Each week we feature a blog post by one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review. This week’s contribution comes from Student Editor-in-Chief Sam Allen.
The venue that hosted our April 6th Issue 9 launch party is difficult to describe. Dubbed Art Intersection, the building boasts an art gallery, a fully-functional photography lab, as well as an educational facility. Though AI is nationally recognized for their community of photographers, they also host a variety of writing workshops and book-making classes. They take the name “Art Intersection” seriously – this is a place where art of all kinds intersect and overlap and where creative people can get together to exchange ideas and inspiration.
Art Intersection is perfectly placed in the history-rich Heritage District of Gilbert, Arizona. This Phoenix suburb is not normally known for its art, but founder Alan Fitzgerald was determined to establish an arts community in his hometown of Gilbert, Arizona. Though this neighborhood has yet to make a big mark on the map – in fact, my visit there was a first time for me – it feels perfect for the eclectic arts venue. The antique Gilbert Water Tower overlooks the Heritage District, whose Old West style buildings would look at home in a John Wayne movie. It’s not hard to imagine this neighborhood’s history as a railroad outpost and, later, “Hay Farming Capitol of the World.”
But this city is nothing like a ghost town, and its Old West feel starts to ebb as you begin browsing the gallery at Art Intersection or dining at any of the restaurants that have sprung up in the area. Just below Art Intersection is a spot called Romeo’s Euro Café that looks like it came straight from the streets of Rome. Across the street, Joe’s Real Barbeque serves some of the best BBQ in the Valley. Postino WineCafé recently moved into the neighborhood, right across from Liberty Market, a self-identified “unpretentious urban bistro.”
The Gilbert Heritage District is enthusiastically unpretentious, which is why Art Intersection fits right in. In an article published by the Phoenix New Times, Art Intersection’s Program Director Carol Panaro-Smith says, “We don’t want to be a snooty place, where you’re afraid to ask questions. We want you to be able to say, ‘what the heck is this art about?’” The bright second story gallery succeeds in this endeavor marvelously. The space is charming in its simplicity, beautiful but comfortable, and above all, welcoming.
We’re thrilled to collaborate with such an extraordinary arts community for the launch of Issue 9. We welcome all of our readers to check out the wonderful work of our contributors in this latest issue.
AWP won’t come around again until next year, but if you’re thinking of attending, it is never too early to start preparing. We’ve compiled a few survival tips to help you navigate and adjust to the dizzying pace of your first AWP conference.
1. Wear comfortable shoes. AWP is the biggest writer’s conference in the US, meaning it will be sprawled across an enormous venue. You’ll be doing a lot of walking between panels – and possibly some running if you’re lost or trying to see more than one panel per hour. Leave those fancy shoes, high heels, or dress shoes that pinch your toes at home.
2. See more than one panel per hour – at least on your first day. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave mid-panel (although to be polite we suggest you do it during applause or between speakers). Take advantage of the multitude of offerings to see and learn as much as possible. Using this strategy the first day will give you a good idea of what kind of panels are useful to you and which ones are way over your head or just too basic.
3. Find overlapping topics in order to narrow down your panel list. Dying to see that panel on political poetry that conflicts with the one that offers advice on submissions? See if there are other panels that deal with politics in literature. Finding overlap is a good way to narrow down your list to those panels that you just can’t miss.
4. Wear pants. This mainly applies to women (though gents, it’s probably not a good idea to show up without your pants). You’ll most likely end up sitting on the floor, walking up stairs, or as we mentioned earlier, running (there is a lot of running), so if your heart is set on wearing a skirt, make sure you can still sit on the floor comfortably.
5. Sit on the floor. Popular panels get crowded fast, but don’t let it discourage you. You don’t necessarily have to see the panelists’ faces to absorb their great advice. Plus, it’s easier to leave between speakers when you’re not trapped in the front row with all eyes on you.
6. Try not to step on the floor-sitters’ appendages. Take it from me — having your foot or your fingers stomped on hurts.
