Saturday, December 10, 2011

Plan B (1969/Washington, DC)- Lapham's Quarterly

“Plan B (1969/Washington, DC)” is a piece that gives us a look into a potential American disaster. “In the event of a moon disaster” the memo is titled, and the header lets us know it has been sent from Bill Safire, a former presidential speech writer. It’s what our president would have said to the nation had the first manned mission to the moon failed and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were left to die in space. “These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding,” the proposed speech reads. “In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.” These lines hold powerful meaning, even though the event the speech was written for never occurred. They humanize the sacrifice made on the parts of the astronauts, while at the same time elevating them to an almost-mythical status in the consciousness of the American people.

I find the piece fascinating because of the sobering look into “what might have been” it provides. After the main part of the speech (which is surprisingly short), Safire goes on to give suggestions of what to do. Prior to the president’s statement the president should telephone each of the widows-to-be personally, and after the statement, “at the point when NASA ends communications with the men,” a clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, “commending their souls to ‘the deepest of the deep.’” One of the things that was also interesting to me was the feelings the statement assumes the tragedy will invoke. They reminded me strongly of 9/11, with Safire writing that the tragedy “stirred the people of the word to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they mind more tightly the brotherhood of men.” This is how I feel America (if not most of the world) reacted to September 11th, which made me wonder how America and the world would have reacted to a lunar mission disaster and the effect that it would have on politics.

-- Kelly M.

Memewar: "On Vandalism, A Memoir" - Erin Miller

The eleventh issue of Memewar has a Fun & Games theme, and because it is Canadian-based, many of the articles in this issue deal with the Olympic Games and the effects that they had on local character.

This piece of nonfiction explores the issue of gentrification. As a young student fresh out of college, she enjoyed an out-of-the-way neighborhood in Vancouver that had been dominated by immigrants since the end of WWII. She waxes poetic about the "urban village," the cultural diversity and ethnic intermingling--and there's a definite flavor of exoticism, of wanting to watch the funny little immigrant go about their lives without facing any of their struggles.

The reality, however, is that she is quite disconnected from the community to which she so desperately wants to belong. Artists that had made the area popular found themselves competing with well-off workers who could afford to pay higher prices. Two of these invaders were the writer and her husband, though she fails to realize until after the deed is signed that, "Oh no! We're those assholes!"

When vandals go on a spray-painting spree in the neighborhood, the people in the gentrified neighborhoods unite in their common fear and disapproval of potential ruffians--who, of course, seem to belong to the ethnic minorities that made the area so attractive in the first place. A divide developed--or, if you're a skeptic like me, simply deepened--between the relatively wealthy native Canadians and the relatively poor immigrants.

Miller says that "our vandal had turned me into the person he resented," but I think she gives herself too much credit. She describes working in a Starbucks and being intrigued by the weekly protests that inevitably resulted in a smashed front window--as if she was just watching animals playing in a zoo. Perhaps that's a bit harsh but, as I said before, her description of the neighborhood before it got too gentrified definitely exoticised the people who had already made the neighborhood their home.

Gentrification is a major problem in large cities in the US as well. Cities will pour money into run-down areas to fix them up, but the result is that the now-desirable property is too expensive for those who used to live there to afford. Some developments have programs that allow those struggling with finances to live in the new buildings, but it is unlikely that they would take up the offer or stay long after moving in. After all, nothing around them would be affordable, not even the groceries.

It's an interesting paradox that's been niggling at me a lot this year: when we try to support the things we love, those things often change, and sometimes those changes are mixed blessings. The Olympic games are an easy example because they often bring accelerated gentrification with them as the host city cleans up its rougher neighborhoods to put on a show for the visiting countries. What many people fail to realize is that the same process occurs in all major cities, just at a slower pace, and the impact can be just as devastating.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Memewar: "Investing in Gold," Thorblood the Shaman

This is one of the most amusing articles in the two issues of Memewar that I read. It's a completely serious look about economics in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft. Specifically, it's about gold farming--when a character dies, they drop items that they've collected. Surviving characters can then gather up these items, "sell" them for gold, and then the real-life people playing those characters can sell that virtual gold for real money. Why would anyone want to do this? The more gold you've got, the more stuff you can buy, which can increase your power and protection. As I understand it.

Another way to acquire gold is to hack another player's account. When that player reports the hack to the company that makes WoW, the company restores the account without removing the stolen gold--because how are they honestly going to track it down? The result is incredible inflation.

It's amazing the extent to which an online game has come to immitate real life. Perhaps, in large part, this is because it can be life for some people. It's all fine and good to scoff at the geeks and nerds who play WoW...but if we aren't actually playing ourselves, well, then there's Facebook and Tumblr and goodness knows what else eating up our life. There may not necessarily be an economy on these other sites, but there are certainly social rules, etc. We're replicating life online, which must be fascinating to those social scientists watching us interact. It just stinks that so many people, as a result, struggle to maintain their lives offline.

As for the article itself, it's long but well-written and engaging. I never felt bored and was amazed how quickly I got through an article on economics, even fantasy economics. I would have liked to have seen the writer explore more of the real-world implications for the existance of an online economy. The closest he got was mentioning gold farming sweatships in China--I kid you not--but he dropped them in favor of pursuing the fantasy economics angle. I understand this may be in large part due to the need to limit his scope. Maybe if Memewar ever did a money-themed issue, Thorblood the Shaman could do a follow-up report.

