An Imposition of Joy: poetry, art, and inspiration–by Gabrielle

One of our own bloggers–Gabrielle Brant Freeman–has started a kickstarter project titled: An Imposition of Joy: Poetry, art and inspiration.
From her kickstarter site:
Challenge met! Almost. Help me turn my 100 poem social media poetry experiment into a book complete with art, prompts, & writing tips.

Read these! Our contributors’ (and then some) work from around the web

Regular contributor Gabrielle Brant Freeman has several poems published around the web:
“The Art of Deception” page 64 in the Minetta Review

“Guess My Name” and “Linen” at CSHS

A short story from Kyler Campbell. You can download a free issue and read his story “Caretta Caretta” & short interview from Driftwood Press. Story starts on page 13.

Travis Burnham is a fellow Converse alumi and his short story “The Bone Washer” is up at Bad Dream Entertainment.

Jeffrey Schrecongost, another Converse grad, whose post was highlighted a few weeks ago, has a short story–“Mouthwash” up at Gadfly.

Poet Melissa Dickson Jackson is the author of Sweet Aegis and Cameo. Another Converse alumni and she has a blog post up at North American Review titled A Poem in Flight: Memory and Truth.

Check out contributor Yolande Clark-Jackson’s children’s book Rocko RocketRocko also has a Twitter account. Lots of good stuff happening here!

Core faculty member and fiction member Leslie Pietrzyk, author of A Year and A Day: A Novel and Pears on A Willow Tree has an interview up at Reader’s Lane. Leslie also has a blog at Work In Progress and edits Redux: A Literary Journal


Lit mag roundup

Support literary magazines–they need you!

River Teeth Journal–publishes non-fiction

Wips Journal-Works (of fiction) in Progress–focuses on fiction.

Superstition Review-publishes art, poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction

New Ohio Review-publishes fiction, poetry, and non-fiction

Contributor Gabrielle Freeman has started her own website–Lady Random. Her tagline: “Writing is your mistress. Submit!”

Also check out Rocko Rocket–creation of contributor Yolande Clark-Jackson


Fifth week round-up

Fifth week round-up highlights posts in the last few months:

May’s roundup

History and Humanity in Summary

A Different Sense of Place: Where a Story Begins and Ends

I Want Every Poem to Change My Life. No Pressure

Blogs You Should Be Reading

Winging It

Down the Rabbit Hole: Growing Strangeness in The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club

The Snow Child

Barry Hannah’s Monstrous American Hero

“Words that burn”: Honesty in Denise Duhamel’s Blowout

June’s round-up:

Writing Tips to Get You Through the Summer Doldrums

Diamond Mining

Biblical Allusion in Flannery O’Conner’s The Violent Bear It Away

Just Breathe

July’s round-up:

Lines That Linger

Repetition in Tanya Olson’s “Notes from Jonah’s Lecture Series”

The Threat of Violence

Werewolves and the War on Terror: A Literary Snob on Betrayal

Literary Magazine Highlight-Glimmer Train, Slice

Contributor News-Gabrielle Brant Freeman

Contributor Gabrielle Brant Freeman has her poem “Paranormal” up at Mixitini Matrix.

Here’s a snippet of what Gabby had to say about her poem’s collaborative effort: “This poem is from a series of ongoing Facebook poems. The basics are I post a prompt, FB friends post their immediate responses, and 24 hours later, I take the responses and turn them into a first draft of a poem.” 

You can read the rest of her statement at the end of her poem.

Dark Matters

by Gabrielle Brant Freeman

There must be something about a man in black that keeps us up at night. Robert Bly’s book The Man in the Black Coat Turns was published in 1981, and I can’t help but wonder if he and Stephen King weren’t drinking the same Kool-Aid, to put it crudely and in a very pop-culture, fascinated with mass-murderers sort of way. King’s first installment in the Dark Tower series was published shortly after Bly’s collection, and it involved its own “man in black.” Coincidence? Well…

SPOILER ALERT: I will discuss the ending of the Dark Tower series, which, if you haven’t read it yet, you’re not a real King fan anyway, so phooey on you. And no, that sentence wasn’t necessarily grammatically correct. Pffttt.

King’s series is based on Robert Browning’s poem, based on a dream, titled “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” Stephen King’s Roland is a tested knight of his own realm, which has…moved on…, but his true challenge comes at the end of his journey when he reaches the long sought after Dark Tower. There is no Answer; there is no God. There is only a repeat, only the wheel. Roland Deschain must repeat the life he has known until, seemingly, he gets it “right,” or until the final beam breaks and all is lost. King begins the series this way: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Never has a first line enticed me to keep reading more than that.

Bly’s first poem in his book is titled “Snowbanks North of the House.” In it, there is a series of nots: a son does not read any more books after high school, the mother does not make any more bread, the husband does not sleep with his wife, and “the man in the black coat turns, and goes back / down the hill” (Bly 4). It is as ominous a line as King’s.

Perhaps the lesson is that we must follow the man in black, even if he turns away from our folly, even if he leads us to the beginning of the same old cycle, and perhaps especially if, on the turning away (oh yes, that’s a Pink Floyd reference, 1987), we recognize our shortcomings and accept that “ka is a wheel” (King). “And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on / through the unattached heavens alone” (Bly 3). Our lives move in a circle, and the hero’s journey often ends where it began. What we do with that realization, how we choose to address the man in black, that is what makes all the difference.

