Join Superstition Review in congratulating one of our past contributors, Claire Fuller, on her forthcoming book, Unsettled Ground, out May 18th. The novel follows “an unusual family held together by a string of lies, a small town with too many questions, and a sudden death that threatens to undo them all.” Through this tale, Claire “masterfully builds a [story] of sacrifice and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized and remarkable people uncover long-held family secrets and, in their own way, repair, recover, and begin again.”
“Unsettled Ground is a gorgeously written celebration of the natural world as well as a moving portrait of a family struggling against time. Through buried secrets and private longings, the Seeders emerge as multi-layered characters living at the fringes of society. This book is ultimately about redemption—about the unexpected importance of neighbors, lovers, and friends, and the ways in which we can re-envision our lives for the better, even after the unimaginable has occurred.”
Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised
A US launch event for the book will be held on publication date, May 18th, online via McNally Jackson. For more details on the event as well as more about Claire’s US book tour, please visit her website.
Click here to pre-order your copy of Unsettled Ground. Be sure to also check out Claire’s Twitter and our interview with her in Issue 21.
My oldest daughter confessed she wanted to study writing in college. I say confess because she struggled with feeling guilty, as if she was supposed to choose something better. I had never encouraged her to pursue this path. “But Mom,” she said, “I grew up drawing between the lines of your poems.” And this was true; all four of my children used my drafts as scrap paper to fashion airplanes, to experiment with shape and color, to publish household newspapers.
In the farmhouse where we moved when I was four, my father built one room full of books, floor to ceiling. It was little—you could touch both walls when you stood in the middle—but it seemed a kingdom. I never realized how hard reading was for my father. He marked up his books, underlining, circling, drawing arrows, writing questions or key words in the margins. I know now this was the way for a first-generation American who never read anything but comic books as he was growing up, who wasn’t taught to read or write critically because it wasn’t thought necessary, to engage the text.
My mother, a reading specialist, never read for pleasure, except with children or when she was studying how to help people learn to read. My oldest child, my daughter, read easy as breathing. My second child, my oldest son, didn’t. My mother gave me a crash course in Reading Recovery, a white board with markers, and a jar of alphabet tiles so we could explore language in a way he liked, with his hands. He and I spent hours in the recliner after school, taking turns reading with each other. He turned a corner thanks to a book my mother gave us, the first of the Henry and Mudge series, where he met a child who felt lost sometimes. The other night, as he was struggling to finish To Kill a Mockingbird for his pre-AP English class, I asked, “Would you like me to read a few chapters to you?” To my surprise, he said yes, and he listened, just like before, suddenly all eyes, what seemed a jumble brought clear.
My first two children becoming young adults leads me to look at the second two with even more wonder. My second son, in the seventh grade, just scored a 32 on the science and English portions of the ACT. He wants to be a writer. For him, writing seems an adventure, a puzzle to put together, but I suspect that like his oldest sister, he sees it as a way to change the world. The youngest, almost nine, began reading her older siblings’ books as a way to connect with them. Calvin and Hobbes, Magic Tree House, 39 Clues, Harry Potter, Alex Rider, from these, she designs her own games. But her favorite is any kind of mythology, old stories that try to help us understand the human condition. “Mom,” she asked, “what would you do if Zeus was after you?”
What I wanted for my children was for their world to be better than the one I grew up in. But we aren’t working on eradicating the biases in our systems. We aren’t focusing as a whole on curing diseases or developing new technology that is more conscious of our environment. Instead, our society yearns to regain a glory and a simple time that never existed. We feel so afraid that we try to achieve invulnerability rather than realizing that we all, as mortal creatures, are vulnerable, and that this gives us a common ground from which we might truly see each other and move forward together.
What I have given my children, I hope, is what my parents gave me, a kind of faith they can return to no matter what the world is. That in the beginning, was the word. That little books hold big ideas. That writing has revolutionized the world before, and can again. That literacy brings loving and thoughtful voices into our lives especially when love or thought seems far away. That stories encourage, with the weight of what that means: stories don’t make a problem go away, but they can inspire you for what you must face.
I hope that in time, my children know I tried to change the world for the better for them as best I could, when I worked outside of the house as a teacher, in the choices I made as I raised them, in each piece I wrote. I kept writing and reading to explore, to realize, to defy, and to advocate as I believe we are intended, with love for each other. I took a chance and joined the chorus of voices, in large part because I loved my children. This one word, love, arches over chaos. Love, a simple commandment so hard to keep, is our salvation.