--Sarah Lawrence

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Memewar: "Obituaries"

I've always enjoyed the short pieces that you find towards the backs of magazines. Not only are they manageable for time-pressed college students, they tend to be concentrated versions of what the rest of the magazine is all about. For Memewar, the fake "Obituaries" follow the issue's theme, though sometimes in roundabout ways, are humorous if sometimes in questionable taste, and will sometimes pursue points made in full-length pieces.

Issue 12: Childhood has obituaries for Hobbes (killed in a tragic sledding accident, survived by Calvin), Pope Benedict XVI (a wishful thinking obituary praising him for cracking down on child molestation), and "Peter Pan" with a picture of Michael Jackson (he's an odd mix of the character and the rock star). You have an icon of childhood, a man who ought to be , and the boy who never grew up/a very childish man. Behind the "newspaper clippings" are dinosaur magnets and a hand-drawn picture "for mom + dad."

Issue 11: Games has obituaries for the host of Jeopardy! (key nouns are described as they would be on the show), Tiger Woods (the theme mirrors that of an article that describes the wide gulf of difference between expecations of male and female athletes), Karvelg the Orc Warrior (goes with an article about economics in World of Warcraft), and Mr. John Boddy (last seen with Misters Green, Plum, & Mustard, and Misses Scarlett, Peacock, and White). There's a ticket to the Special Olympics in the back ground to reflect an article about disabled athletes.

The "Obituaries" are amusing enough on their own, but I actually didn't realize that each one relates to a different piece in the magazine until a third reading. I think that, along with providing a little humor to allevieate the effects of the creative pieces (why is so much creative writing depressing, anyway?), the "Obituaries" help bring a kind of closure to the magazine as a whole. Just like the concluding paragraph of an essay, it brings up themes from what has come before and juxtaposes them to give the reader a better sense of the overall picture.

--Sarah Lawrence

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Wizard, the Lover, and the Ghost---Jen G.

In the White Edition of The Fairytale Review, I came across a rather intriguing and wholly confusing story called "The Wizard" by Dara Wier. The narrator goes into a stream of consciousness, beginning with the present where they are enjoying their solitary work in nature, then jumping backwards and forwards into time as they turn their thoughts into a dialogue with a lost love. This lover, however, takes on multiple roles throughout the story as the living lover, a god-like figure, a ghost, and the stranger, culminating in the overarching and titular character of the wizard. Wier does an admirable job at reproducing the memory breakdown of a surviving partner; the narrator has a certain defiance at the beginning of the story, and dreams "of another another world, a world uninhabited by humans" (125). As the narrator begins to remember their lost lover, however, the structure breaks down, and the reader is plunged into a stream of memories, regrets, and other emotions. With each memory, the lost lover takes on a new role, and sometimes changes character within a few examples. When the narrator says, "With you in mind I work to continue with what we had started before you departed. With you in mind when my spirits pale I go on. There are ways in which what I do conflicts with what I know you'd intended" (125), the lover becomes a Muse, a ghost, and then an almost god-like presence, directing the will of the mourning narrator. Admittedly, I had never really thought about the different roles a partner plays, or at least in the manner that Wier presents them. When I had first read the piece, I thought the narrator was the wizard due to the "work" and "experiments" they are constantly working on; by the end, however, the narrator becomes a lonely, almost bitter person, whose thoughts are dominated by memories of their lost lover.
Overall, "Wizard" is, at times, overwhelming with the details but paints a poignant and fairly thorough picture about loss and reflection in a stream of fragments.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Memewar 12: "Glass Coffin," Lucile Barker

I'm a fairy tale aficionado (see what I did there, Jen G.?), so I was immensely pleased that the latest issue of Memewar had a childhood theme and just happened to include a few fairy tale related pieces.

I mentioned this one in my post on the table of contents, where I said that I wasn't sure if this was fiction or non-fiction. I'd say it was fiction just because the writer's name is different from the main character's, but I've fudged even my own name in some pieces that I played fast and loose with in order to respect privacy or feel less guilty about fudging events for dramatic effect.

Anyway, young Maggie lives in a practically post-apocalyptic industrial valley full of pollution and smog, and she seems to be allergic to almost everything airborne. Her only relief comes from nasty medicine and a strike on the town factory. When things get really bad after some neighbors push her into a patch of ragweed, Maggie ends up in a hospital in an oxygen tent/iron lung (conflicting descriptions, so not sure which), her "Prince Charming" the doctor and her "Wicked Stepmother" the mother superior who has no patience for crying.

I found the fairy tale link very interesting, since it's not a retelling but an attempt to link a fairy tale to something that resembles real life. Structurally, the story felt a little anticlimactic. For the first half of the story, Maggie is free but very limited by her illness, and for the second half she is getting into and waking up to her confinement in the oxygen tent/iron lung. The only thing that brings it full circle--and this it does nicely--is a final line that refers to the opening line, in which the narrator says that seeing babies in carriers with plastic covers reminds her of the times she was trapped inside. I admire the way the connection is made, but I feel as though the story pretty much just drops off with the last line as an excuse to end it. This isn't the first time Maggie has been to the hospital or the last, so there aren't really any heightened emotions. It's just routine, except that she felt as though she died before she was taken there. There's an odd contradiction between the fairy tale imagery, which would seem to suggest that she's trying to make sense of a new place, and her resignation--rather than fear or sadness--that she's back in the hospital.

