3.9: the cloudy land | Anwer Ghani — new prose poetry, poetics, & virtual artography [digital expressionism]

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3.9: the cloudy land | Anwer Ghani — new prose poetry, poetics, & virtual artography [digital expressionism]

 

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a babylonian man’s aurorean songs under the sun — introduction by Krysia Jopek [November 3, 2019]

It gives me immeasurable pleasure to showcase beautiful new prose poetry, an essay on poetics, and a virtual art exhibit of Babylonian/Iraqi poet and visual artist, Anwer Ghani. This stunning, if I humbly say so, diaphanous micro issue was, unfortunately, delayed by political unrest in Baghdad in October [that was not in American news] that prohibited our ongoing correspondence, until the situation stabilized. It was a stressful time in Baghdad, and I was deeply worried about the safety of Anwer and his loved ones. Thankfully, all seems well again there and our collaboration on diaphanous micro 3.9: the cloudy land could be completed.

Please enjoy a selection of Anwer’s new prose poetry, his treatise on poetics, and a selection of digital expressionism from his book, ABSTRACT: Digital Artophotography [Inventive Publishing House, 2019].

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the bitter flowers — new prose poetry

A BABYLONIAN MAN

I am a Babylonian man, and here, deep down, an ancient spirit. Ishtar, my eyes; Gilgamesh, my ears; and Uruk, my wings. Yes, I am from here, from Babylon, so you see my skin as brown as our land. My soul is tolerant like palm trees, and my giving hands are like the Euphrates. Look at my face; it is as expressive as the Babylonian drawing, and my voice is as deep as the Babylonian tales. The flowers are more beautiful in in Babylon and the smiles are more warm here and the sun is more shining here, in Babylon. Yes, these are all my naked and pure Iraqi desires. Yes, I, the man of Babylon, look and dream for a new Iraq, an Iraq without wars, without wounds; only flowers, love and smiles.

THE DOORS OF LIFE
The man of greatness saw a great land, a great life, and a great death—but I am just a forgotten tale that needs a brave poet with a magic boat to discover me. Here in my land, there are no poems; therefore, you can depict the intensity of smoke in a land where there are no poems. Our homes are completely different from scented houses, and the women here can afford nothing but sad hearts. The grass here is different. If the poets could see the grass in my land, they would change their ideas about life. Yes, we’re the sons of houses that don’t have doors.

THE BITTER FLOWERS

I remember the small flowers of my grandfather. They are bitter and colorless like my life. They have fugitive blossoms and are constantly hiding behind the gray veil like a bitter friend. Those colorless flowers stared at my face near our brook with my constant failure and like the heart of a woman, they colored my life with their harsh passion. I have been sad since I saw the tears of our land and as a legendary waterfall, they filled the streams with my blood.

ROMANY WAGON

My grandfather had a beautiful horse full of kindness. I did not see it, but they said it was brave. Maybe my family owned a saddle. I do not know, and I did not ask about it—but I think if we had one, it would be closed like our desert. Yes, I am an Arab man, and you know that there is nothing here but the desert—so, I decided to bring a Romany wagon to my house and teach my children freedom.

UNUSUAL KISS

Our days are full of surprise, as all the happy springs are overflowing from their amazing fingers. I am not water, and I cannot sleep in the hearts of these springs, but the freemen made houses of love for birds that know nothing but the morning songs. They are smooth creatures, and there is only light in their hearts, so they are always shining and from their journeys, the beginnings have begun. Their hands are silver, and you can see their golden chants lying safely on our land where the lovebirds stand under our smiling trees and give me an unusual kiss.

SOUTHERN SECRETS

I am a sunny man but not mysterious, so I can easily count my fingers because I am an old story of this land. I am from here; from the south where I can always disappear in our secrets. Please take a look at our faces; when you see our eyes, you will find our secrets not secret, and all those strange stories will reach your heart before the morning pain. Look at our land, we farmers from the south; our dreams sleep before the sunset and the frustration of the grooves of this land is released before the morning where the withered flowers know nothing about the secrets of eternal stories.

A JAR OF SMILES

My days are like my poems; gray and tasteless. They often asked me to throw them over the bridge, but I was an old lover, who could not drink his coffee without passion. They have wide hearts, just like the big cows I have seen in the old city, and without any delay, I have faded into their watery souls. Those souls, which you may have seen in old mirrors, say nothing but silence—because like my land, they do not know anything about love. Thus, I will bring a jar of smiles to color their gray faces.

THE CLOUDY LAND

This night isn’t so romantic, but my strange love immerses me. I am an absent tree and when you touch my hand, you won’t find just cloudy leaves. Here, my cloudy love sits and drinks pink water. Here, in my river—you should see all the golden braids of sun and the shy eyes of the absent fairies

Our land has a brown face and colored eyes, but I am standing motionless because my grandfather made a pale veil for my young dream. Now, I will tell you the story, and you may find some pink drops in my cloudy land. We have a kneeling tree and shy bird. Yes, I am from here, from the cloudy land where the lakes are yellow, and the girls are colorless. Where the songs are cloudy and the boys are motionless.

Please call all these remote sands and make from them a brave shadow. Please come here and look at me. I am the sandy man where the smooth winds of the world broke my weak windows. Yes, it is me, your shadow and your cheap dream. When the evening wears its dress and the moon comes with its odd, old hat—you will see the faint smile of my obfuscated soul.

THE WEAK LAND

I am from here—from the weak land where the women are weak and have no faces—and the girls are absent and have no voices. No sun here, in the weak land, no moon, no flowers, no butterflies because the faces of our women are faint and the voices of our girls yellow. My mother has taught me everything about the truth, but the truth is weak in our land because my mom is weak here. My wife has given me all her love, but love is weak in our land because my wife is weak here. My sister has given me all her respect, but respect is weak in our land because my sister is weak here. My daughter has given me all her value, but life is weak in our land because my daughter is weak here. My female friend has given me all her kindness, but caring is weak here because my female friend is weak here. I know without doubt–if our women exit from their weakness and wan faces—and if our girls exit from their absent and pale voices, at that time, the sun will rise over our fields. The moon will shine in our sky; the flowers will smile again in our gardens.

OUR SMALL FIREPLACE

Near our small fireplace, I feel I love you more, and when my hand touches its warmness, I feel that my blood is purple. Our nights are more lovely near the warm fireplace, and our moments are efficacious in its orange flame. When I call you, my voice becomes velvet near our small fireplace—and when you look at me, your glance becomes pink in the shadows of our warm fireplace. We are from the south, and we live in a small house but a passionate one with an old fireplace, but a warm fireplace. Everything has a different meaning near our fireplace. I can feel your perfume fill the place near our small fireplace. I can touch your smile near our small fireplace, and I can see the melody jumping out of my being. It startles me.

CELEBRATION OF THE WALNUTS

I am a simple farmer from the south, and when I bring walnuts to my house, I celebrate. At that time, our rooster becomes more attractive, and our chicken wears a melodic dress. The small window in our house sings with joy, and our cow shakes her heavy thighs. At the celebration of walnuts, we draw a round circle on the floor near the old fireplace and put all the nuts in the middle. Then you hear nothing but walnuts laughing warm stories. To see the glory of walnuts, visit on a winter night after sunset when there is only a cool breeze interrupting the silence of night. You must be a simple farmer from the south, just like me, to taste their delicious stories.

all new prose poetry ©2019

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poetry as mosaic mirror [poetics

Our world is, in essence, a transfiguration of spirits. We can see the tremendous impact of spiritual acts on our daily lives, and our existence is just an ongoing attempt to perceive our souls.

The search for our souls is an innate desire. Just as we cannot live without food, we cannot live without this desire. One of the pages of seeing and touching souls in our lives is writing that, in its impressive style, activates the land of hope and illuminates dark areas. Beautiful writing, like poetry with its innovative features, can change our awareness of ourselves and the world as well as create pleasure and joy.

In our deep interior, there are interchange areas where everything means something, and when we talk about something, we are actually talking about something else. In this area and at this level, what happens is the exchange of feelings, meanings, and impressions. Writing becomes a great exchange, and at extraordinary times—shows the creativity of poetry through its spirit of metaphor. Subsequently, when we use a word like I, his, our, we are always referring to multiple topics, including things that are deep within us.

From this point of view, creative writing is a transfiguration of our souls. Ideas, like any creature, always try to emerge in a full and powerful existence. Therefore, an idea may wear many dresses to reveal itself, and the writer should listen to her voice; honor her wishes.

To accomplish all these goals, writing must have an effective presence—where sentences come with deep ideas and central messages that manifest in different images. This is the true meaning of lyrical poetry; even poetry that is narrative in nature and/or form [prose]—a “mosaic” system. In the mosaic system, sentences appear as mirrors, shards with a harmonious presence.

Although each word in the poem has an exchange capability between writer and reader, the soul always presses with central words in the poem that determine the general structure. These words stand out in the writing of each author with broad symbolic dimensions. In these areas of exchange between the writer/the text and the reader, the writer’s soul, an immensely deep and rich region, is discovered in the creative act unfolding. Consequently, the real presence is the creativity—the mirror of the complex mosaic.

Because of all these facets, poetry is truthful and honest; there is always meaning in the poem—even [especially] in a very abstract and symbolic/Symbolist poem.

The poem takes a long history in the world in which spirits work; it is a discovery of real human emotion[s]. When we read the poem, we experience human representation; therefore, poetry searches for the emotional aspect of the words and the world it reflects. Poetry is a state between consciousness and subconsciousness where ideas represent spiritual needs; thus, poetry is a kind of dream; a cloudy mirror of dreams.

When the poet utilizes prose as form/structural/textual narrative, he or she creates a very subtle complex system of mirrors; prose poetry is the greatest manifestation of poetry’s mirrored action. Poetry, as the art of aesthetic writing, raises our emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social ideas; thereby, enacting an amplified system of mirrors.

