Category Archives: poet

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: And Then I Ran

by Lori Sambol Brody
1
When I was preparing to write this, I searched for some old stories I wrote as a teenager.  Not long after we moved into our house, fourteen years ago, I threaded stories into an old UCLA binder.  I recall punching holes through the yellow graph paper my father took from work, sliding into the prongs, college-ruled paper scrawled on with erasable pen; tucking a story into the binder’s pocket, a booklet of flower fairy stories I wrote with a friend in elementary school, its cover a drawing of the fumitory fairy from the Cecily M. Barker flower fairy books.  I couldn’t find the notebook. 
I thought I’d be sad.  That scene in Little Women – we all felt Jo’s loss when Amy burned her papers.  But I actually feel relieved.  Let them go.
I remember some of those stories.  At the time, I wrote mysteries and science fiction.  My first novella was about Chaia Tavruc, the lavender-haired, violet-eyed space ship captain/smuggler (I wrote the first draft after Star Wars came out; I had a crush on Han Solo), framed for a crime she didn’t commit.    
I could probably reconstruct that story, should I want to, I rewrote it so many times. 
I’m not going to.
2
When my sister and I cleaned out my mother’s house after she died, we found a box on the top shelf of the closet in her spare bedroom.  Inside, my stories from elementary school.  In third grade, we turned in a story a week as booklets with elaborate covers: a bejeweled cover (for a story about a gem robbery), chapbooks of “scary” stories.  My youngest daughter laughed because all of the scary stories contain the words, “And then I ran” when the narrator confronts the ghost, the haunted house, the witch, the talking pumpkins.
I avoided the main conflict.  “And then I ran.” 
3
My grandfather told me stories about talking flowers on walks around the neighborhood.  My grandmother told me about the “olden days,” her young brother dying of appendicitis in the back seat of the taxi speeding to the hospital, her grandmother keeping a carp in the bathtub to make gefilte fish.  The local library:  I swear I read every book in the kids’ section.  My mother’s shelves full of books.  My shelves filling with books from the used bookstore:  Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys. 
I read Stephen King and noticed how he shortened scenes and cut from character to character close to the climax when he wanted to create tension.  I realized Madeleine L’Engle’s books were linked through recurring characters.  I read André Norton and Ursula LeGuin who created amazing worlds.  My grandmother hooked me on old movies:  I watched Hitchcock, hardboiled detective, any mystery movie.  From Charade I learned that everything had meaning, the passed-over object could unlock the mystery.
I wrote.  No one read these stories.  Mostly.  I showed my mother one story, about a computer program slowly deleting letters from human consciousness – of course those letters were not used in the story.  I waited for her reaction.  She looked up at me, uncomprehending.
One story I still have:  “Dead Men Don’t Eat Sundaes.”  (At this time, I was reading Raymond Chandler, watching Chinatown and The Big Sleep.  The name is an obvious rip-off of the Steve Martin film Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.)  As you can see from the picture, some famous writers agreed to give me blurbs.  You’ll also see, in the synopsis, that I’m stealing a major plot point from Charade.

4
I was scared:  I said I wanted to be a writer.  I always said that.  I thought I had no talent.  I took the easy way out.  I went to law school.
And then I ran.
5
After I graduated from law school, I took workshops, both through UCLA Extension and private workshops lead by a teacher from UCLA Extension, Tom Filer.  He’s the little voice in my head inhibiting me and correcting my sentences as I write.  I wrote self-indulgent stories about lonely young women, because I was a lonely young woman.  I published two of those stories in the late 90s.  They were in print, and I am happy they can’t be read now.
I gave my mother my contributor’s copies.  When I packed up her house, the journals were in the basket beside the loveseat in the den.  The spines are uncracked.
I had two daughters, I took a break from writing, but didn’t really take a break, because I was still writing, still meeting with my writing group, still taking workshops, with another teacher from UCLA Extension, Rachel Resnick.  I was just not submitting.  I attended workshops even when I was supposed to be on bed rest, missing only the last class because I gave birth.  At a writing retreat six years ago, Rachel said, looking up from my story about a teenage girl on a tour through Uzbekistan who has the hots for her tour guide:  Everyone has a voice.  You should work on the teenage voice.  You have a knack for that. 
Rachel is the tough-love voice in my head, telling me when things don’t work, but inspiring me to make it better. 
6
For a long time, I wrote about the trips I’d taken.  Moroccan deserts, a Turkish fish farm, Baja whale watching, Russian train trips.  I still write about travelling, but now I also write closer to home, about mother-daughter relationships, being a teen, the canyon I live in.  
  
7
What I’m avoiding, what I’m writing around:  I only start submitting again after my mother died, August 1, 2012.  All my publications – but for three – are in the last five years.  I know there’s a reason, because I hadn’t stopped writing.  Is it because her death was freeing?  That she wouldn’t see herself in every mother I write about, me in every teenager?  Or is it that she wouldn’t co-opt the story, take my success as her own?
And then I ran.

