#ArtLitPhx: Underground Poetry Slam | First Friday Artwalk

In the streets of Phoenix, up to 16 poets will compete against one another in an open mic poetry slam for the title of champion and a $500 grand prize based on the audience’s applause. Hosted by International Poetry Interpretation Champion and Lawn Gnome Publishing founder Aaron Hopkins-Johnson, these poets will go head-to-head on September 6th, in the middle of the First Friday Artwalk in front of the Roosevelt Row CDC Headquarters (417 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, Arizona 85004), from 9pm to midnight. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition to his eight years as the Phoenix Poetry Slammaster, Aaron Hopkins-Johnson has spent ten years in advertising and promotions for Arts and Culture non-profits, small businesses, and social media heavyweights, while also contributing to the power of words and both spoken and written language. Some of his poetry collections include the titles “Roach Killer For Her”, “Chainsawsmoking”, “Rights4Lefty”, “Watering The Poetry”, and “Irony Stinks: My Life Is Irony”.

For more information, please visit the Facebook page.

Contributor Update, Jackie Shannon Hollis: ‘This Particular Happiness’

Join us in congratulating SR interview contributor Jackie Shannon Hollis. Her forthcoming memoir, This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story, will be released by Forest Avenue Press on October 1. The book is now available for preorder.

In the memoir, Jackie explores her decision to marry Bill and commit to a childless life. But soon after the wedding, she holds her newborn niece and begins to question her decision to not have children. Told in short nonlinear chapters, the book examines what we gain and sacrifice when we love another person.

More information about Jackie and her new book can be found here. You can find her interview from Issue 7 here.

Congratulations, Jackie!

“This Particular Happiness, is a deeply moving story about Jackie Shannon Hollis’s decades-long yearning to have a child―and her complicated decision not to. But it’s also about so much more than that. With honesty, generosity, precision and insight, Hollis writes the story of her life―from her girlhood in rural Oregon, where she both broke and followed the rules, to her hard-earned self-acceptance at middle age. This Particular Happiness is a gloriously wise memoir about one woman’s unexpected path to becoming.”

―Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

#ArtLitPhx: Engagement in Poetry

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 – 6:00PM TO 8:00PM

What keeps us engaged? What drives us down the page to the end of the poem? We will explore “speed” or “momentum,” by analyzing poems that keep our attention. But also, we will explore how as writers, we can be engaged with our surrounding world, to the point that we must do something about it. We will look at poems that have been a “call to arms” of sorts. To inspire our creativity, we will look at the current headlines to draw poetry from the media. This workshop will be half generative and half revision.

COST: 

$60

PEOPLE: 

Javier Zamora

Location:

University of Arizona: Poetry Center, Room 205, 1508 E. Helen St., Tucson

For more information, click here.

Guest Post, Christopher Burawa: Writing as Seeking: A Perspective on Contemplative Practice & Poetry

zen stones

When the three poems of mine appeared in Issue 10 of the Superstition Review in 2012—“An Act of Ghosting to Avoid Complications,” “Like a Good Horse,” and “Vultures and the Constant Application of Them”—I had just experienced a creative burst after almost a year of not having the time or energy to write because of my job as an arts administrator at a state university and also because I had founded a Zen Center in Clarksville, Tennessee. And most importantly, I had become a father in 2011 and was spending as much time as I could with my daughter and wife.

I wrote these poems (and four others) after returning from a dai-sesshin (or intensive 7-day Zen Buddhist retreat) in California. I began my Zen Buddhist practice in 1994 at Haku-un-ji Zen Center in Tempe, Arizona, and my teacher, a Japanese Zen master, had ordained me as a monk in 2005. I’ve come to understand that a contemplative practice like zazen (often translated as meditation) is very much like what is often called “the creative process” (and I would extend that to include the “scientific method”). The practice emphasizes quieting discursive or conceptual thinking which makes room for the intuitive mind to enter and form new experiences of understanding (which relates to “solving” Zen koans). Contemplative practice is, in fact, the foundation or matrix for all wisdom traditions; however, writers and artists employ it all the time. Poetry, to me, is another manifestation of contemplation in action—like walking meditation, samu (or work practice; like sweeping)—where self-consciousness drops away and the intuitive appears and plays, albeit a serious form of play. In Zen Buddhist terms to achieve this state the practitioner must “break one’s bones and sweat blood,” which essentially means to establish a routine and put in the effort.

