Guest Post, Matthew Lippman: Sacrifice of Love

Sacrifice of Love: The Poetry of Daniel DeLeon

 

Daniel DeLeon

Daniel DeLeon

This is what I know. I know a young man—an old student of mine. He loved his poetry. He went off to college and continued to love his poetry. Spoken Word was his thing. The performance of singing a poem, of spitting a poem, spoke to him as both prayer and survival. He graduated college and came back to the school where I am still employed. He is now my colleague. We work in the same department teaching poetry and literature to young people. His name is Daniel DeLeon and he is a force. He told me a few months back that he wants to be the mayor of Boston. A Spoken Word artist as the mayor of Boston. I said, “You should be the president of the world.” God knows we need one now more than ever and why not a poet.

When I said this, he laughed. We were sitting in the classroom as colleagues. 7  years earlier we were in the same classroom. He was writing poems as a 17 year old, writing and reading with such focus and purpose that he blew away anything and everything in his path. Till this day I remember a poem he wrote about the toilet in his grandmother’s house in Guatemala. “You have to move a stone slab in order to take a leak,” he told the class. Danny did not care about the scatological nature of his piece. He was proud of his story. A proud young man is hard not to notice. Daniel, on his quest into the adult world, has not lost his pride. It has gotten brighter. It shines even when he is in pain. I thought about that when we were sitting together in our classroom talking about his poetry and his political aspirations. “It’s just about community,” he told me, “and giving back.” I wondered, “Which?” “Both,” he informed me, “both.”

I have thought a lot about the existence of poetry in the world, in the history of the world, as a glue, or, the potential it has to bring folks together. It used to serve this purpose, think Homer, folks in communal joy under the night sky, the hungry flames shooting up into the dance of Cassiopeia and Andromeda. In the pubs and social halls of Limerick. Story-time at the local library. But, the poetry of America if not, for the most part, performed as Performance Poetry, does not bring people together. Poetry is not about community. Ben Lerner knows this. Jorie Graham knows this. If you go to any AWP, AWP knows this. At any one of these conferences there are 2 very divergent waves coming at each other from different parts of the big ballroom where the book fair hails. There is the wave of ‘we are all in this together’ and then there is the other wave of ‘what nut can I get today?’ It’s sad and scary because it obliterates community. More specifically, it obliterates the community that does not come to AWP–the community of the neighborhood, of the schoolyard, of the rest of the world in its turmoil and beauty. Daniel DeLeon, though in his own BMW of desire, has intentions to allow poetry to be a foundation for bringing people together. At Boston College he created a Spoken Word club that grew from 10 to 200 and gave hours and hours of pleasure and joy to hundreds more. I have seen Mr. DeLeon perform his work. It’s intoxicating both as performance and on the page. It’s a poetry that lives in the present, ruminates on his experience growing up in difficult circumstances, and yet, at the same time, resonates with a population of people in this country who have tasted privilege. It is a poetry, which speaks to everyone because it is a prayer for the living, for all people-kind.

Sacrificial Poet

 

I remember my first prayer,

I kept my eyes open and carefully watched every syllable fall off my mother’s lips

until it was my turn to talk to God

I was old enough to know that Santa was my uncle dressed in a red suit

with a white beard,

but too young to understand why God, doesn’t talk back.

 

I couldn’t understand why we were rich in spirit, but couldn’t afford milk for my morning bowl of cereal.

I prayed anyway,

told God to buy mommy a house with an ATM machine in the living room so that she would never have to scrounge up change to buy a loaf a bread, ever again.

 

I told him, if that’s too much,

then maybe he could help me behave

so that daddy would stop putting his hands on me.

15 years later I finally understand that there is no man in the clouds

just picture frames of a pale-skinned Jesus

and that I was a poor naïve boy worshiping a white man’s image of God.

 

Have  you ever seen a peasant bow before a king?

Have you ever seen a slave kneel unto his master?

I haven’t, but I’ve see loyal servants bend into submission

at the altar; praising their almighty God.

Palms pressed against the sky begging to receive answers to their prayers and petitions.