Baby in the Slingbacks
When unpacking her suitcase from their trip to the other continent, the woman finds the toy baby slipped into her new crocodile skin slingbacks.  In a pointed toe, pale pink glows against the gold leather insole.  She peers closer.  A small plastic toy baby, as small as her thumb, like the ones frozen in ice cubes for baby shower games.  As she pulls the shoe from her bag, the toy gleams brighter until she spills it radiant into her hand.  When she closes her eyes, she sees an afterimage, luminous and red.
The brightness fades.  The toy’s mouth opens, as naked and raw as the mouth of a kitten.  She almost drops it in her surprise.  The baby lies warm and trembling in her palm.  It has no navel.  Its penis is an exotic tiny mushroom.
She moves through the house, looking for the man.  Her breasts are heavy, sensitive against the gauze of her shirt.  The man reads the newspaper in the yard, sitting in the garden chair he always prefers.  He’s finished watering the plants and the ground is wet around the beds of overblown peonies.  While they were out of the country, the tomato plants grew wild, tendrils escaping from the wire cages, branches heavy with dark red fruit and plump horned worms.  She’ll have to can the tomatoes before they rot on the vines. 
The woman balances on the edge of the other chair, the baby cupped in her palm.  The baby has grown: he’s now the length of her hand and as heavy as the thick gold coins used as currency on the other continent.  The legs and arms stir.
She holds out the baby.  “What’s this?”
He folds the newspaper and prods the baby with a damp finger.  The baby turns his head to the man, eyes still shut.  “Looks like a very small baby.  What kind of joke is this?”
She has to hold the baby now with both hands, he grows so fast.  His mouth is bright red, his cheeks rouged. 
“Did you put this in my bag?” she says.
“Why would I do that?”
“You didn’t want me to stop treatment.”  The woman cradles the baby against her shoulder.  She is careful to support his neck, as her friends instructed her when she held their newborns.
“Maybe all we had to do was to go on vacation to get a baby,” he says.  “What everyone told us.”
The woman looks away.  The garden walls are thick with vines, the morning glories tight cylinders like the hand-rolled cigars sold in the country they visited.  Beyond the walls of their garden, the hills are undeveloped; in the summer heat, the wild grasses have browned, the plants already flowered, and the birds fledged.
The baby has grown to the length of her arm and bobs at her shoulder like a bird pecking.  His fingernails are flexible and almost translucent.  She traces the arch of his foot; his skin peels between the toes and in the folds of his legs.  “When I found him, he was plastic,” she says.
“Are you sure?”  The man strokes the baby’s hair.  His fingers graze her arm. 
“Of course I’m sure.”  She holds the baby tighter.  He mews in protest against her blouse.  “What if he changes back to plastic?” 
“Let’s worry about that if it happens,” he says.  “With kids, there’s enough worry.”
At her feet, nasturtiums bloom the color of a Buddhist monk’s robe.  The flowers will taste bitter in their salad tonight.  She thinks: in birth, there is always the promise of death.  She closes her eyes and feels herself floating, as if interlocked arms carefully bear her up the slope of the hill to the wildness outside the walls.  But when she opens her eyes, she has not moved, and the baby has stopped growing.  He roots into her neck, her chest.
She unbuttons her shirt, moves the cup of her bra aside, and puts the baby to her.  He takes her nipple in his mouth and a sting as vigorous as an electric shock singes her breast.  And the entire world focuses on that pain.
(Originally published on Tin House Open Bar)

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Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California with her family.  Her short fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from Synaesthesia Magazine, Necessary Fiction, Little Fiction, Third Point Press, and Sundog Lit, among others.  Her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions.  Her twitter handle is @lorisambolbrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com/

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Stops and Starts

 by Iris N. Schwartz



In grade school I began writing my first novel, about a fearless girl, her collie, and two loving parents. The Cohen Family, Crayola-illustrated, was, alas, never to be finished…or found.

That set the pattern for my writing. I always burned to write. In my preteens, I wrote fiction, longhand ─ mostly in the basement, away from family tumult and, especially, my mother.

In my teens I switched to electronic typewriter, later, grudgingly, to a computer. I continued to write several times a week, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. There were, however, times I didn’t write for weeks, months, or chillingly ─ years!

The Cohen Familywas definitely and defiantly a novel. Unlike my protagonist, I was burdened with fear and anxiety; I had a sister, but no collie or pet of any furry or feathery kind, and my parents were not demonstrative but distant, and, most likely, mildly to deeply depressed.

