Guest Post, Caroline Chavatel: Dear Voices of Resistance

TwitterOn February 14th, 2018 when news of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting broke, my immediate reaction wasn’t to continually check the updates or to phone a loved one. I cried. And then I logged onto Twitter. And why? Because I’m a good millennial. But, more seriously, because whenever tragedy strikes, my Twitter feed fills with poems to cope, poems on the subject matter, and poems from victims, both current and previous. Through this work, I’m able to transcend the current context and feel hopeful about what might come from this, whatever this may be. The possibility for art within spaces of tragedy becomes clear and, on some level, we are just trying to make it through—some more so than others.

Just recently I had a conversation at a dinner party with friends who expressed their dislike of Twitter. I felt—well—personally attacked. Okay, okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but it did later make me consider the strong visceral reaction I had to their statements about the site. They communicated the uselessness of it and I raised my voice and crossed my arms. I called bullshit and felt myself clenching my teeth, trying to swallow the rising fuck off. I then went silent as if in childish cold-shoulder protest. What do you mean you hate Twitter? How? When did this start? Why?

Why did I urgently feel this need to come to Twitter’s defense? As I reflect, I suppose I did, and do, understand where they were coming from. In the past, Twitter has actually sat idle and permitted my own harassment. I’ve seen them remove photos of female menstruation and breastfeeding but happily conserve racist threats. I’ve seen teenagers be told to end their lives from total strangers. I’ve seen transphobic hate speech. Twitter does, after all, actively contain and maintain the same evils of performativity and trolling present in most social media.

The day after that dinner disagreement, I felt uneasy. embarrassed—Was my reaction too strong? What did it really matter? So, I decided to consult the Internet. I found Maya Kosoff’s piece in Vanity Fair, “Just An Ass-Backward Tech Company”: How Twitter Lost The Internet War,” which detailed the vast complications of Twitter, the violence committed regularly on the site, and what’s been done (or rather, not done) about it. Comedian and SNL repertory player Leslie Jones essentially got chased off by a bunch of white nationalist trolls’ racist vitriol surrounding her part in the most recent Ghostbusters film. At any moment scrolling through comments one might see someone receive anything from sexually violent threats to unsolicited dieting advice. Maybe I did over-react in my own quick confrontation? After years of objections of the continued abuse on the app, Twitter higher-ups countered with increasing the character count per tweet, essentially giving trolls more space per post to utter their hatred and ignorance. The site often officially verifies self-proclaimed Nazis and repeatedly ignores hate speech. Sigh. Still, I couldn’t rationalize the incredulous reaction I had to their opposition of Twitter in that moment. It was as if they had insulted my own livelihood and hadn’t just critiqued an app I use.

Perhaps I responded as I did because like so many other poets and writers I know, I rely on Twitter to feel supported and occasionally revived in the never-ending hellscape of the Trump presidency. I’m often greeted with screenshots and shared links of reminders of what other artists are putting out into the world. And, when I’m feeling dissatisfied with my own writing, teaching, reading, and the chaos of Everyday Life—I suddenly feel as though it’s possible to create within structures that are regularly seeking to obstruct artistic consumption and production. I am living in a kind of echo chamber—one that celebrates art and good humor, social justice and reproductive rights, underrepresented voices, tiny political wins and killer line breaks. It’s the same echo chamber that made the news of a 2016 Republican victory even more alarming because I couldn’t have possibly predicted it given the material I had come to expect in my feed that essentially just agreed or aligned with my own interpretations and outlooks. As someone I know always says: It’s dialectical.

I’ve cultivated a feed I look forward to logging in to—poets, writers, artists, comedians, left-leaning politician and activists—and these voices reassure me, daily, that EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY. They write, resist, post, repeat. Those friends had made claims that Twitter was where their peers and non-peers alike used the platform to perform or push agendas. But I frequently log onto praise and promotion, publicity and appreciation, shouting-from-the-rooftop excitement toward and of my comrades’ art. And this, I now realize, isn’t something inherently virtuous about Twitter itself—au contraire. I have no doubt that these poets and writers, artists and activists, would and could carve out these spaces anywhere they needed to.

