The importance of erotica against porn

It is true, you are bored and horny so you just open your computer and there it is a universe as big as taboos, a universe as big as there is kinks for every single one of us, you might like something I hate, I might get off with something you would never think of, internet makes porn so accessible to any of us, and the possibilities and themes are as diverse as we like. A catalogue so big you could spend your whole living years watching a different video, a picture and sometimes even audio.

For those who are maybe not interested on images depicting such an act in an usual and average way, we can find another ways to get off, one of those ways is эротика porn, yes, porn literature or erotic stories for much of our liking there are as many options as porn videos exist. There is every theme for every one, and I would like to think that there are some texts you would find more arousing and daring that the videos you can find online.

I know porn is easy to access and it bring a lot of pleasure to watch two people engage in such acts, but imagination, that you can say is a little bit more complicated to get, you see, you can even make a porn with with your own cell phone, post it online and I bet you can call yourself a pornstar in less than a month, yet, writing something that it is really difficult to come up with, that is when the challenge arises, you will need to be very imaginative, very creative and very elegant. Sometimes porn is so raw and real that it is almost disgusting to watch at, yet in the intimacy of our own bedroom would imitate such acts, and none of them seem disgusting, it is kinda the same.

With erotic literature, you have something so intimate to delve into, to be part of and to be transfixed by, and it is a world you will create by yourself in your own mind, the fluids the touch, the skin, even the color of the bed sheets that would be merely your own addition to the text you came upon.

Erotic literature allows us to create a world that you can only ready about, interpret those words and make them your own, no matter if the author intended it that way, once you start reading something your own life-stock will come up and show you how you want to see that world you are reading, it is a funny way to think that you are kind of directing you own порно, but in your head and with the specific things you as an individual seek to be turned on.

The thing with porn videos is that it is easy and lazy.

Yes, everything there is set for you to get off, whether you like it or not, it does not matter if you don’t like the star’s hair, it is already there, it doesn’t matter that you appreciate a good and natural lighting it will not be there as you would like, so you have to settle, you have to take whatever they give to you and yes maybe you will like it but who is building that world?, who is giving you something to like and get turned on and you never were asked your opinion about that, so I think that putting 10% of your mental capacity on watching a porn video is definitely less time and intellectual consuming than reading about it, and it can be a little bit difficult to understand, it might be a little bit confusing at the start but you know that that t¡world is gonna be build ab¡round the things you actually like, so I think it is a great way to find out about yourself, about what you like and how you like it.

So I can only encourage you to read some porn literature, I bet it will face you with things you didn’t know you could be face with, with questions you never dared to ask and to break some taboos around porn in your head, and I’m sure as hell your imagination can provide with a more elegant and beautiful lighting than any porn video you can come up on some porn websites.


Aiming High: The Impossible Ambitions of Versal

I have no experience with gorilla suits or child soldiering, myself, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect that standing around in a gorilla suit is better than being coerced into shooting people, or getting shot at.

The inside cover ofVersal’s 7th issue gives us a clue to the magazine’s aesthetic: the definition of “versal.” As it happens, versal is not only a word for versification, but an abbreviation of universal. In that sense, we might assume that Versal wants to be an umbrella encompassing literary expression and human experience. But versal can also mean “single, individual, (or) rare,” and in that sense, the magazine wants to print work that sets itself apart not only in stylistic terms, but in its emphasis on the individual—or, more specifically, the “I.”

In her introduction to the 7th issue, editor Megan M. Garr uses the term “translocal literature” to describe the loose category of writing she’s concerned with. But the idea the word “translocal” suggests may be misleading. It’s true that Versal crosses a number of physical borders. Printed in Amsterdam, it showcases stories and poems by writers working in a number of locales. Garr herself is an American living abroad (also, in Amsterdam). But in spite of all this, Versal doesn’t seem much interested in place. Displacement, perhaps, and certainly identity—but what “translocal” writers can offer, Garr claims, is really “insight into the translocal line that can then be applied everywhere.”

