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The Crowd: issue summary

December 29, 2010 1 comment

by Dave Bonta and Beth Adams

Whether because our culture is so relentlessly individualistic, or because, ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have rewarded artists for the single-minded pursuit of a deeply personal vision, creative thinkers rarely devote much attention to the ways of individuals in aggregate. Past qarrtsiluni issues such as Ekphrasis and Mutating the Signature have challenged the conception of artist as loner, but this time we asked individual contributors to think more deeply or broadly about “The crowd, the flock, the herd, the mob, the swarm, the tribe. … With the planet’s burgeoning human population threatening to exceed our ecological carrying capacity, and so many crises now requiring urgent collective action,” we wrote, “it seems imperative for artists and writers… to turn our attention to sociality in its most vital and basic form.”

The contributions we received in response were unexpectedly rich in seas, breasts and crows. The crowd at times appeared dangerous and at times joyful, even redemptive; fell prey to the winds of fashion or remained resolute with political purpose. We discovered that artists and photographers pay more attention to crowds than writers do, judging by the unusually high proportion of images to text submissions. Among the latter, a significant minority took a surrealist tack. A creature with a thousand mouths does interesting things to language, it seems. Senses are sharpened: tuned to each other, we see and hear much farther than we could alone. Tuning each other out, retreating into our private thoughts, we taste a loneliness altogether different from solitude. Welcome to the Crowd.

Categories: The Crowd

The Crowd: Table of Contents

December 28, 2010 Comments off

Hundspiele by Alan Hayes

The King’s Shilling by Clive Birnie

Left Behind by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

Simulation of Bacteria on the Floor After Mopping by Danny Pelletier

House Jumping Place by Brian Pike

A bird makes a crowd flaccid by June Nandy

The Incredible Corpse Dormitory by Donna Vorreyer

Mass by John Vick

View through police lines, anti-Iraq war demonstration by Jonathan Sa’adah

Building Our Houses Closer Together by Hannah Stephenson

(I Wish You To) Move by Gary Dubola Memi

Vegas Meditation by Tina Celio

Postcard from the migration by Steve Wing

In the still forest heard from far away by Alex Cigale

In the Lab by Maureen Jivani

The Sweet Community by Ann E. Michael

The Crowd — a drypoint by Marja-Leena Rathje

Acting Debut at the Roundhouse in London by Nancy Scott

The World Is Ugly and the People Are Sad by Karl Elder

Standing Room Only by Tony Press

Waiting to March by Monica Raymond

Balcony View of a Prairie Dog Colony by Scott Wiggerman

Sparrow’s, Poet’s Deaths by Christine Rhein

The Storm by Mark W. Kidd

Strays by Holly Anderson

No getting away by Nathalie Boisard-Beudin

Return to the Old Town by Rob Mackenzie

The Student Wars by James Toupin

Nikolaikirche by Dorothee Lang

Keating Road by Janice Pariat

On Seeing “Envy Barn” in the Real Estate Listings by Amy MacLennan

The Minor Leagues by James Brush

The Convert by Eric Burke

One of the Many by Julene Tripp Weaver

On Our Way by Tama Hochbaum

Commute by R.A. Dusenberry

The Suffering of Others by Kristen McHenry

Jesuit students, Évora, Portugal by Steve Wing

Or When the Police Come by Jenna Cardinale

My Brief History of Crowds by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

Gaining vantage point on Ulysses Grant Memorial, Obama Inauguration by Jonathan Sa’adah

Sea of Stars by Dick Jones

Control by John Vick

Nite TV by Caroline Beasley-Baker

Fashionista by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

Of Ten or More in a Room by Scott Owens

Moving Koi by Gordon Smith

what holds (us by Daniela Elza

Between the Notes by Wendy Vardaman

Face Recognition Collage by Lucy Kempton

A Mask Called Nothing by Amy Pence

Seating Arrangement by Cathryn Cofell

Flag Woman by Monica Raymond

The Loaves and the Fishes by Karl Elder

Waiting For Bolivar Ferry by Cynthia Cox

Les Sans Papiers 75 by Laura Genz

Sharing the Sea of Surround Sound by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