And this is all to say: I get it. I also resent the site’s lack of acknowledgement of its own severe harms. I now realize that when I jumped to Twitter’s defense, I was actually defending the artists and writers I feel I’ve come to know and not defending the site itself. Twitter is, at large, often painful. But, for some of us, it’s a means of day-to-day survival. I now realize I had been conflating the online apparatus with all the voices, known and unknown, who greet me daily in my feed. I am thankful for those who make it all less painful and cultivate online presences that encourage, promote, and shape positive artistic discourses. Dear voices of resistance, I’m so thankful for you.

 

#ArtLitPhx: PC Rising Facebook Page

Phoenix College is launching its’ new Creative Writing Facebook page: PC Rising. They want to connect students, professors, and alumni with other writers from the downtown Phoenix  area. Follow them @PhxCollegeRising for more information about their students, publications, and upcoming workshops!

Contributor Update: Sloane Crosley Releases Look Alive Out There

Sloane Crosley's Look Alive Out There CoverToday we are pleased to announce the recent release of Sloane Crosley’sLook Alive Out There. The collection of essays, which was released April 3rd, 2018, is available through multiple outlets including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sloane will also be touring for Look Alive Out There; the list of date and locations are available on her website.

Sloane contributed an interview in Superstition Review Issue 7. Former Superstition Review Editor Britney Gulbrandsen and Sloane touch on several of Sloane’s works where epigraphs and inspiration are just a part of the conversation. The interview is a great introduction, and wonderful read, if you are unfamiliar with the author.

Congratulations Sloane!

Guest Post, C.A. Schaefer: Waiting

I am good at waiting. Good in the sense that waiting could be my vocation. Like a professional mourner, I am skilled at hollowing out all but the most immediate demands of body and mind and instead substituting performance. Waiting demands that I occupy myself with small and useless tasks in order to perform busy-ness. I am a body in the chair until a body can be made useful, and speak.

Waiting is part of the in-between that Charles Baxter describes in his essay on stillness. He describes the amorphous space of nothing as being shaped by the action that frames it. The scenes of talking in Pulp Fiction, he says, are rendered possible by the violence that punctuates them. A hallway is only a hallway because of where it begins and ends. When we turn our lives into narrative we choose the beginnings and the ends to describe, those landmark points where action occurs. But such a description is possible only afterward, and not during.

When I am waiting I am concerned about time. The time bleeds away from the waiting body, dissolving harmlessly into no time at all. It flows along with the second hand until I am no longer conscious of every moment. When waiting, there could be no time at all. Except there is still the time of the body: processing, transforming, synthesizing food into calories, energy to the cells, nutrients to the bloodstream, awakening acid. Eventually the body calls us away from waiting, away from the book, to attend to its relentless needs.

Lately I have spent some time in emergency rooms and hospitals, not as a patient but as an observer. Family. Are you sisters? They always ask. Sometimes I just say no. Sometimes I say I’m her wife, at which point they straighten, either apologetic or embarrassed for us both.

As with so many emergency room visits, the reason for arriving was not immediately clear. It was, perhaps, an abscess, a post-surgical complication; it might have been infection, or perhaps a ruptured endometrioma. The last ER visit was prolonged. I was attentive to the beginning (3:30 a.m.) and the end (8:30 p.m., upon transfer to a neighboring hospital). I called family. I texted friends. I researched. Mostly I waited.

Afterward, I would try to arrange my thoughts into a narrative, a cohesive order, but they became jumbled, unwieldy. Pain and the attempts to quantify it. I pull Allie Brosh’s webcomic on pain scale for the nurse to laugh at: are you being mauled by a bear? A list of pills taken at different times over the past 24 hours. Calling the resident, waiting for a call back. Receiving blessing to drive ten minutes to the emergency room. Waiting, and waiting. Waiting. The CT scan. Waiting. The chest X-ray, performed for reasons never articulated. The surgical team on the trauma floor, too busy to visit us. The latte at Starbucks that burned my tongue. I wait. I wait. The ultrasound. I wait. My wife, alternately drugged and in pain and vomiting, enters into an experience of time that operates not as a blank spot in her memory, but a nebulous area from which nothing can be retrieved. Her brain is exhausted, but mine is endlessly awake, bright and anxious.

