Guest Post, Kerry Cullen: On Heroes

POWOne particularly boring day in 9th grade Chemistry, I wrote a story about my group of friends defeating our evil teacher. I folded it in a note, and passed it along the back row, where the story’s heroes read it one by one, stifling laughter and sneaking glances at the blissfully unaware teacher. We had recently decided we were all superheroes–vigilantes, to be specific. Everyone got a nickname and a power, debated among the group. I still didn’t have a name or power, and I was too self-conscious to make up my own, so I asked a friend.

He screwed up his face, thinking. “What are your skills?”

“I dunno.”

“Well, you’re good at writing. You could be the journalist that follows the superheroes around!”

“So like, a secret superhero disguised as a journalist?”

“No,” the boy said, already shaking his head. “No, that wouldn’t make any sense. If you had powers, you’d be fighting the bad guys with us. You can’t have powers.”

“So I’m not part of the team?”

“Not technically,” he said. “But without you, who would know about all the stuff we’re doing? You would give the townspeople hope! Someone has to do it.”

I refused.

 

I’ve always wanted to be a hero. I’ve always wanted to be one of the people out there in the world doing the courageous work that ordinary people don’t have the guts for. When I was an evangelical christian kid, I wanted to go into international missions. I wanted to adventure, take risks, go to unusual places. I was excited for the Second Coming–I wanted to live in a time of upheaval, to defend my faith against monstrous beasts. If not that, then I wanted to be a nun, to live an extraordinary life of prayer. When I moved away from religion and into LGBTQ rights activism, I wanted to be a different kind of hero. I wanted to go on a hunger strike in prison. I wanted to chain myself to a building, to put myself in physical danger for a noble cause.

 

I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer, too. The most common advice given to fiction writers is also the best: “Ass in chair.” Stay where you are; keep writing. Of course you need to live a life in order to write, and in order to be a healthy human being–an often underrated pursuit among artists, but a necessary one nevertheless. A good writer, though, should be perpetually conscious of the work, always ready to use their few solitary moments to sit down and dig into the deepest marrow of their soul. It doesn’t look romantic, sitting in a chair all day; it’s not a hunger strike or a sit-in or an exotic adventure.

 

But it certainly requires fortitude. In one of W.B. Yeats’s last poems, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”, a writer near the end of his life ruminates on the stories that he used to write about, great tales of adventure and triumph, vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose. But in his age, the writer realizes that what he has left are not the mythical creatures and characters, the circus animals, all on show. Rather, it is the unglamorous murk of human emotion that he must write from. He concludes the poem, saying

 

I must lie down where all the ladders start

In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

 

I asked a professor in college once: how do you dig into the darkest parts of yourself for writing, and also live a healthy life? He peered at me over his fingertips, with his uncanny pale blue eyes, and said, “I am always vigilant.”

 

To be a writer is to be vigilant. To be vigilant is to be watchful, awake. To keep a vigil is to stay awake in prayer. To be a vigilante is to be ‘a self-appointed doer of justice’.

 

These days, I want badly to be a self-appointed doer of justice. Villains are everywhere and multiplying, and a clamoring part of me wishes that I could abandon my work and my ordinary life and even my writing to go on some death-defying, valorous adventure–ideally somehow involving magic? –that would mold me into a true hero, capable of quickly and concretely changing the world. I want to single-handedly save lives. I want to do something noble and powerful, worthy of an incredible story. Of course, if my impulse for action is contingent on story, my underlying desire is probably more about the tale than the act.

 

I’m not talking about small acts of goodness: calling senators, writing letters, doing volunteer work in a community, being kind and attentive to the people in your life. All of those and more are humbler works that come from less glory-hungry urges, and that, if done consistently, don’t make up merely one adventurous plot arc to tell and retell. Rather, they make up a whole life of daily, mundane choices, like waking up every day, getting your ass in that chair, and putting pen to paper.

 

The only thing I’ve wholeheartedly kept from my former Christianity is an immense respect for and love of prayer. A favorite author once called prayer an ‘act of love’ and I’ve felt that definition ring true more than any other. For me, writing and prayer are inextricably linked–both a deeply embedded part of my childhood, both a salvation, reconciliation, meditation. Both annoying, sometimes. Both easy to procrastinate on, both unglamorous, both private, both practices that everyone else seems to do with more ease, more beauty, more reward. Both practices that thrive in questions and not answers. Both vigils. Both staying awake.

 

To be a self-appointed doer of justice, vigilante-style, you need answers. You need clarity and security in the knowledge that what you’re doing is right, or at least mostly right, or at least pointed in the general direction of the greater good. We will always have heroes and villains in this world, self-appointed doers who believe that they are on the side of justice. Who have been told what the side of justice is, and have decided to fight for it. Some fight for the weak and downtrodden and underserved. Some fight for their god. Some fight for their money.

