arrive.

The view
…….The girl continued drawing the church. Outside, an ambulance and a police car arrived. Men in white coats and police in riot gear surrounded the praying woman in the purple coat with the hood. They covered her up and took her away.

Les larmes.
…….The baby stopped crying. His face was wet with tears. He watched his mother and his aupair. He whimpered and neither of them noticed. The aupair was thinking of her lover. The mother was also thinking of love. She began to cry, and the aupair saw the baby and she was not sure which way to turn. If she turned to the woman, the baby would be alone. If she turned to the baby, then the mother would be alone. The aupair took the baby in her arms and gave it to the mother. The mother looked up and smiled,
…….“Do you think that men love more than women?” she said.

Dorothee Lang

ocean-mandala (1)

Layers Of by Dorothee Lang

Lang’s commentary:
“Layers of” is a photo mandala. It belongs to my recent unplanned journey that lasted far too long: for over a year, this journey took me to the place Susan Sontag described as the “country of our second citzienship: the kingdom of the sick.” During the time I was stuck there, I started to create a mandala series, and was surprised how differently each turned out. There was no plan to them, just the page and the moment: the circle of right here, right now.
Symbolically, mandalas represent the universe, and there are all kind of forms, traditional and modern ones. What fascinates me is how a very common image can be turned into a complex mandala simply by multiplying it and placing it in layers. The “Layers of” mandala is based on an ocean-sunset photo and in some way shows the same place like the original photo, but from a very different perspective. Which connects to the theme of being inside / outside the usual pattern of life – the way things change when one’s life takes an unexpected turn, when you are suddenly defined by a very different layer of themes in your life.
This shift of perspective: it also is what fascinated me in Susanna Crossman’s story. I think it is special, with its experimental vibe and the transition it makes tangible, even in terms of language.


Frederick Pollack

The North Continent

Write me when you’ve time
between embraces; between meals
ready to eat brought from Earth,
or not – one hopes – too arduously grown
in soil that will accept their DNA;
between always cautious, never jaded
walks, hand in gloved hand,
into a fairytale of clays and ice:
an emptiness that was full of itself
before you came, with whole elusive phyla
growing and peering from the rocks.
They share already some small part
of love (your one unregulated flow)
with her who, that first morning, reached
up before you, unhooked her mask, and breathed.

Write if you can, when the pod
that dropped you here, the cramped modules
it also brought, laboriously hauled and cut
stone, and native wood (which isn’t)
have begun to resemble a town.
And you sit with writers lacking audience,
journalists of one story, ambivalent
artists and well-supplied philosophers,
discussing how Authority will regret
outgrowing murder and assuming
your type would founder, so far out of mind.
With the first home brew you toast
the Republic and the Laws, define
the just society as based on exile, plant
an ironic flag beside a conscious ocean.

Scrawl a few words in the equivalent
of a blank page in a notebook, while
robots and students brush the dust
from what was probably a ribcage,
though the descending trench keeps finding more.
Bring to bear classical or merely arcane
knowledge, write “Leviathan was here”
before, beneath him, they uncover
the ultimate jackpot – walls,
paralleling distant mountains; rooms,
big rooms (if that means anything).
Under a mask of celebration then
feel, and write, “It’s happened again,
even if this is the first time it happened:
we find the party over or moved on.”

Or perhaps you mean to write, but it’s
hard to explain to yourself or me
how you wound up there,
how or why you survive, or what anything means
besides loneliness. You’re drunk on stars, a giant
cluster that makes night a silver day;
on the double sun, the shifting moons,
and on your mutual irrelevance.
Try to invent a self, which always
entails the idea of communication,
a bigger concept than its likelihood.
Try when night allows
to get through. I promise I’ll be here,
although you may be gone
before your message comes. Then I’ll be gone.

Claire Beynon

Beynon’s art and commentary, from the poem:

Beynon 1 unnamed

Between embraces


Between always cautious, never jaded
walks, hand in gloved hand,
into a fairytale of clays and ice:
an emptiness that was full of itself



                                                                                  . . . assuming
                                          your type would founder, so far out of mind.



. . . beside a conscious ocean.


. . . brush the dust
from what was probably a ribcage


Paralleling distant mountains


You’re drunk on stars, a giant
cluster that makes night a silver day;
on the double sun, the shifting moons,
and on your mutual irrelevance.
Try to invent a self, which always
entails the idea of communication,
a bigger concept that its likelihood.
Try when night allows
to get through. I promise I’ll be here,
although you may be gone
before your message comes.