Why stops and starts? My mother, no doubt parroting her own mother or father, labeled me noisy, lazy, and selfish. She told me to shut up, questioned how I “dared” talk back to her. Eventually, I knew how she felt about any topic before I understood my own mind or heart. I apologized to chairs for accidentally kicking them. Did not trust my instincts. Thought if I could do it, it couldn’t worth much. That, of course, applied to my writing (and, later, my editing skills).

The first person to say I wrote well was an English Literature professor at Brooklyn College. I don’t recall her name or what she said; it was complimentary and therefore, scared me so much I forgot every word she uttered!

After graduating from college at the age of twenty I noticed an ad for an arts reviewer in my local Brooklyn newspaper, The Canarsie Courier. My first bylines ─ for theatre, book, and restaurant reviews ─ appeared. My first checks for writing awaited me at the newspaper office. I also penned humor and travel pieces. I felt giddy, which, to me, felt alien.

I made the mistake of showing a published review to my mother.

“So who says it’s bad?” she said.

Not long after, I stopped writing. But the voice within me possessed chutzpah and stubbornness. In subsequent years I enrolled in fiction and nonfiction writing courses at New York University and The New School.

I wrote short stories, two of which I revised extensively and published, at least a decade later. I started and stopped and started again an ambitious coming-of-age novel set in the South. My teachers were encouraging.

In the nineteen-nineties I divided my time between writing, performing, publishing poetry, and writing fiction.

Through a disastrous marriage, years of compulsive overeating, unfulfilling jobs and relationships, two different psychiatric diagnoses, several surgeries, and, finally, disability ─ through all this, I intermittently wrote fiction.

In 2010, I had to leave my editing job at a major accounting firm and go on disability. This was demoralizing and financially terrifying. With the aid of psychotherapy, corrected medications, inherent feistiness, beloved friends and family, and, finally, the right man, I made it through the worst times I could imagine.

It was no longer acceptable to me to be overmedicated, depressed, and scared to write. With physical and occupational therapy, as well as stationary bike riding at home, I am now getting around with a walker.

I realized in January 2017 that I’d been writing and submitting flash fiction consistently since January 2015. In 2014, I discovered this form, began reading expert practitioners, and freed myself to write what I needed and wanted to. I also started another novel that I will get back to.

I submit fiction, nonfiction, or poetry to literary journals on average three times per week. I’ve received a slew of rejections, but a fair number of acceptances, too.

I’ve started editing again on a freelance basis. It brings a little money but, more importantly, higher self-esteem and a sharper mind.

My best news? My fiction collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth And Other Stories, will be published by Poets Wear Prada in autumn, 2017!




Upstate

When I was fourteen, I tagged along with my friend Sheila Giddins and her parents to Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club in the Catskill Mountains. No one called my friend Giddy Giddins, but I always wanted to, primarily because she was pretty somber. She was also prettier, thinner, and blonder.

I wasn’t blonde at all. I was a brunette, chubby, but better-looking now that I wore contact lenses instead of thick glasses.
Sheila’s parents probably felt bad for me because my father had died the winter before. I didn’t mind their pity if it meant I’d be able to get away from my mother in Brooklyn. Three days’ escape from fluttering yahrzeitcandles* and death dates circled in red on the wall calendar beat no escape at all.

My first morning at Kutsher’s I stuffed myself with a dinner-plate-sized apple pancake. (I can still summon it—fluffy, cinnamon-aromatic, diabetes-sweet—if I shut my eyes and breathe deeply.)

On the second day, I awakened early and decided to walk the grounds. The sky was clear and sunnier than in Brooklyn. I felt light and, for a change, hopeful.

I met the blond boy that day. He was tall and Gentile, and so I went row boating with him. On the boat he told me he had just returned from a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam. He saw fellow soldiers blown up. He said they were friends. I pictured bullets piercing uniforms and flesh, blood spurting, bodies bursting apart. I forced myself to listen because he needed to talk and there was nothing else I could do for him. I thought of apple pancakes afterwards.

The blond boy needed a receptacle for his sadness. I could take it. I had seen death, too: my fifty-year-old father, body stiff as the board under my parents’ mattress. Eyes staring up at a void. No blood.

* Yahrzeit candles: Jewish memorial candles.



“Upstate” was first published by Writing Raw


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Iris N. Schwartzis a fiction and nonfiction writer, as well as a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her work has appeared in such journals as 101 Words, Algebra of Owls, Bindweed Magazine, Connotation Press, Flash Fiction Friday, The Flash Fiction Press, Gyroscope Review, Jellyfish Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Random Sample Review, The Tribe Journal, and, most recently,Anthology Askew: Love Gone Askew. Her first fiction collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth And Other Stories, will be published by Poets Wear Prada in autumn 2017.







