SR Pod/Vod Series: Poet Nick DePascal

Nick DePascalEach Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Nick DePascal.

Nick DePascal lives in Albuquerque, NM with his wife, son, three dogs, and three chickens, and teaches at the University of New Mexico.  His first book, Before You Become Improbable, will be published by West End Press in summer 2014. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative, The Laurel Review, RHINO, The Los Angeles Review, Emerson Review, Aesthetix, and more.

You can listen to the podcast on our iTunes Channel.

You can read along with the work in Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Brad Modlin: When Not Singing Into My Spatula Microphone, I Play Metaphor Games

Here´s a game I play in the kitchen: I rip out pictures from magazines and tape them to my cabinets. 

Selected at random, their only similarity is that they’re interesting enough to look at for a while. (No ads for Xerox machines or anything like that.) The game is that you find what these pictures can have in common.

pushing daisiesOnce I ended up with a saxophone player, a train track, and an ad for the TV show, Pushing Daisies.

For weeks, while I was stirring soup or waiting for my pasta pot to boil, I looked up at these pictures and built bridges. Maybe the Daisies couple had pressed their ears to the ground to hear the music of the approaching train. Or, a different bridge—the bell of the saxophone was circular like the wheel of the train and the center of the daisy. Also, the saxophonist’s hair was grass-like. Or maybe he was a hobo who hopped trains searching for the brunette he once loved in the grass. Each picture contained death: the TV show about the girl who died, the abandoned train track, and the jazz of a New Orleans funeral.

saxophoneIt was a simple—and surprisingly fun—way to build my metaphor muscles. And the longer those same pictures were on the cabinets, the more challenging it became to find new connections. 

Plus, as several other writers have reported on this blog, we can all go through spells when we’re not exactly writing. In those times, this picture game can be a way to trick yourself into staying in shape.

When I tape other magazine cutouts to the chalkboard and share the game with my students, they really get into it and always create similarities I hadn’t anticipated. Poetry classes often find sensory connections: the noisy motorboat probably screams like the pregnant woman will do when she goes into labor. Or they easily do what teachers frequently hope they will—explain an abstract concept via a concrete image. The Egyptian queen from the museum photo, they say, is proud and stubborn and as unflinching as the blue mountain from the magazine cover. 15257638-railroad-tracks-surrounded-by-green-grass

The fiction students find narratives. They link five pictures together into one story, and then I add a sixth picture, and they come up with a complete different plot or character. Maybe the desert that was the setting becomes the loneliness that motivates the main character. 

If you want to give it a try yourself, here are some pictures:

staircase

tattoo

cancer cowboys

kittynew

Maybe the fight with cancer is like the dragon tattoo versus the Godzilla toy. Maybe that’s The Grim Reaper on the staircase. Maybe smoking makes you cough like a cat with a hairball.

Or, maybe the cat is waiting for someone to feed her, the ghostly staircase figure is floating to the dining room, the little boy wants someone to fix him an afternoon snack, and the cowboys are on their way to campfire soup. Maybe everyone is hungry and wishing the cook would pay more attention to the pot on the stove, and less attention to the pictures taped to the cabinets.

Teague Bohlen Talks Superheroes

Professor Teague Bohlen recently visited ASU in partnership with Superstition Review and Project Humanities to discuss the evolution of the superhero in narrative. Along with providing a closer look at spandex tights and masks, Teague presented the history of comics as it relates to the rise, fall and comeback of the narrative. It was fascinating to learn how such seemingly small stories have affected the development of narrative structure over the last several decades.

Superheroes in Narrative

Teague began his talk by explaining that comic superheroes were not always the same virtuous characters they are today. In fact, he pointed out several instances where the early Superman and Batman figures instigated violence and actually killed people out of rage. Hollywood’s version of Clark Kent would never commit such an offense, so how did this change in character come about?

At first, comics served a wide audience of children and adults with edgy story lines. In fact, comics were so popular in their early years that they became a strong force of advertising and propaganda during WWII. Who can resist the pressure when even “Captain Marvel joins the Navy”? However, after the war, comics returned to stories involving monsters, crime and homeland violence.

In the 1950’s there was a shift in the content of comics with the adoption of the CCA—Comic Code Authority. While some people viewed the reduced violence and “criminal content” in comics as a benefit to society, Teague discussed the devastating effect these restrictions had on the narrative plots within comic books. As he put it, “Imagine if everything on television had to be appropriate for a 5 year-old.” Suddenly comic storylines became surface-level and simplistic, and a few publishers replaced the dialogue almost entirely with comic art. Fortunately, over the last decade comics have made an impressive comeback as publishers have bypassed the CCA and returned to a more creative approach to storytelling.

Overall Teague’s talk left us with countless nerdy facts and a much greater appreciation for the role comics have played in the history of storytelling. I can speak for everyone present when I say it was a delight—and the superhero cookies weren’t half bad either. Thank you for a wonderful presentation, Teague. We do hope you come again.

You can view a video of the presentation here.

The Masters Review Call for Submissions; Deadline March 31

The Masters ReviewEach year The Masters Review pairs with a guest judge to select the 10 best stories written by students in an MA, MFA, or PhD creative writing program. This year’s guest judge is AM Homes. The Masters Review aims to expose the best among emerging writers by producing fiction and narrative nonfiction that is progressive, diverse, and well-crafted. Only students who are currently enrolled are eligible, and we only accept work under 7000 words. For full guidelines and information please see our submissions page. Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2013.

For writers who are not in a graduate-level creative writing program and have not published a novel-length work, please consider sending us work for our New Voices category. New Voices is open year round and represents the work of emerging authors that we publish online. To submit, go here.

