We’re delighted to announce the publication of the print edition of “Mutating the Signature,” the Winter 2009 issue of qarrtsiluni, edited by Dana Guthrie Martin and Nathan Moore, focusing on collaborative works. In their call for submissions, Dana and Nathan wrote that they wanted “to emphasize the gnarly, brilliant, iterative, process-oriented mess that is the heart of any collaborative artistic endeavor.” As longtime collaborators themselves, they knew what they were talking about!
The issue that resulted was exciting, unique, edgy, and surprising. One of its most fascinating aspects was the inclusion of “process notes” by each team of collaborators which revealed not only the wide range of original inspirations and working methods available to writers and artists in this age of the internet, but the unpredictability of what happens between people both in their work together and in their chemistry.
We hope many qarrtsiluni readers and contributors will want to own a copy, and it’s one of the best ways you can support our ongoing volunteer efforts here. The book, designed and published by Phoenicia Publishing, has a full color cover, 146 pages, and is available for $13.95, either through our online store or at Amazon. Please go to the Phoenicia site for full details and a look inside the book. Thanks!
The striking image on the cover above is “bingo dye calligraphy grid” by Andrew Topel and Jim Leftwich.
Let’s get two things straight: Collaboration isn’t incarceration or incorporation.
True, collaboration is like incarceration in that handcuffs, particularly the kind lined with faux fur, are absolutely necessary. The collaborative process works best when participants are attached but still able to reach with their free hands. Of course, by “free,” we mean within the context of their material conditions (e.g. diet, geography and astrological determiners).
Collaboration is also like a company in that profit is collected. However, paychecks come in the form of beads and trinkets. Threading these requires a keen eye and a bottle of aspirin. Sharing a set of contact lenses is not advisable, since blurred vision leads to the most desirable outcomes. This is art, after all, not a driving test. Nobody wants or needs collaborative art taking up valuable space on our already congested highways.
Like a brain in the gut, collaborative process challenges the ego. Thoughts smear like cheap mascara on an overly emotional drag queen, which is not to say the collaborative process is overly emotional. In focus groups, collaboration has been called “impersonal” and “emotionally unavailable.” That’s right: Collaboration is your father. However, collaboration has also scored high in the areas of “inappropriate staring” and “monkey business.”
We applaud those who undertook collaboration for this issue. We sympathize with your resulting identity crises and ecstatic spasms. Unfortunately, we only have poetic licenses, which means we can’t dole out any medications to help you return to your isolation chambers. Soon the word “I” will disappear from your vocabulary. You won’t notice when it goes, but might later feel mild tingling and foreign-body sensations in your ribs.
There will also be a slight awkwardness when ordering at restaurants. People will wonder why you always order for two. They will assume you are using the royal “we.” They will never understand you. You are an artist. You are not meant to be understood. Thank you.
Click on contributors’ names to see all their work in the magazine.
Greta Aart is the nom de plume of Fiona Sze Lorrain, a zheng (ancient Chinese harp) concertist and theatre artist who lives in Paris and writes in both English and French. Recent poetry has appeared in Caesura, New Politics, Santa Clara Review, Raven Chronicles, River Oak Review, Tibetan Review, and other journals. Her nonfiction includes Silhouette/Shadow: The Cinematic Art of Gao Xingjian (Contours, 2007).
Stacey Allam is a poet from Brooklyn, NY. She has published several chapbooks, as well as individual poems in the small press. She and John Bennett (see below) have written many many collaborative poems over the years.
Andrew Anderson is currently employed at the Ohio State University where he is a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the French Department. He has been writing since he was able to use a writing instrument, and his first book, Mans, was hailed by his parents as a breakthrough for a 4-year-old. He and his wife Amanda currently reside in Columbus, Ohio, and both are members of Wild Goose Creative, an arts collective that promotes collaboration among artists. When Andrew finishes his Doctorate, he would like to work at a University where he would be able to teach both beginning level French and also Absurdist Theater.
Emily May Anderson has a BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University and will start working on an MFA at Penn State in the fall of 2009. When she’s not writing, she’s likely to be found running on the bike path, walking her dog, or cooking something delicious and vegetarian. She blogs at rice in the cupboard.
Holly Anderson authored Lily Lou (Purgatory Pie Press) and Sheherezade (Pyramid Atlantic), anthologized in Up is Up But So is Down: NY’s Downtown Literary Scene,1974-1992 (NYU Press). Recently online or in print at Admit2, Conduit, Critjournal, Fringe, Mung Being, Rampike, Six LittleThings, SmokeMusic.TV and The Mom Egg. Her Mission of Burma co-write ‘Mica’ is currently licensed to Rock Band 2 which pleases her 15 year old daughter very much.
Arlene Ang serves as a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. A poetry collection, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon, co-written with Valerie Fox, was recently published by Texture Press. She lives in Spinea, Italy. More of her writing may be viewed at her website.
John M. Bennett (website) has published over 300 books and chapbooks of poetry and other materials. Among the most recent are rOlling COMBers (Potes & Poets Press), Mailer Leaves Ham (Pantograph Press), Loose Watch (Invisible Press), Chac Prostibulario: A Collaboration< (with Ivan Arguelles; Pavement Saw Press), and Historietas Alfabeticas (Luna Bisonte Prods). He has published, exhibited and performed his word art worldwide in thousands of publications and venues. He was editor and publisher of Lost and Found Times (1975-2005), and is Curator of the Avant Writing Collection at The Ohio State University Libraries.
Sarah R. Bloom (website), 39, has written poetry off and on since she was in first grade, with a high point of creative output occurring between the ages of 22-26. Her poetry appeared in several smaller publications during that time. These days she primarily focuses on her photography, with the occasional haiku. She lives outside Philadelphia with her English husband, her American 13 year old daughter, and their 2 Greek dogs.
Helen Brandenburg is the Department Chair of English at Bishop England High School in Charleston, SC, where she has taught for over 20 years. Before this life, she was a dancer.
Dustin Brookshire (blog) is a poet and activist from Atlanta, Georgia. His work has been published in numerous online journals and won awards from state poetry societies. Dustin would like to thank the qarrtsiluni editors for this opportunity as well as give a big gay thanks to Dolly Parton. In true Tina Fey-at-the-2008-Golden Globes-style, he would like tell his eleventh grade literature teacher, who told him to stop writing poetry, to suck it.
Rick Bursky (blog) is a poet, ad guy, writer, and photographer, who says, “I’ve been lucky in the advertising world and have managed to win many awards including a Gold Pencil from the One Show and a Cannes Lion. So far I’ve had two books of poetry published: The Soup of Something Missing from Bear Star Press, and The Invention of Fiction from Hollyridge.”