Find more stories by Iris at these links:

Here’s the link to my flash fiction “Floundering,” which appeared in Gravel Magazine

Here’s the link to “Dream Date,” which appeared in Quail Bell Magazine


JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Cashmere & Pearls

by W.F. Lantry

 The Terraced Mountain. Available at Amazon.
So there I was, minding my own business, counting ceiling tiles. Not much else to do really; they’d laid us in these lidless clear plastic boxes, face up, and it was a bit of a struggle to turn over. Hardly worth the effort. None of us were very articulate that day. So like I said, most of us were just lying there, maybe giggling a little, looking for patterns in the ceiling. At least the climate control was working.

Then I heard something coming. I hadn’t seen the floor, but I assumed it was tile, based on the echoes. Clack clack clack. I must have recognized the rhythm from some forgotten experience – when they offer you river water to drink, don’t take it! I knew it was her heels making that noise, and they were getting closer. The door opened, and she swept into the room.

She had two attendants with her, looking young and efficient. Both held clipboards. And she – oh my goodness! Dark hair. Pearls. Long flowing gown, sewn with some kind of jewels, catching the light, sapphires, maybe, or amethysts? I was like two days old, how was I supposed to tell the difference? There was a shawl over her shoulders, silk or pashmina, woven with gold thread.

My lost homeland: San Diego Bay, California
The clacking got closer. Suddenly she was standing right next to me, with her attendants scribbling furiously. I could sense her perfume, and a change in the light. She leaned over, close to me, with that intense gaze of hers. “This one,” she said,  and she pressed her thumbnail between my eyebrows. Deep, maybe deeper than she intended. I’m not sure she wanted the mark quite that noticeable. 

Even now, everyone talks about it. It’s in all the pictures. Someone tried to photoshop it out once, for a book jacket. Didn’t work.

Then out the room she went, and I haven’t seen her since. Nor her attendants, which is sad, because one of them was pretty cute. I liked her skirt. After that, it was pretty much a normal life. I played in the waves, not because I liked to surf, but I enjoyed listening to the sirens and watching the mermaids. They never tried to tempt me, although some of my friends vanished inexplicably.

Another shore: Côte d’Azur, Provence, France
Books appeared, and I read them. Nothing was quite what I wanted, but that just kept me looking for more. In the summers, I’d wander the redwood forests, you could still do it then, and gaze into the canopies three hundred feet up. I thought the whole world was like that, mermaids and sirens and redwoods, maybe some blossoming ocotillos out in the desert, bright scarlet after the winter rains.

All this time I’d been writing poems. Love poems. Landscape poems. Spiritual-pastoral-courtly-botanical-erotic poems. So when someone invited me to another shore, saying, “Oh, you should write some poems about where I’m from,” I didn’t think much about it. More of the same, I said to myself. Oh, boy.

I woke up on the train, as it headed into the provinces. I saw my first vineyards, rows of vines stretched tautly over the red hills. There was a sea, bluer than I remembered the ocean. Azure, really. And the sea was to my South, so I couldn’t get my bearings. No waves, beaches covered with round stones, Aleppo pines gathering along the shore.

Stained glass: Musée National Marc Chagall-Nice France
We need the landscape to repeat us, but this landscape changed me, although I tried to resist. And I tried to resist the dancing women. Picture the scene: I’d just done an evening poetry reading at the Musée Chagall: murals and fountains and stained glass near the stage. Now it was the after-party in the terraced hills. I could see the moon reflecting on the waters of the midland sea. Music came from somewhere, and everyone was dancing on the ochre tiled esplanade. And there she was, suddenly, swirling, spinning, a vision of wind and silk, carelessly in my arms. Could you have resisted?

So many dalliances, all distractions from destiny. It gets worse. One time, I was drinking wine with a distraction at a café on the central square. People were dancing around a statue. And there she was, in a long skirt, twirling. She raised her arms over her head as she moved, the black cashmere shawl in her hands fluttering like a small bird’s wings.

Another time, I was doing a reading at the Centre Pompidou. Bounding up the stairs, late, people were waiting. So when I glimpsed her, examining the statues, I couldn’t stop, and by the time the reading was over, she was gone.
 Exiled Caribbean: Derek Walcott.

    


From there to other shores: snow and an exiled Caribbean taught me the lessons I needed. I fled the blizzards for the Gulf. There was a reception, and someone got his antlers stuck in a chandelier. As I helped him disentangle, he said “You look like a man who enjoys Scotch.” I was. We killed an entire Famous Grouse together, and by the time the bottle was empty, he’d turned me from poetry to fiction.

So many stories since then, so many poems. Mozart said, “I write music the way cows piss.” Typical Mozart. I’m not like that. I’m more like a fig tree, endlessly making leaves and fruit. Leaf after leaf after leaf, and the birds come and sample my offerings. Sometimes they get drunk on the fermentation, and then they sing from the branches like mermaids. It’s what I was made for, perhaps it’s even why I was born. Who can say?