My favorite line: "I liked Snow White best. ... My grandfather had worked at a coal mine when he was in college, so I could relate to a girl who hung out with the working class even if they were short and didn't seem to be union members."

I also want to throw out there that I love the illustrations accompanying this story. There are three, all of which have a cute red headed girl/young woman in different medical machines: an iron lung, a wheelchair, an oxygen mask. The bright colors of her hair and clothing contrast with the dull greys of the medical devices. I had a friend in elementary school who made sure she got purple head gear for exactly this reason: so that she was not just someone to be pitied, but someone who was making the best of a bad situation. She'd often hang beads, key chains, and flowers from the frame to jazz it up. Being confined to a wheelchair doesn't change childhood dreams. If anything, in the mind of an imaginative child, it might even make them more brilliant.

--Sarah Lawrence

Memewar: A Motley Crew of Contributors

While I usually love this page in a literary magazine, Memewar's is driving me up the wall!

First, let me provide examples of contributor pages that I enjoy. Mental _floss, which is essentially the most awesome trivia magazine you will ever get your paws on, provides three or four brief bios of major guest writers. All are written in a quirky or humorous tone and are as fun and weird as the rest of the magazine. The Sun, a literary magazine whose contributors seem to live with their minds wedged in the gutter (rare was the story not about sex (wait, was that why my aunt thought it'd be a good college subscription?)), had very uniform artist and contributor bios, succinct but interesting. Every artist and writer was covered.

Memewar, on the other hand...aiyah! There is no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Some bios are funny, some informative, some dry. Some are formal ("Y is a graduate of A now pursuing B") and one is extremely informal ("X's...poetry rocks."). Most are in the third person, one is in the first person, and one is written in poor verse ("I must write my life story! / But a bio won't quite fit my life. I'm so sorry").

I don't believe that these bios are representative of the artists' personalities, which is the only reason that I could imagine for the mishmash. Several are stiff and formal compared to the piece contributed, and I highly suspect that these bios are standard blurbs intended to fit "any" literary magazine (Memewar does seem quite quirky). What annoys me the most, though, is the complete lack of logic to which artists get bios. Not all four major contributors are represented. Some artists have bios but not others, and there doesn't seem to be any correlation between the amount, genre, length, style, or quality of the art and the artists who got blurbs.

Memewar, can I have a little consistency please?

--Sarah Lawrence

Memewar: Table of Contents

It's such a little thing, but it really makes the whole magazine more accessible. The four primary pieces of writing have a separate table of contents with a two to three line summary of the story, while there's a regular table of contents right across the binding with just the title and author or artist listed. While I can see why not every piece has a summary--it could get quite long, and I'm not sure how you'd summarize images or poetry--the descriptions give enough of a preview to convince me that a story like issue 11's "Investing in Gold: Orcs, Farmers, Warcraft, and Economics" might actually be an interesting read. This is especially important in a magazine like Memewar, which covers a wide variety of genres. When we read "A Statistical Abstract of My Hometown" in McSweeney's, I knew that the statistics would be part of a story--but in Memwar a piece of that name might very well be exactly what it says on the label.

There are two other things I would like to see added to the contents. First, I would love it if genre was included. I enjoyed "Class Coffin" immensely but am not sure whether it's supposed to be fiction or nonfiction. This did not hamper my enjoyment of the piece, but I would have liked a solid idea about whether or not the titular object is imagined or an actual medical device, like a pressure chamber. Second, I'd love a list of photographers and artists right up front with the written work. Some story illustrations are listed with the writer, but not all; artist names appear next to most of the images in the magazine, but not all; and only a few of those artists have brief bios on the "Contributors" page.

--Sarah Lawrence

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words to Paint a Thousand Pictures, by April Zabrinski (from Calliope)

At first I didn't really know what to make of this poem. I really liked the first three lines, “Tiptoed whispers like / Caramel drops stolen from / The ceramic jar” and then I just got lost in the rest of the poem. Zabrinski moves from one vivid image to the next with no punctuation at all (except the final period after the last line) so that they all blur together. Without realizing it you've moved from the caramel drops to moonlit sonatas to sunrises.

The transition between images works because many lines are part of the preceding image and the following one. For example, “And the cat fanning its tail atop / the purring radiator / watching with closed eyes / drips of chocolate delight on the / Asian run / And picked locks” The cat can watch the drips of chocolate or there could be a period after “closed eyes” and the chocolate on the rug and the locks could be an entirely new image. Or the chocolate could just be on the rug and the locks could be a third image all together.

Each image is unique and interesting, but they race by so quickly. When I first read it I was a bit put off by the fact that I wasn't allowed process each image before the next one was introduced, but then I remembered the title, “Words to Paint a Thousand Pictures.” It seems to me that this poem does exactly that. In twenty-two lines Zabrinski tries to paint as many pictures as she can. Depending on where you insert your own punctuation the poem can present many different pictures.

