“One Maria, Two Maria, Three Maria, Four” by Catherine Prescott

One Maria orders decaf, the others café con leche.
One Maria speaks Portuguese, another Italian,
another Spanish, another English. One Maria left
her firstborn son in Peru. Another Maria was infertile
until her fifth IVF treatment. One Maria has a boy
and a girl. One Maria has a dog, whom she calls baby
girl. One Maria waves to you in the park, the other
always looks away. One Maria once knew a man
who grew a butterfly in his chest. One Maria hiked
the Andes with her true love. One Maria eloped,
her belly swollen like a papaya. One Maria was the first
in her family to go to college. Two Marias are lawyers.
One Maria has a PhD. All Marias are bilingual. One
Maria believes in a higher being. The others are not
so sure. One Maria prays to Santa Maria for her husband
to return safely from Cuba. One Maria prays to Santa
Maria for her husband to be taken in the next hurácan.
One Maria finds a lump in her right breast. Another
Maria finds two in her left. Two Marias have a biopsy;
one flies 1,100 miles for a double mastectomy.
One Maria is healthy. One Maria is overweight. One
Maria does yoga. The other Maria never saw it coming.
One Maria lost her madre, her tia, her abuela to the same
disease. One Maria laughs out loud. The other Maria
has a laugh that flutters in her chest. One Maria
cries herself to sleep. One Maria feasts on pomegranate
seeds believing they will heal her. Another Maria
buys Maria cookies, wolfs down the entire pack
with a glass of wine and dreams herself to sleep.

prescott_catherine_thumbnailOriginally from Long Island, NY, Catherine Prescott is the author of the chapbook The Living Ruin (Finishing Line Press).  Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Bellevue Literary Review, Poetry East, MiPOesias, Linebreak and elsewhere.  A graduate of NYU’s MFA program in Creative Writing-Poetry, Catherine lives with her husband, two sons, and daughter in Miami Beach, FL.

This entry was posted in Poetry on June 29, 2016

“Watching You Crumble” by Thom Francis

i’ve been sitting here
on the sidelines
watching you crumble

the once steady, solid wall
slowly chipping away
with every passing minute
with every word spoken
to you
about you
at you
near you
another piece of the facade falls
the outer surface long protecting
what’s inside, what makes you…you
coming apart

i can see your heart now
i can see that it is still beating
slowly, but still beating
but it’s still bleeding
for something that is never coming back
for someone who is never coming back

those moments that you used to talk about
those dreams that you shared
those far off ideas of being together forever

it’s gone
and you are left with nothing more
than your thoughts
and all those scabs to be picked off
the brick and mortar of your structure
is all you have left
and that is falling apart

the bones aren’t good anymore
the insulation has been depleted

there is a draft in the winter that you can’t escape

FrancisThom_picThom Francis is the president of Albany Poets. For 15 years, he has been organizing open mics and poetry/spoken word events in Albany, NY such as Nitty Gritty Slam, School of Night, Albany Poets Presents, and the Albany Word Fest. He has been featured at many upstate events as a poet and performer.

This entry was posted in Poetry on June 28, 2016

“I Have Tried to Track This” by Sierra Jacob

after Ana Prundaru’s photograph, Kamakura Beach in Japan

This is pulling out from a different coast     the tides cool a
slick back retreating     by now winds have settled     skin is
tight with heat and salt     by now light gleaning across surfaces
will start to find pattern     how quickly it scatters to multiply     you
will try to track it     I have tried to track this     tried
to reach out my hand and hold it all in place     I’d like to imagine

these deep rooted swells     that carried swift moving bodies all day     will
eventually     toss themselves on the North Shore     on the reefs of Ho`okipa     wash
up between drying sea turtles with laced white tumors     that
distances can be measured by the pathways of breakers     I’d like to
imagine I could sit with the throb of the sea     chant up the sun
but on open swept plains     thunderstorming of trains is the only
fury I can chart   here I can track fine ash over drought     dried
gold coaxing ground     I can track evening that does not fall into order
the     last sun will set alpineglow     and for a moment I can call it enough     I
can find sleet waves in the river     oil backed crows do it by hanging the prairie
on low sections of sky     on the coast     rain on pavement doesn’t raise up the

deep wet of the Pacific     it is the deep wet     along the
razored line of tide     dusk will be carried out     last of the sun
will fold to glassed undercurrent     boats will be moored     the
people will rise up from the shore     will free their belongings of sand
silent seep of returning back into     indentations evening out     I
imagine the shadows stop growing     but from here     I can’t see it.