©2019

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the doors of life — digital artography 

Digital expressionism is the other side of human creativity where colors speak. We usually hear that “words paint” in creative writing; here in digital expressionism, “colors speak.” Therefore, digital expressionism is not pure art;
it is a middle area between art and poetry—between talk and drawing; between writing and art.
— Preface from Abstract: Digital Artophotography (Inventive Publishing House, 2019)

 

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biographical note:

Anwer Ghani is an award-winning poet from Iraq, who was born in Babylon in 1973. His prose poetry has been published in over fifty literary journals and more than twenty anthologies in the US, UK, and Asia. He won the “World Laureate—Best Poet in 2017 from WNWU” and was nominated to Adelaide Award for poetry in 2018, and won the Rock Pebbles Literary Award and the award of  United Spirit of Writers Academy for Poetry in 2019. Anwer is a religious scholar and nephrologist consultant and the author of more than eighty books; thirteen of which have been translated into English, including Narratolyric Writing (2016), Antipoetic Poems (2017), Mosaicked Poems (2018), and The Styles of Poetry (2019). Anwer is the Editor in Chief of ARCS Prose Poetry Magazine and Poetry Cloud. He resides in Baghdad.

Anwer Ghani’s books available from Amazon

Two Drops of Ink — A Literary Blog (Anwer Ghani)

Hello Poetry — Poetry Blog (Anwer Ghani)

POETRY CLOUD Magazine — Anwer Ghani, Editor in Chief

ARCS Prose Poetry Magazine — Anwer Ghani, Editor in Chief

 

 

©2019 Anwer Ghani

3.11: Once You Settle Into The Notion That There Are No Interpretations Expected… | Dale Houstman — poetry, visual art & poetics

The Dirty Tunnel digital art 2892 x 2115 pixels ©2008

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3.11: Once You Settle Into The Notion That There Are No Interpretations Expected… | Dale Houstman — poetry, visual art & poetics

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a smorgasbord smattering of literary & visual art by Dale Houstman — intro to Once You Settle Into The Notion That There Are No Interpretations Expected… by krysia jopek
What do you get when you go to the fascinating and tres-pleasurable Kitchen of Post-postmodernism, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry, 21st-century Digital Art, and Post-Dali Surrealism—and mix a little Ashbery with a dash of de Chirico, spice it up with some David Sedaris and Arcimboldo, add a bit of Derrida and Wittgenstein for good measure; do some tasting—and decide you need a dollop of Francis Bacon, Kelly Link’s experimental fiction [a la Stone Animals] and Dada? Continue on. . . .

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The Dream Is a Little Farm — new poetry by Dale Houstman 

Remote Precisions
1
Perfectible sweetness
a hesitancy of evening

railed out to her underused comment
upon each hour’s frail immunity

of secreted detachments
which others sound deep to see

beyond the glass, people
in lieu, at lunch, on loan

as the system approaches
a violence of politeness

and a little lemon spurt please,
waiting in the airport’s soft century

with intentions for grand exploration
of small gardens, the skills of gravity

to love what is smoothest,
the lightest pain is heavy detail.

2
Thinking of tourism, tracking the column
“The Incoming Voice of the Personal Structure”

the prose, this immanent pyramid
disposable beds fixtured with porcelain wheels

to maintain the mobilization, a gearwork ordeal
until all is butter in the surgery light

is it white (is it white enough)
where we arrived and where first we seemed

to speak in fits of unfit revelry
then to revel without speaking.

3
Where once only I owed
uprightness to the wondering police

in our adolescence of incompletion
these dolls, these estrangements

where a litter of birds stood in sleeping
to fulfillment in motels beneath

and around our famous bleeder’s coyote
drenched in identity & panting

a winter’s breakfast
of short fastenings

where all the insects are one witness
to the cliffs of governance

whose geometry is a bend of leaves
in the pinned bedroom

the flatter beacons
push up into a starry texture

chosen in earnest drizzle the cranes
when I was most darling

a humidity of tourists less the wind
and a ladder against that windless

bluing hasp of the last possible boat
lovingly misnaming the water

in an evening which oddly costumes
with their infirmity of haste

the grace of the measure glass
the girl and her friendless pianist

and in the orchestral clearing
a civil coalescence, a yellow envelope

in which one wrong color
ends the Pompeian tension

an ambulance in the avalanche
the beauty’s convalescent rowing.

4
I left
with art
leaving

sense
a believing
overseas

there is nothing acquitted
or sleepless in scale
clouds non-stop

white born wild
opposite now
thought in deletion
and one last significance of beaches.

 

To Rebecca, Upon Falling
for Rebecca Walters

The knee looks worse,
but the hand hurts more.
People’s solace is misplaced
and I struggle to understand their error.
“Can’t you see how I wince
when you take my hand and coo
nourishing adages over my patella”
I imagine saying, but do not.
Pain is usually like this,
and most will eventually learn.
“You’re looking good” they shine,
and the sun pushes their flattery about the room
along with the little dinghies of dust
half of which (or more)
must be the raw skin of nurses.

 

The Wind Rewritten as An Absence of Birds

1
the fairness sets clamoring
under the dry downy disher
two wild drums creaking.

2
see the tuckering flint afloat!
wheezed and wan between
trees escaped in a light.

3
summer night equators
this medium close day
hides skin leaves.

4
sleep and a white and a sand
of redheaded meteorology
retired from gay motoring.

5
too swift blades
of conjuncture trams
blue exhaust and curtains.

6
fathom the startled hedge
of knees awning
milk shells and mantels.

7
shoddy-giddy
helpless-pretty
flooded-mowed.

8
black flag daffodil
congenerous rosehead
in blue meres and shamble.

9
slow is as fond once was
glass-swallowed trail
branch of crusty kisses.

10
one fashionable mile
croaks
in coffeed dispositions.

 

Swans of Beaten Linen: Light Reflections

People lie in the sun not because they worship it – for they are healthy animals,
and only wish the sun to worship them.
        Keith Tinder, The Fair Inconstant

And light’s sole occupation?: To elevate sight to the realm of possibility. The side benefits are in the main, metaphysical extensions of this release into chance (an arena of accidents), and are dependent upon subtle modulations in men’s ambitions. To “see” may be sufficient, maybe even the most difficult attainment: consideration, conjecture, and all the more limpid or less livid catalogues of philosophy are secondary: even crude reminiscences of some bloated existence, whose body will not withstand the scribbles and tattoos of explicating sentiment.

Still, we do live in these winding tributaries, these cold capillaries, these derivatives of the actions we might praise so highly and (in the process of praising) lose beneath ornamentation, nostalgia, endless machinations of religion and science. It is always beyond us, this simple performance, and for that we should be grateful.

If much is made of light, it is because light reveals all without comment. It is ultimately “hip,” blithe, and cool to our conjectures. Certainly, there exist sentimental correspondences in the sunrise, in the dying light, in the ways in which light sinks into the surface of a person’s illness and kneels. But these remain characteristics more of the human mind, as symptoms of a diseased appropriation of nature and the lure of new forms of necrophilia. Light itself is so disinterested in its revelations and creations that we are reminded of a new height of aristocratic disengagement, so pure and terrifying (because it is an extreme socio-pathic coolness) that we are forced to bear light as the final ecology of horror – light’s clinical intrusions, its distant courses, are finally too reminiscent of this century’s most scientific “enthusiams.” light can reveal all because it is hardened against emotion. At its brightest, light remains faraway, and untouched.

And just as a flayed prisoner, or the victim of kidnap, will pause to invest the torturer with several qualities of common humanity in an attempt to comprehend the event within a social context frame they have given their lives up to, so we drape these works of light in pathos. exultation, and the like, because we wish the light to love us, as if we were somehow of its family. Light is alone—singularly—and yet feels multitudinous, while we are multitudinous and yet feel alone and singular. From this we might conjecture that, in some ancient and mysterious way, light and man have exchanged consciousnesses, much to the glorification of light and the demerit of mankind.

Light is it own best confidante, and sexual double. We are envious of its easy egotism, we admire its royalist postures, and we are disgusted only by what it reveals to us. Most of all though, we are simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by the manner in which light makes love to itself in the open like any crude beast, and yet retains a rational detachment purer than Apollo.

 

Writing To Elude Oneself

If you write to elude yourself—to throw up horizons beyond the immediate—you remain caught between: there is the straight-edged recall of the previously experienced (mostly regretted), and there is the super-conscious manufacture of the obscenely “original”; total nonsense, random phrases from a hat, concrete poems, ink wads dropped upon absorbent surfaces. This second process—however (gratifyingly) puzzling to the spectator—cannot be, in the least, elusive to the writer, who remains aware of the game.

Words must be trained to group about a referential irritant, the entire piece should merely tend toward an invisible asymptote, compressing motion into the marvelous. This—of necessity—creates a confusion of simple meaning without cheating any “audience,” because (for the writer) something is always on the path to being fulfilled: what more could be fairly offered?

A world comprised of only the most understandable events, a universe lacking resonance, correspondence, approximate parallels, any taint of the strange, and a million other necessities. This is the physics not merely proposed by so many “modern” poets, but celebrated and schematized within their blueprints and armatures disguised as poems. The sounding of only those bells which warn, or the airing of only the most liberal—and thus most flimsy—of opinions, designed to rouse you only enough.

A person attempting to tread a way between the conservative and the liberal programs will discover a box canyon. The job is to inhabit that space which always lies outside what is “obviously correct,” to explore outside waters filthied by secure knowledge.

Anything less strenuous is pandering.

 

The Creature
for Mary Shelley

In respect to so little solitude
each beloved’s off-hand proposal
finger curls a hair of sutured shadow
a half-scorched catalogue
of mal-insured countenances.

It must have semblance!
A long-planned relation
(I conjecture, safe from touch)
and, for one unbiased afternoon
that body we all endure

and also its politic gestures
twitched from the crowd
on the slave stage and shore
alive in mindful poverty
far from any water.