I imagine that this must be extremely difficult to pull off, but it is pretty cool and the more I re-read it the more I like it.


The Caretaker by D. A. Kentner from Calliope

This story won first place in Calliope's 18th annual fiction contest, and it is easy to see why. As you read you follow Archer Foley (what a great name) from a bar where he has a conversation with a stranger to the cemetery where his wife was buried a year ago and where he learns the name of that stranger. The cemetery manager says that this man, Henry, visits the cemetery every day, “cleans away any debris from his wife's grave, then busies himself cleaning markers, raking leaves and grass, and throwing away dead flowers,” though he isn't employed by the cemetery. Not only does Henry fulfill the duties that a caretaker might have, but it turns out that he also keeps track of graves that don't get visited.

It is then revealed that Henry finds the families of those whose graves are un-visited and finds a way to heal them by getting them back to the cemetery. So Archer's chance encounter with him at the bar turns out not to be chance at all. And suddenly Archer is on a mission not only to reconnect with his own children, but also to reunite Henry's family. Though he had been drinking double scotchs at a bar (and then driving) only a few hours ago, now his life has a purpose. The cemetery manager sees what Archer is about to go do, and says that it isn't easy work being a caretaker like Henry. And Archer responds that, “there isn't a better paying job on the planet.”

This quick plot rundown doesn't do the story any justice, and if you've got a second I'd say to read it (online at The one part that irks me is that Kentner lets Archer get in a car and drive after spending an undisclosed amount of time drinking at a bar. Other than that it is a really moving piece.


Monday, November 28, 2011

"Beginnings" by Lee Stern

In the Sixth Issue of Cantee, the poem titled "Beginnings" by Lee Stern caught my attention. The first and second lines are enjambed and read "I don't have any more beginnings / to give you before the road stops." The juxtaposition of beginnings and the end of the road creates a vivid image in my mind as I picture just what that road the speaker is referring to looks like.
The speaker repeats multiple times in different wording that he or she has run out of beginnings, which to me, means that too many mistakes have been made throughout his or her life, and it is time to reevaluate and stop starting over. It is presumably time for the speaker to get his or her act together and move forward, rather than start over, as he or she has done so many times before.
This idea of new beginnings is very relatable because we've all been in a position where we wish we could simply start over like flipping over a piece of scribbled on computer paper to the stark white side. The poem's author makes us question just how many times we should be attempting to start over and when we should just face our mistakes and move along, head held high.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Woman Who Eats Soil ---Jen G.

I've noticed I tend to go a little too in-depth in my posts, so I'll try to keep this one short. I was scrolling through the Green edition of The Fairy Tale Review when I came across the unusually-named poem, "The Woman Who Eats Soil" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. It begins with the melancholy lines "What can the unfortunate insect do/if it is found wanting in weight?" (115) and follows the brief story of a woman named Hao Fenglas who, for the past seventy years, has been eating soil in secret. In all honestly, I have no idea what to make of this poem. Hao continues on with normal life, waving to kids as they walk to school, all while she eats soil. The poem ends with the lines "[the bugs] have an idea on how to grow bigger, too big/ for this purse. But it is forgotten with each bite" (115); I feel like there is some clue here, but I cannot for the life of me figure it out. Maybe I'm missing the big picture? Any suggestions/interpretations are welcome!

---Jen G.

A grisly but refreshing look at "Snow White"---Jen G.

I purchased the electronic collection of The Fairy Tale Review (all five issues: Blue, Green, Violet, White, and Aquamarine) some time ago, and now that I have some I have been happily perusing the different issues with more depth. As I was reading the Violet Edition (published in 2007), Kim’s Addonizio’s opening poem, “Snow White: The Huntsman’s Story” quickly caught my eye. As you may have seen, Hollywood is churning out its next series of genre/character films, and has turned its eye to none other than Snow White. In a similar fashion to The Prestige and The Illusionist, rival studios are coming out with Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror, one an adventure/thriller/romance and the other a romantic comedy. With the movie machine in mind, I unfairly went into “Huntsman’s” expecting something more like “Show White,” or an alternative twist on the story.

Well, it was alternative.

“Snow White: The Huntsman’s Story” isn’t a romance but a lament by the Huntsman who, contrary to the stories he hears, did in fact rape and kill Snow White, his “assignment” (15). In a short number of words, the Huntsman systemically punches holes in the accepted myth, fills the reader in on the grisly truths, and attempts to convey his remorse. Haunted, he says, “ I took out my knife and held her head/back. She closed her eyes. A deer/crossed the clearing, stopped/and turned/ I thought/it watched me,/ I think it watches me still…” (15), the Huntsman is recounting his tale long after Snow White’s death and the romance’s myth’s birth.