One Hundred White Pelicans by Robin Chapman

Demolition Derby by Alan Hayes

The Station by Hannah Stephenson

Stonewall by Julene Tripp Weaver

Revolution Day parade, Ticul, Yucatán by Steve Wing

Today my shower came from the heavens by Alex Cigale

Happy Hour by Lynda Fleet Perry

Crowd by Gordon Smith

Niggun for the Hand-Drum by Jane Rice

Seas Between Us by Donna Vorreyer

Crows of Still Creek by Robin Susanto

Night at the Interstate Diner by James Brush

Predicament: Memorial Day by Sarah Busse

Parade by Christopher Woods

Daily Commute, Beijing by Sarah Menkedick

Demonstrators standing on barricades by Jonathan Sa’adah

On the First Day of March Crows Begin To Search by Carol Berg

Black skimmers by Steve Wing

Notes on “Collateral Damage Noted” by Monica Raymond

The Crowd I — a monotype by Marja-Leena Rathje

Categories: The Crowd

The Crowd I — a monotype

December 27, 2010 5 comments

by Marja-Leena Rathje

Marja-Lenna Rathje - Veiles Suite I monotype
Click on image to view a larger version.

Veils Suite: The Crowd I (1989)
first of a series of seven
monotype (oil-based inks)
57 x 76 cm. (22″ x 30″)

 

Marja-Leena Rathje (website) is a Finnish-Canadian artist specializing in printmaking and photography. She is crazy about weathered rocks, prehistoric art and the archaeology of past, present and future. She lives and works near the sea and the mountains of Vancouver and has exhibited widely, both internationally and in her local region.

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Notes on “Collateral Damage Noted”

December 22, 2010 2 comments

by Monica Raymond

On Memorial Day of 2005, I took part in a performance conceived by Tom Plsek at the large open plaza in front of Boston City Hall. “Collateral Damage Noted” was to be a sound meditation on the civilians killed in the Iraq war. The latest reliable figures place this total at almost 25,000, he wrote in his call.

Plsek’s idea was that musicians would stand in a circle and sound a note for perhaps ten or twelve seconds,then pause, averaging three to four long notes a minute. Each note was to represent the life and death of an Iraqi civilian. By his calculations, if a hundred musicians did this for an hour, we would have made enough notes to account for the Iraqi women, children, and non-combatant men killed till then.

I had signed up to participate, even though I was not, strictly speaking, a musician. In fact, in the fourth grade, I had been asked to just move my lips during “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” And more recently, the director of a play in which I was touring had barred me from a musical number — the history of Zionism set to the tune of Hava Nagila.

Was I just out of my mind, someone who had never set foot on ground steeper than a parking lot signing on for Annapurna? No, because in that same play, I’d had a solo — improvised wailing as I hung up banners with the names of massacres. Mournful wailing — there aren’t a lot of calls for it these days, and I’d just been hitting my stride when the tour ended. So when I saw Tom’s call for volunteers — voice, okay, he’d said — I jumped at the chance.

Plsek, a trombonist, had an elongated heron look, beaky nose, and eyes close-set behind pale glasses. Gradually, the musicians arrived. Most wore jeans, and looked well-worn and familiar, like travelers gathered in a hostel you’d met all your life in dreams. As we clustered in the center of the plaza, Tom read a quote from the Dalai Lama — basically that war is hell, and now that it’s automated, it’s even more hell. He wanted each note to be heartfelt, pure, beautiful, delivered with full attention, he said. After all, it was a human life.

We spread out in a large circle. To my left was a man whose wide wooden flute with conspicuous nodes was, he explained, a shakuhachi. His skirt, his shirt, his glistening closecut hair, the flute itself, all were the faint brownish golden tones of bamboo.

To my right was a tiny woman whose left arm was handless, ending at the elbow with a small curve, like a heel of French bread. She used it to support her instrument — a tiny trumpet with three stops. “A pocket trumpet,” she explained. Beyond her the musicians looked blurry and faint, as if seen across a chasm. Some listeners had settled onto blankets and towels at the center of the circle, as if the event were a beach party.

Now Plsek moved to the center, and the rustle of chatting ceased. He gave the signal to begin — raising his hands above his head, and then lowering them with a sharp flap, like a giant bird.

I began whooing away, counting the beats, Soon I became winded and breathless. Try as I could to make them even, each note seemed to come out differently. I thought of who they might have been — a short “ha” that ended unexpectedly quickly a five year old boy, the echoing ululation his mother, croak of a grandmother.

Tom walked around the circle holding a placard — we were a quarter of the way through. Across the concrete, I saw my old housemate Jen Bliss, with her Renaissance princess look, blowing her flute. Halfway round was Katt, small and compact, cap of dark hair bent over her violin. Sonorities of accordions, tiny Tibetan gongs — their concentric resonance filled the air. I closed my eyes and went back to sounding.