7. Scope out nearby diners for coffee and affordable food. Chances are, the prices at your hotel are going to be high. Even the servers treat their prices like a joke. “Will you be ordering off the menu, or would you like to try our sixteen dollar breakfast bar?” one waiter asked us with an ironic smile. A little bit of walking will keep you from emptying your wallet just for a bottle of water.
8. Bring snacks. With all those panels, there may not be time for lunch, and with those amusingly high prices, keeping supplies with you can end the temptation to buy that $16.00 bottle of water. We writers aren’t exactly a wealth-soaked group, so no one will judge you for pulling out a sleeve of Ritz crackers during a panel. Just remember to clean up after yourself and try not to make a mess.
9. Go to the dance party, especially if you’re over 21. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many half-drunk writers shaking it like a Polaroid picture on the dance floor. Make a game out of it. See how many poets & fiction writers you can find doing the Macarena or the Robot. Remember to tip well at the bar and ask for two drinks at a time in order to avoid the long lines. Use whatever time you do spend waiting in line to make new friends.
10. Hang out with the friends you made at events and panels. See where they’re going for dinner and tag along. Visit their tables at the book fair. Don’t be shy. Being at AWP, you already have a lot in common.
Each week here at Superstition Review, we like to showcase the talents of our interns. This week’s piece comes from Samantha Allen on her recent discussion with author bell hooks.
Feminist writer and cultural critic bell hooks visited Arizona State University’s Tempe campus to speak about race and gender in a historical context. Earlier in the day some of our staff at Superstition Review were given the opportunity to participate in a small group discussion with bell. This discussion covered everything from the recent ban of ethnic studies in Tucson, to the novel The Help, to evangelist Billy Graham’s changing religious views. A prominent theme of our talks centered on the idea of community. “Communities,” she said, “are what give us the strength to live our convictions even in the face of hostility.”
As bell illustrated through stories from her personal life, these “communities of resistance” aren’t always free of conflict. She shared stories about the people in her life who have acted in ways that are harmful to her and to her views, all the while doing good by supporting her in her work, or by making great strides towards promoting racial equality. She called this contradiction “multiple intentionalities” – when people or groups do both harm and good. How do we cope with these contradictions? Do we ignore the good in someone’s actions because they have also done wrong? Do we overlook the unpleasant qualities so we can continue to idealize them as saints and angels? We live in a binary culture that has no place for contradictions. bell hooks used a story about a conflict in the humanities department at Berea College, where she teaches, to discuss how the inability to deal with multiple intentionalities can become an impediment to building communities of resistance. Even when the goals are the same, it’s easy to be divided by our differences.
This message of importance in building communities of resistance seemed to resonate deeply with everyone in the room. It’s no secret that Arizona has been the battleground for a number of contentious political issues in these past couple of years. The actions of our state legislature have given Arizona a particular reputation for intolerance, one that conflicts with the values of the Humanities Department at Arizona State University. The ASU Humanities department celebrates diversity and the commitment to social justice. The very act of getting together to discuss these issues with bell hooks is a step toward building a similar community here in the heart of Arizona. Although this state is mired in ideological conflict, it’s important to remember to act with loving-kindness, as bell pointed out in our discussion. No one is black and white; no one acts in only one direction. The concept of multiple intentionalities is particularly applicable to the current cultural climate in Arizona.
In the end, the discussion with bell hooks left me with this thought: as artists, writers, and readers, it is our job to tackle these contradictions in life. The human tendency to do good with the right hand and harm with the left is, perhaps, the very thing that drives us to create. How else can we make sense of ourselves and our world with all its contradictions if not through art? I’m thankful to be a part of the community here at Superstition Review, where our interns, contributors, and readers are all committed to the art that makes sense of our crazy, convoluted world.