JacobSierra_picSierra Jacob is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship for poetry. Her poetry has appeared and is forthcoming in Sonora ReviewYemasseeThe Louisville Review, Compose, Cream City Review, Hawai`i Pacific Review, Pacifica Literary Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, among others. She was born and raised in Ha`iku, Hawai`i.

This entry was posted in Poetry on June 22, 2016

“Hope and Anchor”: An Interview with Joshua Corey


Poetry can inspire us, confuse us, and excite neurons in the human brain to produces new thoughts and ideas. Joshua Corey’s newest collection of poems, The Barons, does all of these things and more, addressing the turmoil in America since 9/11: war, fear, and political upheaval both in the United States and abroad. Dark, complex, and unabashed, The Barons seeks truth where there may be none to find. Corey’s literary journey through this uncertain time takes many forms. John Ashbery writes: “Joshua Corey has reinvented the good old-fashioned American avant-garde epic poem and thrust it, kicking if not screaming, into the early 21st century.” Corey is an associate professor of English at Lake Forest College, where he co-directs Lake Forest College Press / &NOW Books. On “a sort of grey, fall day” from his home in Evanston, Illinois, he answered some of my questions about his new book, writing, and the inspiration of curiosity.

I’ll start at the beginning. Why did you choose Robert Duncan’s quote, “I write poems for the fucking stars,” as the opening?

I found that quote in Lisa Jarnot’s biography. I’m a pretty big Duncan fan. He’s a poet I resisted for many years because he’s so mystical. I sometimes call him the “Dungeon Master of American Poetry” but he has grown on me and become irreplaceable. Anyway, that’s something he said when he was giving a reading. I think someone raised the reasonable question “What are you doing this for?” Duncan was very much a coterie writer. He did have some fame, but poetry has always been a pretty marginal American activity. So, he came out with that and I love the insouciance of it. I love that, on the one hand, it acknowledges the reality of poetry’s audience and it also goes big. It’s very romantic. It echoes, maybe deliberately, maybe not, Emmanuel Kant, one of his famous remarks: “Two things fill me with awe: the moral law within me and the stars above me.” I guess I’m always trying to imagine the connection between cosmology, on the one hand, and everyday life and also the political life on the other. The book is sort of trying to think those worlds simultaneously.

Would you say your book is successful in doing that?

I don’t think that’s for me to say. It definitely represents, for me, a bit of a departure. The other books I had published up to that point were much more unified projects in some ways. They had a kind of a narrative. This book, I think, is more of a multi-pronged attack or negotiation, depending on my mood, with some of the forces I feel overwhelmed by. I think many of us feel overwhelmed by, here, in the early 21st century. Mostly capitalism run amok and environmental degradation.

CoreyJoshuaBookCoverIn The Barons, the poems in the section “Hope and Anchor” struck me as different from poems in the other sections. Other than the change to a more prose form, what makes these poems stand out from the rest?

That’s one of the sections that began its life as a chapbook. There’s another prose section in the book, “Complete Adventures,” where I allow myself to be a little more whimsical and humorous. There is material in those poems that connects to childhood. They’re more inward than other poems. They’re dipping in to this well of interior monologue that prose seems to enable to me. The verse in the book is much more surgical. They’re investigations of things outside the self.

In an interview with Stephen Ross, you called your writing “a re-engagement with traditional forms toward broadly ‘avant’ or innovative ends.” I wonder if you could expand on that idea. Does that still hold true with The Barons?

