#amreadingpoetry: Michael Graves in J Journal

Cain’s Father

by Michael Graves

Cain, I ate of it
Long before your mother did,
And not because some tempter spoke.

I feasted underneath the limbs
Of God’s forbidden tree,
And then I slept
Between two thick and twisting roots.

(posted by kind permission of the author)

All my reading, throughout this current residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, has been about ancient Rome. I started with Mary Beard’s SPQR and now I’m reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic. I’m very struck by the theme of “double-ness” which recurs again and again, from the founding of ancient Rome (Mythic: Romulus and Remus, twins raised by a she-wolf, but all kinds of doubles appear in other world literature too).

And of course, just in the middle of my residency, comes this new issue of J Journal (New Writing About Social Justice, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City).

J Journal has always had a special place in my heart. You know it. Because it blends the fields of law, social justice, and creative writing.

I kept sending them stuff, because social justice is a theme that reverberates with all Filipinos. They published Magellan’s Mirror, a story that’s a magical/realist re-telling of Magellan’s first encounter with Filipinos (They’re giants). You can read part of the story on their site, here.

A few days ago, the editors (Adam Berlin and Jeffrey Heiman) sent an announcement/preview of their forthcoming latest issue (April 2017). It included the Cain poems of Michael Graves, which were the “very first pages in the very first issue” of J Journal. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could feature one of the poems on my blog, they contacted Graves, and he gave his permission.

So here it is, one of Michael Graves’. It is powerful as all get-out.

Thank you, Michael Graves and J Journal, for letting me share this!

Stay tuned.

Self’s “First Life” (Juked.com)

“First Life” first line:

  • Ever since they moved our colony from Tonle Sap to the Philippines, my mind hasn’t been the same.

Now For One of Self’s: “The Lost Language”

This was published many years ago, in a magazine called Isotope.

Published in Utah and edited by a poet, Chris Cokinos.

It joined together two things: science writing and creative writing.

You would find, in the same issue, a play by a physicist, a nature essay, a poem by a mathematician. That sort of thing.

Self loved it.

Chris Cokinos, what are you doing now? Know that self considered Isotope a very noble experiment.

Here’s an excerpt from the story they published, which became the title of her third collection. It’s one of those hybrid things: part essay, part memoir, part myth, part short story.

The Lost Language

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The language was written on tree bark. Epics were probably written in this language, but I don’t know what they are. My ancestors are shadowy people. Shadows.

When I was a little girl, perhaps eight years old or so, my mother gave me a book of Philippine legends. The legends were mostly about beautiful maidens and enchanted animals. But the story I liked best was about Hari sa Bukid, which means King of the Mountain.

Hari is not a particularly kingly word to me. It begins with an explosion of breath, almost an exclamation. And the “ri” is soft, almost negligible. So that if you were to say this word out loud and quickly, it would sound like a Ha (pause)/ Ha(pause).

The legend, as far as I remember, went like this:

One day Hari called all his men together and said that he was going to a far-away land to visit friends. He commanded his people to be industrious and to plant the slopes of the mountain with tobacco, in case he was delayed on his return journey.

For years, the people faithfully fulfilled their vow to Hari and the slopes of the mountain were virtually flower gardens, full of beautifully cultivated tobacco plants. The tribe of Hari sa Bukid was happy and prosperous. Everyone tended his share of the land carefully. As more and more tobacco was produced, the fame of Hari sa Bukid’s tribe spread far and wide.

Eventually, however, the people grew lazy. They abandoned the care and cultivation of the fields. Their harvests diminished greatly and their business with other people was discredited because of the small quantity which they raised. Almost all the tobacco fields were abandoned.

With no tobacco providing them with income, the people were in dire need of the most basic goods and other necessities for the sustenance of their daily lives. One day, a strong earthquake shook the foundation of the earth. A volcano started spewing out fire and smoke. The people were frightened and ran in all directions towards the sea.

To their astonishment, Hari sa Bukid suddenly appeared. He was in a terrible rage. Looking down on his huddled tribe, he rebuked them. As he spoke, lightning flew from his nostrils. His voice sounded like a roar.

Hayop kayo! You are no better than animals, he shouted.

The people could find no words to defend themselves. Mutely, they cowered before their king. They knew they were guilty of the serious crimes of disobedience and laziness.