Placing unrequited hopes in a being they can’t see, let alone begin to understand

yet they stand, firmly in beliefs

 

Waiting and waiting, for something I know nothing of,

something they call salvation,

but I’ve been waiting years for someone to save me from myself

and I’m still waiting to be rescued

I’m still waiting to find refuge in a the shadows of a merciful king

whom I was told cold wash away my sin

but I’m done waiting.

 

I searched and couldn’t find you.

I called you by name and you wouldn’t respond;

I started crying and you weren’t there to wipe my tears;

I had nothing but a pillow to hug and an emptiness inside me,

a void I wanted to fill,

hunger I wanted to satisfy,

until I heard a poem that said,

“Poet, don’t try to fill that void.

Be hungry, it wont kill you.”

 

And for I second I thought I heard God in poetry,

only to realize God is poetry because poetry is an enormous love for humanity.

 

Haven’t you heard of the sacrificial poet?

The ultimate sacrifice, forfeiting fear, and subjecting themselves to scrutiny, yet still

forgiving those who don’t understand this love.

This brave soul crucifies their craft to this stage

puts their expression on display

only to facilitate the salvation and validation of others

 

For these saviors you don’t have to wait 3 days

just 3 minutes and 3 scorecards that’ll show you everything

you need to know.

See sometimes, when I spit my poems

I close my eyes and picture myself on a pulpit

and imagine that this is my prayer for you.

 

And even though I no longer praise my mother’s God

I’ve watched myself become a loyal servant, too.

A slave to this pen

pushing it across pages,

a painstaking process

to remind me that just because God doesn’t answer prayers

it doesn’t mean we should lose hope in poetry.

 

 

If rapture is the essential driving force behind poetry, some way to use language in form, shape, color, tone and texture to get to a daily ecstatic harmonic temperament, then DeLeon’s poetry is working toward that, not only in content but in exercise. It’s prayer for him, an ongoing conversation between himself and that other thing beyond. If rapture is the thing we lose when we move out of our youthful playfulness and endearment, then rapture is the thing we try and regain, move closer to, with our poetry. Danny writes, “See sometimes, when I spit my poems/I close my eyes and picture myself on a pulpit/And imagine that this is my prayer for you.” Preacher. Teacher. Mayor. President. Poet. His work comes out of a direct service of illuminating some kind of divine community that is, at the core, this human reverence which is love. His poetry is not only word but it is also act. It strives to be body, to take place in the body, to meet the bodies it meets, as body. Part of this comes from the performance element to his verse. It is written to be listened to, to be heard and seen. His writing is both astonishing and astonishment. It is the other side of ‘being cheap.’ His poetry is generosity and gift, for everyone. DeLeon is not interested in contempt, he is interested in the soul to soul, the face to face, the love to love, that comes from spitting a poem in the hottest night, in the greasiest garage, under the fullest moon. What DeLeon knows is that poetry is love. And, if it is love, it has to be God. Any good poem, in the realm of the unsayable, to be said, is doing that divine work to be love. To be act. And you can’t mess with that no matter the landscape of this country, the landscape of the heart and its big boom into the world.

Contributor Update, Colleen Abel: Get Liberated with “deviants”

How does the day find you, readers? It finds us supremely excited, as we’ve got some great news for you. The wonderful poet and friend of the Superstition Review, Colleen Abel, recently was crowned the victor of Sundress Publications Chapbook Contest for 2016, and as is often the case with these contests, everybody wins with the release of her upcoming chapbook “Deviants,” which is available FOR FREE over at Sundress Publications’ website, found here.

Regarding “Deviants” Victoria Chang writes:

“Colleen Abel’s wonderful book, Deviant, is mesmerizing—once I began, I couldn’t stop reading. The speaker provides a moving account—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes wry, and oftentimes both—of what it means to be ‘fat’ in this world. The central piece is called ‘Fat Studies’ with references to sociologists and humorous pieces about Jackie Kennedy. Ultimately, Deviants is a beautiful book by a talented writer on material so many of us can understand and relate to, but oftentimes don’t have the opportunity to read in this form.”