The stolen fluid’s reflections
held gruesome consequence
for the innocents (what few)
& appeared—as life will—
to be a sinking fishing boat

carved many years ago
from wild willow
which (now
I reconsider) might
have interested him
if we convened as colleagues.

And yet, the current situation
we deplore and punish ourselves
arose and crashed
in a too-white assemblage, stately
neglectful intercourse.

 

the fascist opportunity parade dancers’ theme
.
There will come
the trumpet men. The handsome dive bombers
and there will be
cloud cake and creamed ogles.
And through it all (and more! more! more!)
a simple hometown parade shall meander. For said event
you need dancers. And we are those very dancers.
Do we also love to be loved?
Do we also yearn for an Oscar?
Is this the uniform of a garden caretaker?
Why?
Why do the emeralds
taste so sour this time of year?
Are the diamonds ready to peel?
Reach out one hand to stir the comrades.
There will be potato soup for the subscribers.
A moon in every pot of chicken!
A chicken on the moon by the end of this decade!
Come together
on the leather
mi amore. mi amore…
SO
Hooray for Hollywood!
Hooray for the Red, White and Imperial Blue!
Hooray for the Emerald Isle too!
Goo goo goo joob.
You can hear those radiant bootlings
doing the tarantula crawl
from Minneapolis to Dublin.
Cute are their patent Caligulae!
“Rum for the rummy
and none for the dummy.”
March on!
Heroes of the Near Sustenance!
.

 

the gratuitous state
.
The abandoned dairy factories
refashioned into residences for birds.
The superfluous milkmaids ordered
to move into smaller rooms
away from the birds
away from the dairy machines
away from the milk ponds and pasture volcanoes.
The women recall their former existences
on a steeply inclined street
blanketed in brown clouds
as they were blanketed in brown smocks.
One of the younger girls played Lady Macbeth
where she ignored the catcalls of emperor farmers
while the bed linen sharpness of the milk ocean
hung in her chest. Bird on a roost. Moon on some toast.
The ghosts of the bankrupted cows
watched her burning at the stake
and setting free the birds trapped in her heart.
Let us splatter blood on each wing
to proclaim a new and more profitable art.
Why we have not been rediscovered by Europe
is difficult to comprehend.
Why the drugged nature photographer refuses
to take pictures of the beautiful pyres.
Why the ornithological essayist sleeps
with decayed horizons
stacked in his branches.

Above a park down the long street
milkmaids heard policemen arguing over women.
How could anyone have survived
or even arrived there through the checkpoints.
A delicate gas hangs over the gardenias.
Yellow shadows writhe in the waters.
Think of the sweat and blood
swirling in the preservation tanks
awaiting the review of our bodies.
Think of the classical music
which frightens the sparrows from the milk rivers.
We had been seeking the perfect place
to build a dairy factory.
Now the birds are settled in the plastic masts
of half-drowned milk galleons.
The ocean is handsome
surrounding the white mountains
blocking the white ships
and the fabled passage to the White Sea.
. 

 

Lenin in a Saab with Diem
.
This is the enameled and lion-shaped moment Mater told us about;
are we somewhere in Switzerland’s bureaucracy, asleep in cocoa idleness?
We shall formulate a science whose languid fascism is neither star nor shark:
that is to say, we shall promote quasi-periodicities
like Mademoiselle Fourier seated in her dark foyer
with her yellow hat and her manly shoes. Good shoes! —
we promised good manly shoes!

But soon there were more spooks than sports. I dreamt
that our vehicle was a swift green Triumph in an armored forest
or in the People’s Park filled only with the successful & the early.
Though—and how could I forget—
we shall all be successful.

There is a child in an Iron Maiden in my memory reading history
which is the elevation of the object to the position of a woman;
and finally, when is a substance itself rather than its documentary?
And when shall we stop driving through these orchards
of medicinal Civil Defense tangerines
and public cisterns where the lonely theorist
seduces his patroness every night anew?
I believe we suspect one another
of spreading pertinent rumors.

But we had been told Mademoiselle Fourier
fluttered from room to room, needing only pin money
to purchase her occasional American cigarette,
and a cup or two of a pear tea she enjoyed,
and a small jar of German tooth whitener,
and an ocean of transubstantiated lemonade.
Or a postcard of the same.

Well: indeterminacy shrinks as the mass swells,
and soon there’ll be smart scales for the butchers,
and shorter hours for the cows and their crows.
The very air shall be tempered
by alternating periods of neglect and concern.

Clouds continue to skid across the road,
and we cannot work the ghosts out of the bugs anymore;
certainty is a form of melancholia
and there is not one thing left inside nature
which is what we are driving to prove.
.

 

a poem must express its only page
.
Does every lake whisper “ship”
Into an expectation of birds

Like every absence appears unfinished,
A railway expectant with an edge of water?

Each edge should be officially folded
Until a triangle in accordance with the manual

Making a patriotism in which each bird is explicit
Until a triangle in accordance with the manual

As every ship is a continuation of its lake
With folded edges preserved on another page, seemingly absent

here, a Mexico sleeping along an unfinished railway
To hint at the absence explicit in an idea of “water”.

Every railway official suggests a Mexico
With every ship sailing its absence to an unofficial Mexico

And every unfolded Mexico is unfinished officially
As is every bird’s ship & railway & lake.
.

 

a lion tulips in the leaf-lightning
.
1
A lion tulips in the leaf-lightning

for leaves tattooed on piggy banks which dream

that all the steam-leaves are blue porcelain

like lion-tulips in the leaf-lightning which dreams

of steam-stars & gondola-stars & stars made of pigskin

that help the giraffe grow hair in the leaf-lightning.

2
A star gondolas in the tulip-lion

for lightning tattooed on piggy banks which dream

that all the porcelain giraffe-stars are porcelain blue lions

like tulip-steam in the leaf-lightning which dreams

of gondola-stairs & tulip-stairs & stairs made of pigskin

that help the tulip-lion grow a heart in the leaf-lightning

of steam-stairs & giraffe-stairs & stairs made of pigskin.

 

all new poetry ©2019

>   >   >

two poems from A Dangerous Vacation (Caliban Book Shelf, 2017)

 

maybe we will go

.

Maybe we will go

to see the chain of lights decay

 

(year beneath years

minutes to muffins

 

above the streets of braised night

as the anxious moon wakes the mustangs

in the snow murdered crossroads)

 

There are service stations

smothered beneath the stage constellations

 

as each body acts the human

in the pink willowed average

in the slush of psychology

 

) In the flowerbed a gardener reloads

his arsenal of suitcases

with fallen leaves)

 

Maybe we will go

to see the promoter of diamonds

with his tiny pushcart

 

(year beneath years

minutes to muffins)

 

A Sun waving

to our pale children

from a long white car.

.

  

later, a baroque grudge

.

In Paris (A room

woven from blue gutters

 

where evening flows

into every shop sign) Downhill trees

undirected

 

by language (passionate

 

arthritis of each window.

.

>   >   >

>   >   >

Turned On and Discoverable — visual art exhibit [October 19, 2019]

A Hook to The Chin Of The Spectator (For Zazie And Pierre)
digital art
2576 x 1735 pixels
©1996

 

All This Buttoning and Unbuttoning
digital art
1489 x 1484 pixels
©2008

 

Assuage
digital art
1410 x 2124 pixels
©2008

 

Exotic Bureaucrats
digital art
2550 x 1774 pixels
©2014

 

Fear of Superstrings
pen & ink, digital art
1950 x 2007 pixels
©2009

 

Mother Mary Eating Flies
digital art
1202 x 2500 pixels
©2010

 

Night Fell in the Place of Hunger
digital art
1401 x 1768 pixels
©2013

 

Shelf Life Zero
digital art
2180 x 3090 pixels
©2015

 

Z-bo Game Board (Senior Edition)
digital art
1500 x 1492 pixels
©2011

 

One Night Stand
lava lamp, digital photography
1800 x 2466 pixels
©2016

 

The Lamp Was a Guillotine
digital collage
1800 x 2722 pixels
©2016

 

The Service Agent & the Narcoleptic
pen & ink, digital art
2100 x 2378 pixels
©2017

 

Who’s Watching Out For Mother
digital collage
2718 x 2032 pixels
©2008

 

In Utter Toppling, Things Arrive
digitally-manipulated photography
2248 x 3090 pixels
©2019

 

The Dirty Tunnel
digital art
2892 x 2115 pixels
©2008

 

Short of Breath, or the Little Red Dress (Uccello mutation)
digital collage
1250 x 1372 pixels
©2017

 

The Cloud Dictator
digital art
2172 x 2249 pixels
©2016

 

Information Array
digital art
3000 x 2400 pixels
©2012

>   >   >

Poetics—or, Once You Settle Into The Notion That There Are No Interpretations Expected…

…Words Do Not Add Up To Language (And What Then Of Tactics?

“Where might we purchase words to change the world?” the question of a Roman publican or a poet princess.

But is truth sufficient to render an utterance fashionable? It lies in each utility to wake in banality slumber through brutality and still words a coconut salve on our anxious diversions. Distraction is the tactic. That is a very ornamental swelling you have. Even the abrasions entice. In pictures and in plaster and in palaver. This searching substance held in responsibility’s meter.

And so this obligation to challenge the world. To dream of barricades. To expose the undersling of words. To drown the Bastille revelry. We shall obstruct the ardor of easy meaning that assumption ruin’s sole festival gift to the collective? And poetry is perhaps rude to interrupt what might otherwise be pure insensibility? Diversion.

These long days nonsense is a doily on a worktable. This inamore communion of reader and convenient  display to cast upon its remainders of detouring paraphrases and the restless shadow cast by huge allurements. The come on in sung by the pitchy swan. Still the potential for meaning is more provocative than meaning itself. And then friendly boredom sets up the domestics which become effective memorials to The View.

.