Arizona Humanities presents author Jan Krulick-Belin. Belin talk is based on her book, Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II. The event takes place on Wednesday, November 2 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arizona Humanities. 1242 N Central Ave, Phoenix, Arizona 85004. For more information please visit the Facebook event or register here. The event is free and open to the public.
Jan Krulick-Belin is a museum and art consultant, and art and jewelry historian with nearly forty years of experience at such institutions as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Denver Art Museum, Beaumont (Texas) Art Museum, and Smithsonian Institution. Retired as Director of Education at the Phoenix Art Museum, she still works with museums, art organizations, and private collectors, and serves as guest curator at the Sylvia Plotkin Judaica Museum in Phoenix.
What is the source of inspiration for “Words Like Love?”
Good question! I suppose that is the question, too and it’s complicated because I’d have to say that it comes from, well…everywhere. The inspiration came from my life, events I’ve experienced, things I’ve born witness to, and people I’ve crossed paths with along the way. It comes from my own unpacking, attempts at deconstructing, questioning, interrogating, and re-examining what it means to love. For me, questions like “what is love” and “how do we live love” have made their home at the back of my mind. Love is the lens through which I view the world; I’d like to think everyone (family, relationships, friends, etc) and everything (my home, the land I grew up on, the earth we inhabit) I have had a connection with has somehow influenced my understanding of love. One of the main driving forces of the book was a deep connection I had with a friend who ended up taking his own life. The combination of who he was, the role he played in my life, how he died, and where I was at physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally at that time in my life forced me to look deeply at my own understanding of love in all its forms.
You discuss the idea of cultural love in an interview with Indian Country. How does your heritage impact and shape your work?
I think for any writer “who you are” deeply impacts how you live in this world and how you live impacts and shapes your work. For me, my heritage is who I am. I’m very blessed to be grounded in my culture and heritage…they’re a big part of my identity. My worldview is shaped by the beliefs I grew up with. I write from that beautiful, strongly rooted identity and it is my love for my culture and Indigenous people that also fuels my motivation as a writer. I want the youth who follow in my footsteps to know that there are many talented writers from all backgrounds and different walks of life. I hope that Native Americans can continue to be more present in the literary landscape that often leaves us out of the conversation.
What was your writing process like?
My writing process was basically: put on my “writing” playlist, get some coffee, read over the poems, and edit. During this time I was also reading other poems as well as books of poetry by writers I admire and look up to. Also, whenever I write I always take notes (pen to paper) in my journal. It always starts out organic like that, my mind works better when I can feel the words being penned onto the page. From there I usually take the notes and translate lines that resonate with me to my laptop. I write rushed and not as methodically as I wish I did. By that I mean I need to develop more of a daily routine. Right now, I’m a writer who writes when I’m inspired, although when it comes to revision I’m more of a sit down daily and work out lines like I’m a sculptor constantly chiseling away piece by piece until the form slowly reveals itself.
What was the process for organizing the poems?
I’d compare organizing the poems within the theme of the book to the way one would organize stanzas within an individual poem just on a grander scale. I thought about the bigger picture, the overall theme(s), and emotions I wanted the reader to feel before the release at the end of the book. In my mind, the metaphor for the book is a person’s heart unfolding with each page; I wanted each poem to open into another room into the spaces we try to keep locked and private. For me, that meant breaking it down into sections that related to one’s understanding of love from life’s fragility, the way time impacts our living to the lessons we learn without words (the power of actions, things done and undone), to questioning ways we’ve been taught (perhaps even unhealthy) to love, express ourselves, and view the world, to finally contemplating the order in which things happen to us. Some might call it fate or relate it to the expression “timing is everything” and honestly, I think it is. I wanted to bring home that point extra hard at the ending.
Can you tell us a little bit about your favorite poem from the collection?
I have a few favorites from this collection but right now I’d have to say my favorite is “in my mother’s womb” because it gets to the “heart” of ancestral memory and the historical and personal traumas that can be passed down from generation to generation. Our duty as human beings is to figure out within our own lives how does that happen and then we must ask ourselves – am I (or is my generation) going to be the one to break cycles of hurt and/or trauma to bring about the healing we all deserve.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m at the tail end of an 8-month book tour. I’ve been very fortunate that it’s been going on this long. Later this month I have a reading at the British Library in London and will be reading/performing at the Lincoln Center La Casita Out of Doors in NYC later this summer so writing new work has been on the backburner though I’m slowly working on a second collection and dabbling in writing my first play. I’m also working more on music (singing) and finding ways to experiment with my voice in that capacity.