Nick Carbó (National Public Radio profile) is the author of El Grupo McDonald’s (1995), Secret Asian Man (2000), which won the Asian American Literary Award, and Andalusian Dawn (2004). He is the editor of three anthologies of Filipino literature: Pinoy Poetics (2004), Babaylan (2000), and Returning a Borrowed Tongue (1995). He’s won numerous awards, grants (National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts 1999) and residencies (Fundacion Valparaiso, Spain; Le Chateau de Lavigny, Switzerland; the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo).
Peter Cherches (blog) is the author of two volumes of short prose: Condensed Book and Between a Dream and a Cup of Coffee. His fiction and short prose work has been featured in a wide range of magazines and journals, including Harper’s, Semiotext(e), Transatlantic Review, Fiction International, and Bomb. Recent online publications include elimae, Mung Being, AdmitTwo [PDF], Snow Monkey, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and The Cafe Irreal.
Cathryn Cofell has been published in Margie, Slipstream, Prairie Schooner, Phoebe, Fireweed Collective, and Rattle, among others, and is the recipient of two national Pushcart nominations and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Outstanding Poem Award for two consecutive years. She is the author of five chapbooks, most recently: Kamikaze Commotion (Parallel Press, 2008). Her collaborative poems with Karla Huston have appeared in Rhino; Indiana Review, Collaboration/College issue; and also in the anthology Saints of Hysteria.
Thomas Cook is co-editor and publisher of Tammy. He is the author of a chapbook, Anemic Cinema (Horse Less Press) and his poems can be found in Pank, Lamination Colony, New Orleans Review and Delkelekh.
Bruce Covey’s fourth book of poetry, Glass Is Really a Liquid, will be published in 2009 by No Tell Books. He lives in Atlanta, GA, where he teaches at Emory University, edits Coconut Poetry, and curates the What’s New in Poetry reading series.
Ron Czerwien is the owner of Avol’s, a used and out-of-print book store in Madison, Wisconsin. His poems have appeared online in Moria, Shampoo, nth position, and other journals. The questions most frequently asked by his customers can be found here.
steve d. dalachinsky’s work has appeared extensively in journals on- & off-line including: Big Bridge, Milk, Unlikely Stories, Xpressed, Ratapallax, Evergreen Review, Long Shot, Alpha Beat Soup, Xtant, Blue Beat Jacket, N.Y. Arts Magazine, 88 and Lost and Found Times. He is included in such anthologies as Beat Indeed, Haiku Moment, and the esteemed Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He has written liner notes for the CDs of many artists including Anthony Braxton, Charles Gayle, James “Blood” Ulmer, Rashied Ali, Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp and Roscoe Mitchell. His books include A Superintendent’s Eyes (Hozomeen Press 2000) and his PEN Award-winning book The Final Nite (complete notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook, Ugly Duckling Presse 2006). His latest CD is Phenomena of Interference, a collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp (Hopscotch Records 2005).
Anna Dickie (blog) is a photographer based in East Lothian, Scotland. Anna came back to photography after years away raising a family and working as a policy officer in the UK Civil Service. It became a passion again when she was recovering from breast cancer treatment. In the last three years she’s won or been short listed in a number of competitions, including having a shot hung in the Scottish Parliament, as part of a touring exhibition on the theme of coastal erosion. She also writes poetry, though this is a more recent love, and has had two chapbooks published, Peeling Onions, a series poem about coming through a cancer diagnosis, and Heart Notes, just published by Calder Wood Press.
Danika Dinsmore lives in Vancouver and blogs at The Accidental Novelist, where she says, “I started out as a poet, spent many years as a spoken-word artist, and began screenwriting in my late 20’s. I wrote while I earned my paycheck as a waitress, teacher, non-profit arts administrator, event manager/producer, and on-set tutor for film and television.”
Tyler Flynn Dorholt is co-editor and publisher of Tammy, co-editor of the Columbia Poetry Review, and a reader for Hotel Amerika. Works of his recently appear or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Quarterly West, Action Yes, Octopus, and others. His chapbook, Dog the Man a Star, is available at Scantily Clad Press.
Greer DuBois is a home-schooled student of poetry, music, drama and many other things from Madison, Wisconsin. Her poem in qarrtsiluni was her first publication.
Denise Duhamel’s most recent poetry titles are Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), Mille et un Sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001). Her work has appeared in Ontario Review, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is an associate professor at Florida International University in Miami.
Susan Elbe (website) is the author of Eden in the Rearview Mirror (Wordtech), which won Honorable Mention for the 2007 Council for Wisconsin Writers’ Posner Poetry Book Award, and a chapbook, Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press).
Daniela Bouneva Elza (website) dwells beyond cultural and geographic boarders. Her super powers include finding four leaf clovers and growing poems out of dandelion seeds. Most recently her work appeared in Rocksalt: Anthology of Contemporary B.C. Poetry, The Vancouver Review, and is forthcoming in the book Poetic Inquiry, Van Gogh’s Ear, and A Verse Map of Vancouver.
Eileen Favorite is the author of The Heroines (Scribner, 2008). Her poems and essays have aired on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, and she’s received Illinois Arts Council Fellowships in both poetry and prose. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jeff Fioravanti is an expressive realist painter with works currently held in many corporate and private collections throughout the US and Europe, as well as in the permanent collection of the Cape Ann Historical Museum. He resides in Lynn, Massachusetts, and is currently represented by and exhibiting at Art Research Associates gallery in South Hamilton, MA, Art3 gallery in Manchester, NH, and Gallery 30 in Gettysburg, PA.
Valerie Fox’s poetry collection, Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon, co-written with Arlene Ang, was recently published by Texture Press. Her other titles include The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Press, 2006) and Amnesia, or, Ideas for Movies (Texture Press, 1993). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Siren, The World, Hanging Loose, West Branch, Phoebe, Printed Matter, No Roses Review, Poems Niederngasse, 5 Trope, Feminist Studies, and The Painted Bride Quarterly.
Vernon Frazer (website) has published eight books of poetry, including the longpoem Improvisations, and three books of fiction. His work has appeared in Aught, Big Bridge, Drunken Boat, Exquisite Corpse, First Intensity, Golden Handcuffs Review, Jack Magazine, Lost and Found Times, Moria, Otoliths and many other literary magazines. His most recent books of poetry are Bodied Tone and Holiday Idylling. Frazer is married and lives in South Florida.
Dick Freeman is an avocational visual artist who lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Elisa Gabbert is the poetry editor of Absent. Her recent poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Diagram, Eleven Eleven, Meridian, Pleiades, Typo, Washington Square and other journals. A chapbook, Thanks for Sending the Engine, is available from Kitchen Press. She is also the author, with Kathleen Rooney, of Something Really Wonderful (dancing girl press, 2007), and That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths Books, 2008). Their collaborations can be found in Boston Review, Caketrain, jubilat, and No Tell Motel.