Now my breath lengthened. The sounds came out as “oh”s, keening and sorrowful. Sometimes the lives I signified were briefly real to me, the complex muscular length of a human body, a ghost image of a family sitting around a table, a father carrying his son on his back. Sometimes I threw my lot in with the shakuhachi, joining its cavernous unearthly tones. Other times I was just a machine for pumping sound, feeling underwater somehow, a whale or dolphin hooting through my blowhole.

I knew I was loud — I hoped not too loud. I opened my eyes to find Bob Raymond (no relation) staring back at me from inside the circle with his video camera. I guessed he had just shot footage of me, hair sticking up, eyes closed and diaphragm heaving. I felt stupid for not having realized this would be videotaped — Mobius Artists Group, of which Plsek is a member, documents everything. Behind Bob came Plsek with a placard — and I was surprised to learn that we had only ten minutes left to go. Rapt in the trance of my own sound, I’d somehow missed the midpoint.

These last notes came hardscrabble, fast and furious, like clambering up to the top of a small mountain. Eyes open now, I can see members of our circle blowing, bowing, gonging, chiming, as we try for the last few moments to embody the crowd of the faceless dead.

Plsek takes the center of the circle, and draws his arms down. Silence. For a second, it’s as if we have launched a huge invisible egg into the cosmos — we stand and watch it rise.

Then disheveled and somehow humble, like participants at a meditation retreat or a funeral, we mill about, touching each other’s instruments, The circle becomes fractal, like a coast full of inlets and crenellations,  finally dispersing completely as we cross over to those we’ve recognized on the far side.


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Monica Raymond won the Castillo Prize in political theater for her play The Owl Girl, which is about two families in an unnamed Middle Eastern country who both have keys to the same house. She was a Jerome Fellow for 2008-09 at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, among many other honors and awards. “Dreaming the World” was a prize-winner this fall in Caffeine Theater’s “Old Father William” Contest for poems influenced by Lewis Carroll.

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Black skimmers

December 21, 2010 6 comments

by Steve Wing

Black skimmers by Steve Wing
Click on image to view a larger version.

 

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. He’s a regular contributor to qarrtsiluni, as well as to BluePrintReview, where he has a bio page with links to some of his other publications.

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On the First Day of March Crows Begin To Search

December 20, 2010 5 comments

by Carol Berg

based on the painting of the same name by Kay Sage

In October our minds connect
to the name of shadow. Wingtip
to wingtip we fold the dusk
over the movement of the earth.
The stillness of man
made structures with their crevices

and hives of windows—our minds
quiet over all. How some of our eyes squint
against the receding wave of summer.
How some of our eyes close
against the deathblow of sunset.

In March our minds connect
to the name of light. Even our folded
feathers imply movement.
Our minds rustle over all
the earth’s small creakings. We begin our naming.
The names drop into greens that tighten.

Greens that deepen. The wind
has begun its relentless thinking.
Now the red veins in the small burrowed
creatures begin their murmur.
How the urgency of this red spurts inside us.
Another eye wills itself open. Another eye roves.


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Carol Berg has poems in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Pebble Lake Review, Rhino, Sweet, Melusine, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Stonecoast and an MA in English Literature.

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Demonstrators standing on barricades

December 16, 2010 Comments off
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Daily Commute, Beijing

December 15, 2010 1 comment

by Sarah Menkedick

The pusher-men laughed. They wore the faded wing-tip shoes and raggedy suits of worn-down migrants, but their hair betrayed their youth. Cut in zigzagged anime styles or gelled into the form of a surprised porcupine, it made them look slightly edgy.

When the train came, though, their mouths firmed into lines. They shoved and shouted things, the constant monosyllabic imperatives of Chinese. The language still sounded like one firm, inscrutable black character after another to me.

I let them push and closed my eyes a little. They threw their weight into their shoulders and hurled themselves against the last frontier of people on the naked edge of the car, as if nudging a particularly stubborn bookcase. Passengers further in rustled around a little with some barely audible grunting and sighing. Miniscule pockets of space opened up for hands, knees. I sunk an inch or two further into the car, enough for the doors to close and the train to whisk us off.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Beijing subway!” intoned the friendly-voiced young woman, probably cherry-lipped and university-educated like most Chinese women chosen for these jobs, on the intercom. “The next stop is Andingmen station.”

The voice had a stilted rise and fall that mimicked the tones of Mandarin; it must be hard to shake those sharp ups, downs, and stops, especially when they carry so much meaning. Traces of them linger in English, making the intercom voice both touchingly flawed and robotic.