She said, “William, start writing!”: 
Kathleen Fitzpatrick.
But remember that woman dancing in the central square? One day, I was sitting in my office, holding court. And she came clattering down the hallway, back into my life. When she waved her hands above her head, everything previous disappeared: the distractions, impedimenta, the fittings and fixtures. Nothing previous mattered. She sat in a chair, crossed her knees, and kicked her sandaled foot. She laughed at the mark on my forehead. But she knew what it was. And she said “William, start writing!”





A Season’s Requiem

by W.F. Lantry

She says, “An autumn feeling now descends
on June.” It’s true. A yellowed cherry leaf
spins down to a mown lawn. The darkened air
turns afternoon to evening, and rain

accumulates in half-scythed roadside ponds.
Along the Anacostia, downed trees
thrust their last barren limbs, almost in prayer,
towards those rocks where our lost pathway ends.

But this is no December, when I first
heard her sing “Ave”, answering my grief,
grafting her harmonies across my pain,
changing my loosened tethers into bonds,

her voice, like shifted days, answers my thirst
with early rain, and brings to mourning, ease.


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W.F. Lantry’s poetry collections are The Terraced Mountain 
(Little Red Tree 2015), The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012), winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, and a chapbook, The Language of Birds (2011). He received his PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, Patricia Goedicke Prize, Crucible Editors’ Prize, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (Israel), the Paris Lake Poetry Prize and Potomac Review Prize. His work appears widely online and in print. He currently works in Washington, DC. and is editor of Peacock Journal.





JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Music and Words Have Always Been a Part of My Life

by Gloria Mindock

At age nine. I was writing music and lyrics. I loved to sing and was constantly writing small songs. When I was twelve, I performed in a school play and was hooked on theatre and acting and continued until age forty, when I retired from the stage.

While growing up, there were so many books in the house. My mother painted and art books were a big part of my life. She recited the poetry of Robert Burns and Robert Frost which drove me crazy. Only years later did I appreciate their poetry. My dad was a school teacher so between them, I learned to appreciate the arts. My sister Kellis plays the piano, my brother-in-law plays the clarinet and other instruments and my nephew plays the violin. I have a very inspiring and artistic family.

In high school, I discovered Keats and Shelley and feel this was a turning point in my life. In college, I would go to the library and read poetry for hours. One of my favorite poems during that time was “The Buried Life” by Matthew Arnold.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s. For years, I had been performing, acting, and singing in cafes, bars, and at a few universities my original music and lyrics. I also sang the music of other musicians whose songs were so poetic, Joni Mitchell being one of them. I loved singing so much! In 1982, I lived in Iowa City for two years. I met so many wonderful writers at the Iowa Writers Workshop. At this time, I was writing experimental plays and performing performance art. 

Iowa City is where I co-founded a theatre with my ex-husband. When making the move to Somerville in 1984, our theatre got a name. Theatre S & S. Press. We became a non-profit theatre and a magazine was founded which I edited called the Boston Literary Review/BluR. The theatre and magazine ceased in 1994. 

Around this time, I discovered Eastern European poetry, literature, and translations. I started writing poetry and was influenced by this writing. I felt like I was home. Still today, that is the writing that makes me tick, want to write, and makes me feel alive when I read it. I can’t get enough of it. All my singing, acting, writing text for the theatre led me to poetry and to writing.

In 2005, I realized how much I missed publishing so founded Červená Barva Press. I have published writers from all over the world and met so many wonderful poets and fiction writers. I get excited when I publish writing that I love. All this motivates me to write. Reading many translations, which are easier to find now, stimulates me. There is nothing like a good book. 

Bill, my partner, is an amazing artist and he listens to my new work all the time. It helps to read it out loud and hear it. I know by the sound and rhythm of it if it needs to be edited or not.

A few years ago, I started to write flash fiction. I wrote some very strange things which was fun. I am currently working on three more manuscripts called, “I Wish Francisco Franco Would Love Me (poetry),” “Screaming for Paul (a memoir of my teeny bopper years and all the bands I met),” and one that is untitled. I guess you could say the writing bug hit me at an early age.




IN A DARK WORLD
             For N.


You told me I was a light in
a dark world.
Hanging onto these words,
I continue.
Everyday, there is slaughter, murder,
horrific things, done to a body…
things that make me sick.

Day after day, death happens…
despite the sun coming out to
show the blue of the sky.
Beauty and ugliness in battle—
Light and dark in battle—
Each day, a tug of war and each day,
each side wins somewhere in the world.

You told me I was light in a dark world.
Why did you do this?
Do you know something I don’t?
Am I an angel alone weeping 
with words coming out of my mouth 
that no one listens to?

