Features an interview with poet Tim Seibles. Over the last twenty plus years, Seibles has authored six books of poetry, been the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and has received the PEN Oakland Josaphine Mills Award for Poetry. A prominent voice in African American literature, he has been a teacher with Cave Canem as well as an instructor at Old Dominion University. In 2012, his latest book Fast Animal won the Theodore Roethke Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry.
Features writers from the 2014 Pygmalion Literary Fest Lit Crawl, recorded live at The Esquire Lounge in Champaign, IL. Readers in this episode include: Justin Hamm, Ruben Quesada, and Laura Adamczyk. Justin Hamm is the founding editor of the museum of americana and the author of a full-length collection of poems, Lessons in Ruin (Aldrich Press, 2014), as well as two poetry chapbooks, Illinois, My Apologies (RockSaw Press, 2011) and The Everyday Parade/Alone With Turntable, Old Records (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2013). Ruben Quesada is the author of Next Extinct Mammal (Greenhouse Review Press, 2011). He is poetry editor for Luna Luna Magazine and The Cossack Review. His writing appears in The American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review,Guernica, and Rattle. He teaches English and humanities at Eastern Illinois University. Laura Adamczyk was born and raised and still lives in Illinois. Her writing has appeared in such journals as Ninth Letter,PANK,and Sou’wester as well as winning awards from the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation of Chicago and the DISQUIET International Literary Program.
PANK Magazine and Quiddity sponsored this portion of the 2014 Lit Crawl.
Features novelist Eric Shonkwiler and work from Quiddity issue 7.2. While Eric has lived and worked in every contiguous US time zone, the Ohio native points to the influence of the Midwest in his debut novel Above All Men (MG Press, 2013). This episode also features work from issue 7.2 contributors Patricia Caspers, Judy Myers, and Phoebe Reeves.
Features a conversation with acclaimed writer Katherine Vaz as well as the 2013 Teresa A. White Award winner Chad Simpson. Katherine Vaz is the author of the novels Saudade (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) and Mariana, (HarperCollins, 1997), as well as two short story anthologies. Ms. Vaz’s first collection Fado & Other Stories received the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and her second, Our Lady of the Artichokes, won the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize. The interview was published in issue 11.1 of Ninth Letter.
Closing out this episode is writer Chad Simpson reading “I Later Learned the Fish was a Gar.” Chad is the author of Tell Everyone I Said Hi (University of Iowa Press, 2012) which won the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award at the University of Iowa.
Features selections from issue 7.1, which includes an interview with National Book Award Finalist poet Matt Rasmussen. Rasmussen discusses the inception of his Walt Whitman Award-winning collection Black Aperture (LSU Press 2013) exploring the suicide of his brother, and working with poet Jane Hirshfield. This episode concludes with a pair of pieces from issue 7.1: Beth Gilstrap’s story “Juveniles Lack Green,” and Purvi Shah’s poem “In the 21st century, Mira remarks–Krishna’s ways of loving belong in a parallel universe.”
It was yards from where the floodwaters already had reached and mostly intact: long and thin with black spots, a talon of skin missing from where its neck would be, if fish had necks. I’d pulled carp and catfish and striped bass from the river. I’d caught bluegill and sunfish and perch. I’d never once seen a fish that looked like this. Prehistoric. I thought this dead one might have been the last of its kind.
I called over Uncle Luther, and he buried the head of his shovel in the pile of sand we’d been bagging.
“What is it?” I asked him.
Uncle Luther’s brain didn’t work like most brains. He took medications that helped him see the world straight, that kept him docile, but meds alone didn’t always do the trick.
“It’s a fish,” he said.
He turned back toward the sand, and I stopped him. “But what kind?” I said. “It reminds me of dinosaurs, of something extinct.”
Uncle Luther stopped walking away when he heard the word extinct. He came back to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and spun me around until we were both looking out at the Mississippi, still rising, soon to crest.
