Upcoming Local Event: An Evening of Poetry & Conversation with Nikki Giovanni

Nikki GiovanniMark your calendars on September 18 for this exciting opportunity to attend “An Evening of Poetry and Conversation with Nikki Giovanni.” The event will be held at the Mesa Arts Center’s Ikeda Theater and run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This event is free. Find out more at this link.

Nikki Giovanni is an American writer, commentator, activist, world renowned poet, powerful literary voice, and educator, currently at Virginia Tech. She is also one of the best known African American poets who reached prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her poetry reflects her own evolving awareness and experiences, starting from child to young women, seasoned civil rights activist to lecturer and educator, with all the steps between. Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for her family while her informal style makes her accessible to both children and adults. As the author of over 30 books and a Grammy nominee, her focus is on the individual and the power one can have on oneself as well as in the lives of others. 

Also, check out this article and interview that ASU’s Project Humanities posted in february back before the event was rescheduled.

Sneak Preview: Arcadia Magazine, Issue 7

For the upcoming fall issue, the editors at Arcadia decided to do two things that were completely new for us: run a themed issue and bring on a guest editor.  Although many of us were apprehensive about surrendering our editorial control, ultimately we caved, and allowed someone to completely hijack the issue.  The terrifying but ultimately rewarding result was this: Arcadia #7: The Post-Traumatic Issue, guest edited by Benjamin Reed, which will be out November 15.  Superstition Review has been kind enough to allow us to sample Reed’s introduction here, and we hope it will give you a small taste of the sorts of things that Reed and his stable of writers are considering: trauma and the way it shapes our stories, stories and the way they shape our trauma. To get your hands on the poems, stories, essays, photojournalism, and art itself, though, you’ll have to pre-order a copy of Arcadia #7, which we’re currently offering at a 15% discount.  Find out more here: http://www.arcadiamagazine.org/subscribe.html.

Dear Reader,

It can still startle me, when I meet an amicable stranger in a waiting room, at a bar, or in line at the grocery store: the speed and apparent ease with which he or she can submit an incredibly detailed sketch of their biography. I encourage you to test this. The next time some unknown quantity gives you that unmistakable expression of wanting to chat—it’s mostly in the eyes—let them approach, and see if she doesn’t give you a half-dozen facts about herself, arranged in a taut narrative arc, within the first forty-five seconds. Everything she wants you to know about herself comes condensed, coded, and braided, like DNA, inside of a remarkably small package. Bartenders, police officers, and people who pick up hitchhikers will know exactly what I’m talking about. In any case, if you find yourself assessing the veracity of or motives behind the brief narrative submitted for your consideration, you’re essentially grappling with questions of literary criticism, such as whether or not it is necessary to gauge the reliability of the narrator, to define the tension between author and persona, to determine if the climax is too clichéd to be acceptable, etc.

As social creatures, we offer these practiced, miniature autobiographies in order to control how others see us, but we also repeat these stories to ourselves as we think, rehearse, and declare them, until they merge with and then obscure what an objective third party might deem a more accurate representation of “the truth.” Note, for example, how often men over thirty who played high school football “could have” played at this or that major university—indeed, who surely would have gone pro—were it not for: the knee injury/unexpected pregnancy/lost scholarship/. . . whatever. The question isn’t if we conspire with strangers to reshape our personal history, but how, and to what end.

We revise and reformat our past tragedies, losses, and shocks in order to render them into a comprehensible narrative, not just for the sake of how we seem to others, but for our own sanity.

Patients who undergo prolonged talk therapy, who tell and re-tell their “stories”—in a frank and more nuanced way than the conveniently abridged versions we typically deploy with strangers—can physically and quantitatively change how their brains work. Neural pathways, in effect, are simply patterns of response. By telling a fuller and more considered truth, old thoughts are changed by being guided into new pathways. The patients remake themselves. It is my belief, as I stated in this issue’s call for submussions, that healthy, normative compartmentalization of the psyche through the cognitive ordering of our personal experience parallels how we organize the structures of our fictive narratives and poetics, especially when shadows of ourselves appear in these texts. “Narrative re-compartmentalization,” as it were, is the regeneration of a personal identity, one that is paradoxically both as real and yet more real than its precursor. We tell stories about ourselves in order to become these stories.

The enormous human brain is blessed with language yet cursed by the innate conflict of memory. All humans, in describing our lives, turn fiction into fact. The practice that distinguishes writers and poets from others is that we voluntarily flip this circuit and toil to consciously turn fact into fiction. I would argue that both practices employ the same cognitive functions, and that the products of each mechanism are at least arguably equal in the quality of the truth they offer.