It’s an ambitious goal—and probably an impossible one—but at a time when literary, academic, political, and cultural discourse seems focused on difference, I find the optimism refreshing. And, inasmuch as it is possible, Versal delivers. Its emphasis on identity and displacement illuminates the individuality of the I, andhighlights, in a general way, the emotional experiences we share.

Who’s we? Well, that’s a little more complicated. I can only give you a few examples, and hope my effort to connect the dots makes sense.


Early in the issue is a poem by Rebecca Givens: “In Her House, Shadow.” Set in a hospital, it tells the story of a doctor telling his patients to forget the word home. “See this word home?” he asks. “I’ll write it on blank paper. / Watch as I rip it up; now it’s gone.” The poem ends with an image of a woman who, “starts to reply / then looks at the paper.”

What this means, exactly, I’m not sure. It isn’t clear in the text. But I think the suggestion is that these patients weren’t going to leave the hospital again. Maybe they were elderly, and it was a nursing home. Maybe they were just sick. But I felt as though they weren’t going home, and it made me think about how the people and places and ideas once associated with home change, become unfamiliar over time. Home, in this case, means both the physical home and the home as an element of identity.

I thought of going back, at the age of 35, to the house I grew up in. The new owners had cut down the trees, planted flowerbeds, painted the place. I didn’t feel any connection to the place at all. I felt as though some part of my identity had been stolen. For all practical purposes, my childhood home no longer existed. There were no memories there. I could have written them on a piece of paper, burned it, and watched it go away.


Mary Miller’s “Baby/Hon” deals with identity more explicitly. Hovering between poetry and prose, it begins “Already he is baby / and I am hon / and he’s in my bed…” This business, these pet names, is not at all unfamiliar. What’s interesting about Miller’s piece is the way it uses these names as both a negation and an affirmation of identity. The speaker and her lover have replaced their names them with terms of endearment, defining themselves from here forward only as they relate to each other. Baby and Hon no longer see each other as multifaceted individuals; they see each other as people who occupy a certain space, who function in a specific role. Based on the first word of the piece, “already,” we can assume this transformation has taken place quickly, and, for me at least, that made the piece both more and less poignant.

As a reader, I can’t get that invested in these characters or their relationship over the course of half a page. But however meaningful or meaningless this particularrelationship might be, Miller’s approach puts the blind groping for this kind of relationship in sharp relief. The negation of the individual is also a redefinition of identity, and that redefinition clearly satisfied a common need. Because Baby and Hon consent. And nearly everyone does, has, or will at one time.

In that regard, “Baby/Hon” is remarkably effective given its length, right up to the last sentence. It’s an ending full of nostalgia and regret, and I won’t give it away here.


At this point, you may be thinking, “Okay, these are people who surrender their identities or lose their homes, but they’re also people who can afford to go to hospitals, people who have lovers, people who have time to lie around in bed.” In that light, it seems we’re dealing with a very specific class of person—a social class, a cultural class, a tax bracket—and that’s hardly makes a case for Versal as a venue for universal truth, or “insights…. that can be applied everywhere.”

The answer to this is a very short story called “Suit,” by Lehua M. Taitano. The narrator is a “Sri Lankan ex-paramilitary child soldier. Female.” But she tells us that we, “do not need to know the details.” This struck me as a particularly important bit of business. By the end of the first paragraph, our narrator has 1) defined herself by a particular ordeal, and 2) denied the reader access to the experience. Instead, she’s tells us that she’s standing “on the corner in (a) gorilla suit, holding (a) silly sign.” The sign is an advertisement for an auto dealership in Montana where our narrator has found herself employed, and the details she gives us are, for the most part, limited to the ones that are important now: the details that define her new life, her new identity. Her degrading gorilla suit she keeps hidden from her daughter. Our narrator’s parents, we learn, are dead, “their bodies lost.” In this sense, home no longer exists for her.