Staci R. Schoenfeld, the judge for the Chapbook Contest, writes:

“In Deviants, ‘The eye alters all that it falls on.’ And the eye is everywhere—in every poem and in the lyric essay, ‘Fat Studies.’ There is no escape, even in the darkness: ‘It’s true I like you better in the dark. / Deep dark. Where I can’t even see your face.’ And the eye is keen in its appraisal. What it sees is what is most often offered up for alteration—the female body. The poems and the lyric essay all deal in issues of body. These bodies are not, however, places of comfort and safety. Instead the body is dangerous: ‘My heart is not a heart, it is a little nest of razorblades. I look soft, but if you touch me, your hands will be instantly pulverized, as if you had slammed them into concrete.’ Or the body becomes something to escape: ‘If it helps, I don’t want to be myself / either—to slip out of this body when / when you enter, to exchange within the puff / of magic smoke my life for another. / Leave me other.’ The body is in turns stark and lush and finally ‘the body / is a planet you tilt / on its axis spinning.’ Deviants left me both spinning and altered. It made me want to say, Thank you for helping me understand.”

Check out the full press release from Sundress Publications here.

Download, read, and be as inspired as we find ourselves by Colleen Abel’s “Deviants.”

Read this chapbook!

The cover for Colleen Abel’s “Deviants.”

 

Contributor Update, Geeta Kothari: Have You Heard The Good (Moose) News?

Greetings, readers! One of Superstition Review’s favorite writers, the incredibly talented Geeta Kothari, has a new collection of stories titled “I Brake For Moose,” which is being published this coming February by the lovely Braddock Avenue Books. Geeta was featured in the Nonfiction section of our 11th issue of The Superstition Review with her piece titled “Listen,” available for your reading pleasure here.

If you find yourself in Pittsburgh, make your way over to the City of Asylum on February 16th with Asterix Reading Series (details here).

If you’ve already spent all your airfare budget, “I Brake For Moose” is available for preorder at the Braddock Avenue Books website, located here. Buy one! Buy seven! You’re going to love it, we already do.

Buy this book!

The cover for Geeta Kothari’s “I Brake For Moose.”

Contributor Update, Michelle Ross: Find What’s Been Missing In “There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You”

Today, we here at the Superstition Review are emptying out the valves and shining the brass so that we can properly trumpet the release of Michelle Ross’ debut collection of stories There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You. This collection has already garnered a list of accolades and praise that you can really march to, most importantly the honor of the 2016 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Michelle Ross was featured in our 17th issue wherein she provided us with “Stories People Tell.” That story and many more are all contained in her There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which has been hailed by critics and readers alike as “fearless,” “exceptional,” and “the kind [of stories] I want tattooed on my skin.”

To pre-order this fantastic collection of stories, click here.

To learn more about Michelle Ross and her work, visit here website here.

Pre-order this book!

Michelle Ross’ debut collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You.

Contributor Update, Catherine Pierce: AWP Reading

If you’re going to be in Washington, D.C. for AWP 2017, here’s something to keep in mind: Catherine Pierce, winner of the Saturnalia Books of Poetry Prize, will be participating in an offsite reading along with several other authors published by Saturnalia Books. This will take place on the 9th of February 2017.

To read her poem that was published in Issue 8 of our magazine, click here.

You can also check out some of her other poems on her website.

Catherine Pierce

 

Guest Post, David Klose: On Falling In & Out of Love with Writing

I start out wanting to write a Blog Post for Superstition Review. I want to make it funny. Knowledgeable. Relate-able. The reader should laugh and think “I would like to talk with this writer.” All great writing is getting people to think they know you, that they would want to talk with you.

But I have no idea what to write about. I just graduated from college and that is about as boring and overdone a topic as any. I might as well write about golfing, or about the time I played flag football at a local park and discovered I am not the sort of person who should be playing flag football at a local park.