Yeah. I think that must have been my way of trying to reconcile the fact that I have long been interested in what you might broadly call traditions of innovative writing, innovative narrative, language poetry, and post-language poetry. At the same time, I have this very traditional background. I read a lot of straight up British classics when I was an undergrad. I can find a lot of value in traditional forms and traditional registers of writing. I seem to be obsessed with mid-century writers and thinkers, some of whom have been very fashionable and some of whom are less fashionable like Delmore Schwartz. There’s something about the New York ‘30s through 1960 literary imagination that really captivates me for some reason. I think a lot about what a post-modern epic might look like. Certainly the previous book, Severance Song—that was about the sonnet—is very much a traditional form. I guess I’m not even thinking in those terms now. I’m not finding that very useful for me. I find that the poems I’m writing are almost like a monologue. I think that might be a side effect of writing fiction as I’ve gotten more interested in playing with voice and different subtle shadings of persona.

You used the artwork of Joseph Beuys for the covers of both Beautiful Soul and The Barons. What connection his art has with yours?

I’d known about his work for a while, but I was in Berlin in 2011 and I saw an exhibition of his work at a museum there, the Hamburger Bahnhof I believe. I was really blown away by his use of sculptural elements that are so the opposite of brass or bronze or marble. Felt, animal fat. The organicism of it. Then as I began to delve more deeply into him, I discovered his performances, which just struck me as truly remarkably and profound. There are two performances that really struck me and I used images from each of them on the two books’ covers. The novel is from a performance he did in New York called “I like America. America likes me.” He locked himself up in this gallery in New York for six days with a coyote named America and gave it copies of the Wall Street Journal to pee on. The picture that’s on The Barons is from a piece he did called Iphigenia/Titus Andronicus, where he’s on a stage and he’s reading along with pre-recorded excerpts from these two plays, one of which I believe is Goethe’s translation of the Greek drama Iphigenia. Iphigenia, of course, was the daughter who Agamemnon sacrificed to the gods so he could go to war with the Trojans. Titus Andronicus is Shakespeare’s fantastic, bloody mess of a tragedy, which also has a central figure in it: a violated and sacrificed young woman. That was fascinating. I also love what he does with animals. There’s a horse on the cover, just grazing quietly. Some of his statements are very provocative. In one of his artworks, he says “Show your wound.” It sounds confessional, but it connects with the democratic idea about art that he had. “Everyone is an artist,” he liked to say. So on the one hand I was really engaged by his organicism, his diffidence about America. At the same time he is an interestingly compromised figure. He was a pilot or gunner who flew for the Luftwaffe during World War II and was shot down. There’s a legendary story about how he was rescued by these tribesmen who covered him in animal fat and felt and saved his life. It’s almost certainly not true but it’s part of his legend. The fact that this guy who, for all intents and purposes, a fighter for the Nazis, turned himself into a democratic, artistic shaman/saint with very progressive environmental values just fascinates me. I’m drawn to figures like Ezra Pound and Martin Heidegger, whose work opens ground for thought and creativity but who are, themselves, profoundly morally compromised. That makes Beuys a very generative figure. I’m not doing anything with him consciously right now but he’s probably in the back of my mind.

The Barons is kind of a culmination of a lot of work, basically stemming from 9/11 onward. What’s it like to work with such an expansive timeframe of work that you’re working with?

It’s interesting. Two of the book sections first saw the light of day as chapbooks. It’s pretty normal for someone to publish individual poems or even sequences of poems in magazines. I’ve been accumulating this work. In some ways I wanted to stand up for the old-fashioned idea of the collection because I do think it’s out of fashion now. I do think that most younger poets are writing thematically-unified books, like the ones I’ve published before. I like that. I like the book as a kind of unified gesture, but I also think there should be room for something that is more about investigating different processes, coming at the same subject matter from different angles, using different forms. There’s a pretty playful and self-conscious attempt at epic in this book. Also, very self-conscious lyric poems. Prose poems. It was kind of a smorgasbord but I do think there is a kind of an uneasy tone that’s pretty consistent throughout.

