A Database for Literary Travelers from Poets & Writers Magazine

Poets & Writers Magazine has created Literary Places, a nifty database of U.S. destinations “where writers can visit for inspiration, to promote their writing, for research, and to discover community.” It includes over 130 historical sites, indie bookstores, literary archives, reading venues, writing centers, writers spaces and other places of interest. The database links to your “My P&W account” and to Google Maps, so writers can save locations and create personalized maps. The space includes an interactive map and is searchable by state, city, and even zip code.

For example, a search of Lenox, Massachusetts brought up “The Mount,” Edith Wharton’s estate in Lenox. A link provided a photo with a brief description of the site, a Google map, address, links to the website, their phone number, contact email, more literary places nearby, nearby conferences and residencies, writing contests, and a directory of area writers. A click on writers’ names takes you to the writer’s directory listing on Poets & Writers’ website.

Literary Places is a great resource for writers who travel and users can suggest places to build the database as well.

Dispatches from Delhi: Report 13

It’s been about a week since I returned from Delhi to Phoenix and I don’t really know how to process things. Everything is now as different to me as it was once familiar and I find myself appreciating a variety of things on a very conscious level. Not that I was unappreciative before I left, but after really feeling what life can be like in a place so radically different from Western society, every little thing seems like something for which all should be appreciative. Water tastes way better; my house looks at least 10 times bigger than it did before I left; and going hungry is about as likely an event to occur in my life as that asteroid from Armageddon crashing into my front yard.

I suppose since spending the summer in my homeland, I have developed a very comprehensive realization that even on their worst day, any given member of the American middle class can find boons in spades when compared to the lifestyle of the average Indian person. I’m not trying to minimize the strain both Americans and Indians and other cultures all over the world have to endure on a regular schedule. Everybody deals with some version of struggle to a greater or lesser extent on a moment-to-moment basis, and I completely understand that fact.

But the gap between what people already have to begin with in metropolitan areas like Tempe or Scottsdale compared to Delhi is just so vastly antonymic that it almost defies my sense of reality. I mean, for the love of God, when was the last time an American population had to worry about a power blackout covering 620 million people since the turn of the 20th Century? The closest North America came to this kind of power failure was in 2003, and that was staggeringly low in comparison, coming in at 55 million people.

And food? At last count, 60 million children in India were listed as food insecure. What’s the count for all food insecure members of the entire American population? The data varies, but I’ll bet my left lung that it’s nowhere in the same state, let alone the same neighborhood, as 60 million.

And housing? Oh man, the worst project developments in the United States put together don’t hold a candle to the rampant poverty in the majority of Indian living spaces. In Tempe, I’ll see 1-2 homeless people every couple of months with a street sign in their hand and a tin cup next to it. Maybe the sign says something funny, and people give some money to him or her, and call it their good deed for the day.

In India, I saw the homeless, the crippled, the destitute, and the derelict live in droves under freeways, overpasses, and on the streets, scouring between moving traffic for alms, many without even tattered rags to cover the little modesty they might wish to retain.

And coming back from that kind of differential has been a massive shock to my world paradigm. It’s placed in my mind a more universal idea of what it would mean for me to have a happy, successful life. And that idea is just keeping it more basic than basic. I don’t mean Survivorman or ascetic monk basic; just whittling down the things in my life to the bare essentials, like food, water, clothing, shelter, and enough power to turn a light on.

Esalen: A Place for Exploration

Intern Guest Post: Esalen: A Place for Exploration

Earlier this millennium, I learned from my friend Stan about the Esalen Institute a remote 27 acre retreat on the Big Sur coastline between Monterey and San Luis Obispo, California. Digging, I learned that Esalen was founded in 1962 as “an alternative educational center devoted to the exploration of what Aldous Huxley called the ‘human potential’—the world of unrealized human capacities that lies beyond the imagination.” I was intrigued. So in the summer of 2004, I made my first journey to Esalen.