Michael Croley grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He holds graduate degrees in Creative Writing from Florida State and the University of Memphis. In 2011, Narrative Magazine named him to its list of “Best New Writers.” He has won awards and fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Key West Literary Seminars. His first novel, After the Sun Fell, will be released as part of Narrative’s Library Series in 2012. He teaches at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. www.michaelcroley.com
SR: Your story “Two Lives,” published in Blackbird, contains two distinct stories: a metafictional narrative in which the narrator talks about his writing life (or lack thereof) and the actual text of the story this character wrote. When you began this story, did you set out with the intention of blending two narratives, or did the story evolve into its current form?
Michael Croley: I always remember how this story came to life because it was the first story I ever wrote that made me get out of bed to complete it. I started with the story’s first line, “You don’t know what it’s like to be in the bed as a child and feel the air of fall enter your room and hear the dishes in the cabinets of your home rattle, their doors slammed by some drunk looking for a fresh bottle of liquor.” I wanted the second person to implicate the reader, to say, “Dear Reader, you know nothing.” As I wrote the story and came to the end of the first space break, another voice entered my head with that line, “Years ago, I tried to write this.” Rather than fight the new voice, I went with it and suddenly I realized I was writing two stories inside of one. I’m not really into meta-fiction. I believe that a writer’s allegiance is to the reader, to guiding them through the story, and I don’t find this story to be of the smarty-pants variety, but even I knew this one had a weird structure as I was going through it but I didn’t let myself worry about it too much. I just knew both of these voices were speaking to me (and I hate putting that out there because it makes the writing process sound so new age-ish, but there is some truth to this concept) and I followed them through. As the story went on and I got near the end, I realized that both stories, both threads, had to have equal time on the page in order for the story as a whole to have maximum impact. So as I started revising, I actually cut and pasted all the second-person threads into a new document and made sure that both stories read like fully-formed, complete stories. Then it was just a matter of weaving the threads together at the right moments so that the reader would be doubly haunted by both the second-person story and the first-person narrative and how both of those ended.
I’d never written a story, structurally, like this before—and haven’t since—and one of things that I do pat myself on the back about in regard to this story is that the structure seems really unique to me. But I’m sure I ripped it off from somebody unconsciously because that’s what we do as writers. We steal. This is also the first story I ever had published and that was pretty damn cool.
SR: Your story “Insulation” in Blackbird is one of those rare short stories with a happy ending. The main character, Lynn, seems to get what she wants, and the marriage that seems on the verge of breaking up appears to actually be strengthened at the end. When you began writing the story, is this the ending you envisioned? Do you feel that there is a risk involved in writing so-called happy endings?
MC: Here’s an instance of when you give a story to the world, it is no longer yours to decide what it is to the reader or what it could be. I don’t know that I ever saw this couple on the verge of breaking up. I saw them as struggling, yes, but I never believed Lynn would leave him. In my mind, from the beginning, she was upset and frustrated and wanted her husband to stand up and take care of her but she loved him and wasn’t going to leave him. She loved him too much to do that. She wanted to push him to be more, to reach his potential and she takes that on as her task, as her role in this marriage. I wanted them to come to an understanding, for him to see her strength and resilience and for him to acknowledge that. Once Allen picked Lynn up from her job I knew they would go home and that the change, if we subscribe to the idea that all stories are about change, would have to come from him—and it does because he sees what the reader sees in her—and that’s what I had happen. But this is Lynn’s story, so we had to end with her and I lifted the image of her in the tub from a really bad poem I wrote (I still thought I could write poetry at the time), imagining a woman coming home at the end of a long day.
I don’t know if there is a risk involved with happy endings. I know my students often ask why all the stories I assign to read are sad, but I don’t think of an ending that doesn’t end with everyone getting what they want as sad. Not always. All I want is for a character to have some realization or knowledge he or she didn’t have when the story began. I often tell my students that the writer’s job is to make her characters hit that higher plane of knowledge then pull the ripcord on the story. Get out. You’ve done your work. Lynn realizes that Allen does love her. That he isn’t immune to her struggles and how she works herself like a mule for the both of them. When she sees that she is able to face her life in ways she couldn’t before and that’s more important than Allen’s change in behavior. And when that happened in the story, that’s how I knew it was complete.