One of the more confusing motif’s throughout the poem is that of the references to the Nazis. For example, in one of the more grisly sections, he says, “Believe in the apple, the glass coffin/without its covering flag,/where she lay/as perfectly preserved as Eva Peron/until the prince came to carry her away./Of course he didn’t carry her./ the servants did. And when they stumbled/over a tree stump-/if you believe the story- the piece of apple,/ caught in her throat, popped out” (15-6), and later mentions that in the snow fall there was “white on her blue Aryan eyes” (16). I have a few ideas about the imagery, such as the evil queen has become Hitler-like leader, exterminating rivals like Snow White (but why call Snow White Aryan?), or that the myth we know and love is just that, a myth, which we like to tell ourselves in order to avoid the darker truth. “Snow White” is a part of the Grimm’s collection, and “Huntsman’s” is an effective reminder of that tone. That being said, “Huntsman’s” does not leave even the Grimm version unscathed.

Ms. Addonizio weaves an intriguing and dark work, both grisly and disturbingly refreshing, carefully working with and casting off the different clichés and myths surrounding Snow White, even ending the tale on a twist of the famous “Lips red as rose” lines.

When it comes down to it, the movie treatment will more likely than not focus on the Disney version of Snow White, and I have a feeling that by the time Hollywood has plowed through Snow White tale next summer, I am going to be more inclined to reach for “Huntsman’s” grittier take than buying a ticket.

---Jen G.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Reader" by Justin Taylor

In issue six of Canteen, there is a short prose piece by Justin Taylor titled "Reader." The author starts off by stating that the reading is not a group activity, comparing it to attending a sporting event or seeing a concert. Instead, he asserts, "the act of reading is one of deep. fulfilling, isolation." I had never really thought about comparing these different activities but I can definitely say I agree with him.
He goes on to discuss how the importance of literature in society today has drastically depleted from previous times, proclaiming that: "We live in a period where the value of self-knowledge has been undermined, debased, and perhaps abandoned; when the very notion of the self is held in profound suspicion." This is, unfortunately, a harsh reality of today. The majority of people of our generation spend their time on social networking sites, which only contributes to an increase in narcissism on a global scale. It is a sad time, not only for the economy, as Taylor points out, but also for the arts, which have become far less important to us.
Taylor also discusses the importance of private discourse in leading to "productive public discourse amongst individuals." which is certainly true and relates directly to the act of reading a piece of literature. This decrease of interest in literature is disheartening, particularly for someone who cares about it as much as I do, and as much as most of you probably do as well. Hopefully there will be a revival and people will realize that spending time on your computer facilitating false relationships will never replace the person to person interaction that literature instigates.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Generally Speaking by Pat Laster from Calliope

This is a survey of four writers who have recently self-published books. I found it particularly interesting in light of our recent discussion of Ugly Duckling Presse, and our projects. Three of the four writers listed URLs as their publishers, most said that they just passed around their book looking for comments and edits and then had to do the proofreading themselves. It was very interesting to hear about their experiences self-publishing. Their various pieces of advice include having patience, proofreading the final draft, and continuing to write.

Three of the writers hoped to or have already broken even, but the fourth gave a flat out “No” to the question “Do you think you will get your money back?” And one who had broken even already said he wouldn’t have cared if he hadn’t. A small part of me says that he only thinks that because he did break even. I think it is significant that Laster, who was asking the questions, didn’t ask if anyone hoped to make profit, just if they thought they’d get their money back.

One thing I hadn’t thought to think of at all, but that Laster asked about was ISBNs. I have zero clue how that works, but think it would be pretty interesting to find out.

Anyways, check it out:


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Road Trip" Ivy Pochoda

Also in the Sixth issue of Canteen, this prose piece by Ivy Pochoda, titled "Road Trip" was a quick but fascinating read. It details the author's first experience of a road trip, fifteen years ago. There were no Google Maps back then so, naturally, she got lost on multiple occasions. However, she claims that these mishaps only added to her experience, and as a result of technology, people now miss out on the unexpected things that used to happen and what really made a road trip great.
She states that "road trips are no longer adventures among colorful kitsch...but attempts to satisfy nostalgia for the trip itself." Also, that "the road trip has ceased to be a journey into the relatively uknown, but a reconfiguration of information pregathered and presorted, plotted and preordained. I definitely agree with this point, especially coming from a family in which my dad essentially made an itinerary for every trip we've ever gone on, looking up the best restaurants, hotels, and historically relevant monuments. This piece makes me want to just get in my car and drive, not knowing where the road will take me, and not caring where it does.
-Julie Kelly

"An Old Misogynist" by Dana Goodyear

In issue 6 of Canteen, there is a portion dedicated to poems by Dana Goodyear. This one caught my eye because, first and foremost, I had no idea what the word misogynist meant. I looked it up and then realized I actually had heard the word before and would have know its meaning had it been in a sentence. But anyway, it essentially means someone who dislakes, mistreats or hates women.
This poem is from the first person point of view and the first line is "I could have argued with him," and goes on to talk about how instead the narrator watched a bulldog with a "dirty muzzle" and "furious yellow-green eye" eat grass and not make noise doing so, until a "disembodied hand pulled it back in line."
Presumably, the narrator is a woman who is choosing not to fight with her husband who treats her poorly. She relates to the bulldog - a notoriously tough animal - in that, she has the means to fight but does not. Like the bulldog who is "pulled back in line," this woman is a victim of being "pulled back in line" herself, by her misogynist husband.
-Julie Kelly