Video, audio and technology editor/designer Arturo Lomas Garza is the percussion heartbeat of Beto and the Fairlanes, a longtime Austin Latin jazz band headed by composer Robert Skiles. In addition to countless live performances in the US and Mexico, Turo has performed on many studio music and video recordings with various artists. By day, he designs printed circuit boards for high-tech innovator, Cirrus Logic. Turo makes his home in Austin with his wife and frequent artistic collaborator, Katherine Durham Oldmixon (see below).
Chris Green is a Visiting Fellow at DePaul University’s Humanities Center, where he teaches creative writing and poetry. His recent book of poems, The Sky Over Walgreens, was published by Mayapple Press. His poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Verse, Black Clock, North American Review, RATTLE, 5 AM, Court Green, and Poetry East.
Barbara Hagerty’s chapbook, The Guest House, was published by Finishing Line Press in March, 2009. Her poetry has appeared recently in Kakalak, ART, and Aftershocks, as well as on the Best American Poetry website.
Pamela Hart is a former journalist. Her chapbook The End of the Body was recently published by toadlily press. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in journals such as BigCityLit.com, Rattapallax, Lumina and Kalliope. She is writer in residence at the Katonah Museum of Art and teaches writing at Long Island University’s Graduate School of Education. She blogs at A Walk Around the Lake.
Mary Hawley is the author of Double Tongues and co-translator of a bilingual poetry anthology Astillas de luz/Shards of Light, both published by Tía Chucha Press. She has been active in the Chicago poetry community for many years, and her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Notre Dame Review, The Bloomsbury Review, Luna, Another Chicago Magazine, and Power Lines: A Decade of Poetry from Chicago’s Guild Complex.
Jo Hemmant is an ex-journalist and editor who lives in the burbs outside London, England with her husband, two sons and dog, Lucy. She started writing poetry last year, the day her youngest son started school, and has had several poems published in both qarrtsiluni and Canopic Jar and has poems upcoming in blossombones, Blue Fifth Review and the British journals Equinox, Dream Catcher, Fire and Decanto. Jo is also an editor of ouroboros review, a new poetry and art journal.
Tammy Ho Lai-ming (website) is a Hong Kong-born and -based writer. She edited Hong Kong U Writing: An Anthology (2006) and co-edited Love & Lust (Inkstone Books, 2008). She is also a co-founder and co-editor of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, the first and currently the only Hong Kong online literary journal. She has been collaborating with Reid Mitchell (q.v.) for two years now.
Ryan Hoke grew up in a little town on Lake Michigan called South Haven. In his town there was one red lighthouse and two sand colored beaches. He is currently a proud resident of Columbus, Ohio where he and his wife Jacqui are founding members of Wild Goose Creative, a community based arts company. Some of Ryan’s current projects include writing and performing collaborative sketch comedy and creating new pieces for Moot Knacks, he and Andrew Anderson’s jazz/performance poetry band. He is continually trying to find tasteful ways to display a large collection of wiener dog themed art, amassed between the ages of 11 and 16.
W. Joe Hoppe teaches English and Creative Writing at Austin Community College in Austin, TX. His first full-length book of poetry, Galvanized, is available through Dalton Publishing. W. Joe is honored and grateful to be associated with the other poets in The Brass Tacks. Happy Good Success Fortune Thank You.
Karla Huston (website) has published poetry, reviews and interviews in several journals including Cimarron Review, Ecletica Magazine, 5 A.M., Margie, North American Review, One Trick Pony, Pearl, Rattle, and Smartish Pace. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, most recently: Flight Patterns (winner of the 2003 Main Street Rag chapbook contest), Virgins on the Rocks (Parallel Press: 2004), and Catch and Release (Marsh River Editions: 2005). She has also published poems written collaboratively with Cathryn Cofell (q.v.).
Judy Jensen’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies such as The Prose Poem: An International Journal and Letters to the World: Poems from the Wom-Po Listserv. Two of her poems are featured in the Blanton Museum of Art’s Poetry Project. She co-founded Float Press, designing and printing poetry broadsides on a 1908 Golding Jobber #6 letterpress to raise funds for charities and literary events.
Kathleen Jesme (website) is the author of three collections of poetry: The Plum-Stone Game (Ahsahta Press), Motherhouse (Pleiades Press), winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize, and Fire Eater (University of Tampa Press). She lives in Minnesota.
Colette Jonopulos lives, writes, and edits in a small yellow house in Eugene, Oregon. Her poetry and flash fiction have appeared in cho, PMS, Alimentum, Clackamas Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, HeartLodge, Big Pulp, Admit Two, and Yellow Mama. Rattlesnake Press published her chapbook, The Burden of Wings. Her second chapbook, Enough of Daylight, will be published in 2009. She currently co-edits and publishes Tiger’s Eye: A Journal of Poetry.
Priya Keefe (blog) entered life through the door of the Pike Place Market. Publications include Pontoon 7, 2003 Metro Poetry Buses, Drash, and Real Change. Performances include a Seattle City Council Meeting, Bumbershoot festival, Bart Baxter Poetry in Performance, and Band of Poets. Her spoken word CD is From the Lips of Town Criers.
Lucy Kempton is British, living in Brittany with husband and dog, and sometimes teaching English. She blogs at box elder — subtitled “meanderings of a displaced dilettante” — and the microblog Out with Mol. She is currently engaged in a call-and-response-style, online collaboration with British blogger Joe Hyam called Questions. She co-edited qarrtsiluni’s Water issue with Katherine Durham Oldmixon.
Jukka-Pekka Kervinen (collaborative processes) is a Finnish composer and artist who has collaborated in publications with Jim Leftwich, Peter Ganick, Andrew Topel, John Crouse, Michelle Greenblatt, and Mark Young.
Lissa Kiernan is poetry editor of the Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal and founder of The Rooster Moans poetry community. Her poems have recently appeared in Unsplendid, Pemmican, and MiPOesias. She lives in Brooklyn.
The King Canutes, according to their page on CD Baby, are “a Brooklyn/Paris combo comprised of Keir Woods and Richard Alwyn and a revolving cast of courtiers. Having met in New York as transplants from Manchester, UK (Woods) and Kansas City, MO (Alwyn), their rich, melodious compositions display native influences such as The Smiths and The Replacements and draw inspiration from wider sources including Lloyd Cole, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and the American Music Club.”