As a side note, when I first workshopped this piece, it got really beat up by several women in the class who didn’t understand why Lynn remained with Allen to which the workshop leader (my mentor Richard Bausch) said, “Did you ever think she loves him?” I mention this because we are subject to overthinking this pursuit from time to time, to letting our own personal feelings about the way the world should be rather than it is invade our work and reading. But stories, at their heart, are about “news of the spirit” as the late George Garrett said, and what we do as writers is to imagine ourselves into that spirit without any judgments.
SR: Many of your stories take place in Fordyce, Kentucky. How does a sense of place impact the stories you choose to tell?
MC: Well, for me, it impacts everything. Fordyce is stand-in for my own hometown right down to topography and landmarks, but it has that fictional name so that I can blend different elements into the town from surrounding areas from time to time and because I didn’t want to be too constrained by the “facts” of Corbin, Kentucky, where I was raised. But place is something I’ve always been drawn to. Because my mother is Korean (my father grew up out in the country near Corbin) I think I always felt out of place there. I looked different from all my classmates. Corbin has a history of racism that’s pretty well-known throughout the state and I can only remember going to school with two other people of color growing up. So things weren’t always necessarily easy for my mother or my brother and me. I think that sense of identity that I received from that place has had a large effect on my work, especially in the two novels I’ve written. I never looked at things with strictly an insider’s viewpoint, though I like to think I have that viewpoint as well. I saw lots of good people in Corbin who were hardworking, blue-collar types and I admired their grit and what I saw as even-mindedness. Practical might be a good way to put it. And at the same time, a lot of my friends’ parents were bankers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists. That’s one of the hidden truths about Appalachia, that not everyone is poor and backward. We’re not all the sons and daughters of miners and laborers.
I think that kind of place is ripe for storytelling because it’s relative smallness allows for the pecking order and machinations of the town to be clearly visible if you’re paying attention. Corbin isn’t so small that you know everyone but it is small enough that you probably know someone who knows the person you don’t. Because of that you’re never out of the reach of a story to be heard about So-and-so and what he’s doing. When I started writing as an undergraduate I was very conscious about honoring this place where I’d grown up and telling the stories that I thought were worth telling that I never saw in Esquire or The New Yorker. There’s a reason in the two stories you’ve mentioned that the characters are college educated. I was tired (and still am) of reading only about backward hillbillies in rural areas. My father was a man who worked his way through a good school and chose to come back to that part of the world. And at the same time, as I’ve gotten older, I see how the dual nature of ethnicity has played a large role in how I write my stories. My characters always seem in between worlds, pulled in different directions by different desires. So to answer your question briefly (and to stop going on), I think I’m trying to figure out in a lot of ways of how place shapes us. How does the place where we mature get into our bloodstream? I don’t think we ever escape our childhoods and a lot of what I see myself doing is exploring Fordyce as Corbin and asking the question, What has this place done to this character for good or ill?
SR: You published an “iStory” in Narrative – a new type of micro-fiction created by the magazine to coincide with their new digital App. These stories are all under 150 words. Do you find it more or less difficult to write micro-fiction like your story “One Such as This” than your longer pieces? Did writing with the digital App in mind change anything about the writing process?
MC: Well, first off I just want to say that Narrative has been a great venue to me. Very supportive of my work and I think the world of what Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian are trying to do with literature in this electronic age. I think they’ve been very visionary and the idea of an iStory seemed gimmicky to me at first because I just didn’t think you could tell a story in such a small amount of space. That was/is the challenging part. It’s like “Name that Tune.” How many notes does it take to tell your story? Less notes, to me, is often better. So that’s what I tried to do and that was the challenge of it. A lot of times I have a great image but not a great story to tell. And because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not a very good poet, I wanted to use this image I had of an alley in back of my favorite movie theater in Cleveland where I used to live. I just liked the idea of two people in this very dark alley making out and then moving them through the night and into the morning. So, in one sense, the piece was easier because there was less I had to do, but harder because the word limit magnifies your choice of diction, your details, and your sense of emotion in the piece.