MIA AVRAMUT is a Romanian-American writer, artist, and physician, who worked in laboratories and autopsy rooms from Pittsburgh to San Francisco. Her artwork has recently appeared in Prick of the Spindle, saltfront, The Knicknackery, The Bookends Review Best of 2014 Anthology (cover), Up the Staircase Quarterly, Buffalo Almanack, Sliver of Stone, and r.kv.r.y quarterly literary journal (featured artist). She lives in Essen, Germany.
TINA BARRY’s short stories and poetry appear online and in print publications including Drunken Boat, MadHat Lit, Inch Magazine, The Camroc Press Review, The NewerYork, Lost in Thought, Elimae, The Orange Room Review, THIS Magazine, and Exposure, an anthology of microfiction from Cinnamon Press. She lives in Brooklyn, where she completed her MFA in creative writing at Long Island University.
South African-born CLAIRE BEYNON is an artist, writer and independent researcher living and working in Dunedin, New Zealand. She considers the Arts as having a vital role to play in our global arena, particularly in the areas of environmental advocacy and peace-building. Claire has established valued collaborative partnerships with fellow artists and writers around the globe and participates in a diverse range of projects with scientists, musicians, esotericists, composers and filmmakers. Two summer research seasons in Antarctica (2005 & 2008) significantly altered her way of seeing and being in the world. Drawn increasingly to group projects and interdisciplinary collaboration, Claire remains equally committed to the steadying rhythms of a contemplative life with its accompanying discipline of ‘repetitive practice’.
KELLY CHERRY is the author of twenty-three books of fiction (long and short), poetry, memoir, essay, and criticism. She has also published nine chapbooks and translations of two classical dramas. Recent titles include A Kind of Dream (interlinked stories), selected by Library Journal as a Best Indie book, and The Life and Death of Poetry (March 2013). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the South and has won three PEN/Syndicated Fiction awards. Her story collection The Society of Friends (which, she says, has nothing to do with the Society of Friends) received the Dictionary of Literary Biography Award for Short Fiction for the best collection published in 1999. In 2015, Twelve Women in a Country Called America, a collection of short stories about women in the American south, and a chapbook titled Physics for Poets.
SUSANNA CROSSMAN ’s short fiction regularly appears in print and online, most recently in Litro and Irish Literary Review, and has been shortlisted for the Bristol Prize and Glimmertrain. She just completed her first crime novel, Fairweather Friends. She co-wrote the hospital roman, Le dessous des Cartes (LEH, 2015). Her plays and collaborative video performances are produced in Britain and France. Her research work is published in France, Korea, and Germany. She likes derelict stations, green tea, and travelling. She is represented by Jessica Craig at the Pontas Agency. Read more at:
STEPHEN GOLDEN is a Singapore-based photographer specializing in portraiture and landscape. Traveling extensively throughout Asia, he is committed to capturing images of traditions that are fast changing. Steve’s latest work can be seen at his Singapore gallery Organug Studio or at his website.
DIANNA HENNING holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Published in: The Main Street Rag, Crazyhorse, The Lullwater Review, California Quarterly, Poetry International, Fugue, The Tule Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, Clackamas Literary Review, South Dakota Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and The Seattle Review. Twice nominated for a Pushcart. Won fellowships to Bread Loaf and Dublin Writers’ Center. Finalist in Aesthetica’s Creative Writing Award in the UK, published in their Annual 2014. Dianna facilitates The Thompson Peak Writers’ Workshop in Lassen County.
DOROTHEE LANG is a freelancer, a multilingual writer, and a traveller. She lives in Germany, and recently dealt with too many things that start with c. For more about her, visit her blog Life as a jouney:
JAMES OWENS’s chapbook Mortalia was published by FutureCycle Press in the fall of 2015. Some recent poems and stories appear in Kestrel, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Connecticut River Review, Lime Hawk, and The Stinging Fly. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in central Indiana and northern Ontario.
FREDERICK POLLACK is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press, and a collection of shorter poems, A Poverty of Words, from Prolific Press. His work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Main Street Rag, Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, and The New Hampshire Review. He teaches creative writing George Washington University.



About bluefifthreview

Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow, is an online journal of poetry, flash, and art.
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3 Responses to the blue collection 6: collaboration (Winter 2015 / 15.25)

  1. Kelly Cherry says:

    I have read these pieces with much pleasure, and must especially thank James Owen, whose photo for my poem could not be more appropriate or more beautiful!

  2. Pingback: Archives for 2015 | Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series

  3. Pingback: Archives for 2016 | Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series

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