Clearly, your poems have a very diverse range, as you just said. What freedoms do you take and what restrictions do you impose on yourself?

Good question. I went through a period when I was really interested in various kinds of form. More or less closed form. My previous book is a book of sonnets, though many of the individual poems stretch the limits of the sonnet. I really can enjoy those kinds of constraints and rules. But I’ve become less interested in what you might call the “well-made poem.” I’m less interested in poems that are perfect little artifacts. I used to really enjoy these cunning little toys of language and now, this is something that I’ve really been influenced by my reading of Duncan in, I’m more interested in poems as documents of the process of life, experience, and thought. It’s okay with me if they’re a little more raw, a little more ragged. I’ve moved toward a longer line in many of my poems.

Your previous book, the one before The Barons, was a novel, and your next one is going to be a novel as well, correct?

Well, I had a sabbatical last year and I wrote a lot. I have another novel that I am shopping around. I have another poetry collection which I am not quite ready to send to a press. I have this weird hybrid book that I’m publishing pieces of online and in magazines. I also have a translation of some French prose poetry. So I’ve been very, very busy.

It certainly sounds like it. I was going to ask how it was to transition back from fiction to poetry or from poetry to fiction or if everything just kind of comes out when it comes out.

I like working on multiple projects at once. That seems to suit my mind. I can wake up and if I’m not in a poetry mood, I can work on some fiction. And in this one text, the hybrid one—I don’t really know what to call it—I don’t think I could have written that way if I hadn’t written straight poetry and then straight fiction. I’ve had a lot of academic training, probably too much, so the terrain I have to navigate at this point in my life is I have to unlearn and overcome a lot of rules and ideas that were implanted in me from getting too many degrees, that are not necessarily helpful now.

When you’re writing, either fiction or poetry, do you have a different mindset?

It’s definitely a different process. I’m still, in some ways, teaching myself how to write fiction. I had to give myself permission that was not easy to take to write fiction because we live in these professional castes. I have another fiction project I’m working on that feels like the most straightforward and natural fiction I’ve ever written. It’s the first book I’ve written or tried to write that reads like other books. It reads like the fiction I grew up reading, and that’s partly because it has a little bit of a sci-fi element to it. I feel like it uses a completely different territory than my poetry had, whereas the first novel I wrote is very much a poet’s novel. It’s got that kind of self-reflexive engagement with language that wants to double-back on itself. I’m gradually teaching myself to separate genres. I’m able to explore more. If I’m going to write a poem, I want to do something that only a poem can do.

In a self-interview you did with The Nervous Breakdown, you mention the “pervasive influence of MFA programs.” As someone who has an MFA, could you go into more detail about your feelings about them?

I had a great experience at my MFA. I made poet friends who are my closest and dearest poet friends. What I think we miss is some of the opportunity self-invention and the truly novel. Not so much in writing as in the social forms and the means of production of writing. What I mean by that is, in the early ‘90s, when the MFA industry was just getting going, even relatives who had no connection to art or writing were saying “Oh, you want to be a writer. You should go to school for that.” The very notion of there being a school for becoming a writer is odd. It’s a historically new idea. I just wonder, is it possible that there are other ways writers can come together, discover things, create things, that they simply aren’t doing until after the MFA.

As an Associate Professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois, you teach many different courses, from English 101 Intro to Lit to English 440 Advanced Writing Seminar. What do you try to impart to your students? What would you say is a unifying theme among the courses you teach?

