Writers often lean on what they see. For this issue, we challenged contributors to build up a world in scent, taste, touch, sound, or any combination of these. We asked for imagery — a clear, active connection with the world. As Wislawa Szymborska said in “Conversation with a Stone”: “Even sight heightened to become all-seeing/ will do you no good without a sense of taking part.”
We got… scales, petals, cloves. The wet insides of living creatures. Jackknives, fishhooks, claws. Days and nights, in one way or another aware and present. People large and immediate; people small in a wide, living space. A sense of beginning and ending and putting to bed…
— Katherine Abbott and Rob Mackenzie
Katherine Abbott (Spring Farm Almanac) recently graduated from the MFA program in fiction at the University of New Hampshire. She’s had fiction, poetry and nonfiction published — in the Comstock Review, Entelechy International, The Fourth River, and The Berkshire Review, among others — and accepted for an upcoming anthology, The Farmer’s Daughter. Previously she was Associate Editor of the Berkshire Advocate, an independent weekly paper. When she gets away from her desk, she plays recorder with a fiddle jam group and climbs trees with her cat. Prior to guest-editing this issue, she contributed work to the Ekphrasis and Lies and Hiding issues.
Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi) is a student in the Aleph rabbinic program. Her most recent collection of poems is chaplainbook (laupe house press, 2006). Wood smoke, good toffee, and making pickles are a few of her favorite things. Rachel is qarrtsiluni’s most prolific contributor, with eleven pieces in the magazine to date. She also served as co-editor of the Opening in the Body issue.
Polly Blackley lives in Yorkshire. Her work has appeared in Smiths Knoll magazine, and she recently won a poetry competition run as part of the WEA Yorkshire and Humber’s Create07 Festival. Her previous appearances in qarrtsiluni were for the Education, Short Shorts and Lies and Hiding issues.
There is nothing like a happy ending.
There is always something like a path.
Hineni . . .
Claire Crowther (publisher’s webpage) has been writing poetry for about ten years. Her work has appeared in various print and online journals, including Ambit, Great Works, PN Review, poetry p f, Shadowtrain, and The Times Literary Supplement.
Natalie d’Arbeloff (Blaugustine) is a multi-national artist and writer living in London. Her latest book is The God Interviews, which first appeared as a comic strip on her blog. Previous books and limited editions are shown on her website. This is her ninth appearance in qarrtsiluni.
Dick Jones (Patteran Pages), a drama teacher and musician, has been writing seriously for the past 20 years. His poems and short stories have been published in a wide range of magazines, both on- and offline, and he is currently preparing a selection of poetry for submission to publishers. This is his sixth appearance in qarrtsiluni.
Lucy Kempton (box elder) is British, living in France with husband and dog, sometimes teaching English. A displaced dilettante and prosaic spirit, who may yet entertain poetic angels unawares. Her photos also appeared in the Ekphrasis issue.
Rob Mackenzie (Surroundings) is a Scottish poet. His poetry chapbook, The Clown of Natural Sorrow, was published by HappenStance Press in 2005. He blogged about his experience guest-editing this issue here. Last year, a poem of his appeared in qarrtsiluni‘s Education issue.
James Midgley’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The Rialto, Smiths Knoll, Stand, Iota, and The New Writer, among others. He volunteers as gallery director for poetry of deviantART and edits the poetry journal Mimesis. He blogs at one last wild / enjambement.
Finnish-Canadian artist Marja-Leena Rathje (website) has been contributing to qarrtsiluni since the first issue. Her printworks have been exhibited throughout Canada and internationally. She lives and works in Vancouver.
Rachel Rawlins (frizzyLogic) is currently very excited by meditation, knitting and spreadsheets. This may change. She drinks very expensive coffee which she can’t afford and is hoping this will change. She loves taking pictures almost as much as she loves the dog, the cat and the boys. She also contributed work to the Ekphrasis, Short Shorts, and Science as Poetry issues, and helped edit the Lies and Hiding issue.
Katie Raynes just finished her MA in English Literature. She likes to write fiction, draw, and analyze characters from Elizabethan plays. She blogs at Elaby’s LiveJournal.