I had developed a rather careful writing practice when I was in the MFA program at Arizona State University. I meditated early in the morning, wrote in my notebook for at least two hours and would draft poems on my laptop in the afternoons. But this routine didn’t transfer into my life after the program. Once I entered arts administration, my free-wheeling life was curbed by my responsibilities which included travel, after-hours work at home, and attending programs, among other things. And yet I kept to the notebook writing and when I had the energy or time (vacations were limited to consecutive weeks) I would draft and edit one or two poems. I was slowly assembling a manuscript, or so I thought. However, whenever I sat down to review the manuscript, the poems just didn’t seem to be in harmony, and then one day, last year, I had an epiphany: I was writing two books, not one. One book continued my preoccupation with Iceland and reinterpreted its canonical history as well as my own biological family’s (versus my adopted family) history. The other book was poems I wrote out of my insights into Zen practice.

Like a good horse on who a whip alights, be earnest and energetic. By faith, discipline, vigor, concentration, and discernment of truth, expert in knowledge and action, aware, slough off this mass of misery.

Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha, translated by Thomas Cleary, p. 49

So the poems in Issue 10, as I have mentioned, sprung from a sesshin and the notes I took at night under the covers of my bed. One poem, though, bridges the two books, “Like a Good Horse,” which turned out to be an elegy for my beloved Icelandic uncle, whose health after a nonstop working life was in decline. The title is borrowed from the first line of the Dhammapada, or the Sayings of the Buddha, from the penultimate verse in the chapter about violence: how violence against others is violence against oneself (i.e., on how important it is to cultivate compassion):

My uncle was a large and physically strong man but had a sweet nature, one that endeared him to every child that ever met him. However, there were men who, because of his legendary strength, wanted to take him on and thereby elevate their own prowess. My uncle, though, never succumbed to their taunts and actually abhorred violence. And so the poem.

Of the other two poems in Issue 10, “An Act of Ghosting to Avoid Complications,” is not about ending a relationship by suddenly disappearing. The term, “ghosting” was used by my Zen teacher to describe the activity of becoming the other. Dissolving one’s I-am self to join in a profound relationship with another person or even thing. And this definition should probably have appeared as a note at the bottom of the page. My bad. The other poem, “Vultures and the Constant Application of Them,” is about acknowledging and restoring our connection (as humans) to the natural world, from which we have become separate. So is it Zen? To me, yes, but perhaps not to some readers.

Returning to the subject of my notebooks and scribbling. Because I have amassed over 10 years (since my first book) of notebooks, I’ve begun to mine them, which led to the poem, “Desire, Speckled by Want,” in Issue 23. This poem incorporates an important Zen Buddhist theme, of developing compassion for oneself before one can expand it to others. It addresses obliquely the subject of my adoption and a feeling of loneliness I have always attributed to separation. The landscape, for me, is the interior of Iceland, where the barren stratified mountains lean into the floodplains with their alluvial fans. It is a haunted landscape that reflects extreme isolation. And the forgiveness sought in the final line is essentially that of my present self observing the past self, as an object, and thereby acknowledging that self’s struggle.

#ArtLitPhx: ‘There’s No Crying in the Newsrooms’

Authors Kristin Grady Gilger and Julia Wallace, both faculty at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, discuss and sign copies of their book about women newsroom leaders.

There’s No Crying in Newsrooms tells the stories of remarkable women who broke through barrier after barrier at media organizations around the country over the past four decades. They started out as editorial assistants, fact checkers and news secretaries and ended up running multi-million-dollar news operations that determine a large part of what Americans read, view and think about the world. These women, who were calling in news stories while in labor and parking babies under their desks, never imagined that 40 years later young women entering the news business would face many of the same battles they did – only with far less willingness to put up and shut up.

The female pioneers in There’s No Crying in Newsrooms have many lessons to teach about what it takes to succeed in media or any other male-dominated organization, and their message is more important now than ever before.

PARKING / LIGHT RAIL

  • Don’t want to drive? Take the Light Rail! It lets off at the Central Avenue/Camelback Park-and-Ride, which has hundreds of free parking spaces across the street from Changing Hands.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
KRISTIN GILGER is Senior Associate Dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She spent the first 20 years of her career at newspapers in five different states, beginning as a farm reporter in St. Cloud, Minnesota in the 1980s when family farms were going bankrupt at an alarming rate.She left the Midwest in search of warmer weather and landed at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, where she edited a prize-winning project on race relations and ran two of the paper’s suburban news operations. She was managing editor of the Salem Statesman Journal in Oregon’s capital city and then assistant managing editor for news at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix before moving to academia, where she has helped build one of the country’s most prominent journalism programs. She has conducted training in ethics, leadership and newspaper management throughout the U.S. and in several other countries. She holds a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska.