I think those are two separate questions. If there’s one thing I try to impart, it’s something that I think cannot be imparted directly, and that’s curiosity. I really would hope to, if I had the power, to light a flame under my students’ asses and get them reading and investigating and writing on their own. I try to construct assignments that force them to do that. I’m teaching an Environmental Writing course right now where I’m trying to disable or detour their tendency to write expressively about the self and instead learn how to use the self, including their own body, to investigate other places, other spaces. For example, having them write a poem that has to have some research behind it. Ways to get them out of themselves and out of being a passive receptor or transmitter of media. I find there’s no way to teach that. I can only do my best to model it. There’s a great quote, by someone like John Cage: “The only difference between me and my students is I’m better at not knowing at what I’m doing.” I try to model for my students not knowing what I’m doing, that that’s okay and that it’s a productive place to stand from. Maybe that does answer both questions.

What kind of curiosity or creativity are you trying to explore with The Barons, in yourself or in others? Or what kind of creativity are you trying to inspire?

I feel like writing begets writing. I was fortunate to have at about fifteen years old, an “Aha” moment. I was taking a summer poetry class. The rather insane teacher, God bless him, gave us all the massive Norton Anthology of Poetry. I just read around in that thing. Instead of being intimidated, as by all rights I should have been, I thought it was fantastic. There were so many different kinds of writing and they were all poetry. All these different registers of language. That made me think that this was something that I want to do. I certainly hope, that at the minimum, if someone reads my book, that they get a little of that feeling for themselves. I hope they think “Here’s a person trying to figure out how to live in a very difficult and confusing time, negotiating with these forces much larger than himself. Maybe I could do that, too.”

Who you were reading now?

In terms of poetry, I’m reading older things. Some French poetry. I mentioned the translation project. I’m translating the first major book of Francis Ponge, “Le parti pris des choses,” which I’m calling “A Partisan of Things.” That’s going to come out from a little press called Kenning next year. Reading him got me interested in that mid-twentieth century. I found myself reading René Char seriously for the first time. I found myself rereading Paul Celan, who was very important to me early in my writing career. He’s somebody who is really testing language and himself in almost impossible conditions and producing haunting, strange, beautiful work. More contemporary work, there’s a Canadian poet named Ken Babstock, whose work I just love. He can be really vicious and funny and sad. He’s got a new book that is very different from anything he’s done before. In general, I’m a fan of the Canadians. I’m also reading a lot of fiction these days because I’m writing a lot of fiction. I just picked up Rachel Cusk’s book, Outline. The main character spends a lot of time listening to other people talk, so you get this negative space of her. I’m really interested in that. I could go on. I read a lot.

—interview by Lee Geiselmann

This entry was posted in Interviews on May 18, 2016

“Time Space: Places They’ve Never Met” by Janet Dale

“Is it e’en so?—Then I deny you, stars!”
—Romeo and Juliet (5.1.25)

According to The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences by James R. Lewis, a birth chart (or astrological chart) calculates the position of various celestial bodies throughout the heavens as viewed from the Earth at the moment of an individual’s birth. And even though the legitimacy of astrology has changed since the discovery of physics and astronomy, many still believe that the position of the sun, moon, stars, and planets have heavy influence on an individual. These positions are calculated and charted both symbolically and in actuality similar to how longitude and latitude is measured.

In a simplified version of astrology often found in newspapers or magazines, it is the Sun’s location at the time of birth that is directly related to a “sign.” 

Sun in Scorpio at 26° 06′ | Sun in Taurus at 18° 27′

Positive characteristics often associated with Scorpio (his sun sign): focused, brave, balanced, faithful, ambitious, and intuitive. Negatives include: jealous, resentful, secretive, and manipulative.

Positive characteristics often associated with Taurus (her sun sign): generous, dependable, down-to-earth, patient, independent, and persistent. Negatives include: stubborn, self-indulgent, materialistic, lazy, and possessive.

Moon in Capricorn at 22° 07′ | Moon in Gemini at 13° 45′

It takes the Earth’s only natural satellite 27.3 days to complete one orbit, waxing and waning along its elliptical path. As it moves, the moon pulls at anything to bring it closer; the Earth is able to hold on to most things—except water. No matter where one is located in the world, together or apart, looking upward into the night sky the moon is shared.