Later, when I describe this, I sketch out the shapes using the principles of narrative events. Time as a framing device: we arrive at this time, we depart at that one. Here is the ordering of medical tests, here is the progression of doctors that come to speak with us, each with their own theories. Here is the eventual decision, which will be revealed to be the correct one. Here is the transfer, the journey, the movement to another space.

We know, of course, how artificial this construction of narrative is. This is not how time is experienced—this is the mind telling the story of memory until it’s believed. When I tell the story, I may pause for some of Baxter’s stillness, some of my waiting. I may describe the expensive glossy magazine I bought that held pictures of even more expensive clothes within. My disgust at the magazine’s smooth, poreless bodies within that refused to tell the story of the body as I was experiencing it, my butt going numb in the ER chair, the EMT snapping on blue gloves before touching my wife’s skin, the endless presence of the translucent green vomit bags with the hard plastic ring to clutch at the top. Oxygen saturation at 83-90-96-99 (the last only with the slippery cannula wound behind her ears). Thick slices of cheddar cheese on the sandwich I finish, in spite of a vague feeling that I should be unable to eat. But these details, too, eventually become framing posts. Pauses in the hallway to mark the progress I’m taking. Again, it becomes the story of a story, a memory that builds order out of fear and anxious watching.

Here is what I remember from those hours: the idea that I needed to hold past and present and future together in my mind. I might be helpless in the passage of time, but I needed to hold the future. Conceptualizing what might happen as important as what was happening.

I think about Choose Your Own Adventure books, where the wrong flip to page 32 would guarantee your death. I was an anxious child who kept one finger hooked on the previous page. I knew, vaguely, that this was cheating. I also did not care. These books provided reassurance that life did not.

This is what Borges understood in “The Garden of Forking Paths;” all possibilities are equally likely, and we have an infinite number of choices before us. I think about Borges while I wait. I imagine different futures. One in which this was proven to be nothing; one in which it was an infection; one in which it was an obstruction; one that required immediate surgery; one that indicated cancer. Even the impossible future, the one in which everything continues to go more and more wrong, and I am ushered out of the waiting room, to wait to become or not become bereft, is present. If I believe in the theory of many worlds, all these things do happen. Somewhere, I am broken; somewhere, I do not write this because this did not happen at all; somewhere I am not married to my wife; somewhere I do not write at all. Somewhere I am no longer.

These did not happen. My wife went home, eventually. The crisis eased. But the possibilities remain. Waiting is constructed not only by beginning and end, but what each of those could be. I fantasize about things breaking in the way that they do on television, when the action on screen suddenly is suspended and then rewinds. Players rotate back to their starting positions. Broken objects reassemble themselves. Relationships are repaired. Maybe it’s simply anxiety: if I imagine the worst, fate will not see fit to surprise me with it (she’s already done that, things can work out now). It’s the worst kind of magical thinking, because I suffer for it. These imaginings are, in their own way, as real as what occurs.

Time passes. Choices are made, or made for us, by the body. Even if I write this story as a Choose Your Own Adventure or its literary, hypertextual alternative, I am still limited by the body, by my ability to write and choose, by how many infinite alternatives I can conceptualize, by how many times a reader can make a choice. But the ghosts of those choices haunt every story. They inform the decisions that we do make, those things that we did not write but that we imagined. Those traces can surface in a narrative, sometimes in an errant thought in a character’s consciousness, or as a potent description that hints at a possibility. They can nod to the glorious untidiness of our minds. If and might and could, all those conditionals, remind us of how perception and imagination are sometimes inseparable, and that what might have happened is as potent as what did.

Contributor Update: Kamilah Aisha Moon Poem-A-Day

Kamilah Aisha Moon 2Today we are happy to announce that Kamilah Aisha Moon is the Poem-A-Day for April 4th, 2018. Her featured poem is titled “Fannie Lou Hamer” and is available to read or listen to.