From Whiteness of Bone

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Gloria Mindock is the founding editor of Cervena Barva Press and one of the USA editors for Levure Litteraire (France). She is the author of  Whiteness of Bone, (Glass Lyre Press, Publisher), LaPortile Raiului (translated into the Romanian by Flavia Cosma), Nothing Divine Here, and Blood Soaked Dresses.
Widely published in the USA and abroad, her poetry has been translated and published into the Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Bosnian, Spanish, Estonian, and French.

Facebook page for Whiteness of Bone 

Buy at Amazon: Whiteness of Bone


















Journey to Planet Write: The Dartboard > Vox > A Chance Encounter

by Jonathan Cardew

The Dartboard 

In the middle of the dartboard was a villain. Ninja Features. That was actually the name I had given him. He was pinned up on the board and taking his comeuppance, via darts. Throwing the darts were the good guys, of course. One was called Mummyface. Mummyface was a kind of squashed dartboard shape himself, with legs coming out of his head and a big-toothed grin and spaced-out eyes. I can visualize these images today, even though the comic book I wrote at nine is long gone. I can visualize Mr. Taylor, my English teacher, with his short-cropped beard and long legs, and I can still feel his enthusiasm for the work I’d done three decades later. 

Vox

I was enthralled, but mostly I was stoned, during Contemporary Fiction and the Self-Conscious Novel (I was also very self-conscious during the Self-Conscious Novel). Dr. Vic Sage mumbled. He ruminated. He had a beard. Sometimes, he just stared at us in our seminar room, modeled after a Swedish prison. He recommended I do a creative dissertation. We’d read Gulliver’s Travels, Cervantes, AL Kennedy, Arabian Nights. This was the late 90s in Norwich. I was raving a lot. I had my head in music. I put pen to paper badly. I licked Rizla and made spliffs, and wrote even worse. The Sage recommended Vox, a novel in dialogue. It was an erotic telephone conversation, which I devoured in one sitting. Then I wrote the best story I’d ever written. I kept on smoking for years.    


A Chance Encounter

I was about to have a baby. Not personally—via my wife. So I jumped head first into an MA at Sheffield Hallam University, as you do. Professor E.A. “Archie” Markham was from Montserrat, a small volcanic island in the Caribbean. He was back from Paris, in emeritus, teaching the short story unit. The English Department was in desperate need of a short story writer. I think they missed me, he said. He was the funniest person I know. And always late. And always equipped with a joke in observation form. One of our readings was ‘Chance Traveller’ by Haruki Murakami, a story about chance encounters* and coincidences. I read and re-read it. I wrote more bad stories. I cradled a baby. I worked a demoralizing job. I followed every word he said in our seminars. I followed every joke to the punch line. He suggested that we write a story about a year when spring didn’t happen, when the flowers didn’t sprout up out of the ground and the leaves didn’t return to the trees. I haven’t written that story yet. He passed away suddenly on his stairwell in Paris in 2008.

*I don’t believe in chance encounters. I would like to thank every teacher for teaching me.


Seascape

by Jonathan Cardew


Photo by Matt Richie
We fingered anemones and flicked crabs that summer while our parents screamed and threw things. I was the older, I was in charge, but the rock pools were all different shapes and sizes. Foothold was complicated. My sister bled.

When my mother shushed her, I could feel the scorn. She was blonde; I was brunette. She was outspoken; I was quiet. The ocean sprayed salt against the hulls of boats in the harbour. Jellyfish washed up and died, flecked in sand and seaweed. A storm passed through, snapping masts like toothpicks. I dreamt of a city far from water.

(Originally published in KYSO Flash Issue 5)

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Jonathan Cardew’s stories, interviews, and articles appear or are forthcoming in Atticus ReviewFlash: The International Short-Short Story MagazineThe ForgeJMWW, Smokelong Quarterly, and Segue, among others. He holds an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University, and he teaches English at Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he co-edits The Phoenix Literary and Arts Magazine. He was a finalist in this year’s Best Small Fictions

Links

“A History Without Suffering” by E.A. Markham

Dr. Victor Sage

An Interview with Jonathan Cardew:

Jonathan Cardew’s Website:


JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Reading. Writing. ETC.

“I never desire to converse with a man who has
 written more than he has read.”
         —Samuel Johnson

by Bill Yarrow

Growing up in a library, I fell in love with reading at an early age.


I should explain.

My dad’s business (running a penny arcade on the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD) kept him employed from May until September from early morning to midnight seven days a week. The rest of the year he was home with us. He was a voracious reader and an avid, if indiscriminate, book collector. He would frequent book auctions and purchase whole lots of books. One week, he’d bring home cartons of different encyclopedias. Another week, it would be plays—two or three hundred hardback editions of individual plays. Novels, cookbooks, memoirs, collections of letters, essays, literary history, art books, limited editions, small books in leather bindings, paperbacks of every stripe—our house was a book depository, repository, what you will. Our bedrooms, bathrooms, rec room (that’s what “family rooms” used to be called), garage, crawlspace—wherever you went in our house, you’d confront shelves or stacks or boxes of books.