The last time I did a guest post for s[r] blog, I wrote about writing, depression, and vulnerability. This week my second book—a chapbook called No Man’s Wild Laura—is out from Hyacinth Girl Press. All four pieces in the short collection are feminist-fueled stories about hopeful, disenchanted, grateful, damaged, and sometimes, angry women. At 39, I no longer believe these things are mutually exclusive. The following is a letter to my 17-year-old self inspired by my own struggles with mental illness and writing.
I see you have hunkered down in your bedroom again. Your black balloon shade is drawn, the door locked, candles lit, and opium incense burning. The window is barely cracked so the smoke drifts above you. A mixtape is playing as you doodle and write and copy down poems and songs and passages you like in your sketchbook. A guy who plays guitar made the tape for you. In a few months, he’ll make you a “fuck off” tape. You will feel a little bit sorry about it, but mostly relieved because you don’t tell people what’s happening in your brain unless circumstance forces you.
I want to tell you this is temporary.
I want to tell you this is the worst it will ever be.
I want to tell you that your difficulty maintaining friendships will wane.
I want to tell you the chest pains will cease.
I want to tell you the urge to stay under water in the tub or break open the disposable razor passes or when you finally do learn to drive at twenty-four that you won’t ever think about pressing down on the gas and pointing yourself at some large, immovable object.
But the best I can do is tell you to hang on, to keep doodling and playing with words. Keep reading. Read more. Write more. Forget the mean girls. Forget the guitar players. You won’t find your love at a show. You will find your love on a dilapidated porch and unlike most people in your life to date, he will ask questions when you look unwell, when you start pulling your hands and shoulders in as though you could make your body fold in on itself, become invisible. He will buy you bread when he learns you haven’t eaten for three days. He won’t give a damn about lactose or the cause you’ve slapped to your food issues. Hang on, girl. I can’t tell you it won’t be twenty years, but once you get there, you will know that all of this made you into the writer you become. The writing saves you. Again and again. It’s the only way you’ve found to release the valve of your malfunctioning brain.
I want to tell you you won’t need medication for the rest of your life.
I want to tell you you won’t stop taking it from time to time and let yourself drift into an almost speechless existence.
I want to tell you that all your people notice, that they come running to your rescue, that they don’t let you push them out of your life.
I want to tell you that having work published, books even, cures you.
I want to tell you you feel wanted and loved, but even when the rational side of your brain argues for the objective truth and counts the ways, you will always feel far away—like you watch those you care for from the dangling basket of a hot air balloon. This will never change, but it will make you observant, insightful. This is good for the work, if not for your well-being.
You already know your biggest truth. I see it from here as you ink lines from Their Eyes Were Watching God and Beloved and three-quarters of Emily Dickinson’s poems into your notebook. It is only in the repeated act of writing itself that you are free.
With love and hope that you can one day learn to look at yourself with kind eyes,
Congratulations to SR Contributor Tanaya Winder on the release of her debut poetry collection, Words Like Love. The collection features poems from SR Issue 7. The collection is available for purchase from West End Press.
My favorite moment in western literature occurs several hundred miles south of Moscow, on Constantin Levin’s country estate at Pokrovsky, during the heyday of the Tsars: Celebrated intellectual Sergei Ivanovich Koznyshev, Levin’s half-brother, has agreed to go mushroom picking with an orphaned young woman, Varenka, who has befriended Levin’s wife. Everyone in the household anticipates that Koznyshev will make a marriage proposal during the excursion—including Varenka and Koznyshev themselves. In fact, Varenka’s suitor has already rehearsed his proposal in his head as he approaches her: “Vavara Andreyevna, when I was very young, I formed for myself an ideal of the woman whom I should love and whom I should be happy to call my wife. I have lived a long life, and now for the first time I find in you all that I was seeking. I love you and I offer you my hand.” What happens, instead, proves one of the most heart-shattering in the Tolstoy canon, far more so than when Anna jumps onto the railroad tracks:
“They proceeded a few steps in silence. Varenka saw that he wanted to speak; she suspected what he had in mind, and felt stifled with the emotions of joy and terror. They had now gone so far from the rest that no one could have heard them, yet he had not opened his mouth to speak. Varenka would have done better not to say a word. After a silence it would have been easier to say what they wanted to say than after any casual words. But against her own will, as it were unexpectedly, Varenka broke out: — “And so you did not find any. But there are never so many mushrooms in the woods as along the edge.”