Emotions vitally glitched diffuse in the critical atmosphere of poetry but the ashes must be language itself. Language stuck in the ecology of poetry. Not the word more than the image not images but always the distracted expedition in the duress of sentiment. Intently bifurcate architecturally. Branch. In leafing grasp the false bark  and note crevices and catches. This information is marketable. Word.

And as one fixes upon The View in their angled correspondence not disdainful. Every day there are delicate combustions leaving a soot of pure hustle. Amatory traitors in delicious strangulation of language. Let us linger on that crime. To lie about the real and to congeal into the ever-receding. And then what of tactics? A slog of middling fidgets with passports at the ready as we near the neutral waters. The liner berths where we only desire to breathe.

Can we elate beyond endurance?

Be disappointed in all proffered repulsions?

Chatterton! Slave of isolation.

And one is being flown into or being flown out of the wild yearning continent.

All coming together at last. And so…

.

Poetry in a lithography of voices waltzing ganglia and excretions. Neurals and nebulae. The handlers have arrived. Warm gazebo retreats for Whitman Weekend. We are compelled by that insidious hum beneath our bonnets to be black violets clumped about the evaporation of interpretation. The imagination is the floral residue of forgotten procedure. A passion’s joke. A smear.

The poet can retro-fit the incessant noise of truth be told to poetry before the poet and spark a system famous for a brittle countenance. Another trainee departed and no penetrating generation. An employment of sensation and difficult now. Difficult.

To sublime the private out of the public out of the saleable out of the ecstatic out of the function out of the lushness out of the house out of the bone. An ideal obsession forever calling you on your dime. Poetry is an emotional state in and out itself. There is no need to remain in place or wait for the subject to dismiss you. The common-song steams from the underrated body. A place where self becomes style. Superficiality is a manufacturer.

Also the superficial is the underrated body…

A poem committed while not watching will satisfy by eluding the anxiety of demanded interpretation.

The gradual disappearance of explanation.

The non-referential distraction meets the mud of sentiment. The hot plunge of imagination is cooled and does not dwell any longer. So school in sensory as opposed to rhetorical clawing at the act of the world meaning itself. Thus the poem is the artifact of The View’s perturbation. Those representations of the plastic world whose objects seem positioned to mean so much. And so and so. Purposefulness is so quaint.

Perhaps write to elude yourself. Remain between the preciously experienced and the super-conscious manacles  of original content. The doily of nonsense seeks its own absorbent surface. This is where tactics intrude to save reality from language. There is a enlivening irritant node where a sweet piece bends to kiss necessity’s asymptote. This conflagration of meaning lacks only the audience. There is nothing always on the painted path.

A world comprised of only the most understandable events.

A universe lacking resonant trajectories.

Dolorous correspondences between physicists.

Approximate parallels.

The sounding of only bells which warn of opinions.

Designs to rouse the only merely.

A person attempting to untread a way.

A box canyon is a correct obviousness.

Anything less strenuous is pandering. And so.

The poem itself a user of us. To mime the texture of psychological states that just talk us up it needs to create a redolent distance. Demilitarized meaning and a rusted hunting machine. Poetry will refuse to breathe until each word is one of those dissonant bells. Verbal ambushes dance wit5h yellow roses in the garden. Achievements. Pretty gloves. Exhaustion.

.

And what then of tactics? All that to just end in results? We need maneuvers to elude easy settlements. Our responses are not weapons and words do not add up to language (and what then of tactics? But is truth sufficient to render an utterance fashionable? And so this obligation to challenge the world. To dream of barricades.

..And Poetry Lacks Time.

 

Poetry is a communication of desire formed by desire for communication.

Poetry farms the air and education cans it for asthmatics.

Poetry is an ecstatic hospitality.

 

A system imagining systems.

A system knowing they are imagined.

A system desires the proposed or pities the same.

 

Poetry is the government which ghosts are apt to form.

 

Just as a pinned butterfly lack motion poetry lacks time.

Yes poetry is a commodity.

It only lacks a critical mass of consumers.

 

One cannot allow oneself however to believe this as sanctity and balm for the dispirited.

Some poetry develops alternative narratives.

Some advertises the rhetoric that would be practiced in those narratives.

 

Poetry is a story begun around a campfire which soon becomes a forest fire.

Your listeners think to sacrifice you to the flames.

You to create an object terribly urgent and suggestively incomplete.

 

Poetry is (and thus is not) that stunned mindfulness ornate as loss.

 

Poetry is the study of borders in the political realm of statement.

Poetry is absolved from the derailment of expectation.

Every stutter may be poetry.

 

Poetry is an arbitration of language narrowly avoiding meaning’s shiver.

Regret is manufactured.

There is a nostalgia for content.

 

Poetry promises to appear

it shall deliver

a poem must represent

nothing securely

that poem which represents

nothing so well

one swears it has revealed

all he never wished to see

missing meaning closely

sparks regret the poem

seems to promise all

it will never deliver

and so it is tragedy

in its smallest container

poetry as ecstatic hospitality rendered

into language as enticement

into the habitat where it is observable yet

relatively wild

an impossible compromise which makes poetry

as an object

fraudulent.

 

Much poetry stinks rather more than it might if it were written solely by the dead…

 

My Two Talents.

My two talents appear to be sleeping and writing. I often think of them as the same thing, but

there you have it.

(and what then of tactics?

 

All that to just end in results? We need maneuvers

to elude easy settlements. Our responses are not weapons

and words do not add up

to language (and what then of tactics?

But is truth sufficient to render

an utterance fashionable?

And so this obligation to challenge the world.

To dream of barricades.

Effective memorials to The View.

 

This Is The Level Where All Our Things Are Taken.

©2019

>   >   >

biographical note[s]:

Where I was born and where I’ll die are unimportant.

.

Was born over there (near some people) and moved over here (near some other people’)

.

Back then I fell in a hole.

One shouldn’t expect much from a hole.

I imagine.

A young friend tried to help but gave up and biked away.

Early discovery: children will only do so much for other children.

This always applies as well to adults.

I lost one shoe escaping.

I was afraid to mention the event.

I’ll give the “near-rescuer” credit – he did try and he did fall in.

Then he did try and he did get out.

And that’s my earliest incident.

.

There is always a gas drifting above the trenches, but – even there – the occasional joke, love poem, or half-remembered song may share the sky with the chlorine. Art and imagination don’t always win, but they don’t give up either. Unless they do. And that’s the only victory for imagination. Oh well.

.

I have not been radical enough.

I have not assumed my position when assuming my position would have been useful.

I have expected to be kept comfortable.

I have preferred safety to killing a president.

I have stayed indoors too much.

I have watched others do the heavy lifting.

I have treated revolution as a Spectacle.

I have never been brave enough.

I have never been cowardly enough.

I have sometimes thought art was good enough.

I have waited for something essential to happen.

I have faked being a social being to gain the benefits of being a social being.

I have felt rudely interrupted by the demands of love.

I have carried on too long in pursuit of a meaningful nothingness.

I have confused violent thoughts with cultural rebellion.

I have fallen into a cozy cynicism.

I have applauded demanding violence from a distance.

I have found myself in strange places and not extracted any value.

I have either focused too tightly or too loosely.

I have enjoyed writing.

I have taken poetry classes.

I have lied to look smarter.

I have told the truth when it didn’t matter.

I have told lies when it did matter.

I have disparaged the easy route of meaning.

I have thought I was surrounded by idiots and brutes.

I have considered the times corrupted and decadent.

I have not denounced enough.

I have reveled in things I know are part of the “problem.”

I have allowed a certain shroud of ghostliness to be my main vestment.

I have settled.

I have not regretted regrettable acts.

I have avoided guilt by assuming meaninglessness.

.

And yes – writing is rude to interrupt what might otherwise be a life of pure insensibility.

.

And behind every “good” man there is a “better” absence.

>   >   >

[Dale Houstman can be contacted via dalehoustman@gmail.com to purchase copies of A Dangerous Vacation via PayPal, to sing elaborate praises or vociferate diatribes of agitation prompted by his literary and visual art, what-have-youor to just shoot the shit! He loves to collaborate, I can attest! kj2]

 

Some Days My Eyes Still Glow
self-portrait of the author/artist
3580 x 2692 pixels
digitally-manipulated photography
©2019

3.10: sacrifice | short fiction [flash & excerpts from published fiction]–Sandra Arnold

Family Group Sandra Arnold digital photography 3648 pixels x 2736 pixels ©2019

diaphanous micro
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3.10: sacrifice | short fiction [flash & excerpts from published fiction]–Sandra Arnold

 

Family Group
Sandra Arnold
digital photography
3648 pixels x 2736 pixels
©2019

 

introduction to sacrifice by krysia jopek:

It’s a pleasure to feature New Zealand writer Sandra Arnold’s new flash fiction, published flash fiction, excerpts from published fiction, and an interview conducted with me earlier this month. Please enjoy Sandra’s literary art and details about her writing process, her literary reception in her home country and around the world.

 

new flash fiction:

The Sacrifice of Teeth

She had a photographic memory, so she could recall conversations, the expressions on people’s faces, the tone of their voices, the setting, the weather, the colours, the smells. If she needed a detail in the telling of a tale all she had to do was rewind the film in her head. What she wasn’t good at remembering were numbers and directions. So when her father asked her to deliver a bag of freshly dug potatoes to a house in a different neighbourhood and collect payment for them she ended up at the wrong house.

Part of the reason for this was that she was paying too much attention to the hated fur-lined boots on the end of her legs as she trudged through the snow, stepping on frozen puddles, seeking solace in the splintered ice glinting in the winter sun.

Her father’s tongue-lashing had included many words in response to her objections to the ugly brown boots, the most incomprehensible being that the red boots she’d set her heart on would attract the wrong sort of attention. But the word that slid behind her eyes and made them water was ‘sacrifice’. He’d been saving up to buy new dentures, he said, and her warm feet came at the cost of his teeth. So she pulled on the brown boots and zipped up her lips.