Uncle Luther spoke with his hand still on my shoulder, told me there was no such thing as extinct. “All those animals,” he said, “the woolly mammoth, Steller’s sea cow, the dodo. They aren’t gone. They’re just hiding.”
For some reason, I lifted my eyes from the river to the sky. Which was stupid. I was only ten, but I knew nothing ever hid for very long in the sky.
“Those animals,” Uncle Luther said, “are just biding their time until things are safe. They’ll return. Just you wait and see.”
Sometimes Uncle Luther quizzed me on the Ten Commandments. He talked about people from the Bible like they were real. Like they were still living.
Behind us, Mom and Dad stacked the sand Uncle Luther and I had bagged waist-high around our house, hoping to keep the water out this time.
A few years later, Uncle Luther would get in trouble for crucifying himself on a homemade cross in front of the public pool, for scaring the children. One Christmas, he would retrieve from his wallet a sheet of paper containing only the letters A and B. He would tell me that these two letters, you could use them to write in code anything you wanted to say. He pointed to a string of letters and said, “This is how you write my name, right here.” Then he pointed to the next line down. “And this is your name,” he said. “Spell it out.” I read A and then B. B, then A.
I was the only person in the family who would ever let Luther talk, the only one who gave him the time of day. The only one who listened.
Chad Simpson is the author of Tell Everyone I Said Hi (University of Iowa Press, 2012), which won the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. He lives in Monmouth, Illinois, and is an associate professor of English at Knox College.”I Later Learned the Fish was a Gar”
Moss and algae on creek rocks make me keep a close watch on my feet. It’d be just my luck to roll an ankle out here on my own. No cell service. I got a whistle, that’s about it. Maybe the Saint Bernards I saw down the mountain would come barreling up, all slobbery if they heard it, but they seemed cooped up and ornery in their pen. Water’s colder here than it is back home this time of year. I could stick my bare feet in, plant my butt on a rock and just sit until a good sweat formed on my back. Not here. Here I’m layered up like Angie’s yellow cakes. A fleece and two jackets ain’t quite enough. I wished I’d packed something sweet. Fourteen days since my last brownie or anything. It would help if I knew how to cook, too. All this Chef Boy R Dee I’m heating on the hotplate ain’t doing much for me. Rumbling insides aren’t great when you’re trying to be quiet and find some critters. On the log, a male Stellar Jay cocks his head. I like the way he looks like a punk rocker. Lots of bright blue and jet-black and that tuft sticking straight up. His mate is up a ways on that moss-covered, lichen dripping whatever it is. They look like they’re onto me. He looks as if he’d say, “Junebug, get a look at this idiot in the creek.” And the darker blue female would answer, “Yeah Papa, I swooped in yesterday to get a closer look. I think he’s wearing Polo.” I’m kidding myself, really. I thought after Angie left this would be a good way to put some cushion between the garbage of us. She’s still mad as hell and I can’t blame her. That woman down in Atlanta was close to seven years ago. People say I was stupid to tell her, but she hadn’t touched me in over a year anyway so I figured I might as well get it out. Maybe it’d help cut down on my migraines. But why I thought it’d be a good idea to cross the country in my faded Dodge pickup and hole up in a log cabin in Oregon is beyond me. I should have started growing my beard in the day I threw my duffle in the truck. Me and Johnny Cash cutting across old roads through sick storms and worse heat, through everyday towns and nowhere towns and some kind of David Lynch towns you wouldn’t dare stop in for fear of characters talking backwards in red rooms and dead, blonde teenagers. It feels like Wednesday, but I can’t be sure. There’s a real in-the-middle-of-things air about the place. The sun’s going down. Between the mountains, it gets dim faster. I miss the low country sunsets, the smell of Angie’s Frogmore stew boiling, the spicy sausage, crab and corn mixing like some kind of redneck aphrodisiac. Here, it smells sweet and clear and clean. I wish I could take a bit of paper and charcoal and do a rubbing on my brain to get it to soak in. When I stand, my butt’s gone numb. So much for bird watching. All I saw was another brick-colored salamander and the same pair of Jays. It was only after I got bored of playing solitaire and blackjack that I picked up Birds of the Willamette Valley. It set there next to the record player for at least a week before I even noticed it. I’d