And it’s here, I think, that we find room to compare “Suit” to “In Her House, Shadow.” In war, the physical home is burned; in Rebecca Givens’ poem, it’s the word. If we’re talking about real life, there’s no room for comparison. But we’re not talking about life. We’re talking about words. And in literary work, every word counts. They create motifs. Evoke emotional experience. And, in that vein, I had the same feeling at the end of both pieces: a sense of displacement. Of loss.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The success of “Suit” is largely dependent on its sense of humor. Standing on the corner in a gorilla suit is a predicament so far flung from being a child soldier: it’s absurd. How can we, as readers, take a lady in a gorilla suit seriously? It’s a cosmic joke played on the character, and in that way, it reminds me a little of Milan Kundera’s The Joke, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being. As absurdity goes, the sheer silliness of our lives, the gorilla suit signifies an abandonment of identity both advantageous and pathetic. I have no experience with gorilla suits or child soldiering, myself, but I think it’s reasonable to suspect that standing around in a gorilla suit is better than being coerced into shooting people, or getting shot at. So we laugh at the gorilla suit, just as we laugh at pet names: Baby. Hon. It’s ridiculous.

Lest anyone misunderstand my point, let me say again: obviously, there are very fewactual similarities between combat and lying in bed with a new lover. In fact, “Suit” is a dramatic illustration of the massive gulf between the experiences human beings can expect to have in different “locales.” If, in reality, we put Baby and Hon next to the lady in the gorilla suit, baby and Hon don’t have any problems at all.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that these pieces share an interest in identity and loss. They paint a grim picture of the world. Think of it: if the common experience, the one shared across cultural and geographical borders, is loss, if the “insight… that can be applied everywhere” is only that the one certain and immovable fact of life is loss,then it’s a sad, sad world. I would almost call it hopeless.

But for some reason I still keep coming back to an image in the closing paragraph of “Suit.” Our narrator tells us that the dealership is having some kind of promotion on Saturday and imagines herself standing next to a machine that makes bubbles and blows them into the air. They “float out…carried by the currents of passing cars.” Most of them will burst, she says, if not against the silly sign she holds, then against the silly suit she has to wear. But, she says, “some will make it across the street.”

And to those, we attach our hope.

Poets Publishing Poets

Review of Cave Wall 5 (Winter/Spring 2009)

When a young prize-winning poet decides to publish her own poetry journal, readers learn whether her taste matches her talent. In Cave Wall, editor Rhett Iseman Trull, winner of the Anhinga Poetry Prize, shows that she can pick as well as write a good poem. Arguably, the first poem in this issue of her magazine is the best, Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s “Threshold,” in which the lines form a zigzag pattern on the page, mirroring the poem’s second word, “jagged.” Her dog has left a “jagged trail of pee” from porch—threshold—to middle of the house. It seems the well-trained dog has lost bladder control in sympathy for her owner, the narrator, who is undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer. Kirkpatrick’s focus on the dog helps her to avoid any self-pity (“no offering to the gods, / . . . no threshold ritual”). Wisely, Trull has placed this poem at the threshold of this issue.

Twenty poets appear here, twelve women and eight men; most have at least two poems, two have three. Free verse, in various patterns, is the norm. One prose poem is included, but there’s no room for formal verse. The first-person pronoun distinguishes many of these poems as personal lyrics or brief narratives. Poems begin in these ways: “The fortune teller said I was fertile,” “I stroke the pew’s velour,” and “I’d like to grab Nietzsche by the collar.” Impersonating someone else, J.P. Dancing Bear wryly considers “What If Hamlet Had Drowned Instead of Ophelia,” in which case the speaker is Hamlet himself, who reflects that his survivors “do not reflect— / as I so much liked to do.” And in Bill Griffin’s “Bear,” the speaker is a bear who concludes, “if you hear me / it will only be because / I didn’t hear you first.”