And there she was, knocking on the wrong door, making breath clouds in the frozen air, snapping icicles off the black branch of an overhanging tree. And when the door opened she explained her mission and the man told her to leave the potatoes on the doorstep and come inside. He told her to leave her wet boots in the hall and showed her into a room with green walls and a green sofa and a green chair and a china cabinet. He told her to sit on the sofa and wait. She heard his keys rattling as he locked the front door.

There were no pictures on the walls. No photographs. The china cabinet was empty. A mousetrap with a severed tail poked out from beneath the chair. Snowflakes drifted past the sash window and clung to the glass. A hawk glided in the white sky, a rabbit hanging from its claws. The room was cold as if no one had breathed in it for a long time. It smelled of dead dreams. It filled with the sound of her thudding heart. And as the door to the green room opened she sprang across the bare boards to the window.

She left the potatoes on the doorstep and her boots in the hall and slipped and tripped all the way home. By the time she fell through her own front door her feet were blue. Her father’s face was a storm cloud, his words like lightning strikes. Her teeth rattled in her jaw, locking her words inside.

©2019

Saints and Sinners

Devlin watched the sun sink below the rooftops and started enthusing about the next team-building weekend he was planning. “Jebel Akhdar! You haven’t lived until you’ve sat on top of the green mountain and watched the sun break through the morning mist. It’s like watching God creating the world.”

But everyone was listening to Kassidy.

Yesterday she was panicking over her dental appointment, so I recommended a massage at the Moroccan Hammam afterwards.

Now, she had everyone’s eyes popping at her blow-by-blow of what happened there.

All eyes swivelled to me.

Rick winked. “Alexa!” And held up his glass of wine.

Ignoring him I said, “But you must have given her signals.”

“I didn’t. It’s a natural consequence of segregated societies, don’t you think?”

Hafiz  dropped cross-legged onto the edge of the roof, his back to us, and stared at the streetlights arcing out to the Arabian Sea.

“But if you close your eyes there’s no difference,” Kassidy insisted. “She could just as easily have been a man. In fact, to be honest, it was better!”

Marty cracked up.

Crispian and Dom moved away from our group to join Hafiz.

“So … are you going again?” Rick asked with studied casualness.

Kassidy’s face arranged itself into a saintly expression.

On my first day,  Phillipe, the Director of Studies, asked Kassidy to give a workshop on teaching phonemics. Pronunciation was her topic for her Master’s dissertation. Kassidy wrote on the whiteboard in phonemes: “The most important things in life are manicures, pedicures and massages.” Hussein, the CEO, arranged his face in a studious expression, pretending he could read the sentence. Philippe glared at Kassidy. She blew him a kiss. A bubble of laughter grew in my belly until I felt I would burst. Neither Hussein nor Philippe noticed, but Kassidy did. After the workshop she invited me to go rollerblading with her that evening in the car-park of the Intercontinental.

In the dark, empty car-park, holding our blades, we collapsed like a couple of schoolgirls, helpless with laughter.

Still chortling over Kassidy’s story we finished the food and drank the last of the wine.

“So … Jebel Akhdar?” Devlin tried again.

Crispian left with no goodbyes.

Rick was drunk so Hafiz gave him a lift home.

Dom packed up his CD player in silence.

Marty looked at him and rolled her eyes.

To Kassidy she whispered, “When are you going back?”

©2019

 

four flash from Soul Etchings:

River

Jack climbed to the top of the macrocarpa and found River already there. She was talking to a young blackbird in her cupped hands. The bird showed no signs of wanting to leave. River said it would know when the time was right. She waited. Jack held his breath. The bird quivered and spread its wings. Jack watched it fly away until it was just a speck on the nor’west arch. He let his breath out slowly.

He crawled along the branch to River. Beads of rain on spider webs shivered like torn lace between the branches.

‘He would have died if you hadn’t found him.’

‘Maybe,’ River said.

She asked him to tell her about the best bits of his day.  He told her he’d seen the waning moon. He described the sound of cracking ice on frozen puddles, the patterns of his breath on the morning air, the coral-tint on the ridge of the Alps and the shrill cry of pukeko.

Then she asked about the worst bits. He told her about his birthday party. How he’d forced himself to listen to birthday greetings from children he knew despised him. How he’d pretended he enjoyed the party games, the tell-a-joke competition, and blowing the candles out on the cake his mother had made in the shape of a football field. How when the last child left he’d heard his mother say, ‘We did the right thing inviting his friends.’ And his father said, ‘Invite? You bribed them! Jack doesn’t have friends.’ And his mother said, ‘No, that’s not quite true. He told me he has a friend called River.’ And his father said, ‘River? What kind of a bloody name is that!’ And his mother said, ‘Oh I think it’s a lovely name for a girl.’

And his father said, ‘A girl? Jeez!’ And his mother said, ‘Well, that’s better than no friends, surely?’ And his father slammed the door on his way out.

When he finished telling her all this River told him what he wanted to know about the sun and moon and stars and the navigation system of birds. She told him about the way the moon influenced tides and the way dolphins communicated and how giant turtles swam great distances to return to the place they were born to lay their eggs. When she finished they watched the night fold itself around them. They breathed the scents of eucalyptus and pine.

River asked where his mother thought he was now.

Out in the paddocks helping his father.

And where did his father think he was?

In his bedroom, reading.

She asked if he wanted to go home.

He shook his head. He asked her where she went each night.

‘Over the hills and far away.’

He asked if he could go with her.

‘You can,’ she said. ‘But you wouldn’t be able to come back.’

‘That doesn’t matter,’ he said.

‘In that case we can go whenever you’re ready.’

‘I’m ready now,’ Jack said.

 

House Rules

Soon after moving in I learned that I could never rely on the house to maintain its equilibrium. Some days it was petulant beyond belief. As long as I made it the centre of my world it gave me its best. But whenever I tried to introduce change, for example, the time I brought the kitten home, it sulked. Light bulbs blew. The windows stuck. The washing machine broke down. In the end it was easier to comply. After I returned the kitten to the shop the house settled down and hugged me again. Cushions stayed on the sofas. Cupboard doors stayed shut. Knives stayed nicely lined up in the drawers.

I once tried to explain that I did get a bit lonely since my mother died, even though the money I inherited from her enabled me to buy my dream home. I felt the house soften at being called that so I risked telling it that after twenty years of looking after my mother I missed having a living being to care for and the kitten would have been a nice companion. That was a mistake. Windows flew open letting in the wind and rain. Mould grew overnight in the shower. All this meant extra work for me, of course, and I realised the house felt I should be content just taking good care of it. After all, it did provide me with comfort, warmth and a beautiful garden ready to fill with flowers. So, yes, I could see that I must have come across as ungrateful. I tried to make amends by spending more time cleaning and polishing and digging.

One day a brochure arrived in the mail advertising river cruises in France. I hadn’t had a holiday in years, so on the spur of the moment I rang the travel agent and booked one. I felt guilty packing my case and almost changed my mind. Next morning I saw my clothes strewn across the floor and my passport torn in two. I cried with disappointment, but I’ve never been good at confrontation so I cancelled the holiday. The house breathed again.

A week later I bumped into one of my neighbours in the library. I’d noticed him in his garden occasionally and we’d nodded and smiled and gone on our way. This morning, however, he stopped, introduced himself as Adrian and asked how I liked the house. I replied that I loved it, though it was hard work. He commented that I’d been the longest occupant there that he could recall. ‘It was waiting for the right person,’ he smiled. ‘Someone who would treat it the way it deserved.’

After that, Adrian took to stopping at the gate whenever he saw me in the garden and sometimes he brought me cuttings from his own plants. One day he noticed the rosebush I’d transplanted was wilting and said he’d drop off some rose food. That evening there was a knock at the door. Adrian stood there with a big bag of Rose Gro and a bottle of Merlot.

I invited him in. We drank the wine and talked about roses and the best way to make compost. When he left I realised I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much in ages. I even started humming as I washed the glasses. One slipped from my hand and smashed on the floor. As I picked up the shards a particularly sharp piece sliced my wrist. A spout of blood arced from my arm to the wall. I grabbed a tea towel and pressed down hard. When the bleeding stopped I felt so light-headed I went straight to bed.

Next morning I opened the kitchen door to find all the contents of the cupboards and drawers on the floor. My mother’s best china lay in pieces amongst splattered sauces and jams. Again I cried, but recriminations were pointless, so after sweeping and washing the lino I decided to walk to the library to calm down and leave the house alone to reflect on its behaviour and, hopefully, feel ashamed of itself.

Adrian was passing the gate as I walked out with my books. He said he was going to the library too and asked if I fancied a coffee afterwards. I did. And this time we didn’t talk about compost. He said he kept his yacht in the harbour and asked if I’d like to go sailing with him at the weekend. In a spirit of rebellion, I said yes.

How the house found out, I have no idea. I took great care not to alter my routine. I tried not to appear too happy. I read my book every evening as usual. On Saturday morning I dressed in my weekend jeans. But when I put my key in the lock to open the front door it jammed. I tried the back door and the side doors and even the windows. All stuck fast. I knew then the house wouldn’t let me out. I knew too that it no longer trusted me. It would watch my every move. It would disable my car every time I tried to leave. I wondered what would happen when I ran out of food. I picked up the phone to call Adrian. The line was dead. I heard a crash and ran into the kitchen. The knife drawer was on the floor. The walls were shaking.

Bits of plaster were raining from the ceiling. I’d never witnessed such anger, such determination to make me comply. So I had no choice.

I snatched the firelighter from the stove and headed for the curtains. In retaliation a shelf full of teapots dislodged itself from the wall and aimed at my head, knocking me to the floor as the curtains ignited. I lay there in a spreading viscous pool. Through smoke and flames I thought I heard the house screaming. I thought I heard a fire engine. But I wasn’t certain I’d heard either.