Whereupon Hari sa Bukid gathered the scanty tobacco left in the fields and departed. He carried the tobacco to the top of the mountain and with a terrific blow of his fist, bore a hole to the center of the earth. After he had entered the hole, the earth closed over him.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwritingfantasy: “Down”

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Study in Oil by Bernadette Burns. She lives on Sherkin Island, off West Cork. http://www.bernadetteburns.com

We’re going under.

When?

Today.

Just like that.

Yes.

Well, I need more time to select.

Select?

Yeah. What do you think?

Everything you need is down there.

The two men arguing are about to descend to the ocean floor in a bathosphere called Pinkie Pi. They are under the impression that’s where everyone else on the surface has gone.

Stay tuned.

8 February 2017: Self Read at Sixth Engine, Washington DC

Self’s dystopian “First Causes” appears in the latest issue of Quarterly West.

Self very much enjoyed the reading for the launch of the issue because: 1) it was in Washington DC, and she got to see some old friends again; 2) she re-connected with a few people she hasn’t seen in years. Such as Letitia. Who was a student at Old Dominion University in Virginia when self read there for a literary festival (2007?) Now, Letitia is an Editor/Linguist/Poet (see business card below).

Self is tempted to ask Letitia if she’d like to help edit a collection of her speculative fiction she is getting ready to send out:

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The reading was co-hosted by two other literary magazines: 32 Poems and Smartish Pace.

And oh boy it was packed. To the point where the audience was all standing like a can of sardines.

A man threw copies of his poetry collection at the audience. “That is so cool!” a young man remarked. Since self was reading next, she was hard-pressed to think of something attention-getting.

She moved front, started babbling about how fan fiction got her there. And — received enthusiastic applause from somewhere on the right!

Forever grateful to the listeners, and of course to Quarterly West. Here’s a shot she took that night of the (very crowded) venue:

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The bar-restaurant Sixth Engine, downtown Washington DC, night of 8 February 2017

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What the Writing Desk Looks Like Today, 12 March 2017

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Self’s horror story, The Rorqual, now up to 15 pp. YAY!

Stay tuned.

The Future Is Cold: Excerpt from Self’s “Ice”

A journal accepted this piece two years ago.

It still hasn’t seen print.

In the meantime, self has been working on it, adding a sentence here, a paragraph there.

Here’a an excerpt.

It was true the boy’s eyes were strange, as if icecaps were growing in the irises. He tried to staunch the spread, but hour by hour the ice seemed to grow. Until, he hated to say it, the boy had gone completely blind. But he still pretended to watch the sky.

Halloooo came the cry across the frozen wasteland.

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Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada: April 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Iowa Review, Spring 2015

Excerpt from “Turtle”

by M. E. Hope

Seaman Recruit Robinson was a petite black woman
always smiling, though few met her eyes.
On first look you saw the scar, her entire
face was burn — a healed swirl of pink
and brown, a nose less nose than placeholder
for the center of her face. But her eyes
and smile — those calmed every one
of us. And she did know us all, knew
names and with every small conversation
remembered our stories.

Quote of the Day: Aimee Nezhukumatathil (The Writer’s Chronicle, Sept 2016)

“I do think persona is helpful in however heavy or light the disguise, if only to announce to the reader that if my persona says or does something they don’t find agreeable, it’s just a character, not the person.”

— Aimee Nezhukumatathil, in her interview with Eric Farwell, The Writer’s Chronicle, September 2016

#amreading: All Day, Poetry

The Sublime

by Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

(An excerpt)

He was worried he was growing
immune to his anxiety
medication when the bank called
to tell him his identity

had been stolen. He did some
quick calculations, then
They can keep it, he said,
and hung up. The sublime

is kindled by the threat
of nothing further happening,
the painter wrote, and he liked that
so he thought about it as he walked

into the woods. Creditors
from other branches of the bank
called to ask when he would put
more money in his checking account.

He was delinquent, they explained,
so he explained it was only
the account that was delinquent.
Not after Zen, not after quiet

determination, or equilibrium —
just a view from the overlook,
and to enjoy it, the forest being new
to him. He keeps going. Leaves

— published in Indiana Review, Vol. 34, No. 2

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston, where he was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast.

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