Bly, Robert. “Snowbanks North of the House.” The Man in the Black Coat Turns. New York: Harper Perennial, 1981.


by Gabrielle Brant Freeman

So I went to see the Edvard Munch exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art yesterday afternoon, and I was struck by a woodcut print called Encounter in Space. Two figures float by each other on a field of black; the female figure is blue and the male is red. It reminded me instantly of a yin-yang symbol, which then reminded me of Clive Barker’s Imagica. Which brings me to the poem “The Soul” by Tracy K. Smith from her Pulitzer Prize winning collection titled Life on Mars. Say what? I know, but just wait, I’ll get there. I promise.

In the woodcut, in the yin-yang, in Imagica, the two halves of the whole are always separated. Munch physically cut his blocks apart, inked them separately, and stuck them back together for the printing. The result is two figures who can never really touch. The yin and the yang are still divided by a line, and the characters in Imagica, if memory serves, are literally cut from each other. One of the purposes of poetry is to express what it means to be human, to show what this human life is, in a way that inspires new thought and reflection. Many of us have felt a sense of isolation, even when amongst friends and loved ones, and we may have wondered if human beings can ever really, truly connect with each other. Are we, ultimately, alone?

The pull that these two figures in the woodcut have towards each other is palpable. In “The Soul,” Smith describes another separation, that of the body and soul, described as  “[t]he voice.” The poem begins this way: “The voice is clean. Has heft. Like stones / Dropped in still water” (23). The voice is separated from the body in the poem, and the body is described as “the silence around [the voice]…A garment / That attests to breasts, the privacy / Between thighs” (23). The voice, or the soul, is what has weight in this poem. This is unexpected. Typically, we think of the body as concrete and the soul as weightless. The unexpected contrast is what makes this poem work. And, because I am a poet, I like the idea of the soul as voice. There are all kinds of associations there, not the least of which is the gods creating life with their very breath. That is what writers do. We breathe life into being through our voices, our souls. Not to get all transcendental or anything.

I often describe myself as an existential-transcendentalist. Well, maybe not often, but I think this way: there is immense absurdity in this world, and there is immense beauty and power in this world. I find that poetry helps me when I try to reconcile the two. I will close with the last beautifully absurd lines of this poem: “But it’s the voice that enters us. Even / Saying nothing. Even saying nothing / Over and over absently to itself” (23).

Smith, Tracy K. “The Soul.” Life on Mars. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2011.

The title of this post is from U2’s song “Bad,” which I thought would be a little much to include in the post with everything else. And then there’s Hancock. Just sayin’.

U. G. L. Y.

By Gabrielle Brant Freeman

A few days ago, I was reading Mark Doty’s The Art of Description: World into Word, and I came across his explanation of Richard Diebenkorn’s use of color in his paintings from the 1950’s. Doty explains that Diebenkorn’s abstract representations “look so alive” because of their “Sheer push and pull of shape and line, the restless energy inherent in these masses and their dynamic relations” (67). Given that I am always interested in studying artists I don’t know, and given that Google affords me a reasonable out for not working on what I’m supposed to be doing…namely grading papers…I looked Diebenkorn up and hit “images.” Whoa. Swathes of color, line, swirly thingies. Yes, I said “thingies.”

Since I was strangely attracted to these paintings of…something, I decided to read what others said. Google is magic, you know. And I came across the following line in the blog design journal by blogger Brittany Stiles, “I don’t like things too pretty or too perfect or too planned […]; if something is a little ‘ugly’ or awkward, I tend to like it more, and I find it a lot more interesting.” My immediate thought was Yes! Never have truer words been spoken.

It is with the idea of imperfection or “a little ugly” in mind that I bring Robert Penn Warren’s Audubon: A Vision to my post today. I read this book at the suggestion of writer RT Smith, and let me tell you, I wasn’t too excited about it. Why? I don’t know. Yep. That’s it. Gut instinct. Could not have been more wrong. I fell in love with this book immediately, and I believe it is precisely because its language is a little ugly; it shows perhaps a bit more than we’d like of humanity, and therein lies its truth.

In section II, “The Dream He Never Knew the End Of,” RPW writes:

The face, in the air, hangs.  Large,

Raw-hewn, strong-beaked, the haired mole

Near the nose, to the left, and the left side by firelight

Glazed red, the right in shadow, and under the tumble and tangle

Of dark hair on that head, and under coarse eyebrows,

The eyes, dark, glint as from the unspecifiable

Darkness of a cave.  It is a woman. (7)

This is not a parody of an ugly woman. This is an actual woman, a woman living on the frontier with her sons,  a woman willing and able to slit a man’s throat to ensure her survival and livelihood. It ain’t pretty, but it resonates.

The same woman is described later in the same section in a barely veiled segment comparing the pure rawness of survival mode to sex to the idea of murder for personal gain:

Against firelight, he sees the face of the woman

Lean over, and the lips purse sweet as to bestow a kiss, but

This is not true, and the great glob of spit

Hangs there, glittering, before she lets it fall.

The spit is what softens like silk the passage of steel

On the fine-grained stone.  It whispers.

When she rises, she will hold it in her hand. (10)

This woman is sharpening her blade on a whetstone using her spit. She is fully prepared to kill her paying lodgers in order to further herself and her sons in the American wild. It is at once practical, sensual, brutal, and honest. RPW’s description is beautiful and grotesque, and this is exactly what makes the characters in this narrative poem real; it is exactly what makes them interesting.

In a world of airbrushing, photoshopping, and otherwise making people “perfect,” it is precisely the imperfect, even the monstrous real in this collection that makes me read it again and again. In these “ugly” details lies truth, and that is what compels us to create.

Doty, Mark. The Art of Description: World into Word. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2010.

Stiles, Brittany. “Art History Thursday – Modernism in America.” design journal. 28 Oct. 2010.

13 Sept. 2012. Web.

Warren, Robert Penn. Audubon: A Vision. New York: Random House, 1969.