The best-known poet here is probably Christopher Buckley, whose eight pages are the most allotted to anyone in the issue, and whose “For the Saints” is the longest single poem. It bears his academic pedigree, with an allusion to Yeats, the ironic juxtaposition of St. Michael with television personalities of the 1950’s, and a French epigraph. (Hélas, this threshold contains a typo: Rein for Rien.)

This issue of Cave Wall also includes Paul Sohar’s translation of two contemporary Hungarian poets, János Szentmártoni and Péter Vasadi, whose “On That Day,” wittily depicts human beings on the Day of Judgment as tossed on a pile like “onion stems” and then “spread . . . for manure / on infinity.” The Hungarians’ poems again show Rhett Iseman Trull exercising good judgment in putting together an issue with a blend of emotion, invention, and wit.

Pushcart Dreamin’

Every year I buy the new Pushcart Prize anthology, eager to read the best work that was published in the previous year, and hoping that one day one of my own stories might find its way into its pages. I’d never thought much about how it worked, but this is what I always assumed: an editor at one of the contributing small presses listed in the back of the anthology recommends a particular story or poem and then the people who are listed in the front, along with the big cheese, Bill Henderson, make a final decision.

After reading Mark Halliday’s essay, “Pushcart Hopes & Dreams,” in the current issue of Pleiades, however, it’s clear that my assumption was wrong. I guess if I had bothered to think about it, I’d have realized that this would be just too, well, democratic.

Halliday writes: “Each November 1 I receive a letter from the Pushcart Press inviting me (along with hundreds of other writers) to nominate works for the annual Pushcart Prize volume.” So, it’s not just the journals listed in the back that do the nominating; they also take nominations from established writers. Okay, I guess—more chances for the worthy but little-known writer to receive recognition for a particularly excellent piece of work. And now that I’ve gone searching for it, I see that they don’t hide the fact that their contributing editors nominate (they acknowledge it on their website). They do not acknowledge, however, that some of these contributing editors don’t nominate particular works, but a list of names.

Halliday continues:

…the easy, convenient way is for a ‘contributing editor’ to nominate writers rather than individual works.  All you have to do is list ten of your friends, if you want a quick way to do something nice.  Then Pushcart gets samples from your nominees, probably including some pieces that you the nominator have never seen.

Halliday goes on to say that he has had two prose pieces appear in Pushcart volumes that were “nominated by poet friends…who no doubt assumed they were nominating [him] as a poet and who had never even seen the prizewinning prose pieces.”

Okay, so this is a little bothersome, and it goes against everything that the anthology is about, or what the average reader assumes it’s about, which is recognizing the best (obviously subjective, but still, by someone’s estimation) individual stories and poems that were published in the previous year. I’m not heartbroken or anything, and I’m still going to buy the anthology, but I think it’s something of which readers (and Pushcart hopefuls) should be aware.

(Note: This issue of Pleiades (30.1) is pretty great, by the way. I really enjoyed Meghan Kenny’s story “I’ll Tell You What” and the 150+ pages of book reviews.)

Something We Want to Read

At the tail end of Virginia Quarterly Review editor Ted Genoways’s infamous (at least in some circles) Mother Jones essay about literary magazines, “The Death of Fiction,” Genoways pleads for contemporary short story writers to:

Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ’s sake, write something we might want to read.

Such commentary about contemporary fiction may seem a bit harsh. But literary magazine readers—just like art gallery attendees and theater audiences—understand to at least some extent what Genoways is talking about. What they understand is that not all artistic production is good, and what’s more, maybe not even the majority of it is.

This is of course not isolated to the literary arts, and neither is it a new state of affairs. As long as humans have been making stuff there has been crap, mediocrity, goodness, and—few and far between—greatness. Painting, home construction, television, cooking, you name it. And who knows: maybe this is more true for short stories and literary magazines. I really couldn’t say.

Anyhow, all that isn’t news.