I didn’t choose “The Post-Traumatic” as the theme for this issue of Arcadia in order to navigate the reader to some topical tropic, some tangential island just off the known continent of literature. I did not ask writers to submit stories of aftermath, loss, and recovery in order to explore the cognitive and literary backwaters of how life becomes art, or vice versa, but rather to draw the reader even closer to the art of defragmentation, which is always at the very center of the many means and motives at play when we sit down to write. As David Mamet writes in Three Uses of the Knife,

Artists don’t wonder, “What is it good for?” They aren’t driven to “create art,” or to “help people,” or to “make money.” They are driven to lessen the burden of the unbearable disparity between their conscious and unconscious minds, and so to achieve peace.

It has been an honor to serve as Arcadia’s first guest editor. Many thanks to Chase, Noah, Roy, Corey, Ross, Angela, Alysha, and the rest of the staff of this very excellent publication. Obviously, this issue never would have come to fruition without their insight and unflagging effort.

Thank you for reading this volume. I am exceedingly proud of every entry, and I feel grateful to have made the acquaintance of the writers herein. If this text brings you even a fraction of the joy and excitement it brought me as editor, I think you will be satisfied.

Yours sincerely,
Benjamin Reed

Austin, Texas
September 2013

Benjamin Reed lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and family. His fiction has most recently appeared in [PANK], West Branch, and Arcadia. He won this year’s Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest, as well as the last Avery Anthology Small Spaces Prize. He has served as web editor for the online journal Front Porch, and as an associate editor for the annual Unstuck.

 

Forthcoming: Meg Pokrass

How short can a short story be? Meg Pokrass asks – and answers – that question in her fiction, which often takes the form of flash-fiction and micro-stories. Though her stories are short, they pack the same emotional punch that can be found in a lengthy piece of a prose. She delivers her characters and narrative in compact, meticulously chosen details. For example, in her short-short story “The Big Dipper,” about a young girl trying to navigate her adolescence by purchasing a four-foot-deep pool for her backyard, she conveys a great deal of personal information about her main character’s background in a single sentence. Referring to her mother, the narrator divulges that “Now that Dad has his own place and his bi-polar disorder, she had all kinds of new expressions.” Some of her shortest stories are only between 90 and 100 words long. In this compact form she writes of mother-daughter relationships, adolescence, sexuality, insecurity, and identity.

In her review of Meg Pokrass’s recent collection of short stories, Damn Sure Right, Tessa Mellas compares Pokrass’s flash fiction to the “richest morsels of chocolate. You can’t inhale them by the fistful.” This description does Pokrass’s stories justice; her fiction demands that you stop for a moment after reading, that you take in every single detail individually to get the full experience of her micro-narratives.

We asked Meg Pokrass to share her writing process, in particular what inspired the short story that will be appearing in Superstition Review Issue 8, which will launch in December. Click here to view the video that gives us a glance behind the scenes.

Visit her website at http://www.megpokrass.com

Announcing: Terese Svoboda’s New Novel

teresesvoboda_0

In Issue 5, we had the privilege of interviewing Terese Svoboda, and in Issue 7 we were honored to publish her short story “Madonna in the Terminal.” Svoboda has written more than 11 books of poetry, fiction, translations, and short stories, among them Cannibal, Trailer Girl and Other Stories, Tin God, and Black Glasses Like Clark Kent, and she is the recipient of awards such as the Iowa Prize and the O. Henry Award. Now, she has added another item to her list of accomplishments, the novel Bohemian Girl.

Praise for Bohemian Girl:

“Harriet’s observations of the world and her small place in it are insightful and often touching. And Svoboda (Trailer Girl and Other Stories) often displays a poet’s touch with language and imagery.”—Publishers Weekly

“Creating a western world as raucous and unpredictable as any imagined by Larry McMurtry, and teeming with characters as tragically heroic as those created by Willa Cather, Svoboda offers a vividly distinctive tale of the American frontier.”—Carol Haggas, Booklist starred review

For more information on Bohemian Girl: http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Bohemian-Girl,674858.aspx

Congratulations, Terese. We look forward to hearing more great things about you and your work.

 

Worldwide Day of Occupation: Phoenix

Last Saturday was the Worldwide Day of Occupation, when protests of all sizes occurred in 1500 cities and 82 countries across the globe. Ten thousand people marched in the streets of Madrid. It’s estimated that 20,000 showed up to flood Times Square. And at the height of the protest here in Phoenix, between 1-2 thousand of us came to show our support at Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown.