I don’t often write micro-fiction because I’m interested in really playing the characters’ lives out as much as I can. As far as I want to go. For instance, neither character gets a name in that iStory, which gives me more observational distance and less attachment to seeing their lives come together or undone as you might in a longer piece. And the iStory seems to me to be less about narrative arc than a singular moment that lingers in the reader’s mind and imagination after what they’re done being a witness to the story.
SR: What are you working on at the moment?
MC: Well, I have an agreement with Narrative to release my first novel After the Sun Fell as part of their new Library Series. I’m really excited about that because everything they do is so good and I’m flattered that Tom Jenks wanted to first look at the novel then said he wanted to work with me on it. That book is based in small part on my mother’s move to southeastern Kentucky from Masan, South Korea after she married my father. An excerpt of it is up on Narrative as a contained story entitled, “Washed Away.” As long as Tom and I can find some time to work on this soon, I think that book will be released in 2012, but that’ll, ultimately, be up to Tom and I’ve learned to listen to him as much as possible.
And my agent is currently shopping my second novel around. It’s about a family that’s moved out of Fordyce to Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 right before the Sanitation Workers’ Strike, which indirectly led to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The book is narrated by Ben Hamlin who was 12 when his father moved the family to Memphis. A grown man now, Ben is looking back on that year when his family—and their hopes—began to unravel as their own personal tragedies get entangled with the Civil Rights Movement’s greatest tragedy.
My next novel is entirely in my head (though I think the opening scene is written) so I don’t want to say too much about it. But it will be, I hope, both an homage to and a retelling of All the King’s Men with the central figure being more of an LBJ type politician. This is mostly because I love All the King’s Men—I don’t think there’s a bad sentence in the book—and because I think LBJ was a fascinating politician and I think we live in a very politically fractious time, almost as fractious as the ’60s but we’re not quite there yet.
Now that Issue 8 has launched, we’ve started looking at our Google Analytics to learn more about our readers. Already this has revealed some surprising facts about who visits our site and how they find it. For example, between November 6th and December 6th, 2011, 67% of our viewers visited Superstition Review for the first time. It’s great to know that we’re attracting so many newcomers.
In that same span of time, there were 4,279 unique visits to our site for a total of 13,230 page views. Our readers visited an average of 3 pages per visit, and our most popular section this month was poetry, with a total of 677 views.
41% of viewers visiting our site found us through referring websites, while only 31% found us using a search engine. This statistic shows that we are increasing our affiliations with other like-minded organizations. Not surprisingly, our traffic skyrocketed on December 1st, the day of our launch, with a total of 1,157 unique visitors to our page on that day alone.
Our most frequently viewed contributors from Issue 8 were: Ashley Caveda with 405 views, Eugenio Volpe with 185 views, Nelly Rosario with 166 views, and Steve Yarbrough with 157 views.
We got the most visits from the United States. In the last month, the top 10 cities to view SR were: Phoenix, Tempe, New York, Columbus, Chandler, Scottsdale, Chicago, Ithaca, Indianapolis, and Gilbert.
Google Analytics shows that we are growing internationally as well. Our visitors came from 75 different countries, with the second highest number of hits coming from Japan. Superstition Review was viewed in 34 languages, with the three most popular being American English, British English, and Japanese.
We had a few visitors from some unexpected places. Google Analytics shows that between November 6th and December 6th, we had visitors from Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Latvia, Lithuania, Haiti, Laos, Kuwait, Thailand, and Iceland.
These statistics help us get a sense of who is reading Superstition Review, what sections of our site are most popular, and how our readers find their way to our magazine. It really is exciting to see the data behind our growth as a publication. Thanks to all of our readers for visiting.