Koznyshev finds himself distracted by her exclamation. He replies with a remark about mushrooms, rather than about marriage, and the moment is lost forever. Rather than a happy and devoted couple, the two part as disappointed acquaintances.
This “mushroom moment” is not unfamiliar to the twenty-first century. Except for the rare few of us who have had the good fortune to marry our high school sweethearts and to live in perpetual nuptial bliss, most mortals have experienced our share of romances that weren’t, but that almost were. Love is not a matter of timing or chemistry, although both can help grease the gears of affection and lust; principally, love is a matter of decision and sheer will-power. Daisy chooses Tom Buchanan over Gatsby. Madeline Fox storms out on Martin Arrowsmith while Leora Tozer embraces his faults. A few “mushroom moments” do turn out to be reversible: Elizabeth Bennett rejects Darcy’s first proposal and is fortunate enough to receive a second offer. Many more such moments are like the fleeting connection between Koznyshev and Varenka—or between me and an attractive-yet-childless co-worker who once asked me to have a baby with her, then changed her mind as soon as I agreed—are carved forever in the stone of lost opportunity. In life, of course, all relationships do not actually stem from “mushroom moments” gone right. Plenty of couples fall in love as Hemingway says they go bankrupt: first gradually and then suddenly. In literature, however, all great loves do arise from mushroom magic.
Every young child who has ever held a magnet recognizes that strange, miraculous instant when a metal object—a nail or a paperclip or a thimble—first approaches close enough to exert magnetic tension. There is a small—possibly infinitely small—space where the metal can go either way: one nanometer nearer and it will be drawn to the magnet, one farther away and it will fall limp to the ground. It is that transitional moment when the solution in the refrigerator is no longer colored water but not yet Jell-O, that spark of dawn that is neither darkness nor day. Relationships, in literature, require such a moment: A possibility that love may yet either triumph or fail. That absolutely nothing is certain.
In my introductory writing classes, more than half of my students are usually crafting some variety of love story. This pleases me greatly: While not all love stories are inherently interesting, many of life’s most interesting stories are love stories. I would much rather read about how Clyde Griffiths’ yearning for Sondra Finchey leads him to murder, or of the feral passion between Laurent LeClaire and Thérèse Raquin, or even an inept account of a student’s first date, than about corporate scandals or deer hunting brothers or suicidal truck drivers seeking employment. Unfortunately, the pitfall that traps many a well-intentioned novice is the creation of lovers whose fates are inevitable. In one version of this narrative, a woman finds herself in a relationship with a man so detached or abusive or treacherous that separation appears a foregone conclusion; often, we cannot figure out why she married Mr. Wrong in the first place. In the other version, a woman finds herself seduced by a man of great wit and charm and generosity, who also happens to be a thoracic surgeon and a part-time Italian film star, and she falls madly in love with him and then announces to the reader that she is glad she waited for Mr. Right. Both of those stories grow tiresome rather quickly. The key to writing relationships is that they must remain ambiguous up to the point of consummation. Mr. Wrong needs enough going for him to keep us uncertain of his fate until the very moment the protagonist walks out on him—or until, in a moment of reconsideration, motivated by loneliness or nostalgia or pity, she decides to stay. Mr. Right demands sufficient shortcomings to leave us wondering whether the protagonist will say “I do” until the instant that she does.
The best dating wisdom I have ever received came from a friend who thought of all romantic interactions through fishing metaphors. Get your hook in, he urged—and then run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. While I am not sure those are words to live by, and I have not implemented them in my personal life, they offer as surefire method of holding a literary reader’s attention. In other words, raise the prospect of love…and then keep us waiting, page after page, for the payoff. (Tolstoy, a man who managed to sire thirteen children and yet to keep Varenka and Koznyshev apart—albeit only nanometers apart—may have mastered this skill both personally and professionally.) My goal as a writer is to keep the metal in that liminal band for as long as possible before it is swallowed by the inexorable force of magnetism.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by W. Todd Kaneko.
W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University. His stories and poems are forthcoming or have recently appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Portland Review, Fairy Tale Review, The Southeast Review, Blackbird, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere.
Scapegoat Review is interested in poems that challenge the norm. We have an exciting group of poems from an interesting group of poets. This month we come to you with our biggest issue yet. It is an eclectic issue with poetry, art, a cinepoem, and a book review on Froth, by Polish poet Jaroslaw Mikolajewski, translated by Piotr Florczyk (published by Calypso Editions).