I like to write, but have written nothing of tremendous value. That isn’t fishing for compliments, just speaking objectively. Therefore I can’t offer advice to writers, though I have in the past done this very thing and, to this day, I still feel guilty about it. My writing is not terrible and has made some money in academic contests but I know, what everyone knows, but no one likes to say, that undergrad academic contests aren’t worth anything except the prize money. So I can’t write about being a professional writer, because I am not a professional writer.

I’ve had great experiences through my time as a Blogger/Non-Fiction Editor/Student Editor in Chief at Superstition Review, but others, in ways I cannot top, have written about those very experiences for this very Blog. Others, in ways I have yet to mimic, have taken those experiences and grown because of them. I have been to a writing conference but already have, in a previous post, beaten that horse to death with a very small club. I have been to AWP but spent more time touring the city than touring the Book Fair (shameful, I know, but who could have guessed I was to fall in love with cold beautiful grey Minneapolis?).

Hiking TrailBloggers tell you to write what you know, to relate to your audience through what you know. Good with dogs? Write about dogs. Write about how finishing a short story is similar to teaching a new puppy how to piss outside. It’s all about consistency. Go on a lot of hikes? Write something about the writing process and compare it to hiking a new trail, a harder trail than usual. It’s all about persistence. But my dog still sometimes pees on the living room rug, and the last trail I hiked ended with a whimper, not a bang. I thought maybe I could write about how to make the world’s best macaroni and cheese, but then I remembered, halfway through that ill fated blog post, that the best mac and cheese I ever had was made by a girl named Beth one drunken night six years ago at a friend’s house where we were all drinking wine out of plastic red cups and that recipe, like my connection to Beth, was completely lost after that night.

Telling me to write about what I know has always been a sort of cruel task; because I want to write about what I don’t know, and about that which makes me question my sense of authority. I am reminded of a writing professor who, in a soft rant against ‘trigger warnings’, asked our small workshop circle “Isn’t getting triggered the point?” For me, it goes like this: isn’t admitting you don’t know the point?

Here’s what I don’t know: the value of writing and whether or not I am a writer. I have loved books from a young age and can point to moments in my life that were shaped directly by the works of Salinger (specifically his collection of short stories revolving around the Glass family), to Tolstoy’s War and Peace (one of the first books that genuinely made me want to be a better person) to Dubliners by James Joyce which made me first think about becoming a writer. There are more recent examples, as well. In Matt Bell’s Scrapper there is a scene, where our protagonist finds a stolen boy and the snow is falling overhead, and where I, the reader, was so completely transported into that scene that my heart skipped a beat. But the more I work on Social Media for my job, the more I interact with other readers, with other writers, the more new books and new styles of writing I read, the more the doubt inside me grows. As valuable as stories have been to me, how can we properly value them? There have been blog posts in the past about how writers should be paid, for their stories, their poems, and that magazines shouldn’t expect writers to be content with just getting published. But can we really make that case? I would argue the opposite. That now in this sea of media, where everyone, through so many mediums, has the ability to share their voice, the value in stories is dropping or, at the very least, leveling off in an over saturated market.

This makes me doubt my writing. Do I really just want to be another voice in the market? Is there anything I can say that someone couldn’t say better? I honestly don’t know. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post, because I have no idea. What I see, through Social Media, are countless writers celebrating the fact that they are just writing. And this gets me a little depressed. It isn’t enough that we are just writing. It isn’t enough that we can take photos of our notebooks next to coffee cups and filter the image to look antique and post it. Perhaps this is the result of working in a book store and seeing just how many books get published and how few new writers actually get read. It isn’t enough that you have a story to tell. But now I am giving advice to writers, which is something I already said I wasn’t going to do. So let me stop while I am ahead.

Here’s where the title of my blog comes from: I saw Ira Glass perform at the Mesa Arts Center a few years ago in the show “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.” It was one of my favorite things I have ever seen and in that performance, Ira Glass quoted a friend who said “when we choose to be with one person for the rest of our lives, we are choosing the person we will spend the rest of our lives falling in and out of love with.”