Jonathan Sa’adah’s photographs often deal with people and political/social topics. His favorite places to photograph are streets and within shared lives.
Claire Sharpe’s poetry has appeared in a number Canadian and UK magazines, and her essay “Tove Jansson and the Divided Self” was published in a scholarly collection entitled Tove Jansson Rediscovered (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, September 2007). Claire is constantly trying to find ways to integrate and preserve creativity in the context of the wider world. She is currently combing eBay and Toronto pawn shops for a second-hand SLR film camera.
Barbara Smith (Barbara’s bleeuugh!) lives in the Republic of Ireland with her six children and partner. Doghouse Books have recently published her debut collection, Kairos. Her work has been published in Europe, the US, Canada and beyond. She is currently enrolled in the MA in Creative Writing programme with Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, truly making her a ‘Cross-Border poet.’ Listen to an interview with Barbara here (mp3).
Jessamyn Smyth (website) is a Vermont writer in several genres, and an occasional college professor, director, and producer. Her work has been published and/or honored in American Letters and Commentary, The Best American Short Stories 2006, and several other online and print literary journals. She is working on at least three books right now, and lives in the wild with the animals.
Born in Budapest, 1948, George Szirtes (website, blog) came to England as a refugee following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. His dozen books of poetry include The Budapest File, An English Apocalypse and Reel (all from Bloodaxe), the last of which was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize for 2004. He has also published several books of translation from the Hungarian, including The Night of Akhenaton: Selected Poems of Agnes Nemes Nagy and The Rebels by Sándor Márai. He has edited a number of anthologies, including New Writing 10 (with Penelope Lively), published by Picador, and An Island of Sound (Harvill, 2004).
Ray Templeton is a Scottish writer and musician, living in St. Albans, England.
MB Whitaker (Find Me a Bluebird) is a musician, graphic designer, and editor living in the Northern Rockies of the United States. One of her poems was included in qarrtsiluni‘s Finding Home issue. Her band, The Heard, has their most recent CD available here.
Jill Crammond Wickham (jillypoet: mom trying to write) is a writer, artist, teacher, and mother, not necessarily in that order. She has had poems published in a variety of journals, including Other: Seven, damselfly press and Blueline. Her latest project is Fertile Ground, a site where writers can come for writing prompts, inspiration, technical/instructional info, publishing opportunities, and an overall sense of community.
An Edinburgh-born poet with a scientific background, Colin Will (website, blog) now lives in Dunbar. Former Chair of the Scottish Poetry Library, he now chairs StAnza, the poetry festival held at St. Andrews, Scotland every March. His fourth collection, Sushi & Chips, was published in 2006.
Tony Williams (blog) has published in a number of print and web magazines. He lives in Sheffield, UK.
Image by Rachel Rawlins
Try to imagine death as a phone call. Say
you have just called your mother or the friend
you met last week before you went away,
and say they answer just at the perfect end
of a perfect life, as the moon rises full
of a benign pearly joy that should portend
more joy, just as the tide begins to pull
away from you and that is the very spot
on which you die, in that calm, most beautiful
of places; and say you die, because it’s your lot
to perish by the sea, though it catches you unaware
at the time like a possibility you forgot,
because why after all should you have gone there
but for the possibility of a moon full of joy
and not a death you could meet just anywhere;
say that you know it takes a moment to destroy
a life, to snuff out the moon and the sea and the sand,
to become a distant speck like the dark buoy
bobbing on the tide, to be far from firm land,
a kind of human flotsam, or a space
between constellations, an invisible band
of sky, the weeping memory of a lost face
in another’s grief, the friend, the mother, the pet
left puzzled by your absence; say the trace
you leave behind fades in time as people forget
your precise dimensions and the exact
pitch of your voice, that the vast internet
of the imagination registers you as a fact
without context, swimming in the immense
indivisible particularity of a compact
universe beyond summoning, say that a sense
of loss can be anticipated and is so,
or has been, as a whispered confidence
from one part of your brain to another and you go
round knowing all this for ever, my darling,
as do I, as does the voice saying yes, I know
in the poem, would that be at all consoling?
Say it were so: say it to the moon and to the ear
listening on the phone, to the waves rolling
towards your feet in the darkness, to the fear
of falling and let it go, my dear, let the rain
fall, let waves lap, let the invisible appear.