played Abbey Road so much I started to hate it, but most everything else the owner had left in the place was classical or Opera or show tunes. Makes me wish I’d thrown a box of records or CDs in the truck, too, but I can always go find a record shop if I get desperate. The creek sounds better than Abbey Road, and that’s good enough for now. I had flipped through the book, folding down the edges of the birds I thought I’d seen. Robins. Chickadees. Crows. I even think I saw a little Bushtit, and boy did that sucker tell me to get the hell on my way. Cute little guy. Can’t say that I blame him. But when I saw the Violet Green Swallow’s photo, that’s when I got serious. I went looking and listening. Only two weeks here and I sit in creek beds, straining my ears for a song that’s supposed to sound like tsip tseet tsip. Can’t say I know exactly what that will sound like when I hear it, though. I wonder if the t is silent, but it’s got to be more about the rhythm. I just want to see the green on that bird. Book says the male’s back is glossy, iridescent-purple-green with white reaching above its eye. The taste of tomato on my ravioli is shallow, feels like wet cardboard in my mouth. Thumbing through the bird book again, I figure I might as well venture out at dawn. Seems like everyone’s active then. Rereading the description of the female, I wonder how, in nature, females are always more subdued. My experience with women is opposite, but maybe it’s society telling women they have to shine up for us, get skinny, have some kind of never-ending youth where they never show any seasoning or character. Angie looked better to me once she quit dying her hair black. She had this great chestnut auburn thing happening and the sun bleached it even lighter in the summer, especially when she lay on the beach on her days off, encouraging her skin to spot and darken. The juveniles lack green. In the morning, I’ll try again. My walking stick sinks in spongy ground. The forest drips and I can hear Angie’s voice drifting from the kitchen through the hall and into the living room where I watch the Clemson game. I can’t say she had a good voice, but it always made me want to grab her, even when she was cooking, which I’d learned a long time ago was not cool. If I could change what happened with whatshername, I would. All I even remember of that night at this point is a motel room that smelled like Fritos and the crunch of hairspray in her hair. Angie and I hadn’t made love in four or five months and this bartender in a Mexican joint talked sweet to me. I drank just enough bottom shelf tequila to lose good sense. Can’t say I didn’t do it. Can’t say I didn’t screw myself ten ways to Sunday, but I’d hoped since so much time had passed and I’d come clean, Angie might try to understand. When I finally get still in the woods, I hear it, the courtship song male Violet-Green Swallows sing in the minutes before dawn. It’s about time my own green shows.
Beth Gilstrap was a recent writer-in-residence at Shotpouch Cabin with the Spring Creek Project for ideas, nature, and the written word at Oregon State University. She earned her MFA from Chatham University. Her work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, Superstition Review, and Twisted South Magazine, among others. “Juveniles Lack Green”
It’s snowing so I’m listening to something old and slow on the sympathetic radio and drinking a kind of light from the lowered sky as I begin to fly across the room all this leaves my head which had been filled with too many places to go before everything outside saying this no it has the look of staying I’ve seen it on the faces of baby birds and snowmen who knows how long that look really means it says forever or just don’t forget me I’m the kind of guy who gets along with snow and baby birds and doesn’t really mind if I don’t last forever even begin to understand in that emptiness so I stir it all up in the hot coffee the dawdling postman shares because back at his house there’s the same things I’ve got and no reason to go out there to deliver news of what might happen in this world we’re busy ignoring deliver us this time and see if any occupants answer let us take them for our ride when the cool offerings melt the infant thought bundled in hope and fool embarkations its implied head fat with vague raveling content hair thick after the close of the body’s other increase holding itself apart from a part of its own future to keep the container as fresh as the idea inside it’s a loop you fly to itself and it’s you owling out to your talons feeding on a circle that doesn’t know you yet and never will land
Rich Ives is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air Magazine. His book of days, Tunneling to the Moon was published by Silenced Press (2013).