I arrived at Esalen with my friend Stan after driving the better part of a day from Orange County, departing from civilization at San Luis Obispo and another 90 miles of the 2-lane Pacific Coast Highway, California 1. Arriving, I was taken by the striking beauty of the place. After checking in at the lodge, we found our simple but very comfortable accommodations. After a brief exploration of the grounds, we headed to dinner at the lodge. Esalen’s meals are served camp style and the food is excellent. Meat, dairy, vegetarian, vegan, and raw foods are served at every meal and produce is picked daily from Esalen’s five-acre organic farm.

Stan and I had enrolled in a five-day workshop led by Steven Harper, an eco-psychologist, wilderness guide, author, and artist. At 8:30 p.m. on arrival day, we had our first session, an orientation to the week’s activities and brief explanation of the goals of the workshop. Harper’s work focuses on wild nature as a vehicle for awakening. For the remainder of the week, he took us for practiced meditative walks through four diverse natural areas in Big Sur’s Ventana Wilderness—a deeply satisfying, introspective experience. After 20 or so years in business, I so needed to reconnect with nature and Steve’s workshop was the ideal medium.

Since that first workshop, I have returned to Esalen four more times and each experience has brought new perspectives and opportunities for inward exploration. For instance, a workshop with cultural anthropologist Dr. Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer utilized Shamanic dreaming techniques and practice that allowed me to reconnect with long forgotten experiences in overcoming personal and professional challenges today.

Another time I came with my wife and young children for a week-long session with Rick Jarrow that helped me change course in my career, providing the impetus for me to return to school. Esalen has a children’s program for seminarians through its Gazebo Park School Early Childhood Program and babysitters are available during evening sessions.

In addition to the workshops, Esalen is known for its Arts Center, distinct Massage style, movement and activity programs, and mineral Hot Springs. Esalen produces two catalogs per year covering 500 workshops on diverse topics including writing and visual arts. Here are a couple of examples of courses from the July – December, 2012 catalog:

Writing the Wild led by Marisa Handler, author of Loyal to the Sky, which won a 2008 Nautilus Gold Award for world-changing books. Her essays, journalism, fiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous publications, and she teaches creative writing at Stanford and the California Institute for Integral Studies.

Framing Nature: Photography as Meditation and Mirror led by Andy Abrahams Wilson, an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Recent projects include the Academy Award semifinalist Under Our Skin and the PBS broadcast The Grove. His focus is using the camera to create a bridge between ourselves and our environment.

Generally, depending on my level of stress it takes up to two days to melt into the Esalen experience. It is for this reason that I recommend at least a five-day workshop, ideally seven-days with a five-day and a three-day workshop.

Dispatches from Delhi: Report 10

Tomorrow marks my first legitimate workday as an English teacher in another country (another continent). And it’s a country that is by and large considered a part of the underdeveloped third world. The geographical shift alone has greatly enhanced my perception of what education is supposed to mean in a place like India, but without hands-on experience, my knowledge still leaves much to be desired.

So far, my capacity in the school’s hierarchy has been assistance-based learning, meaning that all the teaching or guidance I have provided over the course of the last two months has been closely supervised by a more senior staff member. Although these staff members varied greatly in age and subject of interest, each one was able to help me understand that the Indian education system is one that does not permit great unorthodoxy in curriculum.

In short, despite being comprised of individuals dedicated to drawing forth the potential of their students, the Indian education system allows no pedagogical heroes. Teachers are not allowed to deviate from the state-mandated standards. They have limited resources at their disposal to subvert or fill in the cracks in the system. Now, I’m not saying that this kind of situation doesn’t exist in American classrooms, but I am saying that the average American classroom has a lot more creativity and financing to foster student growth. And having been in both classrooms as a student, I can say this with absolute certainty.

But without having been a teacher in either type of classroom, does my opinion really cover all the bases? I’m not sure yet. That’s why tomorrow is going to be an important day for me. Not just because it’s my first official step into teaching, but also because I will finally be able to put myself in front of the blackboard for hours on end. This repetition will help me fully comprehend the rigors of being an educator. I will need to eschew the romanticized notions I still associate with the often thankless job of a teacher.