Scapegoat Review strives to give you an expansive range of craft that challenges the norm. The result is an assorted collection of work we love and hope you will enjoy. The collection is a potpourri including the grounded, the surreal, ethereal, and work we think pushes the envelope so that you may to consider beyond the words on the page or the image in front of you.
Craft is objective, of course, but solid work is something most can agree upon. Froth, by Jaroslaw Mikolajewski, is such a work. It is poetry at its finest. While he has 10 volumes of poetry that have been translated into several languages, this is the first work to be translated into English. His writing brings to mind various Polish poets such as Wisława Szymborska, Anna Swir, and Czesław Miłosz, yet his voice is all his own.
Here are a few excerpts from the book review written by Jillian Mukavetz:
In this exposing blueprint we whisper in quotidian terms, in transcendence, and intimacy the masculine as it embodies the complexities of father, of lover, and husband. The love between the husband and wife stays complicit regardless of the transformation. How is immortality here outside of earth placed into family? It is in the exigency that we celebrate in the seconds of everyday life; in humor, in times of grandeur and the destitute grappling of placing a ponytail into a hair tie…
Self-alienation occurs when the speaker jumps into linear yet nonlinear juxtaposition. The place of self is disembodied if not only for a number, or letter, eluding, “my step – does it let you sleep and this letter.” When we begin the speaker can only physically internalize his dead father who is cast as hero; inhaling his captured breath in the plastic ribs of a regularly used air mattress.
For more on Froth, go to: http://scapegoatreview.com and to http://www.calypsoeditions.org/froth
Here are a few lines from some of the poets in this issue:
Dream Anthony Cappo
I had my own Frankenstein monster he’d been
dormant I unwrapped him expecting him to lie
still but I went away for a minute and he slid under my bed
I coaxed him out I’d been reading this book
about how preemies are massaged by nurses’ aides…
To Watch Her Lips Yvonne Strumecki
She prefers reds,
both in wine and lips,
the cherried variations
staining my thoughts, …
Night Blossom Alexandra Smyth
In the backseat of the car I bloom into witness.
Part of me knows this is slaughter. I watched
smoke emit from my skin as I fixed my hair in
the mirror while I waited in the foyer for you to
pick me up.
We’ve got monsters, desire, sex, and regret. All the things, which make for absorbing reading. We have a wealth of work to share with you and hope you enjoy as much as we have.
It’s over between us. We knew it would come to this, and the news that you’ve been accepted by a new lover is a bittersweet reminder of what we once meant to each other.
It’s with an effort, Story, that I remember our first days together: you showed up at the back doorstep of my awareness—naked, untamed, willful—dangerous! You entered my life as a vague notion, a possibility. How could I resist falling passionately and obsessively in love? For weeks I could think of nothing else but you. Friends knew—they saw it in my inwardly turned eyes, my inattention to their conversation. “Not again,” they warned, shaking their heads. They know me to be a destructive lover.
And they were right—I followed my old patterns. It wasn’t enough to cherish you as you came to me—I had to try to change you. I insisted that you look a certain way: with fierce demagoguery I controlled your language; you spent time only where I allowed; only those individuals I chose for you were permitted inside your paragraphs. Worst of all, nearly every time we met I questioned your size. Trim down, I commanded, tighten up—what will others think? Yes, my lost love, I confess, how you appeared to others was always a priority—when they appraised you, what would they be thinking of me?
Can you believe that I was only searching for your heart? Can you believe the paradox of my love—my efforts to improve you were intended to prepare you to be loved by someone else.
Then, Story, you were nearly done. How old the new looks in retrospect. The truth is, in our last moments together, even as I straightened your seams, swept your hair from your eyes, and corrected with a finger wag the last imperfection of your speech, I was already forgetting you! “Finished” is a cruel word, dear Story. I sent you away, and you didn’t object. I forgot about you, until your new lover wrote: “Is Story available? We love her and want to feature her in our pages.” And without a moment’s pause I’ve given you up. It’s a formality—our end was born in our beginning.
It will be months before I see you again, Story. Our names will be paired, but you’ll no longer belong to me. My eyes will scan your glittering new font and narrow, justified columns, but I won’t read you. I’ll have archived your heart. Acquaintances will quote you to me, and I’ll look at them, confused. “Who?” I’ll ask. “What?”
I’ll be listening for the backdoor laughter of a new lover.
So, Story, adieu—forgive my fickleness—even the brief flirtation I’ve shared with this letter has cooled. It’s all part of the game.