Ken Lamberton’s book Wilderness and Razor Wire (Mercury House, 2000) won the John Burroughs Medal, and he received a Soros Justice Fellowship to help promote A Time of Grace: Thoughts on Nature, Family, and the Politics of Crime and Punishment, published by the University of Arizona Press. A Time of Grace also won the Eric Hoffer Notable Book Award and was a 2008 Arizona Book Award finalist for Best Nature/Enviromental Book.
Melissa Lamberton is a University of Arizona student with a double major in Environmental Science and Creative Writing. She published her first poem in middle school, and her work has since appeared in The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry and multiple times in RATTLE. She has also written for several newspapers about river restoration and water issues. This is her first appearance in qarrtsiluni.
Dorothee Lang edits the BluePrintReview, an experimental online journal, and is the author of Masala Moments, a travel novel about India. Her work has appeared in Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Eclectica, The Mississippi Review, Juked, No Tell Motel, Subtletea and numerous other places. For more about her, visit her at blueprint21.de.
Amy Lemmon’s poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Rattapallax, Barrow Street, Cincinnati Review, Verse, Birmingham Review, and elsewhere. She was awarded the Ruskin Art Club Poetry Prize by Red Hen Press for her first book Saint Nobody; her chapbook, Fine Motor, was awarded the Sow’s Ear Review Chapbook prize and published in 2008. She is an associate professor of English at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Kit Loney received the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s 2008 Carrie Allen McCray Prize, and 2007 DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Prize. Her work has appeared in the 2007 and 2008 Kakalak Anthology of Carolina Poets. Her day job is teaching middle school art.
Genevieve Lyons made her stage debut at the age of eight when she appeared in Mrs. Anderson’s second grade class production of Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires. She was The Fire. She thinks everyone should read the spider scene in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Her favorite insect is the ant, and she wants to visit Antarctica.
David Meischen, a former high school English teacher, is pursuing an MFA at Texas State University, where he has written several short stories set in the fictional South Texas town of Nopalito. His appears appear in many journals, including di-verse-city, Cider Press Review, Southern Review and Southern Poetry Review. With Scott Wiggerman, he runs dos gatos press, publisher of the Texas Poetry Calendar.
Samantha Meyers lives in Columbus, Ohio with her cat Henry David Thoreau.
Susan Meyers (blog) is the author of Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press, 2006), which received the SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. A long-time writing instructor, she lives in the rural community of Givhans, near Summerville, SC.
Leslie F. Miller (website) is a freelance writer living in Baltimore. Her first book, Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2009.
Reid Mitchell is a New Orleanian who refuged one crucial year in Hong Kong (2005-2006) and has previously taught in New Orleans, Princeton, Berkeley and Budapest. Mitchell has had poems accepted for publication in The Pedestal Magazine, Poetry Macao, Mascara Poetry, Asia Literary Review and elsewhere. He has also published a novel, A Man Under Authority (Turtle Point Press, 1997), a number of literary dialogues, and academic works of history. He has been collaborating with Tammy Ho Lai-ming (q.v.) for two years now.
Sally Molini (webpage) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in or is forthcoming in LIT, Beloit Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, Siren, Stirring, 32 Poems, 42opus, elimae, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program and lives in Nebraska. She is currently swimming the vast and choppy waters of putting together a first book.
Jed Myers, born in Philadelphia in 1952, is a Seattle area poet and singer-songwriter whose poems appear in print in Fugue, Golden Handcuffs Review, Prairie Schooner, Atlanta Review, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Distillery, and elsewhere. His work has appeared on the web at sites including Friends Journal, PoetsWest, Satya Center, SnowMonkey, and Arabesques. He performs with two poetry-and-music ensembles, Band of Poets and Dharma Divers. By day he is a psychiatrist with a therapy practice, and he teaches at the University of Washington. Monday nights he hosts, sings, and recites at North EndForum in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood where he lives with his wife and three children.
Katherine Durham Oldmixon co-edited qarrtsiluni’s Water issue with Lucy Kempton, and has just seen the publication of a chapbook of sonnets, Water Signs, from Finishing Line Press. A poet active in the community, she also serves on the board of Texas Folklife, is the current president of Austin Poetry Society and is a Research Associate of the Humanities Institute of the University of Texas at Austin. She and Arturo Lomas Garza blog about their artistic projects, many of which are collaborations, at Katudi Artists Collaboration.
K. Alma Peterson is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The New Orphic Review, Perihelion, Skidrow Penthouse and others. In 1999, her poem “Between Us” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rosemount, Minnesota.
Cecilia Pinto’s writing has appeared in Esquire, Fence, Quarter After Eight, and Diagram amongst other places. Her work is also anthologized in The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (Cracked Slab Books) and Billet-Doux (Dancing Girl Press). Collaborative work created with Alice George appears in an anthology Saints of Hysteria. She is a teaching artist associated with several programs for young people in the Chicago area.
Mike Puican has had his poetry published in numerous journals including: Michigan Quarterly Review, The Bloomsbury Review, Third Coast Review and Another Chicago Magazine. He was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team. He is currently completing his MFA at Warren Wilson College.
Steve Rago, a lapsed journalist, is a former editor at The New York Times. He’s a corporate development executive at John Wiley & Sons publishing. His photographs have been exhibited in New York City and Connecticut.
D’Arcy Randall is a founder of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and has published her own work in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Southern Poetry Review, and other journals in the US, Canada, and Australia. She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
Monica Raymond, who was selected as a 2008 finalist in poetry by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, recently won a Jerome Fellowship at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. She has a seven-issue acceptance streak at qarrtsiluni — our longest run by any contributor.
Harold Rhenisch has won the CBC Literary Prize, the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, and the George Ryga Prize. His latest book is Return to Open Water: Poems New & Selected. He lives in Campbell River, where he is kept by a large, black dog.
Kathleen Rooney (website) is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and the author of Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America (University of Arkansas Press, 2005) and the memoir Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object (Arkansas, 2009), as well as the poetry collection Oneiromance (an epithalamion) (Switchback Books, 2008). Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, Gettysburg Review and Sycamore Review.
Rebecca Rose is a writer, activist and senior at Auburn High School. She is editor in chief of her school newspaper, The Troy InVoice, and has served as president of both Key Club and the Gay/Straight Alliance. As one of two “senators” elected to attend Girls Nation in Washington, D.C. in July 2008, she met President Bush and other leaders. In college, she plans to major in journalism. Rebecca also is on her school’s tennis team and works as a barista at Starbucks.
Poet of page & stage, cin salach (webpage) has collaborated with musicians, painters, poets, video artists, dancers and photographers. Her first book, Looking for a Soft Place to Land, was published by Tia Chucha Press. An Illinois Arts Council recipient and Ragdale fellow, cin is also a consultant for Words@Play, a Ragdale teaching artist and new mom to Leo Christopher Salach.