 

And following them are the journalists, the storytellers, the poets. The people with more questions than answers, the people whose job it is to give the townspeople hope, or fear. The people sifting through what their leaders are doing to find the truth under it. The people who lie down where all the ladders start.

 

This world needs heroes. It needs writers, too.

Contributor Update: Adrianne Kalfopoulou

Cover for A History of Too Much by Adrianne Kalfopoulou Today we are excited to announce that past contributor Adrianne Kalfopoulou has a forthcoming poetry collection titled A History of Too Much. The book is already available for pre-order from Amazon, but is set to release on April 23, 2018. A History of Too Much addresses an Athens undergoing the first ravages of political and financial crisis in the time of the Greek Euro crisis.

You can read Adrianne’s essay “The Journey Where” in Issue 16 of Superstition Review.

Congratulations, Adrianne!

#ArtLitPhx: Historias del taller escritura creativa en español PARTE 2

Palabras

Ofelia Montelongo, a former student editor-in-chief from Superstition Review, will be hosting the closing event for the Creative Writing in Spanish Workshop at the Palabras Bilingual Bookstore (1738 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, Arizona 85006).  The event will take place this Friday, December 1st from 7pm to 9pm.

The students of the workshop will be sharing the stories they wrote during the six-week course/workshop, thanks to the support of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. If you’re driving, remember that the library’s parking lot is behind the bookstore. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

#ArtLitPhx: Superstition Review Issue 20 Launch Party (with Directions)

Issue 20 Launch Party

If you’re in the Phoenix area, we hope you will join us for our Tenth Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, December 7! The party will take place from 6pm to 8pm at the Contemporary Arts Museum at the Mesa Arts Center. We are so thrilled to celebrate our tenth year and our twentieth issue.

Since the magazine’s founding in 2008 by Patricia Murphy, Superstition Review has published engaging and innovative works of fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, and art. We have featured over 750 established and emerging authors from all over the world and are excited to announce the expansion of our family of contributors with our upcoming issue.

All staff members, contributors, members of the literary community, and friends and family are welcome to join Superstition Review in the celebration of ten years and twenty issues at the Mesa Arts Center.

Mesa Arts Center MapDIRECTIONS: The Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum is part of the Mesa Arts Center campus and is located across from the store at the Northwest point of campus. The museum is the closest building to Center and Main Street. The address is One East Main Street, Mesa AZ 85201. You can see the museum in the top left of the map.

If you are driving, check out specific directions here. To reach the South parking lot from Main Street (traveling east from Country Club), turn right onto Center Street and quickly make a left onto 1st Avenue. The parking lot is immediately on your left.

If you are taking public transportation, the Metro Light Rail makes a stop at Center & Main Street directly across from Mesa Arts Center. The Valley Metro also provides public bus transportation services to stops in downtown Mesa near the Mesa Arts Center.

The event is free and open to the public.

We will be serving cake and exploring the exhibits at the Contemporary Arts Museum, including “Slang Aesthetics!” by Robert Williams in the Dobson Main Gallery, “After Party” by Julie Heffernan in the SRP Gallery, and “The Dusk Parade” by Joe Sorren in the North Gallery.

The agenda will also include a brief talk from the issue’s editors.

Please check out the Facebook event page for updates. We hope to see you there!

Contributor Update: Douglas Light

Cover for Where Night Stops by Douglas LightToday we are excited to announce that past contributor Douglas Light will be releasing his latest novel Where Night Stops. The book will be released January 16th, 2018 from Rare Bird Books but is available for pre-order from Amazon now.

Our interview with Douglas Light can be read in Issue 9 of Superstition Review.

Congratulations, Douglas!

 

Authors Talk: Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Today we are pleased to feature poet Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach as our Authors Talk series contributor. Julia has gathered questions from several poets so that this talk feels like a conversation that just happens to shed light on her poem, “Epithalamium After 50 Years.”

Over the course of the creative self-interview Julia talks about the challenge of describing a marriage that evades words and time. She also thinks about different uses of dialogue in prose and poetry- how in her poem dialogue confuses rather than clarifies. Finally, she talks about the “intranslatability” of moments, relationships, languages, and feelings and what it means to capture or be captured by them.

You can read and listen to “Epithalamium After 50 Years” in Superstition Review, Issue 19.

Contributor Update: Lee Martin

Cover for Telling Stories by Lee MartinToday we are pleased to share that past contributor Lee Martin has recently released a book titled Telling Stories. The book is intended for anyone interested in thinking more about the elements of storytelling in short stories, novels, and memoirs. Telling Stories is now available for purchase from University of Nebraska Press.

Lee Martin’s essay, “The Last Words of Boneheads and Fraidy Cats” can be read in Issue 8 of Superstition Review.

Congratulations, Lee!