JULIA WALLACE is an award-winning news industry executive with deep experience in investigative journalism, industry leadership, digital transformation and change leadership. She was an intern at the Atlanta Journal in 1977 and never imagined that she would return there, becoming the top editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 25 years later. During her tenure, the Journal-Constitution won two Pulitzer Prizes and was nominated for two others. She was named E&P Editor of the Year in 2004. The newspaper aggressively moved into the digital age and was focused heavily on investigative reporting. Work during her time led to dozens of indictments of public officials and others. She also served as managing editor of USA TODAY, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Arizona Republic and executive editor of the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. She led Cox Media Group Ohio for five years, running the news and other operations for three newspapers, a CBS station (WHIO) and three radio stations. Her first full-time journalism job was as a health reporter for the Norfolk (VA) Ledger-Star. Currently, she serves as the Frank Russell Chair at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. In that role, she has been involved in a variety of projects including head coach for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s “Initiative on Integrity and Leadership;” organizing and facilitating a speaker series on gender in the workplace; directing the Mayo Clinic-Cronkite Medical Journalism Fellowship and teaching investigative reporting in Albania and Lithuania. She teaches classes on the business of journalism, ethics and gender.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Wednesday, September 4

Time: 7 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

#ArtLitPhx: First Draft Book Club

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Join Changing Hands at First Draft Book Bar (the wine and beer bar inside Changing Hands Phoenix) for a discussion of this month’s pick, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

Stop by Changing Hands Phoenix or Tempe (or order online by clicking “add to cart” below) to get your copy of The Nickel Boys.

Then meet us and Arizona Republic reporter Barbara VanDenburgh at First Draft Book Bar to discuss the pick and enjoy happy hour prices all through the event.

Sign up for Barbara VanDenburgh’s weekly “Feel Good 5” newsletter here, and join our First Draft Book Club Facebook group here.

ABOUT THE BOOK 

In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.” Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

WHAT IS FIRST DRAFT BOOK CLUB? 
First Draft Book Club is the official book club of First Draft Book Bar – the coffee, beer, and wine bar inside Changing Hands Phoenix. Every month, Arizona Republic reporter Barbara VanDenburgh picks a hot new book and hosts a guided book club discussion.

EVENT INFORMATION

Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix 

Date: Wednesday, August 28

Time: 7 p.m.

For more information about the event, click here.

Contributor Update, Dara Elerath: ‘The Dark Braid’

Join us in congratulating SR poetry contributor Dara Elerath. Her manuscript, The Dark Braid, was selected by Doug Ramspeck for the 20th John Ciardi Prize for Poetry through BkMk. The book is scheduled for publication in fall 2020.

“What makes these poems so engaging is the way the poet constructs them from contradictory elements. The works feel both personal and mythic,” says prize judge Ramspeck.

More information about Dara and her new book can be found here. You can find her poetry from SR’s Issue 23 here.

Congratulations, Dara!

#ArtLitPhx: Great Books Discussion

Stop by the library for a discussion with fellow book lovers. The Great Books Foundation promotes reading, thinking and sharing of ideas. Kathy and Don Dietz will lead discussions on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. in the Connections Café at Tempe Public Library.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser before the book discussion at 6 p.m.

EVENT INFORMATION

Date: Wednesday, August 28

Time 6–8 p.m.

Location: Tempe Public Library, 3500 S. Rural Rd.

For more information, click here.

Guest Post, Kristen Keckler: The Art of Memory—Writing to Remember

Even in 2019, with trusty devices always on hand to capture my daily existence, most of my life goes unrecorded (thank God). My pre-device life, a Dark Age itself, is only documented by an occasional washed-out photo, receipt, ticket stub, or “remember when?” story passed among family and friends. 

I often lament never having kept a proper journal. Only once, at age eleven, have I ever faithfully inscribed dates and happenings; the diary had a pink, puffy plastic cover studded with rhinestones. Despite the security feature, a tiny gold key, my mother and younger sister broke into it—together! —and when they later admitted it, I was relieved that I hadn’t confided anything private to its pages: no secret crushes or burning questions about my awkward, beanpole body.

In my twenties, I wrote little poems and observations in notebooks—many little notebooks. These musings now seem written in code, as if I was protecting my words from an intruder, who, strangely enough, is myself! Today, I still draft in a random, haphazard way, in spiral notebooks, and keep several going simultaneously. Writing essays, for me, is like journaling twenty years after the fact. I go easy on myself and do not—simply because I now live in a digital age—expect perfection from my memory. I figure, if I only wrote about things I remembered very well, I might never have written anything at all. 