As the train pulsed through those dark silent tunnels, people gathered themselves into their own self-shaped bubbles of space, concentrating on some interior concern — the new baby, the silence where there should’ve been a phone call — while letting the rest of their beings be subsumed into the crowd. There seemed to be the thinnest wisp of air above everyone’s head, as if we were a bunch of floating suspended fish with our bubble-mouths poised on the ocean’s surface. People’s faces curved up. Five or six bodies were pressed to mine; five or six pairs of shoes pointed in different directions on the car floor like compasses gone awry. Briefcases, bags, sweaters on arms, were rendered still and immobile by the crush. For that moment in time, we were a mass, a mass of a thousand similar parts and one collective held breath.

At first on these rides I’d close my eyes and imagine what I’d do if there was a fire, a terrorist attack, an earthquake. I’d position myself close to a pole and tell myself to let go of everything else and hang onto it with the single-mindedness of a barnacle. Everyone and everything would swirl around me in great devastating rushes of chaos, and when it was all over I’d open my eyes, still clinging to the pole, and pick my way out. The whole scenario — earthquake, chaos, pole plan in action, diminishing panic, and eventual release — lasted me all the way from Dongzhimen station to Guomao, when the thousands upon thousands of people in the train pored out and streamed through the tunnels of the city’s busiest station, shaking off the confinement of the crowd with purposeful haste.

But one day, maybe when I was particularly tired or more open than usual, I submitted to the crush of bodies, let it carry and contain me. It was winter; everyone had to shrug off coats and scarves as quickly as possible so as not to shed five pounds of water weight during the journey to the Central Business District. My face was chapped from Beijing’s winter wind. Warm bodies pressed in on all sides — I could feel the curve of a torso, the rounded toughness of a thigh. It verged on the sexual, but the comfortingly sexual, the mutual arcs of spooning bodies, the ceding of one part to another. There was a total, obligatory submissiveness, everyone giving way to everyone else because there was no other option, and I suddenly found relief in that. So much of daily life in China is ducking or fighting or easing one’s way through crowds, at the supermarket, at the train station, in the bike lanes. For me, for many people that have grown up in resolutely individualist countries, this was an act of constant resistance. Trying to separate or save oneself from the masses. But in the train I gave in, for once relaxed into the mass instead of bristling at it, and it felt good. My head lolled back and forth, sometimes accidentally bumping the fake fur collars of the Chinese office girls’ coats.

When the train stopped at Chongwenmen and Jianguomen for transfers I went with the flood of people, taking one careful step at a time because at that moment in Beijing, when the subway price had been reduced to 2 yuan, millions and millions of Chinese were taking the underground trains for the first time. There was a calming ritual about those measured, timed steps, limited by the heel of the person in front of me and the tips of the toes of the person behind me, in tune with the slow, inevitable forward motion of the masses. There was a liberating humility in it — without the option of scurrying through the tunnels, my flats padding anxiously on the slick tiled floors, Stereolab pounding on the iPod, I stepped slowly and in tune with thousands of other steps.

When we finally came to Guomao and the crush gave way to a surge of released energies, I regained the pressure of forward motion and scampered up the steep, endless staircases towards the street. Gusts of wind rushed down the stairs and did their best to blast into Guomao station, but the crowd stopped them. The further up the stairs I got, the stronger the wind grew, until finally I was on the street and wrapping my face in a scarf, buying a tea egg for breakfast, hustling towards work, missing the safe restricted warmth of the crowd.


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Sarah Menkedick is a writer and editor who has spent the last six years living, traveling, and teaching abroad. This fall, she returned to the U.S. to start the MFA program in creative nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the editor in chief of Glimpse.org, a contributing editor at Matador Abroad and a contributing writer at Change.org. She lets her creative nonfiction run wild at her personal website, PosaTigres.

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Parade

December 14, 2010 Comments off
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Predicament: Memorial Day

December 13, 2010 Comments off

by Sarah Busse

the song should be
slow    moody    lyrical
pounding

Robert Schuler

It should be, but
so often it’s not. Or
maybe the pounding
is right, but the rest?
It’s a diddle-dee tune, it’s Lassus
Trombone, it’s Sousa, fer cryin out,
with bright brass and those comical
goldfinches, all the leaves
shouting and waving
on a summerday, sprinklers and pop-
sickles, plastic flags flapping
No No No we say, my uncle’s
laid up, my bills are unpaid,
the gulf is dying and the cat’s
marking the family room.
Dee Dee Dee sings the piccolo.
Inexorable, it carries us, the flare
of those marching hats, the boots,
the polyester pants.


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Sarah Busse co-edits the poetry magazine Verse Wisconsin, and is the author of two chapbooks: Quiver and Given These Magics. You can find her at SarahBusse.com, or hanging out with a bunch of cool poets at bookthatpoet.com.

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