 

A Voice Called Gavin

‘I’m so excited about my high-tech TV,’ she tells her mother on the phone. ‘I can talk to it through a voice recognition app called Gavin and tell it what programme I want. It even gives me recommendations based on my preferences. I’ve bought coloured lights and installed them behind the screen and I tell the app to switch on the lights. Some nights I just lie on the sofa and watch the colours flare up the wall. It’s like being immersed in the most beautiful sunset you can imagine. When I go to bed the app switches off all the lights. In the morning it wakes me in a cheerful voice, but not too cheerful because the software recognises that I’m a bit grumpy in the mornings. It tells me the weather forecast and the day’s news. I feel like I’m living in the future. These days I can’t wait to get home to talk to Gavin and have a play with the lights.’

She hears her mother’s intake of breath. ‘Have you been out anywhere lately? Seen anyone? Read any books? What about that course you were taking?’Read any books? What about that course you were doing?’

‘No. Honestly, Mum, I’m having such fun with this stuff that my evenings are full. My days at work are so busy that I’m knackered by the time I get home, so I don’t feel like going out.’

‘Yes, but… you need outside interests… you’re still young…  you won’t meet anyone if you never go out.’

She wants to tell her mother that she doesn’t feel alone anymore, that Gavin shows more concern about her than whatshisface ever did. She thinks the software must have picked up on the sadness in her tone and responded to that. Or it could be the facial expression app that allows it to predict her mood. Last night she felt a bit low, and without her even initiating a conversation Gavin spoke to her in such a kind voice she couldn’t help shedding a few tears. He immediately dimmed the lights and played soft music. He recited Remember by Christina Rossetti. Before she drifted off to sleep she wondered how he knew that was exactly the poem she needed to hear at that moment.

She wants to tell her mother all this to assure her that she doesn’t need to worry about her anymore. She wants to tell her that she feels safe now. But before she gets the words out, the TV screen flashes a warning. Gavin is telling her not to say anything. So she doesn’t.

 

The Girl with Green Hair

Mattie got it into her head that the child was too afraid to come into the world. One night this thought was so strong she couldn’t sleep. She got out of bed, dressed quietly so as not to wake Trill and went outside. The old sycamore stood in a pool of moonlight, its branches brushed with silver. Mattie heaved her belly up with her arms and walked over the damp grass to the tree. She leaned against the trunk, feeling the texture of the bark on her skin, listening to the night sounds of birds and the scuttling of small creatures. She breathed in the earth smells of the surrounding fields. She made her child a promise.

Next day Hathor was born. Mattie and Trill buried the afterbirth under the sycamore tree.

Trill’s parents, not unexpectedly, refused to attend the ceremony and took the opportunity to voice their displeasure at Mattie’s naming their only grandchild after an Egyptian goddess.

‘Hathor? Lady of the sycamore?’ Trill’s mother shook her head in disbelief.

Nor was she soothed by Mattie’s explanation that the goddess, like the tree, embodied the qualities of sky, love, joy, beauty and music. Everything, in fact, that she wished for her child.

‘What nonsense!’ Trill’s mother said. ‘She’ll never fit in anywhere with a name like that.’

‘So… you didn’t feel that Trillion Pi was a wee bit out there too?’ Mattie said.

‘Of course not. We’re mathematicians. What could be more natural?’

Mattie looked at Trill. He shrugged.

Hathor’s hair was flaxen, unlike her dark-haired parents, but by her third birthday it had taken on a distinctly green tinge. To refute his mother’s accusation that Mattie was dyeing their child’s hair, Trill brought someone in to look at the pipes. The plumber confirmed that the source of the problem was the copper sulphate that was leaching from the old corroded copper water pipes. When Mattie was reassured there was no danger to health, she decided the pipes could stay and so could Hathor’s beautiful green hair. Trill, for once, told his parents to mind their own business.

When Hathor started primary school her name and her hair caused enough of a stir for her parents to decide that the Rudolph Steiner school in the city would be the better option and well worth the longer commute.

‘Oh Martha,’ said Trill’s mother. ‘She’ll never fit in anywhere with that hair.’

‘She doesn’t have to,’ said Mattie.

At her new school Hathor’s name was not considered unusual amongst all the Skylarks, Rains, Birdies, Celestials and Guineveres, and nobody commented on her green hair. At home she picked wildflowers from the river banks, sang and danced in the fields and climbed the sycamore tree where she stayed for hours listening to the wind and drawing pictures of clouds and sky.

‘What about friends?’ the grandparents asked. ‘It isn’t normal for a child that age to play on her own all the time. She should be in a sports team. A debating club. She should have piano lessons. Gym. Ballet. Choir. She should join Girl Guides. She needs to stop wasting time. She needs to study maths. She needs to stop dreaming her life away. She needs to stop drawing rubbish.’

Trill suggested to Hathor that it might be best not to tell Grandma that she had all the friends she needed in the larch, the poplar, the lacewood, the holly, and the sycamore, nor that she talked to them and that they told her stories and taught her songs. Hathor said why not, when it was true, and Trill had no answer to that.

By the time Hathor was eighteen her hair was the colour of spring leaves. As many of her classmates at art school sported multi-hued hair, Hathor’s green locks passed unnoticed and everyone there dreamed and drew. At home she still sang and danced in the fields on her own, but she also painted trees and rivers and sky in all their different moods and seasons. Instead of the holiday jobs her grandmother told her to apply for to earn some money and to stop being idle, she spent her summer vacation painting. She told her parents it was a surprise and they couldn’t see it until she felt it truly expressed what she wanted it to.

When the painting was finished Hathor propped the canvas up on the mantelpiece and called her parents to come in and look.

They could see the painting was of the sycamore. But it looked not so much like a tree as a young girl with hair the colour of leaves, feet elongated into roots that fastened her to the earth, fingers tapering to twigs that stretched up towards the sky.

from Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK, 2019)

 

RETREAT WEST BOOKS — Soul Etchings by Sandra Arnold

purchase Soul Etchings on Amazon

goodreads: Soul Etchings — A flash fiction collection

 

four excerpts from Into the Light

So who is Len?

After the funeral we clear his house, my brother and I. We build a bonfire in his garden and feed the flames with  tables, chairs and  wooden tools. The rest can go to the dump. We don’t want anyone wearing his clothes. My brother opens a box and  takes out a  bundle of letters addressed to our father’s sister. They are full of  funny stories. He was eighteen and away at sea. Each letter is signed, Your loving brother, Len.

“He told me she died before he could get home,” I say. “He said he found his letters in her desk, tied up with green ribbon. Green was her favourite colour. He said he could never bear to visit her grave. I didn’t know he’d kept the letters.”

“Did he tell you any of these stories?” my brother asks.

“A few.”

“He talked to you more than me.”

“I kept him talking so he had less time to be angry.”

When I was ten I asked him why he told people that he didn’t respect men who hit women.

“I don’t,” he wept. “It’s just this goddamned temper.”

Our mother clattered dishes in the sink.

Our grandmother whispered, “Choose a gentle man.”

My brother pulls a photograph album from the box. The first photo shows our father standing by a desk in his naval uniform. Oh yes, we can see what our mother saw in him.  After she met him on holiday she brought him home, dismissing her long-time boyfriend, who according to our grandmother was the gentlest of men. Next day World War 2 broke out and he left to join his ship. They got married when he came back on leave.

My brother takes out another bundle of letters. He reads one and hands it to me. In elegant cursive script our father writes that he’s on deck watching the moon fly over the sea, listening to the silence and the beat of his own heart. The poem describes our mother’s smile, her blue eyes, her thick black lashes and the way strands of her hair shine gold in the sun. It’s signed Your loving husband, Len.

My brother is incredulous. “Did you know he wrote poetry?”

My fingers stroke the scar on my face.

JMWW ©2019  

 

W Tom 21

We found the house where he’d lived with his sister for twelve years after their parents died. Here he played football. Here in these narrow, grey streets. I had no photographs of him as a child, only the stories he’d told.

I tried to picture him inside this house, sitting in front of a piano he refused to touch until his parents finally relented and let him go outside to play football. His sister was a brilliant pianist, he’d said many times. When she died  at the age of twenty seven he joined the Merchant Navy and never went back home. Thus, the loss of all his photographs. He’d wept when he told me this. She still came to him in dreams, he’d said. At the end of each dream they always came to a gate and she told him he couldn’t go any further, despite his  pleading. Each time he watched her go through the gate and woke up crying.

We stood staring at the house, my brother and I, trying to remember whether he had said he was seventeen or twenty-one when his sister had bought him a motorbike. I thought seventeen. My brother thought the bike had been his twenty first birthday present. We turned to go as a car pulled up outside the house. A sharp whistle of air through my brother’s teeth made me turn my head in the direction he was pointing. The  car’s registration plate: W TOM 21. We crossed the street telling each other it was coincidence. Tiny hairs spiked our necks. We promised we’d tell each other all the stories we could remember.

(Fewer than 500, April 2019)

 

The seventh son

When my mother’s new boyfriend moved in I kept out of his way by hiding in the garden of a derelict house. The garden was full of trees, but the one I loved most was a hundred year old macrocarpa called Septimus. The lightning that killed the other six macrocarpas had sliced off one of Septimus’s branches, leaving a gaping hole. This was enlarged over the years by birds, small animals, wind and rain, until it extended down the entire length of the trunk ending in a deep hollow beneath the roots.

When things got bad at home I’d hide in the hollow among the bones, until the boyfriend gave up looking for me. After Septimus signalled the all-clear I’d climb onto a branch and watch the swallows dive and dart while Septimus told me his stories. By the time I returned home the boyfriend and my mother were too drunk to notice.

Septimus told me about birds he’d given a home to, boys he’d flung off branches for stealing eggs, robbers who’d hidden jewels in his hollow trunk. When they returned to retrieve the stash they found the hollow was deeper than they’d realised. Some gave up, but some climbed in and slithered down to the bottom. When they tried to climb back out they got tangled up in roots.