Recently, a former student, Maritza, reached out, seeking my advice for jumpstarting her writing. “I don’t know where to begin,” she confided, a phrase I recognize in my bones. The key, for me, is not a little gold diary key, but to start somewhere—with a moment, or maybe with a song, place, or detail. I write whatever pops into mind, and don’t decide if I remember “enough” until after I’ve given it a go. 

Jumpstarting sparks remembering; you have to get the car running so that you can actually move. For me that means sometimes turning an unproductive writing day, when I’m sleep-deprived, distracted, or just not feeling it, into a semi-productive one by inventing topics and ideas for later, for when the mood strikes. (How DIY of me: a book of handcrafted, shabby chic rainy day writing exercises!) In a blank or mostly blank notebook, at the top of every other page, I write a word or a phrase; each one is a prompt. When I’m looking for inspiration, I flip through this notebook; one of the headings usually calls out to me, and off to the races I go. Occasionally, a prompt even becomes the title for a finished piece, like in the case of my SR essay “A Merry Little Group Home Christmas.”

A few months ago, I came across the words “Memories to Age Six” written atop a blank notebook page, jotted by my own hand a year or so earlier. When I re-discovered it, my husband and I had been speculating about how much, if anything, our two-year-old son would remember about being two. (Would he recall his first trip to Florida, those two-foot long iguanas? Or his Matchbox cars being confiscated, temporarily, by mean Mommy after he clocked her on the head with a Mustang and left a boo boo?) As I started to freewrite about my own early years, I was surprised by how much I actually, truly remembered from my life, especially between ages three and six. Some of my memories originated in stories told by my parents throughout my childhood, but other moments I recalled simply because I lived them: I was there. Whether routines that occurred in a pattern, or one-time events, the more I wrote, the more I remembered, and the more material I generated, until I had a finished essay draft plus pages of extra notes. 

As I drafted a six-year-old memoir, I had to quickly decide: do I comment and reflect on the child’s life, or do I let her experiences speak for themselves? I decided on the latter, to focus on the child’s impressions and lived moments, allowing the adult writer to hang back, quietly choosing language and forming a structure. I find that when writing about a very distant past, concrete details are especially important, as memories need physical objects in which to take root, spreading their shoots into the darkness and reaching for context. My Six-Year-Old Memoir has many such anchors: a sewing machine, a horse track, green shorts with daisies, a tiny tarnished silver cup, a gun, a hospital bed, a two-toned Buick, and maraschino cherries. 

Since writing is remembering, and writing is crafting, you often don’t know how much you recall about your life until you face the blank page (or screen) and dive in.  Memory is part black magic, a deeply intuitive conjuring, and part rolling a tumbleweed through the mind’s desert, gathering what sticks. The more I go with it, the more I think, (a fully focused, meditative-type thinking), and the more I perform other little exercises to jog my recollection, for example, looking at Google Maps street view or texting a family member or friend. 

It is usually not until after I’ve written quite a bit that I figure out what an essay is about, and often that “what” defies summary, is more of an emotional cue than a lesson or theme. For me, the purpose of nonfiction is not to see how much I remember, but to determine what I can do with what I think I remember. And when I’m finished writing a particular piece, I always feel like I remember those events more vividly than when I started—sometimes the writing and memories become intertwined, interchangeable. What has happened is gone, and let’s face it, there is nothing, not even writing, that can ever bring it back. What’s left is the art of memory. And I’m okay with that.

#ArtLitPhx: ASU Book Group

The ASU Book Group’s September 2019 reading selection is “By the Forces of Gravity” by Rebecca Fish Ewan. The book group is open to all in the ASU community and meets monthly from noon–1 p.m. in the Piper Writers House on ASU’s Tempe campus. Haven’t read the book? Come anyway! Authors are always present. A no-host luncheon follows at the University Club. 

Synopsis:

Ewan’s illustrated coming-of-age memoir, set in 1970s Berkeley, Calif., reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an era of laissez-faire parenting, she drops out of elementary school and takes up residence in a kids commune—no parents allowed!—and we follow her, bestie Luna, and their hippie cohorts as they search for love, acceptance, and cosmic truths. Full of adventure and heartache.

The book is available from amazon.com.

Rebecca Fish Ewan is associate professor of landscape architecture in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Ewan received her MFA in creative writing from ASU in 2004.

The ASU Book Group meetings and selections for 2019-2020 are:

The ASU Book Group is sponsored as a community outreach initiative by the Department of English and organized in partnership with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

Contact: Judith Smith
Email: jps@asu.edu

EVENT INFORMATION

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019
12-1 p.m.
Location: Piper Writers House, 400 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe
Price: Free of charge and open to the public

For more information, click here.