I think it’s safe to say I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Like any great relationship, falling out of love makes me think of our earliest moments. I remember the first real Creative Writing class I had, where the teacher wrote the words “blue boot” on the whiteboard and asked us, rhetorically, what we were thinking of in that moment. Of course the answer was: a blue boot. Wow, the teacher said quietly, isn’t that amazing? Just by putting two words together, an image was created in our mind. What if, instead of a boot, we did that with a town? Instead a town, a world? Instead of a world, an emotion? What if, through words, we could create the idea of love, of loss, of fear, inside our reader? Wow, all of us students quietly said to ourselves.

This is all to say I still love reading good work. There were two writers I met at Bread Loaf whose writing I loved. One of them had already published a book and I read it in a matter of days. The other one hadn’t published a novel yet, but was certainly almost finished with their first draft. I look up their names every now and then in the usual places. Linkedin. Twitter. Instagram. They aren’t there. They don’t exist on Social Media and this makes me so goddamn happy. Now I can tell myself that, wherever they are, they are focusing on their work. Nothing else. And that one day soon their next book, their next story, their next finished product is going to be put out into the world, and whatever they have created with their words will be stirred within me.

Intern Post, Ofelia Montelongo: What You Make is Your Power

This semester, I had the opportunity to be a trainee for Superstition Review, and when they announced a group of interns would be traveling to LA to AWP, I didn’t hesitate to join them in their adventure. Even though I wasn’t 100% sure what AWP really was, I knew I heard of it before in some other conference. I’ve heard that thousands of writers go there to meet, to talk, and to share their love for written words.
AWP

For someone who can barely pronounce “literary,” going to AWP was more than a fun and glamorous trip to LA. This was a great opportunity to interact with different writers and publishers from all over the world. I had a lot of firsts: it was my first experience with Uber (great storytellers). My first time in my 30’s sharing another room with girls I barely knew, who at the end of the first day I was lucky enough to call them my friends. When you share a passion like writing, becoming friends is easy, unproblematic, and so natural that it seems a little magical. And life sent me the best roommates I could ever ask for, Jess, Alexis, and Leslie! And I realized that when a passion unites us, age doesn’t matter.

Awp Panel

It was also my first time in a book fair with more than 800 exhibitors. Even though at the beginning, my mind compared it with the Phoenix Women’s Expo, but with authors, literary magazines, and MFA programs, it soon became overwhelming and a little challenging to see it all. However, I was still able to learn new things. I learned there is a bilingual press here at ASU, how did I not know this? I obtained information on MFA and literary presses from around the globe. Also, from the book fair I got different freebies, including enough tote bags to give away to my entire family, and a t-shirt that I was able to use in a non-planned 5k race on Saturday morning. I also was able to start my own pin collection.

AWP Pins

One of the best parts of AWP (besides having the compulsive feeling of wanting to buy every book, and wondering if the next J.K. Rowling is in the same room) was being able to represent Superstition Review in different ways: at the table giving information about the magazine, being engaged on Twitter documenting our AWP experience, and basically at every moment during the conferences interacting with people. The greatest thing about representing Superstition Review is realizing that I’m luckier than I thought I was, being able to work with Trish, founder and pretty much the soul of the magazine who has attended 13 different AWP conferences, is rewarding and inspiring. I was only for a few hours at the s[r] table, but during that time I had multiple people come by and ask about her; they wanted to meet her, they were excited and honored to be published in Superstition Review, they were grateful to be read and heard.

Besides the book fair, there were more than 500 readings and panels.  One of the advantages of having multiples panels to choose from is that you can invest your time in topics that really matter to you and contribute with your own ideas.  One of the panels I attended to, was Latinos in Lotusland, where I was able to share my opinion about Frida Kahlo not being “cool” in Mexico anymore and I shared my opinion on staying true to our own voices and to not follow what it is “cool” on the market. And my favorite part of this is that I was heard. I was reminded that even though I come from a different culture and I speak another language, I have a story worth telling and that I should never stop my writing spirit.

AWP Bag  Awp Program

For many writers, AWP is a reunion; an excuse to see each again, for me AWP was a warm welcome to the literary world. It was like I was being told, “Welcome Ofe, welcome to the literary world where you really belong.”

See you in Washington, DC!