And when my view of the profession is stripped down to its bare essentials, just like my worldview has been from my continued exposure to the starkness of India in general, whatever remains will tell me whether or not I am committed enough to education to make it an integral part of my life for the next decade.

Right now, I don’t know much about the specifics of teaching. After tomorrow, I might not know much more. But what I will know is whether or not the entire prospect of it is something I want to know more about. For now, I’m just going to put my best foot forward.

4+1 Conference on Literary Translation

I was given the opportunity to attend a 4+1 traduire/übersetzen/tradurre/translatar in Vevey, Switzerland this past March. When I chose Switzerland as the destination for my study abroad program, I thought I knew a thing or two about the country; I knew I would be housed in the French-speaking region, and that the other region was German-speaking. I knew that my favorite French author, Rousseau, was actually born in Geneva.

I was surprised, however, to find out just how much I didn’t know about the world of Swiss literature and writing. For instance, I had no idea that Switzerland has four official languages and that any Swiss author publishes in one language typically has his or her texts translated into the three languages. Many organizations strongly promote this translation of native authors, and, for that purpose, the 4+1 conference was created. The 4+1 conference is held annually and organized by the Swiss Foundation for the Pro Helvetia culture, along with other organizations of similar interests. This year’s conference was dedicated to the English language – promoting both the translation of texts from English and translation of native authors’ work into English.

Discussion was led by prominent British writers Jonathan Coe and Jon Steele with the help of their translators. Well-known Swiss writers publishing in Italian, German, Romansh, French, and in the Swiss-German dialect and notable American translator, John Taylor, were also present. While, in most cases, translators tend to work outside of the spotlight (their names sometimes don’t even appear on the book jacket) a translated work is just as much the translator’s as it is the author’s.

“More than a translation, the work I do is rewrite another version,” translator Donal McLaughlin said at one keynote. Taylor and McLaughlin shared some of the poems they were in the process of translating—work by Clo Duri Bezzola, Pierre Chapuis, and many more. They discussed the obstacles they faced when translating and the rewarding feeling that came from finding the nearly right word that almost has the same nuance as the original—and how in this way a translated poem becomes a version of the original.

One of the most interesting discussions flouted the French title “L’anglais n’existe pas!” or for those of us who don’t speak French, “English doesn’t exist!” Surprisingly,  the amount of people who spoke English as a second language far surpassed the amount of native English speakers. The debate touched on the validity and plausibility of English as a universal, global language.

Interestingly, questions were often asked in French and then answered in English. Within the same panel, the speakers often would converse in  three or four different  languages to each other and to the audience at any given moment. As technology makes our world feel smaller, the possibilities for growth and community within the literary world becomes greater and greater. We have unlimited access to stories from all over the world, and readers who can read our work from every corner of the globe.

 

Jerry Eckert: “Mahlapane’s Story” in Pooled Ink

Jerry Eckert’s “Mahlapane’s Story” (Issue 5) is available in the Northern Colorado Writers’ anthology, Pooled Ink. Pooled Ink publishes and celebrates the winners of the Northern Colorado’s Writers 2011 Contests and includes works of esteemed fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and cover design work. Eckert’s “Mahlapane’s Story” originally appeared in Issue 5 of Superstition Review and you can read a full version of the story in our archives.

Jerry Eckert is a former professor who has returned to his love of writing nonfiction after years of work in his academic field. He has published nearly 200 papers, some of which were award winning. His research and policy analyses for the Office of the South African Prime Minister helped speed the downfall of the apartheid, his monograph restructured Lesotho’s agriculture, he wrote the first economic policy package for the incoming Mandela government, and his op-eds in the Christian Science Monitor influenced American’s South Africa policies. “My career was in agricultural development and policy advising overseas.  I lived these events,” Jerry notes, “I was able to earn the trust of my host nations and their governments and they sucked me in very close to the center of the action. Every country I ever lived in long-term, I entered as a technocrat and ended up working for the President or Prime Minister directly, at their request.”