Sig Bang Schmidt lives in Vienna, Austria. He was born in 1958 in Hockenheim, Germany. In the 1980s, he studied physics during the day at Freie Universität Berlin, while studying painting at night. For several years, he lived with his wife in the Upper West Side and Staten Island. He has had exhibitions in Berlin and New York. Sig met Steve Dalachinsky (see above) in the 1990s and began collaborating with him. He started working on the World War I photograph series, excerpted for this issue, in 2002 and asked Steve to complete the pieces by adding his poetry to the images.
Peter Schwartz (website) has more styles than a Natal Midlands Dwarf Chameleon. He’s been published on such sites as: Arsenic Lobster, Mannequin Envy, Opium Magazine, 42 Opus, 5 Trope and Verdad, and such print journals as: Asheville Poetry Review, Knock, Neon and VOX. His third chapbook ghost diet is forthcoming with Altered Crow Press.
Deb Scott (Stoney Moss) is a middle-aged tomboy living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and pets. Her poetry is published in MReview 2006 and 2007, Tonopah la, Asphalt Sky, A Handful of Stones, VoiceCatcher 3, and Ouroboros.
Deborah Lawson Scott will complete her MFA in creative writing at Queens University of Charlotte in May 2009. Her work has been published in several journals and anthologies including My South, Poetry in the South, and Kakalak (2007 and 2008). She is a recipient of the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s Dubose & Dorothy Heyward Society Prize. Deborah lives in Charleston, SC.
Spencer Selby has maintained an exhaustive List of Experimental Poetry/Art Magazines since 1993, online since 1999. His book Dark City: The Film Noir (Jefferson NC: McFarland & Company, 1984, 97) is considered a seminal work in the field. His poetry titles include Twist of Address (Shearsman, 2007), Task (Zasterle Press, 1999), and The Big R (Angle Press, 1998).
Christina Shah can’t seem to avoid locations with sponge-painted walls. She has recently completed her first full-length poetry collection, Butterfly Maiden. She lives with a very polite dog in Saskatoon.
Ravi Shankar is Associate Professor and Poet-in-Residence at Central Connecticut State University and the founding editor of the international online journal of the arts, Drunken Boat. He has published a book of poems, Instrumentality (Cherry Grove), named a finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards, and with Reb Livingston, a collaborative chapbook, Wanton Textiles (No Tell Books, 2006). He has taught at Queens College, University of New Haven, and Columbia University, where he received his MFA in Poetry. He has been a commentator on NPR and BBC, and along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond (W.W Norton & Co., 2008). He likes to jam and jibe with fellow artists and poets on verbal and multimedia collaborations.
Tom Sheehan’s latest books are Brief Cases, Short Spans, and From the Quickening (January 2009 from Pocol Press); proposal for a collection of cowboy stories, Where Cowboys Ride Forever, and Out of the Universe Endlessly Calling are in the hands of publishers; other in-process works are novels Murder from the Forum, Death of a Lottery Foe, and An Accountable Death. His work is currently in or forthcoming in Ocean Magazine, Perigee, Rope and Wire Magazine, and many other journals and anthologies. He has ten Pushcart nominations, Noted Story nominations for 2007 and 2008, the Georges Simenon Award for fiction, and a story in the Best of the Web 2009 anthology from Dzanc Books.
Carolee D. Sherwood is a painter, mixed media artist and poet. Her poetry has been published online at Qarrtsiluni and Literary Mama and in print through Ballard Street Poetry Journal and The Tipton Poetry Journal. This moody mother of three young boys uses poetry as an emotional crutch. To share this coping mechanism with others, she’s trained professionally as an expressive arts facilitator and helps others access the healing nature of the arts.
Robert Skiles is an award winning composer, conductor and pianist whose music spans a wide variety of styles and genres. Educated at the University of North Texas, Texas University, and The University of Grenoble, France, Robert continues to explore the many creative possibilities that arise in collaborations with film makers, graphic artists, poets and choreographers. He has recorded and released eight commercially successful CDs of his own music, as well as conducted the performance of his works with five nationally acclaimed symphony orchestras.
Prize-winning photographer Anne Morrison Smyth (website) grew up in Ripton, Vermont and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She moved to Belchertown in 1999 after living in Amherst for 30 years, where she raised her four children. Anne’s love for wildernesses of all kinds informs her work with an intimate, unflinching celebration of the diverse small realities that create a larger truth.
Jessamyn Smyth (website) is a writer in all genres. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and recognized in Best American Short Stories 2006; her plays have been produced by Naked Theatre Northampton, Arena Civic Theater, The Shea Theater’s Festival of New Work, The Country Players, and others; her essays have aired on Public Radio; and her poetry and short prose have appeared in various electronic and print journals. She co-edited qarrtsiluni’s Transformation issue with Allan Peterson.
Christine Swint (blog) is a former high school Spanish teacher who now devotes herself to creative writing and the practice of yoga. She is co-editor of ouroboros review, a poetry and art journal. Her poems, stories and video poems have recently appeared online in Mannequin Envy and Burst! and are forthcoming in the Tipton Poetry Journal.
Eileen R. Tabios has released 16 print, four electronic and 1 CD poetry collections, a novel, an art essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, and a short story book. Recipient of the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry, she recently released a new poetry collection Nota Bene Eiswein (Ahadada, 2009) and a conceptual project disrupting the form of biography, The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys (BlazeVOX, 2008). Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, Portuguese, Paintings, Video, Drawings, Visual Poetry, Mixed Media Collages, Kali Martial Arts, Modern Dance and Sculpture. She blogs as the “Chatelaine” and edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review journal.
Rob Taylor lives in Vancouver, BC by birth and by choice, to greater and lesser degrees of each depending on the weather. His poems have most recently been published in The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, and Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry.
Wendy Vardaman has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and has poems, reviews, and interviews published or forthcoming in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Poet Lore, Main Street Rag, Nerve Cowboy, damselfly, Free Verse, Pivot, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Women’s Review of Books and Portland Review Literary Journal. She works for the children’s theater company, The Young Shakespeare Players, home schools, two of three children, and will soon begin to co-edit the Wisconsin poetry journal Free Verse.
Andrea Watson’s poetry has appeared in Poet, Runes, The Comstock Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Manzanita Quarterly, Folio, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Sin Fronteras: Writers Without Borders, Tiger’s Eye, Gin Bender, The Eleventh Muse, Pilgrimage, Georgetown Review, Room of One’s Own and Earth’s Daughters. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her show, Braided Lives: A Collaboration Between Artists and Poets, was sponsored by the Taos Institute of Arts in July, 2003; traveled to San Francisco’s SomArts Cultural Center in 2005; and was hosted by Tennyson Gallery in Denver, Colorado, in 2006. She is editor and publisher of HeartLodge: Honoring the House of the Poet, and specializes in editing poetry manuscripts.