Guest Blog Post, Patrick Madden: Finding My Way

So without stopping to choose my way, in the sure and certain knowledge that it will find itself—or if not it will not matter—I begin the first memory.

— Virginia Woolf “A Sketch of the Past”

Patrick MaddenOne of the earliest writing lessons I learned (I refer to creative writing, not elementary school writing) is this: that I should allow my writing to guide itself instead of beginning with my conclusion already in mind. This is common advice, something you’ve likely heard yourself, but I repeat it here because I can remember how I struggled with it, how I tried to believe it in theory without putting it into practice. And I see again and again student pieces that seem to be transcripts (sometimes elaborations) of a predetermined narrative and meaning with no room for detours from “the point.” The writing in these is sometimes very clean, even beautiful, but it simply serves the goal, without being part of the process.

Now I would not say that I have arrived at any fully formed writing abilities, but I have learned to trust in the notion that I should write without knowing where I’m going. Whereas I once tried to express in words the lessons I’d already processed from highlight-stories I’d experienced, I now attempt to find or create connections between seemingly dissimilar things that flit into my consciousness coincidentally. The act itself is as fun as it is rewarding, and even when it fails, it gives me good exercise.

One recent example, among many, came to me as I was sitting in Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario watching the Uruguayan national team play a World Cup qualifier match against Ecuador. I knew I wanted to write something about Uruguay’s improbable and, frankly, amazing soccer tradition, going back nearly a century and including two Olympic championships followed by two World Cup championships, and I wanted to tie this to the team’s recent resurgence as a FIFA powerhouse. Soccer is a great source of pride for Uruguayans, and I, who’ve lived in the country for four years and who’ve married a Uruguayan, share the sentiment. But I did not want to write a straightforward narrative (“I went to the stadium to watch Uruguay play against Ecuador… It was a 1-1 tie… Let me tell you about Uruguayan soccer history…”). So I kept my eyes and ears open in the stadium for other entry points to help me essay the theme instead of simply writing the story.

I thought I found my hook when I was startled by a loudspeaker promotional jingle playing all through the stadium during the middle of the match. It was hawking ball bearings. How strange, I thought, that someone would think it worth their advertising pesos to blast such a commercial to a stadium filled not with auto mechanics or race-car fans, but futbol aficionados.

But just as I didn’t understand the advertising strategy, I couldn’t see how ball bearings and soccer could work together in my essay, other than in a superficial way (the one happened during the other). So I began to write. The sentences themselves suggested what might come next, and from the process of stringing words together I got to what I think is a halfway decent connection. I’ve not achieved literary brilliance, but I’ve discovered something I didn’t see before, and my essay is a new creation that never was in the world before. In any case, it’s reaffirmed the lesson about letting the writing find its own way, which I took so long to learn.

NOTE: The essay I refer to can be read at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, along with others I’ve written, at this link: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/columns/dispatches-from-montevideo

Guest Blog Post, Joan Colby: Old Lady Poems

“An old lady poem,” was the judgment of a friend recently. I was offended, then considered—at 73, am I getting to be an old lady? How could that happen!

Yet, the poems I wrote in my 20s were sharper and less reflective. Many had to do with self-discovery, the landscape of the young. As time passed, I found this investigation tiresome. It was easier to accept the person I have always been, or through decades have become.

My poems shaded into narrative. Though I write short fiction, I found my natural rhythm and voice more suited to the poem, yet story increasingly intrigued me. Subject matter changed too. Poems on the struggles of relationships—parental, sexual, marital, social gave way to less personal, more external topics.

I wrote a series of poems on criminals and on saints (featured in The Lonely Hearts Killers), a chapbook on art (The Chagall Poems), on the natural world (The Boundary Waters) and most recently on decades of country life with a noir flavor (Dead Horses). It seems a predictable progression. While I am still interested in, and write about, a variety of subjects, with the passage of the years, elegies replace love lyrics, ruminations on illness, loss, loneliness and death, for good or ill, are new preoccupations.

I hope I’ve retained the sardonic outlook that speaks to my dread of falling prey to “old lady poems.” Hera forbid, I become a character in one of my own such as “Red Hats.”

RED HATS

A hat tribe based on a poem
Praising a notion of insouciance.

The intention to wear purple
With a red hat when old

Incited not a revolution
But a convention of the like-minded.

Not the war bonnet
Prescribed

But a herd of red hats
Grazing their salads.

Narrative Goes Digital

Each week we feature a blog post by one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review. This week’s contribution comes from Nonfiction Editor Jennie Ricks.

The literary magazine Narrative has started to dig deep into the changing digital world by offering a variety of options to its readers. Its ultimate vision is to connect writers and readers around the globe, which has prompted the publication to distribute their issue online for free.

Narrative was the first literary magazine on Amazon’s Kindle; it also offers an App, which is a free download for the iPhone, iPad, and the iPod. Their readers are able to access new stories each week the second they are published, as well as watch and listen to authors speak at events, and browse and select stories from award-winning authors like Sherman Alexie, T.C. Boyle, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Not only does Narrative publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, it also provides unique opportunities for writing and reading. One category is the “six-word story:” authors tell their story in only six words. Cartoons, graphic stories, and audio readings are also available to readers.

Narrative offers a wide selection of writing contests for writers to hone their craft. The most recent contest targeted writers between the ages of 18 and 30. Their next contest is open to both fiction and nonfiction pieces and called the Winter 2012 Story Contest (deadline is March 31). Not only are the winner’s published, but they also walk away with cash prizes.

Narrative is an intriguing literary magazine that offers many varieties of writing and reading for individuals with different preferences. It opens up options to people who want something fun and different, and have adapted to incorporate new options for a changing digital age.