In our interview, Eckert mentions that his work and his love for literary nonfiction seem to come from two different cultures: “As an academic, I wrote a lot in ‘Academic Speak’ which is not a very creative (nor easily readable) medium. I [won] a couple of ‘Best Published Article’ awards from my professional association, and those were two papers I chose to write in the language of the average person rather than for the academic with his/her Ph.D.”

Jerry started writing when his studies took him beyond Arizona borders, and he felt the loss of leaving the desert that he loved: “I wrote for Arizona outdoor magazines as a way to re-live the Arizona desert and our sky islands vicariously. I could get back home in my mind every now and then. I wrote of my favorite mountains, the Santa Ritas, I wrote of my favorite species, the Coues deer (Sonoran whitetail). I think I got hooked when I discovered that I could get paid for what were essentially my love letters to an ecosystem. I fell in love with literary nonfiction when I discovered the richness of the feelings when writing memoir, recapturing my life’s high points, and finding that readers loved the stories.”

Eckert’s nonfiction pieces have previously appeared in Matter, Pilgrimage, Memoir (and), Weber – The Contemporary, in addition to Superstition Review. His piece “The Dustbin Telegraph” will be featured in our upcoming Issue 9 of Superstition Review, which will go live April 1st. “Requiem for the Night Sky,” a lament of losing the stars and the skies to pollution, will appear in the upcoming issue of Weber – The Contemporary West. Eckert’s “Ismail,” a nonfiction piece that examines life lessons learned from following the poorest people in Pakistan, is scheduled to appear in Memoir (and). Jerry Eckert is in the final stages of finishing his memoir, Weeping Kings and Wild Boars: Adventures of a Neocolonialist.

For those seeking to enter the literary nonfiction field, Jerry advises that budding writers “keep a journal, religiously.  I didn’t and now decades later it is really hard to pull up exact sequences of who said what to whom.” Jerry also encourages young writers to “Go through life with your eyes wide open. Like a photographer goes through life always seeing light more intensely than the rest of us, the writer needs to see life more intensely that most. Jump into the thick of things and, even if being swept along by the thrill of it all, remember to watch with what I call the Writer’s Eye, knowing that you are at the same time taking field notes for an essay some day.”

Pooled Ink is currently available on Lulu.com for $11.99 (plus shipping/tax) or at NCW for $11.00. Pooled Ink will be available on Amazon and additional markets in roughly 6-8 weeks.

Northern Colorado Writers is currently hosting their Short Fiction 2012 contest, which is open until March 15th, 2012. You can find more information and guidelines for the contest at the NCW website.

Congratulations Jerry Eckert. We’re proud of all that you have accomplished and look forward to your new work.


Meet the Review Crew: Interview Editor Erin Caldwell

Each week we will be featuring one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review.

Erin Caldwell is the Interview Editor at Superstition Review, an undergraduate English major, a nanny, and a barista. After her graduation form ASU in May, she plans to go on an extended whirlwind national tour playing bass guitar with her band Dogbreth. During her tour of the US, Erin hopes to complete a collection of poems and short stories that are expected to be printed by local Phoenix press, Lawn Gnome Publishing. Right now, Erin’s main career goal is to create extracurricular writing workshops and literary magazine programs for children and teens in rural and urban areas.

Living through a nomadic childhood, Erin found a sense of stability in her book collection. A lifelong fan of fiction and poetry, her favorite books as a child were The Phantom Tollbooth and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Her tastes have grown to include works by Truman Capote, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, JD Salinger, and Joyce Carol Oates. If she had to choose one book to read for the rest of her life, it would probably be To Kill a Mockingbird or Nine Stories. Drawing upon these influences, Erin writes essays, stories, and poems based on her own experiences.

Her favorite aspect of the small-press literary world is being able to read work from famous authors and emerging writers side-by-side. Ploughshares, Tin House, and The Believer are her top magazine picks. Through her time with Superstition Review, she will get to interview new and established authors printed in such publications. These conversations will give insight into the literary world by the people living in it.