A gracious moon, neatly illuminating whole galaxies,
little suburbs even, spreading before you.
By starlight you can see space mothers tucking
tired space babies into bed, pulling
rain-washed, softly worn clouds
up under alien chins.
If you listen by starlight, stand quiet
in your backyard, you will hear a symphony
played on Saturn’s rings, maybe a cool
salsa beat out upon the core of Venus and Mars.
If you reach between the stars, part them
with your hands like invisible curtains and peer inside,
you will see families, maybe one just like your own,
fluctuating in the motion of everyday life.
Their starlight is your living room lamp,
their backyard is your rooftop, their music
the hum of your one, continuous long breath.
To this space family, your children seem to be tucked
in by a worn blue sky. Your lives are as distant,
as untouchable, as a single branch on a fallen down tree.
Fog covered the Tor and instantly lifted.
Sodden towels dragged
on a washing line. A woman shook
her door curtain. Its strips bunched
like hair. A Tshirt hung
heavy on the waist of a barefoot girl who swung
a flip-flop in each hand. A pregnant woman protruded
from her kitchen, faced the vicious hail as it beat
even bleached jeans to darkness on thighs. A man in a dhoti jerked
back from wheel splash. Wind and thunder groaned
at each other. Our trees swayed.
On the Sweet Track huge elms stood
calm. Heat loosened
like teeth. The Levels were still.
……….Love, mainly; that thing that’s been strip-mined
by bards in adolescent coffee-houses and dusty agoras
for millennia, their scrolls monuments to glorious failures
of words to convey what it feels like to notice
……….the visible pulse on the inside of his wrist
(such shattering vulnerability in that spot,
the inner workings exposed, close to the surface
……….anything could happen,……….realizes the heart in response,
my god, anything, to this beloved);…..or the hollow between
her shoulder and collar bone, an explosion of beauty
so devastating the bottom falls out of the world
……….(she will leave me, sooner or later, but please god, let it be
later, just a little more time here in this hollow
……….where all is right with the universe);
or the daily catastrophes of witness that bestow
moments of grace;…..when the young man,
usually assured, stumbles and blushes, trying to speak to you,
……….and for a moment, you fall in love with him (he is never again
a stranger, after that); or when the young woman becomes radiant
……….under your praise, knows for a moment that she is brilliant,
and you love her urgently, happily, then;……………when your friend,
……….after a year and a half of waiting, calls and says: the adoption came through!
She’s preemie, three pounds six ounces, she’ll be okay, she’s perfect,
PERFECT, we’re telling her ‘pork up, Peanut, pork up…’ my god, we’re so happy,
……….and you cry, and laugh, and play the message twice,
and write the baby’s name in gold pen on a post-it note
and stick it on your refrigerator,……………or you receive a letter
……….from an absent beloved who, in spite of absence, makes your world
a better place with words spread across the page like coconut shavings,
like chips of obsidian and bloodstone and granite and apricots and honey-trails,
words that craft planets and sweetness you can live on for months,
……….(forever, really);……………or a stranger’s hair,
lit by sun, reveals itself to be comprised of no less than
one hundred colors…..and you die a little, because of it;
……….and your friends laugh at you, and call you hedonist,
a seeker of pleasure, a basker in beauty, but you know
it is worse than that, much worse:
……….it is that ……….in spite of all your craft and skill
you will never say it quite right……….though you will bloom
and die and cut back and bloom again in the trying,
and you will have joy because of it,……………it is that
……….in fact……………you have no skin,
and your heart — that stubborn, obstreperous organ — wears itself
……….on the outside,
trying incessantly……………in spite of everything……….to speak,
……….and you know, secretly,……….that though you will fail,
you will never get it right,
……….your hungry words…..will be enough.
by Jessamyn Smyth
We pause for a moment,
tuned to our cycling and
impossibly boundless and still.
Each pulse comes flooding.
We’ve passed here before;
once I heard music,
once there was rain,
once we found shelter,
once we had time.
The seconds are spilling
waiting is pain.
Lost in a minute,
matter and mind
we are moved again.
by K. Cohen