Jill Crammond Wickham (blog) is a poet, artist and teacher funding her writing passion by running a children’s art studio and gallery. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Ouroboros, Thema, Blueline and others. Without collaborative poetry, she would be just another lonely poet, writing in her pajamas.
Scott Wiggerman (website) has published one book of poetry, Vegetables and Other Relationships (Plain View Press, 2000) and been published in dozens of journals, including Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Windhover, Concho River Review, Spillway, Poesia, Southwestern American Literature, Junctures, and Visions International. Most recently, he has been published in the anthologies The Weight of Addition (Mutabilis Press, 2007) and Two Southwests (Visual Artists Collective, 2008). In addition, he is one of the two “cats” (i.e., editors) of Dos Gatos Press, which publishes the Texas Poetry Calendar, now beginning its twelfth year, and editor of the recently published anthology Big Land, Big Sky, Big Hair.
Katherine Williams, while making transgenic mice at UCLA, authored three chapbooks, published in various anthologies, and received a Pushcart nomination. She does marine research now on James Island, South Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Richard Garcia (see above) and their dog Louie.
Steve Wing (PBase gallery) is a visual artist and writer whose work reflects his appreciation for the extraordinary in ordinary days and places. He lives in Florida, where he takes dawn photos on his way to work in an academic institution. His work recently has also appeared in Flutter, Perigee, Pequin, BluePrintReview and Eclectica.
Susan Yount lives on the side of Chicago, works at the Associated Press, pursues her MFA in poetry at Columbia College and is editor and publisher of the Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal. A short story of hers most recently appeared in the Barn Owl Review and poems in The One Three Eight, blossombones & the Columbia Poetry Review.
Joe Zealberg is a psychiatrist in private practice in Charleston, SC. Until now, his publications have been in the field of clinical psychiatry and medicine. He is honored to be Richard Garcia’s student, and to be among those called the Long Table Poets.
Poems by 5 Brass Tacks: D’Arcy Randall, W. Joe Hoppe, Judy Jensen, David Meischen, and Katherine Durham Oldmixon; video, “The Process of Flying,” edited by Katherine Durham Oldmixon with the assistance of Arturo Lomas Garza
She pushes off without the aid of wings, strokes
air to rise above the humming wires, above
the patchwork sharp-peaked roofs that block
their view below, skies breaking off the coast,
horizon lapping fenced backyards and hard-
pack, rainless grasses, bloomed-out morning
glories, the earthbound shouts that raise
their net of fear below. She does not thud
among the earthbound stares. Nothing
brings her down but a blue eye opening.
by David Meischen, with Brass Tacks
She pushes off years, stroking air
without wings, a humming body
rising above grasses and blown out morning glories,
rising over sharp peaked roofs below skies
broken off the coast of the everyday,
rising through the fluttering galaxy
because it’s evolutionary
to abandon land,
featherless among touchable stars,
tumbling hard those nights,
a blue eye opening,
a hard held expectation, wild.
by Judy Jensen, with Brass Tacks
It’s been years since I stroked air to fly
pushing off without the aid of wings
to rise above the humming wires
through gossamer and troubled flutterings
skies break from the coast of the everyday
red roofs green pastures capture living below
while I transcend, featherless,
rainless grasses, shriveled kale, bloomed out morning
glories and reach towards touchable stars
the soundest advice pipes weakly from the ground
but not once do I tumble to the sidewalk
thud hard against their reasonable concerns
even now sometimes I rise
pressing foot to pavement to catch the air again
by W. Joe Hoppe, with Brass Tacks
I once stroked air to fly—my wingless body
pushed off dirt to rise above young gnats
bloomed-out fantasies and morning glories,
to rise above the high wires humming,
the peaked roofs holding down the living.
Rising to skies that break from the coast,
past rainless grass and galaxies,
I followed evolution, leaving land,
featherless among the stars close
enough to touch. Shouts raised a net of fear,
although I never fell and even now
I still press hard to heel in expectation.
by D’Arcy Randall, with Brass Tacks
It’s been years since I stroked air to fly—
my wingless body pushed off dirt
to rise above gossamer humming wires,
blown-out morning glories, rainless grasses,
and troubling young gnats before my face,
to rise above the garden kale and cabbage,
over patchwork patches of sharp roofs
holding down the living below—
because it’s evolutionary to abandon
land, to glide among the cool, touchable
stars, above the earthbound shouts
that raise their net of fear below:
“Come down, come down before you fall to earth
where you belong!” but not once did I tumble
to the sidewalk, thud hard among their screams;
their upturned stares never reached me
those nights, nothing brought me to ground
but a hard-held expectation, a blue eye opening,
and some days still I raise my heels
from pavement and feel the familiar pull.
by Katherine Durham Oldmixon, with Brass Tacks
Reading by the authors, except for W. Joe Hoppe’s “Flying,” which is read by Dave Bonta — Download the MP3
Brass Tacks is a circle of Austin poets who meet periodically to discuss and critique one another’s work. W. Joe suggested that if one of us were to volunteer a poem, we might take the workshop model to the extreme. Katherine offered an early draft of her poem, “Flying,” and the other poets went to work, while Katherine began putting together a video of the process. The 5 Brass Tacks agreed that she would coordinate the workshop and serve as the final editor.
Each poet then submitted a draft based on the original, along with an image of the marked-up poem. All agreed not look at one another’s poems until each had written his or her own version — but some “cheated,” and D’Arcy remarked that cheating really mutated the signature. In the next round, we tried to write a final, collaborative version. Although everyone worked with all five poems, each poet produced a “final” poem that varied little from his or her individual poem in voice, style and interpretation. David and Judy’s title hint at some of those differences. Katherine’s first version of the final poem attempted to stitch together the others, but couldn’t accommodate the strategies of compression or individual stylistic or thematic choices.
We learned that if we had chosen a collaborative project in which each of us produced a line (as in an exquisite corpse), a stanza (as in a renga) or a poem (as in a crown) we would each have something to point to as our own. We also realized that if we had begun with a poem to which none of us had an interior or original relationship, it would have been easier to write. (It seemed that either Katherine had to be the final editor or couldn’t be.) Finally, we realized that we had mutated the poem to create five poems, each borrowing substantially from one another, each our own.