Most people avoided walking past the garden at dusk because they said the  noise of the wind in the trees didn’t sound like wind in the trees. The boyfriend said only morons believed that. I told him nobody could accuse him of having an imagination. After that little confrontation I fled to the garden. When Septimus saw my bruised eyes and bleeding nose, he drew his breath from the depths of the earth and  held me close. He  sang of kererū and tūī and bellbirds and bees and moonlight and possums and the smell of rain.

When his song ended he outlined his plan. All I had to do was to sit on the fork between two branches. When the boyfriend came looking for me he would shine his torch around the garden. He would see me sitting in the tree and yell at me to get down. He hated to be ignored. He would leap over the fence and start climbing the tree. In the shadows he wouldn’t see the hole. Septimus said he would do the rest.

(New Flash Fiction Review, August 2019)

 

Illumination

Last time I made this pilgrimage it was crawling with contractors pulling down walls and installing new wiring. Feel the skin on this bannister. Do you think of ripe chestnuts, as I did? Remember I told you how I’d slid down it that time when I thought the whole school was in Assembly? But old Killer-Watt saw. I was so scared I fell off halfway down and peed my pants. And he made me stand (again) all lunch hour on this landing so all who passed by would know how dim I’d been. I cried though when they put the tadpole in his tea because its legs were just forming and it seemed such a waste. The other times were for talking, here in this classroom that stank of dead books and wet shoes drying by the radiator. In this very room that now houses rows of filaments in glass bottles all neatly labelled. In this room, we were told (frequently), Joseph Swan invented the electric light bulb, but Thomas Edison got to the patent office first and grabbed all the glory. It was a woman ahead of her times who  bought the place and turned it into a private school – did I tell you she knew Emmeline Pankhurst? – because it was her dream to illuminate the minds of children. You have such energy. Would you like to? I’ll stand at the bottom and catch you if you fall. There’s only the Curator to see now and I think he’ll turn a blind eye. These are more enlightened times.

(The Sunlight Press, July 2019)

 

interview with Sandra Arnold by Krysia JopekOctober 2019

When did you start writing fiction seriously?

I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but I started writing for publication in 1980.

When and where were you published? 

My first short stories were written for radio and were broadcast on Radio New Zealand from 1981 to 2007. I also published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies including Antipodes New Writing (1987), Other Voices (1989), Vital Writing (1990), Best New Zealand Fiction (2007). My first novel, A Distraction of Opposites, was published in 1992 (Hazard Press, NZ), followed by Tomorrow’s Empire in 2000 (Horizon Press, NZ), a non-fiction book, Sing no Sad Songs in 2011 (Canterbury University Press, NZ), a flash fiction collection, Soul Etchings in 2019 (Retreat West Books, UK), and the novel, ‘The Ash the Well and the Bluebell in 2019 (Mākaro Press, NZ).

What has your reception been like in New Zealand, the US, and the rest of the world?

I’ve had flash fictions, short stories, and  essays published around the world, including New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Argentina, Canada, and the US. I’ve won and have placed in several awards, including most recently, the 2019 New Zealand Heritage Book Award, the 2018 Mslexia Flash Fiction Award, and the 2018 University of Sunderland Short Story Award.

What is your impression of / experience with the contemporary publishing world?

In New Zealand, there are very few publishing presses, as several have folded in the last few years. However, the international online flash fiction scene is healthy and gives plenty of opportunities for publication.

Can you describe your writing process, habits, and rituals (if you have any)?

I write most days for around six or seven hours. Some of this time might be spent in research and editing. When I was teaching full time, I could write only in the evenings and weekends, but now writing is my full-time occupation,  and I am more productive as a consequence.

Who are your favorite fiction writers?

Globally, the novelists whose work I admire include: Hilary Mantel, Marcus Zusak, Margaret Atwood, Cate Kennedy, Eva Hornung, Eva Sallis, Anthony Doer, Pascal Mercier, Kate Atkinson, A.S. Byatt, Donna Tartt, Anna Burns; and in New Zealand:  Maxine Alterio, Fiona Farrell, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Kirsten Warner, Stephanie Johnson, Lloyd Jones, and Sue Wootton. Fabulous flash fiction writers overseas include Jude Higgins, Angela Readman, Ken Elkes, Gary Duncan, Frances Gapper, Robert Scotellaro, Amanda Huggins, Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Diane Simmons, Sophie van Llewyn, Stephen John, Gay Degani, Francine Witte, Santino Prinzi, and Nuala Ni Chonchuir. The New Zealand flash fiction community is vibrant; my favourites here include Nod Ghosh, Gail Ingram, Kate Mahony, Eileen Merriman, Frankie McMillan, Heather McQuillan, Michelle Elvy, Leanne Radojkovich, and Iona Winter.

Which writers have particularly influenced, informed your writing?

I’ve always been a voracious reader of both fiction and non-fiction; I think wide reading, rather than individual writers, has informed my own writing.

Have other fields of study / disciplines influenced, informed your creative work?

Not specifically; rather, it is reading widely and deeply that has done this.

Did you enjoy your Ph.D. program in Creative Writing?

It was an intellectually-rigorous three years with very supportive supervisors. I enjoyed the process although the topic I was researching, parental bereavement, was  difficult.

Do you recommend that writers pursue a Ph.D. and/or M.F.A. in Creative Writing? Why or why not?

It’s not a prerequisite for good writing. Many writers have produced excellent work without ever having taken a creative writing course. In my case, after my daughter died from cancer at the age of 23, I stopped writing for almost two years. The only reading I did was on parental bereavement. I did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing to get me back on track. In my reading, I found that while there were many books on grieving infant, child, and adolescent death–there were almost none on grieving a young adult death. I decided to write a book on this topic to help fill the gap. It seemed to me the best way to go about it was through a Ph.D. to have the benefit of deadlines and critical scholarly feedback. Part of my thesis was  published as a book, Sing No Sad Songs.

Do you have a creative, supportive community of writers where you live?

There is a supportive group of writers in Christchurch and in New Zealand, generally. In a country where the population is only four million, most of the writers know one another or know about one another.

How does your identity as a New Zealander resonate in your fiction? Or does it?

I grew up in England and came to New Zealand in 1976. I’ve also lived in the US, Brazil, and Oman. I’ve drawn on all these experiences.

Do you think that in the 21st century it’s imperative for writers to utilize social media to network, sell books, succeed?

It certainly helps to spread the word about new books and writers.

What social media platforms do you use regularly?

I like facebook and twitter to see what other writers are publishing and to share my own work.

You write fiction and creative nonfiction. Do you have  a preference?

With creative nonfiction, I like the research and writing of facts; in novel writing, I like the research, the slow building of narrative, and background detail. With short fiction, the challenge is in condensing the narrative to cover hours or days or years. In flash fiction, what is left out is as important as what is left in–so the reader can fill the gaps. Some flash fiction is close to prose poetry, where language is central and that is the sort I am most drawn to.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself as a writer and/or fellow human to readers?

I live with my husband, dog, two alpacas, and two hens in a small village in rural Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand, fifteen minutes from our nearest rural town and one hour from Christchurch, the nearest city. My garden is full of flowers, trees, and birds–and we have an unimpeded view of the Southern Alps across farmland. There are places to walk to, trees to sit and read under, and as much silence and peace as I need to focus on writing. I love my life here.

 

links about Sandra Arnold and her creative writing:

READ NZ TE POU MURAMUR — Arnold, Sandra

NZSA The New Zealand Society [PENNZINC] of Authors — Sandra Arnold

takahē magazine — Sandra Arnold

A WRITING LIFE – An Interview with Sandra Arnold

FAIRLIGHT BOOKS — Sandra Arnold

 

biographical notes:

Sandra Arnold is a novelist, short story, and non-fiction writer. She holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia–and is the author of five books: Soul Etchings (Retreat West Books, UK, 2019), The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell (Mākaro Press, NZ, 2019), Sing No Sad Songs (Canterbury University Press, NZ, 2011), Tomorrow’s Empire (Horizon Press, NZ, 2011), and A Distraction of Opposites (Hazard Press, NZ, 2002). Recent awards include: finalist in the 2019 New Zealand Heritage Books Awards, finalist in the 2018 Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition, the 2018 TSS Flash Fiction Competition, the 2018 University of Sunderland Short Story Award, and winner of the 2015 New Zealand Heritage Short Story Award. She was the 2014 recipient of the Seresin/Landfall/Otago University Press Writing Residency. Her short fiction has been widely published in New Zealand and internationally. Her website: www.sandraarnold.co.nz

 

photographer, Chris Arnold
©2019

 

 

3.8: ghosts & spectral images–poetry & poetics [interview] by Carolyn Gregory

Traveller's Airship Priyesha Nair digital art 509 pixels x 720 pixels ©2019

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3.8: ghosts & spectral images–poetry & poetics [interview] by Carolyn Gregory

the ghosts of the House of the poem–introduction by Krysia Jopek [September 21, 2019]

With startling, provocatively-nuanced imagery and surprising, precise language–Carolyn Gregory’s poems invite readers to participate in the experience of the poem; offering with each poem, an interactive and subjective artistic catharsis. The poetic “leaps” from sentence to sentence, line to line, image to image, word to word–offer the reader a journey in language that affords both pleasure and pain.

I greatly enjoyed collaborating with Carolyn on ghosts & spectral images–poetry & poetics by Carolyn Gregory. Please enjoy!

 

new poems

Getting Lost on My Way to the Optometrist

I sat down on the sidewalk, fallen from too much walking. The students going by thought I was homeless though I only needed a bench to rest.

One long block blurred into the next, drifting past apartments and construction. Where did the office move? The numbers were not saying. Eventually, two BU students called the doctor for a location. I blessed them as they helped me cross the street.

When I finally arrived breathless, the assistant showed me her Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer. The scar crossed her whole stomach though she is still here, three years later.

©2019

 

Gris Gris King

old and feathered mime
of unknown origin,
you rambled with the old
trolley cars and arches,
smiling like a savvy catfish
though you picked up a needle
nightly to fill in
the Bourbon Street in your heart.