Since the protests began on Wall Street one month ago, there has been a certain amount of criticism aimed at the people involved. One common charge is that the protestors are just bored college kids who protest for the sake of protesting. What I saw at Occupy Phoenix couldn’t have been further from that accusation. There were plenty of young people airing their frustrations over the lack of opportunity many of us will face once we graduate college. But there were also entire families whose small children proudly waved American flags as we marched as a group towards Martha T. Hance Park. There were a surprising number of older Americans airing the same grievances as the youth, including a stooped elderly couple that made sure to be in the front row of one of the impromptu assemblies at Cesar Chavez Plaza. The husband wore a hearing aide, so the wife made sure to wave his hand in support for him whenever a speaker expressed frustration that our system has failed us, the 99%.

Another criticism has been that the message is too muddled to make a difference. But I disagree. One message was loud and clear: we need peaceful action to show the world we’re listening, that the power must remain in the hands of the people. The myriad of problems the world faces is too large and diverse to fit on a protest sign. But the message that the interests of the many must take precedence over the interests of the few is one that unites the world, from Hong Kong to London to New York to Phoenix.

This weekend made me think about why art of all kinds is so crucial to civilization. Writers and artists are responsible for interpreting our surroundings, encapsulating the world in which we exist in a poem, or a story, or a painting. We make art to communicate and share ideas with the people of today, and to make our voices heard to the people of tomorrow. We are living in turbulent, fascinating times. I can hardly wait to see what art arises out of our struggles.

To see a list of writers who support the Occupy movement, including Dorianne Laux, whose work will be published in Issue 8 of Superstition Review, visit http://occupywriters.com/

Tribute to Steve Jobs

The news that everyone is talking about this week is the passing of Apple’s Steve Jobs.

His abrupt death came as a shock to not just the nation, but the entire world, as Jobs’ creations and ideas have pervaded almost every country on Earth.

The company that Jobs built served to deliver excellent technology — which was always groundbreaking — and has led the charge into the age of the internet.

His work cultivated mass globalization, revolutionizing the way we all communicate and live on a daily basis. It’s hard to go anywhere these days and not find someone sitting with a Macbook on their lap or an iPhone at their ear. Even something as simple as managing our music collection and listening to it on the go was radically reinvented by Apple in only a few short years. The strides that Jobs and Apple have made in technology are astounding. The Apple logo now competes with the Golden Arches of McDonald’s as the most recognized icon in the world.

The most powerful and influential people in our society have stopped and taken time to pay tribute to the man who helped bring magic to our fingertips.

President Obama, on the White House Blog, was quoted as saying, “The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

Even Bill Gates, perhaps Jobs foremost rival and competitor, has said, “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”

Jobs pushed the world in an entirely new direction, and he has certainly found his place in the history books. His contributions will surely grow as Apple continues to strive for excellence. Superstition Review, and other online literary magazines simply could not do what they do if not for the work of Steve Jobs. In fact, the world would look a lot different today had it not been for his inventive genius and creative spirit.

 

What’s Happening to Our News?

Wired magazine has recently published an article entitled, “Rate This Article: What’s Wrong with the Culture of Critique,” which discusses some interestingly subtle side-effects of the digital age of information.

Author Chris Colin argues that the overwhelming amount of information we are now inculcated with, thanks to the internet, has its pros and cons. While anyone on the planet now has the ability to access all sorts of knowledge from their cell phone, much of that knowledge is user-generated content. Colin writes:

Technoculture critic and former Wired contributor Erik Davis is concerned…too. “Our culture is afflicted with knowingness,” he says. “We exalt in being able to know as much as possible. And that’s great on many levels. But we’re forgetting the pleasures of not knowing. I’m no Luddite, but we’ve started replacing actual experience with someone else’s already digested knowledge.”

The constant influx of user-reviews and ratings can act to contaminate our own opinions, and sway us towards or away from restaurants, taxi services and even news articles. With charts and tickers winking at internet users from every webpage, it can become difficult to discern what you agree with and what you disagree with, what is fact versus one person’s perspective.

The concept of consumer feedback isn’t a new one. The question, “how are we doing?” has been printed on the side of McDonald’s take-out bags for years, and commercial trucks still bear the bumper stickers which read, “how am I driving?” But the internet takes consumer response to an entirely new level, compiling feedback from hundreds if not thousands of users.

Colin argues, “Our ever more sophisticated arsenal of stars and thumbs will eventually serve to curtail serendipity, adventure, and idiotic floundering…there’s an essential freedom in being alone with one’s thoughts, oblivious to and unpolluted by anyone else’s.”

What are your thoughts on what’s happening to our news?