Northern Michigan resident Tim Flannery is an artist whose work is deeply influenced by his surroundings. Living and working in the Upper Peninsula, his photography often captures the idyllic beauty of this place, which is defined by its dense forests, its Great Lakes, and its long, harsh winters. On his website, Flannery states, “during the long winters I find that my work becomes more convoluted…As the winters drag on the images start to take on a surreal feeling.” Indeed, this is evident in the pieces that will appear in Issue 8 of Superstition Review this December, particularly his painting “Twig Man.” The palette is awash in grays, and looking at his painting I can’t help but feel the sense of confinement that comes with being forced indoors. I can only imagine that Flannery completed this particular piece during the coldest days.
Flannery’s passion for the Upper Peninsula is not confined to his artwork. When not working on his own art, he edits Art on Ice: Digital Magazine of Art and Culture in the Frozen Upper Peninsula. His magazine covers a wide array of subjects in the arts, including articles on everything from literature to dance to dining. What unites these subjects is a strong sense of the contributors’ regional identity, and like Flannery’s own art, the work in this magazine is clearly influenced by the thick forests and ever-present cold. Coming from Arizona, where Superstition Review is based, it is particularly interesting to explore how environment shapes art, since the Sonoran Desert and the Upper Peninsula are about as different as two environments can be. It is a pleasure to glimpse another part of the world through the work that reflects its identity.
Phoenix-based photographer Christopher Vialpando’s work is diverse. His website is divided into sections titled “People,” “Places,” and “Things,” which sums up his artistic approach. His work is straightforward, yet his photos seem to reveal the essential truth behind the objects. For example, one photo from “Things” shows a torn cowboy hat obscuring the face of a weathered, two-dimensional wooden figure. The setting is obscure; there is a wire fence in the background and a worn Lone Star flag, as well as various objects that suggest an unconventional yard sale or a junk yard. Though this piece is a barefaced reproduction of the scene, the angle and the indirect lighting prompt the viewer to consider the object with greater care, bringing to mind nostalgia for the old West and hints of the border conflict that often seems to define Southwestern life. In fact, if there is one theme that consistently appears in Vialpando’s work, it is that of the Southwest. His “Places” are mountains, long stretches of road leading into the desert, and Ponderosa pine forests; even the portraits in his “People” segment are lit by the harsh Arizona sun, posing in front of old train cars and vintage automobiles with palm trees in the distance. It’s clear from his work that Vialpando knows where his strengths lie. In his biography on his website, he states “Truth is, I won’t appeal to every client, and not every client will appeal to me. Ergo, this time around is about the truth. I don’t take pictures. I create photographs.” His focus on the truth permeates his work.
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.
What many artists do with paint and canvas and clay Madison-based artist Michael Velliquette does with paper. The results are spectacular. Using strips of brilliantly colored, often hand-painted paper, Velliquette creates complex three dimensional installations that draw the eye with bold geometric shapes and intricate feathered textures. University of Wisconsin’s Lawton Gallery compares his work to the religious symbolism of “a culture devoted to the worship of vivid hues and complex patterning,” while a New York Times article describes it as both “shrinelike” and “reminiscent of party decorations and grade school art projects.” His paper sculptures are deeply evocative of a spiritual experience informed by the tradition of sacred objects, such as masks and icons and totems. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine the installations of his recent exhibit, “ChromaSouls” at the Haggery Museum in Milwaukee as the real idols of a brightly-hued pantheon.
Velliquette’s evocation of sacred relics is all part of his deeper message. While his work does indeed reflect the trans-cultural practice of what he calls “devotional ornamentation,” his paper sculptures are also a direct response to the current cultural and economic environment. Describing his work from 2010-2011, Velliquette states that “In times of crisis, people often turn to religion and faith…As the country was drawing deeper into recession, everything I was hearing in the media was about shortage and scarcity. I wanted my work to express abundance and exuberance, and for the viewer to experience an aesthetic of plenitude.” With its stunning complexity of line, color, shape, and pattern, this is a goal that Velliquette’s work has unarguably achieved.
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/