Mercury in Scorpio at 09° 26′ | Mercury in Aries at 22° 13′

He was born in the top left hand corner of the United States, the lush verdant Pacific Northwest near the Canadian border not far from Vancouver. Her only trip to Canada happened nine years after that—visiting family near Toronto—more than 4,300 miles east. She was born closer to our neighbors to the south, in the Lone Star State, on the Army base he’d be stationed at when he turned 21.

Venus in Scorpio at 29° 10′ | Venus in Gemini at 14° 44′

Celestial navigators—such as mariners travelling by water—rely upon chronometers, sextants, almanacs, and other tools to traverse by stars and planets. They learn constellations then draw imaginary lines, calculating degrees, and angles in order to know where they are in the world.

In the Northern hemisphere Polaris (above the North Pole) is the most important point, while in the Southern hemisphere it is the Crux (above the South Pole). Only cloud cover can get in the way.

Mars in Scorpio at 14° 40′ | Mars in Leo at 11° 48′

Scorpius (Sco) is part of the family of constellations named for the zodiac. Antares—the brightest star within the pattern—is located near the scorpion’s “heart” and glows reddish. It lies within the Southern hemisphere and occupies an area of 497 square degrees. Apollo sent a scorpion to attack Orion for claiming to be a better hunter than his sister. To show displeasure at the quarrel, Zeus cast both the hunter and the scorpion into the heavens. 

Jupiter in Pisces at 08° 23′ | Jupiter in Cancer at 04° 26′

Taurus (Tau) is also part of the family of constellations named for the zodiac. Its brightest star—Aldebaran—functions as the “eye” of the bull, seemingly glaring at Orion who is located to the southwest. It lies within the Northern hemisphere and occupies an area 797 square degrees. After falling in love with Europa, Zeus transformed himself into a magnificent white bull with golden horns to take her away with him across the sea.

Saturn in Cancer at 18° 38′ | Saturn in Leo at 23° 49′

He intersected the muddy river at the Hernando-Desoto Bridge while driving a Cavalier cross country. Two years later after missing an exit on the Tennessee side, she would accidently drive a different Cavalier across the same bridge.

Cutting the country in half, the 2,340-mile Mississippi river begins at a glacier lake in Minnesota then runs south before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans.

Uranus in Libra at 29° 51′ | Uranus in Scorpio at 14° 12′

The Rhine is one-third the length of the Mississippi and begins in a glacier lake in Switzerland before running through five more countries emptying into the North Sea.

When visiting Germany, he boarded a sightseeing boat somewhere around Rudesheim to explore the river. She had taken the tour seven years earlier while living in Germany. They rounded the same rock on the eastern bank where the legendary Lorelei sat murmuring to sailors; throwing them off course.

Neptune in Sagittarius at 08° 51′ | Neptune in Sagittarius at 17° 42′

His first experience with ghosts occurred while driving one summer night north of downtown New Orleans. He said the absence of light made the sudden circus music playing among abandoned industrial building that much more eerie.

The next year after visiting the French Quarter, she wandered through a maze of above ground tombs and mausoleums inside both St. Louis No. 1 and Lafayette No. 1. Looking to connect to spirits, knowingly she experienced none.

Pluto in Libra at 08° 27′ | Pluto in Libra at 14° 28′

Her last experience with ghosts occurred while visiting a now mostly abandoned mental hospital located in the town where she attended graduate school. Despite the soaring summer heat that day, all she felt was freezing air when sliding a camera inside broken windows to take pictures.

He was in Georgia the year before, taking advanced training classes at the home of the Signal Corps about 83 miles away; another missed point of intersection.

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Janet Dale’s work can be found in Zone 3, Really System, Atticus
Review, among others. She holds a BA in English from the University of Memphis and an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia College. She has been a pharmacy technician, a reading teacher, and has worked on journals such as the Flannery O’Connor Review, Arts & Letters, and Wraparound South. Currently, she teaches first year writing at Georgia Southern University.

This entry was posted in Nonfiction on May 11, 2016