Sunday, October 9, 2011

“Shrimp in a Sponge Funnel” (By: William Goodwin) – Camera Obscura

This photo is in Camera Obscura’s Volume II as one of the first pieces (I wanted to insert it here, but was unable to find it online). This little red and gold shrimp is crawling inside this sponge funnel (as the title says) and seems to be focused on something above that is outside of this enclosed space. He is quite the active shrimp, if I may say so myself, seemingly moving around this tube-like closure that does not have an end in sight. One thing that really struck me about this photo is the way in which Goodwin used light. Nowadays, it is incredibly difficult to discern whether or not someone has manipulated a photo – with color or texture etc. so that is one question in the back of my mind when it comes to this picture. However, regardless of whether or not it was changed, there is this blue lighting at the bottom front part of the photo, almost notating a different level of the sponge that has been untouched by light. Then, as the photo moves upwards, the shrimp is surrounded by this beacon of gold light, some of which rests in a more brown tint on the base, while the rest is exceptionally bright towards the top of the funnel – almost notating where the light is coming from as it seeps through the less dense part of the sponge. Instead of the shrimp being this little dingy thing enclosed in this space, the lighting – of different shades and colors – creates this conflict of sorts that I am imagining for this little shrimp: that he is stuck here and needs to get out, but can only do so by following the light. I love how the composition of this photo allows for me to imagine and create a story. It is not just a picture that is taken and speaks all to itself.

- Jennifer A.

“Vie de Boheme 1913” (By: Hugh Jones) - Camera Obscura

Photography is a huge hobby of mine and I am incredibly conscious of perspective and light when it comes to people’s shots. So, when it came to this photo, I was overwhelmed. I am still not entirely sure as to how exactly this picture was taken, the light used, the perspective – I am completely enraptured. For starters, the use of black and white film is a slowly “dying” form. Yet, seeing this piece really makes me hope for people to keep pursuing it. However, what does seem to be incredible about this photo is the way in which the photographer, Hugh Jones, was able to project this photo onto a woman’s body. Or at least, I assume that is how this photo was completed.

The form on which the cover of Vie de Boheme by Henry Murger is projected is onto that of a naked woman. I looked up Vie de Boheme and found out that it is a compilation of loosely related stories that all take place in a bohemian life in Paris in the 1840s. This makes complete sense for Jones’s inspiration. To project the cover of a bohemian inspired novel onto the free body of a woman speaks volumes to the nature of freedom of expression and self-expression. The way in which the image curves into the woman’s features, the shadow of the second hand mirroring over the body, the angel looking into the center of the frame, and the soft lines and angles that highlight so subtly the details of her body and the picture cover all align perfectly. I am still in awe of this photo and the thought behind combining the two aspects for his inspiration – taking this piece that was written so long ago and making it still matter in the present.

- Jennifer A.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Format Fun, Themes, and other odds and ends - - - -Jen G.

I think Julie touched on this on an earlier post, but I wonder how we can structure POPPED in order to both better display the submitted work while also giving a good flow to the magazine layout in general. I've been looking over different editions of The Fairytale Review and there is a variation of artwork and written pieces throughout the magazine, giving readers breaks where needed while simultaneously catching your eye. Even the differing lengths and formats of written pieces can serve as an aid in choosing the next piece to read. Again, I know we're restricted by the website format, but displaying the pieces could be a simple but effective way of mixing things up.
Also, maybe we could have an optional theme for POPPED. The literary magazines we are reading right now have a theme, ranging from food to fairytales, so maybe POPPED could benefit from a theme as well. People could still submit work outside of the theme, but if we do have an option theme, perhaps that will give people a concrete image or element to work from. Anyway, just some thoughts.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Richard Schnap’s “Lifer” from Calliope

I was drawn to this poem because it is the only poem from this edition to be accompanied by a picture. The picture is of a man’s chest, which is covered in tattoos. Some are difficult to distinguish. There is a man in a hat holding a gun, a heart with something protruding from it, a C crossed with a backwards C, something that might be a fist, and a few different pieces of writing, which I can’t make out. Most prominent, though, is a cross on a necklace, which at first glance might not be taken as a tattoo at all. It is much darker than the other tattoos and ‘hangs’ by the man’s left nipple.

The poem describes “dragons and demons, skulls and swastikas” as well as different gang symbols (from multiple gangs) that this man has had tattooed. It says he also has names of lost lovers, friends, and a “daughter he’d never hold in his arms,” but that the most important of the "map of a world gone wrong" was the “tiny cross over his heart.”

This poem and picture made me so curious to know more about the man with the tattoos. Why did he swear allegiance to multiple gangs? Why will he never hold his daughter? Why swastikas? And why does the cross mean so much and need to explanation? I guess I’ll never know the answers to the story, but the image by itself is very potent.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sean Finney's "The Pens"

This short prose piece from Canteen pokes fun at the profession of a poet, referencing how silly poetry slams are and how all the poets act exactly the same. The fact that is incorporated in this literary journal, along with poetry, is rather comical and ironic. It is mostly a rant about how poets behave at these readings and how they perceive themselves as great individuals, when they actually are just snobs.
This rant the author goes on comes as a result of his fear of releasing his poems to the public and having to participate in these dreadful poetry readings. Finney claims that he believes that only Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou and Billy Collins make money off of their poetry books, which is presumably another reason he does not care to share his work with the public. He concludes with his opinion of calling himself a poet, and how others would perceive that. Despite the fact that he finds it to be a nice title, he thinks others would merely laugh at him calling it his profession. So, admits, that as a professor of creative writing, his works of poetry will remain for his eyes only.
-Julie Kelly