I caught his habit.

I read everything. Everything. And then I bought every book I could afford and started building my own collection. As a teenager in the 60’s, I used to go into Center City (that’s what Philadelphians call their “downtown”) and hang out in this little bookstore on Chestnut Street (or was it Market Street?) called “Reedmore Books.” In the back of the store, they had a section of books without covers for ten cents apiece. I found some great books there! Ever read Nog by Rudolph Wurlitzer? On the back cover, in giant letters, a blurb screamed, “The novel of bullshit is dead!” (Thomas Pynchon). How could I not buy and not read that one?


The more books I read, the more books I wanted to read. The more authors I learned about, the more I wanted to read everything by those authors. I read like a demon. I devoured book after book after book. I never felt satiated. I never got tired. I could read anywhere—sitting, lying down, standing up, walking, on buses, on trains, on subways, on airplanes, in quiet places, in noisy places, alone, among other people, in libraries, in fields, on public benches—it didn’t matter where I was.


People who remember me from college remember me as the boy who always had a paperback in the back pocket of his painter’s pants. I was determined to read, along with the reading for my regular classes, at least one extra novel per week. Ah, the optimism of youth!



Self Interview


—Was there one certain writer you read who made you want to become a writer?
—No. Every good writer I read made me want to be a writer.

—When did you start writing seriously?
—When people started praising me for my writing.

All it takes is some early praise. And then all it takes is never stopping.

—At what age did you win your first prize for writing?
—Age 20. I won the Academy of American Poets Prize at Swarthmore College judged by Mark Strand.

—At what age did you publish your first poem?
—Age 30. In Confrontation or maybe it was The Antigonish Review. Same year. I can’t remember now which came out first.  

—At what age did you publish your first full-length book of poems?
Age 60. Pointed Sentences (114 poems) was published by BlazeVOX in January 2012.

—30 years passed between publishing your first poem and publishing your first book of poems. Did you ever get discouraged?
—No.

—30 years passed between publishing your first poem and publishing your first book of poems. Did you ever stop writing?
—No.

—How old are you now?
—65.

—How many books have you published so far?
—Two full-length books of poems and four chapbooks. My third full-length book of poems The Vig of Love(79 poems) will be published by Glass Lyre Press on September 24, 2016.

—Are you still writing actively?
—Yes. I write all the time. Usually, I have about 40-60 poems out at magazines at one time.



THE OGONTZ BRANCH
A Poem by Bill Yarrow


There are stories I will not tell, stories I shudder
to remember. You’ll forgive me for withholding them from you.
You may, of course, not tell me everything about yourself either.

A violation of intimacy? To me it seems its guarantee.
What I mean is we can tell each other anything,
but we don’t have to. A string is stronger for its knots.

It’s not that I prefer living in a house with a locked door.
That’s not what I mean. What I mean is
did I ever tell you about the Ogontz Branch?

I mean the Ogontz Branch of the Philadelphia Library.
It was on Ogontz Avenue between Old York Road
and Limekiln Pike. Thirty years ago, it was old and run down.

It wasn’t close to where I lived, but I used to love
to go there afternoons after school. I’d drive over,
hang out, read the paperbacks. No one there knew me.

I made friends with the librarian, a young woman
from Conshohocken with an odd, cocky smile.
Part of her job was shooing out the boozy bums.

It was in the Ogontz Branch where I discovered Intimacy
by Jean-Paul Sartre. A book of five longish tales,
the only stories Sartre ever wrote. With eyes blazing,

I devoured them. I ate without tasting, speeding through them
like a starving man before a meat buffet, but back then
I read many books I said I loved but didn’t understand.

Back then that was perhaps the point—to race through the pages,
to engulf, to possess the book—that, I felt, was the true thing!
It would be decades before I understood what I had missed.

If I am a book, I am Intimacy. Read me. Wrinkle my pages.
I am not asking for understanding. If you want to check
me out, ask the head librarian of the Ogontz Branch.

(This poem appears in The Vig of Love)

____________________________________

Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of The Vig of LoveBlasphemerPointed Sentences, and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry International, RHINO, FRiGG, Corium, Gargoyle, Iodine Poetry Journal, and PANK. He is the co-author, with the Boston composer Ray Fahrner, of Pointed Music, a CD of poems from Pointed Sentences. Yarrow is also an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth Review.






Website: 

Poems on Fictionaut:
Goodreads:
TV interview on You Tube:
Eleven Print Interviews 2010-2014:
Print Interviews 2015-2016:




JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Back to Age 9

Available at Amazon

by Len Kuntz

When I was a boy, there was always a lot of turmoil in our house, things I didn’t understand. I was painfully shy and had no friends, so I didn’t know how normal families lived, yet I knew ours was different.