Kamilah was featured in Issue 10 of Superstition Review in both the Non-Fiction and Poetry categories. She has contributed to Superstition Review’s blog on several occasions. Her most recent guest post, “Beyond Looking,” is just as finely crafted as her poetry and offers Kamilah’s thoughts behind craft, experience, and spirit, and how they meet in the creation of poems through examples of her work.

Congratulations, Kamilah!

#ArtLitPhx: Angel Cabrales NGC 4594 (The Sombrero Galaxy) Exhibition at Royse Contemporary

Royse Contemporary is proud to present the solo exhibition of Angel Cabrales entitled NGC 4594 (The Sombrero Galaxy). The title refers to the actual spiral galaxy located in the constellation Virgo with a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk, which gives it the appearance of a sombrero.

“This galaxy is a focal point in my exploration in thoughts and needs to identify as an American of Mexican heritage in a world where political and social climates push cultural identity to the extremes and I find myself feeling out of place,” states Cabrales. “These ideas and feelings are something many can relate to and Cabrales has once again created artwork that blends social and political concerns of today while beginning an important dialogue with his viewers,” states Curator Nicole Royse.

This exhibition features an enthralling new collection of mixed media abstract paintings and sculptures. Through his work the artist searches for a cultural home where he doesn’t have to prove how American or how Mexican he is, and just live in the Spanglish amalgamation he grew up in. He utilizes industrial design and commercialism while approaching such tough topics through a powerful and often satirical lens. Cabrales has created laser cut resin “paintings” which the artist says, “track my voyage to self-discovery as I chart the Heavens in my search for NGC 4594 a place to call a celestial home of my imagination,” going on to say “becoming a home to my feeling of displacement and want for a place to call my own.”

Cabrales is a multi-media sculptor who is creating dynamic sculptures, interactive installations, and digital imagery. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Arizona State University and his Masters of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of North Texas. Currently he is the Visiting Assistant Professor in Sculpture at the University of Texas at El Paso, as well as a mentor in The Low Residency Masters of Fine Arts Program for the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

He has exhibited his artwork extensively in Texas and Arizona, having his work featured in both solo and group exhibitions at renowned institutions and galleries including most recently at the MAC, Texas Biennial, Galeria 409, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, The Latino Cultural Center of Dallas, Brownsville Fine Arts Museum, El Paso Museum of Art and AMBOS Project (an intervention collaboration). Royse Contemporary in Scottsdale, Arizona and Ro2 Gallery in Dallas, Texas currently represent Cabrales’ work. His work has been featured in numerous publications both online and in print including ArtNet, Fusion Magazine, Texas Architect, Huffington Post, El Paso Times, Scottsdale Independent, and Arizona Republic, just to name a few.

The opening reception will take place on April 5, 2018 from 5:00-10:00 pm coinciding with the weekly Thursday Scottsdale ArtWalk with an opportunity to meet the artist who will be in town from Texas. NGC 4594 (The Sombrero Galaxy) will be on view from Thursday, April 5 through Saturday, April 28, 2018. Royse Contemporary is located in the Marshall Square complex at 7077 E. Main Street, Suite 6, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. Royse Contemporary is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday 9:30-1:30pm, Wednesday 9:00-1:00pm, Thursday 5:00-10:00 pm, and Saturday 11:00pm-3:00pm.

 

Authors Talk: Johannah Racz Knudson

Johannah Racz KnudsonToday we are pleased to feature poet Johannah Racz Knudson as our Authors Talk series contributor.

Johannah speaks about her poem, “Cosmology: Four Score,” and her current main creative project titled Transylvania Blue. She discusses Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and how the voice of authority of the speech has benefited her poem. After discussing the background of the poem, Johannah moves on to her current project, a biography centered around the life of her great uncle who escaped from the Nazis and eventually immigrated to Canada. She concludes her podcast by emphasizing the importance of sharing his story, which is her own rich yet painful inheritance.

To know more about Transylvania Blue visit Johannah’s blog here.

Cosmology: Four Score” can be read in Issue 20 of Superstition Review.