Note on the video
The video, “The Process of Flying,” combines photographs by Katherine Durham Oldmixon of the Austin Kite Festival with images of marked-up poems in the process of collaboration by D’Arcy Randall, David Meischen, W. Joe Hoppe and Judy Jensen. The piano music tracks are from the GarageBand library. The video was composed and edited by Katherine Durham Oldmixon with the assistance of Arturo Lomas Garza.
slingshots hold no
thunder and lightning
inside a shoe that doesn’t fit
imagine cramming all that eternity back
in the middle of summer
pulled around the building
i sat in the living room
opened the window
here: it’s hot
my dream angel solid and
burning mind no time for feathers
HOT we wished for
slashes of lightning
physical form is no small feat
let’s not fool ourselves
drowned for safe
thunder and lightning
arriving back from the dead
thawing a bottle of wine
with a drum roll please
my dream angel solid and
when the light flashes
fiercely beautiful down the hallway
let’s not fool ourselves
inside a shoe that doesn’t fit
shed some clothes
roam the house
of my youth more human than
closing windows and
slowly warming coal
my dream angel solid and
thunder and lightning
inside a shoe that doesn’t fit
us now and the light
in the middle of summer
whether the baby was
arriving back from the dead
physical form is no small feat
and the thunder rolls — i
sneak up on us the
slingshots hold no
burning mind no time for feathers
such as these doors
i pull the blankets over him
his hand a squeeze
This collaboration was born from a larger ongoing collaboration that has been around since 1993. The 3:15 Experiment is an annual creative experiment in collective consciousness. Every year a shifting menagerie of poets wakes up each morning at 3:15 AM during the entire month of August to write. If participants choose to share their work, they can present it unedited on the project’s website. The importance of the unedited poems is so the purity of 3:15 AM mind stays intact.
When Danika, Tod, and Gwendolyn decided to write a collaborative poem for qarrtsiluni, Danika’s suggestion was to use their poems from a specific day from the 2008 3:15 Experiment. They randomly selected Aug 15, since it was the middle of the month.
Continuing on the “15″ theme, Gwendolyn suggested they each pick 15 lines, work on them independently, and each form a stanza. They selected 5 lines from each of their three poems (equalling 15 lines) written at 3:15 AM on August 15, 2008. They selected the lines independently, so as not to influence each other, and did not know which lines the other two poets had selected until the stanzas were revealed (hence the repeated lines). Danika and Gwen selected lines from the poems purposefully, while Tod cut up the lines and selected them randomly.
Danika arranged hers first, then Gwendolyn, and then Tod pulled together the final stanza. They then broke the stanzas up into an agreed upon final poem and rearranged the lines until they were satisfied. There were only minor edits (for continuity and verb tense conformity) other than arranging the lines. Their intention was to keep the language as close to their original “3:15 AM mind” writings.
They collaborated solely via e-mail, and much of the time they were multi-tasking as they arranged lines. Gwen was taking notes at a cultural tourism conference. Tod was evaluating a bootstrap program, rewriting the messaging on another bootstrap module, and cruising craigslist. Danika was juggling two jobs: posting an episode of a TV show and working a night shoot on the set of a horror film.
If you would like to read the original poems from which the lines were taken, go to www.315experiment.com/2008 and click on Tod, Gwendolyn, or Danika and then on Aug 15.
For process notes, see “Fude.”
The silk shuddered, coughed
& collapsed upon the vinyl.
Amidst the costumed dragons,
I look for bones and party
favors— The origami map
is crestfallen. Lounging
terribly amidst signature
tattoos, the faded hearts
and hula girl
bleed into their alluring
formed and torn and built
over, shinier than skyscrapers,
pliant as candy. Trails
of fingerprints meander
over discarded spikes,
twisting into cursive
along the nape, tres-
passing’s elaborate script.
by Jenna Cardinale and Bruce Covey
For process notes, see “Cling.”
“Sweet Sad Parade,” from Last Callers and Losers, by The King Canutes
And the snow late in the year it made me go so far from here
Now I’m back to see you dear
The hammocks and the half-drawn shades are beckoning in familiar ways
No one else compares to you but they’re just the way we were
And I miss you every day but I love this brand new blur
And even there the summer fades I kiss you here as if to say
Though they’re different names, these friends I’ve made we’re all the same sweet sad parade of
Last callers and losers, the cheap dates and the aim confusers,
The gin and tonic abusers, the leisure addicts and the kiss refusers
The King Canutes are Richard Alwyn Fisher and Keir Woods (vocals and acoustic guitars) with a shifting cast of other musicians. On this track: Scott Johnson (lap steel) and Jim Bentley (recording and mixing).
This is one of the tracks that I had written much earlier and Keir and I really altered it from its earlier incarnations. The lyrics got trimmed down and Keir added the doubled vocal and created the second guitar part. The original version of the Last Callers and Losers record was going to be more of a representation of our live show, just Keir and I playing and singing; the culmination of our collaboration together. When we began re-recording, we decided that we would make it bigger, fuller, a more collaborative process. Our original intention was still to leave “Sweet Sad Parade” as just the two of us. However, in the interim I had been collaborating with Scott Johnson on another project called The Winter Drinks, in which we played this song and he played the beautiful lap steel part. I was so set in my mind that we’d eventually go with the stripped down arrangement that I almost didn’t want him to play on the track at all, I’m forever grateful that he insisted. (See also “Let’s Mess It Up Again,” earlier in this issue. –Eds.)
Already Jennie hated the other woman’s handbag. It was shiny-faced, like its owner, and oystery from too many rhinestones.
She still couldn’t believe her regular, her Milt, had come with a date at The Yankee Doodle that night. For one, he usually had dinner at 5:48. It was already 7:30.
Jennie defiantly chewed on Juicy Fruit gum. Mr. Sekulski didn’t allow gum on the clock, but Jennie considered it an integral part of her server face, so quite often chomped away behind his back. She thought her jaw action a nice cross between demure and dominant. What did Mr. Sekulski know of bad habits, anyway? He chewed his nails every time he tried to figure out which numbers to beat on the cash register. Jennie had honed her server face, first at Il Muto’s, one of those greasy “Italian” chains, and now here at The Yankee Doodle, re-established in 1964 by Mr. Sekulski’s grandaunt, long since imprisoned for tax evasion. Although she disliked the similarity between the words “server” and “servant,” she disliked even more how people spoke the word “waitress,” like it was a pit with a bull attached somewhere on the edge.
Even though she and Milt had never been lovers, she was the one who faithfully microwaved his meals three times a day. Their daily conversation consisted of:
“What would you like today, sir?”
The usual just meant pea soup. But it was like Beethoven to Jennie’s ears. She loved how she knew what Milt was thinking, even before he’d say it. It made her feel she finally knew the reason she’d returned all her library books on time, all these years.