The only place I felt safe was the basement bathroom where no one ever went. Sometimes late in the evening I would wedge myself between the sink and toilet, sitting over the heat vent because warmth, too, signified a kind of safety, as our house was always quite cold, because heat cost money and that was another thing we lacked.

I was around nine when this habit started. I’d stay up for hours, holed away in the bathroom, reading Gulliver’s Travelsor any other book I’d gotten from the library. Reading was escapism, something that felt like wonder, something I desperately needed.

School was another safe place and one semester in fourth grade, we focused on creative writing. The teacher assigned us four different writing prompts each day and we were to pick one to write about. I’d always choose all four because it seemed a shame to waste a good story idea, even if it wasn’t mine.

At the end of the year, my teacher pulled me aside and said, “You should think about being a writer when you grow up.” I thought she was joking at first, but the more I thought about it, the more the idea became a kind of dream that I carried around with me, tucked away safely in my shirt pocket, right beside my heart.

That summer our garage burned down and we were laying the foundation for a new one. All of us boys were helping out. (Len is on the far right at the end of the wagon) My brothers were very good with their hands, as well as my father, who was a mechanic. Me, I wore puka shells, had long, David Cassidy hair, and read poetry. My assisting simply meant handing over tools.


At one point we broke for lunch and as my brothers left, I was alone with my Dad, something kind of rare, but for whatever reason I felt brave enough to say, “Hey, Dad, I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.” To wit, he asked, “Yeah, what’s that?” He was staring at me then, but I still told him, “I want to be a writer.” Without hesitating, as if he knew what I was going to say all along, he said, “Quit your fucking dreaming. How’re you going to eat on that?”


Though it was a knife to the heart, I don’t think he meant it that way. We were poor. The way you made a living was with your hands and hard labor. He just couldn’t fathom being able to feed yourself, let alone a family, by writing words.

But what he’d said quashed my dream and so as I got older, I took a more pragmatic path and ended up having a corporate career.

More than thirty years later, I retired early and started writing full-time. This was around 2009. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know there were online journals and had never even heard of the term “Flash Fiction.” But once I discovered them, I became a student.

It was easy to assess who the top writers were at that time, so I picked a handful—Roxane Gay, Kim Chinquee, Kathy Fish, xTx, Meg Pokrass—and I read everything they wrote, read it forward and backward. Then I started submitting to the same places I’d seen them published, not realizing that for a novice like me, some of those places are extremely hard to get into. But that bit of naivety helped as my first few pieces landed in some of the top sites—Juked, Elimae, Storyglossia and others.

Along the way, I kept trying to be a student of the craft.  Additionally, I watched people like Matt Bell, who really worked hard at immersing himself in the writing community, and I tried, in my own way, to emulate what he had accomplished. What I never expected is how easy it would be, how welcoming and supportive other writers are. And it didn’t occur to me until later that, as writers, we’re all boats in the same ocean, just using different oars.

It’s a joy and a gift to be able to create and engage with other writers. It’s like finding your soul mate and realizing how lucky you are, never taking it for granted.

It’s been a long, sometimes crooked, road since I was that nine year old boy, but when I’m reading something that really sings, or when I’m totally engrossed while I’m writing, I think I’m still him. I’m warm and I’m safe. I’m quite happy.


                                                        Beautiful Violence 


Here’s what happens:

She thinks this is forever.  You love her.  You say so regularly.  Most of the time, you’re kind.  Occasionally, you’re a bastard because you have fists and impulses that are difficult to quell.
           
Still you’re her best thing ever.  She tells you that often, especially during sex–those seldom, soft-churning, almost-like-lovers, sex times.

And so a home movie or two is fine.  She’ll do whatever.  

Really, whatever.   Film all you want.  It’ll be ours to watch alone, titillating. 

Yes, she actually says that.

And then, out of the blue, the impulses and fists become overactive, finding flesh and bone, making hamburger over and over until she finally leaves you.

Stupid Bitch, why’d it take so long? 

But you still have the movie.  It’s just sitting there inside your phone, so you download it to a site where everyone can see what a ruler you are of women, how you dominate them, how they do whatever you command, and the video gets so many hits that you somehow start to make an income from it, plus your face is pixeled out, but not hers, because it’s important for her agony to be choreographed.

History—those tortured, yet intimate moments—is recorded from mere memories.  Easy peasy.  Yay!

And so you strut in front of a mirror naked, fists raised toward the ceiling, noticing how large your gut’s gotten, everything bigger now—ego, bravado—though not your understanding of love, sex, or how violence can possibly be a thing of beauty.

 _______________________________









Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’m Not Supposed To Be Here And Neither Are You out now from Unknown Press. You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com