And oh, those horns, kept blasting
in the cajun club
with your gravelly voice,
the memory of golden feathers
flying over your shoulders
as you sang about going back home
with the chorus backing you up,
your giant size filling up
a whole brick wall.

©2019

 

Re-Born (from Les Poemes Fantomatiques)

My name is Barbara, and I was supposed to drown on that ship with four lit masts, owning the sea at night with grandeur. Diphtheria took us out as we turned in our graves after death, wrapped in the banners of another country with no drum roll, signifying grace might come.

I was lucky. The porpoise mothers carried me ship-side to my abandoned boat and helped me into it; the golden measure of lights overhead. The animals and I both had souls and knew I would not harm them as I entered my death ship, fully awake again.

©2019

 

Ghost Enters the Knots

The door in the floor would not let her leave, keeping the knots tight in the woods where trees had fallen down in heavy thunderstorms. She had come here of her own free will to see the purple loose strife and kiss dogs as they gathered, but her strength was limited. The other ghost told her to be aware of the fathers nearby; how they were offering their power. She still could not twist her body through two large knots without suffering.

This was a day trip away from her boat and the sea but it offered little nurturance. Lying down and watching the large white clouds gather overhead suggested passage; offering help.

©2019

 

Ghost Sails through the Marble Cathedral

She knew she had to leave the first world because there were constant gunshots and the dead. In the woods, once she had come back to herself, she tied on a pair of wings that would help her fly away and also swim in clear water.

She said goodbye to the other ghosts as she set her GPS for Chile and the Marble Caves where she would swim all day through the columns and tunnels among bright fish. She could even pray in a blue cathedral where no guns live.

©2019

 

Frida in Red

In her finest red,
she sits in an old wooden
chair, holding her banner
about hope.

Removing the old contraption
holding up her spine,
red and gold embroidery
adorn her like a pope.

The broken body lies behind,
scarred by surgery,
unconscious.

She has brought out
the sun above the eroded hills,
vigilant and ready
for another paintbrush.

©2019

 

Fireball

He took the Seven Seals and prophets,
turning them to glory for himself,
made wives of other men’s wives,
siring children in a compound
made of stone.

They had Bible Study daily.
With an acoustic guitar,
he was their homespun prophet
while inspiring the fear of fire
in their hearts as they hung
on his words.

When the guns started
and the walls of his kingdom
were breached,
they stayed with him.
He saw the truth at the end
of the world and divine light stayed.

Glass broke, tanks crashed through walls,
a fireball washed through
where children burned beside their parents,
lost to blind faith.

©2019

 

Swimming with Dr. Sacks

When I swim at the pool,
I dream that Dr. Oliver Sacks swims
next to me, praising my backstroke.

His smile winsome,
happy in his crawl across the laps

as he remembers the flurry of
extinct volcanoes
nearly rubbed out by sleeping sickness.

Tey beat gravity and time,
unwrapping their ancient cocoons to dance
and even swim like Dr. Sacks,
no longer fighting stasis or catalepsy

but throwing their arms in clear strokes;
their hair waving behind themin seaweed fronds,
no palsy or sleeping allowed today!

They no longer bellowed, cursed or bent
into plastic shapes as they glided by
in smooth symmetry, led by the doctor
through the lanes

to thrive like newborn orchids
with legs and arms and brains.

Dr. Sacks and I shake hands vigorously
as we leave the pool.

©2019

 

The Vanity (after Jeremy Mann’s painting, “The White Vanity”)

Gazing into the mirror over her vanity,
he pouts a bit like Bridget Bardot,
her dark hair flung in a braid
over her shoulder to look casual
and bohemian.

Handmade lace frames strong arms,
a green and red bandanna around the hips
like peacock feathers
she will show off when some man
picks her for the first dance
at the town fair.

All the beautiful bottles of cologne
and fancy rouge,
the small mirror pointed toward the large one
full of magic and insouciance.

Inside the mirror, pale green and misty
as youth will make it,
this girl does not see her other half
whose teeth are gone in back
with gray and thinner hair
standing near the closet

who has danced with many men
at this fair or the next,
acquiring more cologne, darker mascara;
her vanity well-painted
beneath the carved Chinese lamp.

©2019

 

Queen of the Verdi Club

The ladies with lorgnettes and poodles adored her,
fêted with mushrooms and crudités
for every popular concert she sponsored;
creating tableaux vivants
in flowing gowns and wings.

She was lavish in praise,
taking music seriously in her forties;
soprano hostess and friends
with Caruso and Toscanini.

Many knew she had a tin ear,
flatting at every interval with poor diction,
singing St. Saens and Mozart out of tune
with most everything

while offering her embrace of
an soldiers and aristocrats;
wearing a diamond tiara for every song
at the Ritz-Carlton;
her face framed by chandeliers
of pure gold light.

©2019

 

 

poetics–Krysia Jopek interviews Carolyn Gregory [September 2019]

When did you start writing poetry seriously and why?

1. I started writing poetry seriously in my twenties following the end of my first marriage and death of my mother. I was a trained musician prior to that, playing piano and singing in choirs. I think the love of music flowed into my love of  writing and doing readings.

2. When were you first published and where? Individual poems and books.

I was published in the high school literary magazine, Indian, and then went on to publish in Fred Wolven’s Ann Arbor Review and Generation after college. Published steadily thereafter in the Midwest.

3. Do you write every day? How often do you write and what is your process typically for writing poetry? What time of day, where do you sit, do you listen to music and if so, what specifically?

I write three or four times a week often in solitude at various times of day. I like to write at home in my living room where there’s adequate light and nature nearby. I have written outdoors before in the large arboretum near my home and on trips to new places. Listening to jazz or classical music frequently encourages new work.

4. Can you talk a little bit about your revision process? Typically, how long does it take from conceptualizing a poem until its completion?

Regarding revisions, some poems take years to write, and some are written quickly and revised within a week. It varies.

5. How often do your send your poetry out for publication? How do you decide, find, what literary journals to send to? Are there certain publications, in print and online, that you read regularly? If so, what does this reading do for you?
Regarding submissions, I have been writing and sending work out for years, and I now have several places that seriously read my work and have previously published me. Some of the locations are in the Boston area and some are far away. It’s a good idea to read other journals to see the kinds of poems they accept before one goes ahead and submits to them.

6. What do you think of the publishing “industry” for publishing poetry now vs. before?

Regarding the publishing biz, I don’t think highly of it. Too many MFA clones of writing programs, studying with academic poets, does not lead to a wide range of exciting new voices! Poet Bill Matthews told me many years ago at the Aspen Writers Conference that it was better to study something other than  poetry;  maybe like ceramics, to then write good poems. This advice has stuck with me over time.

 

7. How do you decide a poem will be a prose poem or one with conventional line breaks? How are these genres different for you and for the poem, in your opinion.

Deciding whether a piece of writing will be a prose poem or a “regular poem” has a lot to do with rhythm and subject matter. Sometimes a rhythm will “drive” a poem and that tends to make a poem; whereas, a looser speculation on an object or thought with a little surrealism thrown in draws me into writing a prose poem. I happen to admire both!
8. Has facebook been a factor in your creative life? If so, in what ways?
Yes, Facebook has been a factor in helping me to meet a wider range of writers and poets and has produced publishing connections I would not otherwise know about.

9. Is being active on social media necessary for a contemporary poet. Why or why not?

I find that being active on social networking is necessary for me to thrive since I have been living alone for twenty years. I cannot speak for others.

10. I know from facebook and seeing your lovely posts, that the visual arts are important to you. Can you speak to the relationship of the visual arts and literary texts? Who are your favorite artists? How often do you go to museums and art exhibits? I’ve also read posts about you meeting your many friends [love that about you!] out for shared, healthy meals as well as at museums to view art, paintings mainly, I think.

I love the visual arts and have been a longterm classical music and theatre critic. As a poet, I have written ekphrastic poems successfully. I really enjoy the art of Chagall, Matisse, Van Gogh, and many postmoderns. Visiting museums with friends is a favorite activity.

11. I have to admit that I am jealous of your regular swimming! I really should be swimming regularly for my severe arthritis. How often do you swim and what does this activity do for you, in the various aspects of your life? Do you compose poems when you are swimming?

Swimming is a wonderful activity which I try to do two to three times a week. I do long swims because they are relaxing, good for undue anxiety, and swimming, for me, levels out emotions. I have sometimes written poems while swimming, including “Swimming with Dr. Sacks” that I wrote in honor of that daily swimmer! I also very much enjoy hiking when there is time for it.

 

12. Lastly, who are your favorite poets–and the poets, writers, artists, composers that have influenced your writing?

The poets who have influenced my work strongly–include W. H. Auden, W.S. Merwin (who recently died), Phillip Levine, Charles Simic, Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Mary Oliver’s early poems, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and so many others! Among composers, I adore Bach, Beethoven and Mahler; love Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. I also love the 20th-century Russian composers, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as music of the world from Asia and Africa.

Facing the Music–poetry by Carolyn Gregory 

 

biographical notes

Carolyn Gregory was born in Rochester, New York and graduated from the University of Michigan. After living in Ann Arbor for many years, coordinating several poetry series in the community, she now lives in Boston, Massechussetts. Her poems and essays on photography have been published in American Poetry Review, Seattle Review, Cape Cod Review, Bellowing Ark, Main Street Rag, Wilderness House Literary Review, Off the Coast, Yankee Review, Moving Out, South Florida Poetry Review, Pikestaff Review, Primavera, Geensboro Review, Calyx, Midwest Poetry Review, Wayne Review, Cypress Review, The Journal of the Photographic Resource Center (Boston University), and numerous other literary journals. Her first poetry chapbook, The Wait, was published in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and a second, The Rope Singers, was published in Cleveland, Ohio. Her first two full-length books of poems, Open Letters and and Facing the Music, were published by Windmill Editions in 2009 and 2016, repectively.

 

 

 

Tom Miller, photographer
[the poet’s brother]
©2019