Arnold Lehman "Eyes of Seagulls"

Arnold Lehman has a number of poems featured in the third issue of Canteen Magazine, which can be viewed online, as well as in print.
Upon first reading the title I anticipated the poem to literally be about seagulls in some way, however, it has a much deeper meaning than that. It starts off referring to the eyes of seagulls as "violet, lulling and serene," but the rest of the poem talks about a woman who has been through a significant amount of trauma in her life. Lehman writes that she "birthed five and more that did not live" and also details the woman's memory of being sexually abused as a child and her "mother hid her." These details are shocking yet the poem flows so smoothly that it could be described as beautiful, in terms of style, clearly not the context. It is interesting how a poet is able to manipulate the style in order to generate a particular feeling amongst the reader, for despite the sadness I felt for the woman, I also thought the poem was wonderfully constructed.
The seagulls are never mentioned again, other than in the beginning. However, at the end, the narrator details the woman's children trying to "kiss her violet eyes" as they "tug on her sleeve" during the holidays. It allows us to draw the assumption that the woman is not affectionate with her children as a result of the trauma from having miscarriages, as well as being abused as a child. Perhaps referring to her eyes as violet, just like those of the seagulls, Lehman is trying to convey that she is putting on an act and attempting to convey a sort of "serene" persona, when in actuality, she is broken inside.
-Julie Kelly

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Stream of Golden Thread- - - Jen G.

One of the most hackneyed and unfortunately correct phrases around is “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and the short story, (if a single complicated point of memory can even be called that,) “Rapunzelus Goldilocksii” by Julie Choffel in The Fairytale Review captures a woman’s attempt at putting a single first impression into coherent sounds, smell, and hopes. If my opening run-on sentence has both said a great deal and hardly anything at all, then I have expressed Ms. Choffel’s story fairly well. Though the story begins simply with “She said she liked hair,” the complexity of the writing and the challenge of expressing love immediately becomes clear. The woman simultaneously describes falling in love with a man, finding a puppy, fond memories and broken dreams, and her hopes for the future. I’m actually finding it fairly difficult to explain this more clearly, so here we go: in many respects, hair represents dreams. The title itself references two fairy tales, “Rapunzel” and “Goldie Locks,” where hair is a descriptor of character and independence (Goldie Locks escapes and causes mischief, while Rapunzel uses her hair as a connection to the outside world that she dreams of being a part of) and as such, the woman in the story mentions her comforts, fears, and dreams as she faces the reality of falling in love. The entire short story is a series of run-on fragments: when the woman sees the man, she compares the moment to finding a puppy at a shelter, “Small from far away and big up close,” then runs on into both a comforting memory and hopes for the future, “When she closed her eyes she saw green domestications: green mango sliced onto green plate on checked green tablecloth like the inside of a river.” She races onto her complicated hopes and fears, “What if thievery means you keep the thief? If the thief is a lover, a gardener, a cook? If they come to fill your lockets?” and then slowly moves away from the images and looks at her experiences. When the woman says, “She saw utopia once. It was so expensive. So vain. It made her chop off her hair and plant it,” she intriguingly casts off her fantasies when she finds them superficial, and it is with this earthiness that the woman is able to move forward and find love. Ending, “That’s where the man grew, in the lengthy yellowy verdure. Small from far away and big up close,” the reader can now see the evolution of a woman’s love and maturity; despite some readings of the characters of Rapunzel and Goldie Locks, the two women never become fully independent, earthly characters, and so, by casting off her dreams, the woman steps away from fairytale flatness and blooms into a human that can fully embrace love in all its flawed glory. Though it has been forever since I studied the classification of living things, the very title, “Rapunzelus Goldilocksii,” can be read as either a type of plant (symbolizing the growth of the woman” or a new species of woman whose ancestors, Rapunzel and Goldie Locks, never left their dream world to experience reality. A single memory is not so simple as to be placed into a sentence; there is a whole chain of senses, experiences, and other memories behind that second. The difficulty of expressing this history, as it were, has resulted in such wondering hackneyed but true lines as, “A picture is worth a thousand words;” “Rapunzelus Goldilocksii,” however, is one woman’s attempt at expressing the true workings of that ambiguous image.

Thoughts on “At What Cost?” by Greg Moglia from Calliope,

This 17 line poem stuck me because it repeats the question, “Does every father kill something in his child?” As I see it, fathers give life to their children. Even beyond the literal fact that without the father there wouldn’t be the child, how crucial must a father be in the development of his children? What opinion of a young child isn’t influenced by that of their parents? A father wouldn’t be killing things in his child, but cultivating them as the child grows. (I will note that I’m looking at an ideal case here, where the sole object of the father is to further the understanding and life of his children.)

To argue against my own point I’ll say that even in this idea case, it can be said that a father does kill something in his children. He attempts to get rid of selfish actions, rude behavior, disrespect and harmful tendencies. And this is just the ideal case.