Milt never exchanged her smiles. Sometimes she thought his reticence was his best feature, a sign of integrity. She had been married for three years to a man named Grant who didn’t excel in the honesty department. How he smiled at her every time he did something wrong, like when she caught him wearing her maternity underwear or that time he ran over the last garden dwarf. And now that she thought of it, she had read Moll Flanders at the age of twelve and had ever since dyed her blond hair blonder, almost white really.
All of a sudden, she worried that she still hadn’t gotten over Grant and Moll Flanders. She blamed it on the other woman’s gaudy handbag.
There must be some mistake. Or some deep-sleepwalking going on. For a moment, she flattered herself into thinking that it might be a ploy to insert more dialogue in their relationship, hers and Milt’s. However, Milt’s lopsided necktie told a different story.
In her heart Jennie knew that most communication occurred without words. Her own parents were spookily similar, like twins, and seldom spoke. When they did it was about milk. Her father drove a milk truck until he died. He liked milk.
Jennie tried her best to hang on to the old ways. She glided toward Milt’s table, minus the pre-warmed bowl of green pea soup, hopefully sparkling, even without the usual sparkling mineral water.
“What would you like today, sir?”
“I’ll have the menu-of-the-day. The lady will have some green salad.”
She stayed tableside a moment too long. She had been seriously hoping for a future with Milt, had been hoping to introduce her nine-year old Sonia to him. She hadn’t yet been able to come up with a plausible excuse, couldn’t decide whether “I’d like you to meet Sonia” should go before “Enjoy your meal” or after it. Until the perfect occasion arrived, Sonia continued to wait for her out in the car, doing her homework, at times falling asleep without even brushing her teeth.
“We’d also like some red wine. And heap on the MSG,” he winked.
Jennie was startled. Again, she was reminded of her ex, and of The Hut. That’s what she had called the family cabin in Vermont where they’d gone to live, to get away from cable tv. Grant wanted to go back to nature. Married with a small child, Jennie had naively moved with him into those mountains, believing his stories about how he could fish and live off the land. Grant’s wealthy parents had pretty much disowned him and he didn’t tell them that they were moving up there. As long as he thought it was financially sound, he’d stayed in touch with them. But when he discovered that his father had given away his money to his guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Grant got all huffy and hurt. For her part Jennie sent a cheery, vague postcard to her cousin in Boston.
Could Milt be setting a trap? But what was that to her.
“You okay?” asked Bill Sekulski, looking up from a gigantic can of tuna.
Jennie ignored him and continued into the kitchen with her usual efficient pace.
When she came out with their tray, she didn’t notice the slippery-when-wet sign. As she tripped, she noticed an errant crack on the ceiling. It joined up with another crack and formed the shape of Ohio. This in turn reminded her of last night’s dream. Grant was there with Jennie’s nonexistent sister. The Hut was full of antiques. A squirrel detail highlighted how Jennie wasn’t in touch with her food feelings. Everything was in sepia tones, almost colonial.
As long as she could remember she’d wanted to be an artist but now she was a waitress and she was having trouble with her equilibrium. She watched the pot roast, the pasta, the buttered jacket potato fly. All she could think of was: Is this the only way to go down on a man?
It was then that Jennie remembered a lot. It was a moment like a painting. The painting answered ten (invisible) questions. Is this the only way to get along in this under-civilized world? Did Mao carry around a little book of sayings by actual word birds? What’s number 17 — Haddock or Meatloaf? What would it be like to live in a room full of silver clothes? The man said start on the seventh floor but Jennie started on the first. How does it feel to be a distance? Which soup goes best with death? Do these crop patterns really belong here, in this family game? What is the distance between two speeding trains one carrying Jennie with Sonia and one carrying Milt? Why all of a sudden this foray into a shared past?
And in this painting, she knew there was no getting over her past. Grant had been right, though she’d denied it. She wanted to escape her past, including the fairly recent past, every step of the way. These last months, the leering cops and stingy hippies, were making her antsy. She and Sonia spent many hours in the local library looking at maps of the world.
During the whole slow-mo, potato-sailing nanosecond, Jennie remembered more things about Grant.
Before The Hut they lived in numerous shabby apartments. Grant had assiduously avoided employment. Not that he wasn’t qualified for any manner of job, but he managed to miss interview after interview. Once he made it to a job interview, on time, he was likely offered the job, but he invariably missed the first two days of work. His supervisors didn’t have to try too hard to find ways of letting him go. So their second apartment was crummy as their first, only located near a drug corner and ten feet from the elevated. Convenient, the ad had boasted. It seemed to be haunted by red-eyed mice.
During these lean years Jennie supported them by her minimum wage clerical job at a foundation for humanitarian concerns. Quitting that job to go back to nature with Grant had seemed easy at the time. She had forgotten all of this, except parts about Sonia.
Up in the mountains Grant quit shaving and bathing. Jennie got tired of cold baths. The first couple of weeks passed calmly. She and Sonia made sculptures out of sticks and stones. Witches, some might suspect, if they saw them. But it became clear fast that they didn’t have enough supplies and that Grant had no idea how to live off the land, farm, sew, fish, build, cook. He was good at scheming, but all of his schemes required capital and infrastructure, not to mention customers. For example, he considered butler school. He’d read that there was money in that, and that when the boss was away, he’d have the run of a stately home. His only plausible idea was to start an eco-T-shirt company, with Jennie designing the mottos and illustrations. But that scheme only lasted one long, dark November evening. He’d forgotten all about it the next day. Soon after he really started to scare Jennie and Sonia with his vacant eyes and soundless dances, Jennie knew they had to bolt.
Jennie was falling down again, this time in the Yankee Doodle. Everything went black for a nanosecond.
There was baked potato mashed into many crannies, including the other woman’s handbag, her cleavage, the bald spot on Milt’s head. What was Mr Sekulski shouting now? Something about the end of the world again?
As Jennie fell, the floor became part of her face for a moment. It felt like a bad marriage that had suddenly righted itself.
When she propped herself on her elbows, there was Milt, fawning over his date. She experienced a sense of release, of happiness almost, for the first time in what seemed like a hundred years. All this excitement was making her hungry. And she was never hungry. Now that she had remembered so much she knew that she could proceed safely on and on with her forgetting.
Reading by Nathan Moore — Download the MP3
“Jennie, or How Things Go Down in The Yankee Doodle” was the first story that Arlene Ang and I wrote together. We wrote and edited it “inside out,” the way we both tend to write poetry. We both like taking one word or phrase written by the other and just running with it — so we’re always delighting and surprising each other with new directions. After the first few drafts, we get into this mode, also, where we edit quite freely any aspect or part of the story. In “Jennie,” we wanted to tell a big story in a short space. Jennie’s own story is revealed to her during the traumatic episode at the center of the story. Sometimes when reading or writing that kind of thing can actually happen.