Now I consider the title: “At What Cost?” Perhaps Moglia is also thinking of an ideal case, a good father. The girl in his poem “never interrupts,” and isn’t that a polite thing to do? But instead Moglia is asking us to consider what the cost of never interrupting is. The narrator, a father himself, says, “I stole the critic from mine, / She learned never to take me on.” Theoretically a well-raised child wouldn’t argue with her father, but the narrator doesn’t see this as a victory. He is upset that he has killed the critic in her and that would be the cost of teaching her not to argue with you.

So I wonder if the rest of the title is “At what cost do you impose your ideas on your children?” or “How much do you just have to stand back and let happen?” But maybe that’s a bit of a jump. In any case, it’s a nice poem. Check it out:


Friday, September 23, 2011

“Exactly What to Say” (By: Chidelia Edochie) – Camera Obscura

This is one of the shorter prose pieces in Camera Obscura’s third volume. It is told in first person from the perspective of a girl who is being followed home by a man. She describes their shadows and how the shadows seem to overlap each other as if the two of them are touching. He ends up confronting her on her steps, realizes that he made a mistake in thinking she was someone else, and walks away. Although she did not want the two shadows to be intertwined at first, now she can no longer look at her shadow the same way because it seems lonely.

This piece was absolutely stunning. In just a few short pages, the author created a delicate character that embodied a universal sense of loneliness and doubt. Chidelia’s details of the shadows, how the thin fingers would become muddled if overlapped into each others shadows, creating this sense of unwanted and unknown unity, were such that I was truly able to picture such a moment happening. The concept was creepy – a man following a girl home, keeping the same pace that she kept as she walked, but at the same time, there was this sense of comfort and realness. I am truly in awe of her ability to make me think about relationships and how someone can come into your life unexpectedly and leave this fleeting mark that somehow lasts forever.

- Jennifer A.

"Managing the Future"- Alexis de Tocqueville, in Lapham's Quarterly

The current issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is about The Future. Different predictions of the future, thoughts, hopes, dreams, etc., throughout time are shared, some horribly bleak, others remarkably bright. The piece out of this quarter’s issue that I decided to focus on is called “Managing the Future,” by Alexis de Tocqueville.

One of the reasons why I found this essay so interesting was because it’s about the American government and American Nationalism, yet it was written in 1840 by a Frenchman about his brief nine month stay in America. Tocqueville’s take on America is scathing, to say the least. He says that while American politicians always speak of The Future in a lofty and optimistic manner, when it comes to actually doing things that will pay off later (and possibly not now), they don’t. According to him, not only are American politicians truly nearsighted, but they will surrender themselves endlessly to the casual whims of daily desire and that they will abandon entirely anything which requires long-term effort, thus failing to establish anything noble or calm or lasting.”

The reason this essay stuck out to me was because it’s a problem I still see in this country today, even though Tocqueville was observing this in the 1830s, and I think I can safely say that I am not the only one. The call for practicality and teamwork in Tocqueville’s piece was a message that I’d like to see applied today, even though by now Tocqueville was hoping we’d be there already.


The Fall from Paradise: A Look at Aimee Bender's "Appleless." ---Jen G.

In Aimee Bender’s short story “Appleless,” in The Blue Issue of Fairy Tale Review, an anonymous narrator and his friends are fascinated by a woman who refuses to eat apples. Their lives revolve around the apple orchards and constantly describe their hunger and pleasure in eating the colorful fruit, thus, the narrator and his cohorts want none other than to have the woman join them. Initially, I naïvely believed that “Appleless,” was playing with the idea of examining the life of person who did not enjoy one of the most stereotypically common foods in literature and reality. As probably the rest of the world noted immediately, however, “Appleless” is rife with sexual under and overtones, focusing on the questions of temptation and innocence, elements that I managed to miss until the shocking climax of the story. Despite their pleading and persuasion, the woman refuses to try an apple, and so one day, the narrator and the other men are overcome by their “hunger,” and rape the girl. At the story’s end, the narrator speaks of his longing for the woman to return, his stomach rumbling as apples fall to the ground unwanted and untouched.

The world of “Appleless,” is more like the darker side of the Eden myth; rather than Eve tempting Adam with the apple, it is the narrator and his comrades who are the bringers of temptation, and in this case, bring about their own fall from Paradise. The woman refuses to even walk through orchards, choosing instead to maintain her course on the dirt road. In a sense, the nameless, shifting narrator, who moves between “I” and “we” in his observations, has already fallen; though he and his companions seem to be enraptured by apples, noting the “steaks of woven jade and beige,” (30) the “dark and rosy Rome Beauties,” (30), they remain unsated, never venturing beyond their grove and excess. When they rape the girl, not only do they allow their lusts overwhelm themselves, but they destroy the only true beauty and innocence in their world, completing their fall. The apples fall around them, listless wraiths starving beneath the trees.

I hate to use this phrase, but there is definitely more food for thought in the deceptively short two pages of “Appleless.” There are so many levels of symbolism and allusion ranging from Biblical themes to medieval mythology to Grimm fairytales. I would be interested in thoughts and opinions on the story; six read-throughs later, and I think I have only begun to scratch the surface. The text is available at