What might be news is that the new issue of American Short Fiction is stunningly good. Stunningly. (I don’t at the moment know how to say that without sounding like a cheerleader, so there it is.) To be clear: I don’t mean “stunningly good” in the literary way. Not in the “You should read The Cantos” way. I mean it more the other way. More the “You should read those Stieg Larsson books” way. The “Hot Tub Time Machine was hilarious” way. The page-turning, where-did-the-time-go, I-am-going-to-read-this-aloud-to-strangers-on-the-subway way. But in the literary way, too. (I like The Cantos.)

I mean to say the stories in the latest ASF issue are exciting. I read them aloud on the subway. I finished the issue in an evening in bed. The stories are exciting in the way both Raymond Carver and True Blood are. They are stories of “acrobats, cowboys, and a brick-carrying babysitters,” of cab drivers, giraffes, and Catholic school girls. They are stories written by this talented bunch: Laura van den Berg, Jeff Parker, Jamey Hecht, Susan Steinberg, Matt Bell, Mike Young, and Marie-Helene Bertino. They are stories that make you forget you are reading and remind you of why you like to listen. Van den Berg’s story “Acrobats” reminded me of all the best things about her own stories in What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, of the magic and mystery of them. It begins:

The day my husband left me, I followed a trio of acrobats around the city of Paris.

Reading Young’s story “Snow You Know and Snow You Don’t” was like being introduced to a young, mellowed out Thom Jones (author of some of the most talkative stories out there). It concludes elliptically:

When the world is the world and the us isn’t. Bluebirds and volcanoes. Circlesaws and pomegranates. Snow fell on the TAXI light, onto Private’s white ski cap, into Dan Mac’s mustache. Honeycombs of ice and millions more around. Listen. You will always want what you can’t feel. Snow is full of little things that fall, and I swear sometimes they all know each other.

All to say, the issue of ASF should be an answer to any problems readers might have with contemporary short stories and the magazines dedicated to publishing them.

Note: For more ASF right now, listen to Bertino read from and explain her story “Carry Me Home, Sisters of Saint Joseph” from the above issue on ASF’s first podcast episode. You can also read Ethan Rutherford’s claustrophobic ASF story “The Peripatetic Coffin,” which was featured in Best American Short Stories 2009. It begins:

The sound of iron walls adjusting to the underwater pressure around you was like the sound of improbability announcing itself: a broad, deep, awake-you-from-your-stupor kind of salvo. The first time we heard it, we thought we were dead; the second time we heard it, we realized we were. The third time wiped clean away any concern we had regarding our well-being and we whooped like madmen in our sealed iron tub, hands at the crank, hunched at our stations like crippled industrial workers. Frank yelled like a siren without taking a breath. Abel hooted like a screech owl. The walls pinged and groaned, but held their seams. We screamed for more.

Sometimes Dark, Always Honest

Standing rabbits grace the wraparound cover of The Tusculum Review volume 6, their recent poetry prize issue. Ralph Slatton’s pen-and-ink drawing on the front and back of the issue is complimented by a five print set inside the magazine, enigmatic representations of creatures encapsulated by thick branches and ropes. Slatton’s work is a preface for the issue’s contents: eclectic, dark, with sufficient breadth to make the magazine more like a book than a collection of individual pieces. Few magazines—with the notable exceptions of the Indiana Review, New England Review, The Kenyon Review—consistently produce single volumes that exist as collaborative wholes. The Tusculum Review manages a mix of autonomy and unity, a strong example of the text-based approach to literary magazine editing, producing issues that exist as works of a unified vision, not merely anthologies of submissions.

Allison Joseph, editor of Crab Orchard Review, served as the final judge for the poetry prize, and two of her poems appear in the issue. “Newbie Runner” grasps the religious cadences of running through the perspective of an athlete returning to the sport—“muscles that haven’t spoken in years learning / this new language”—and avoids the even-muted sentimentality so often present in sport literature. The poem concludes with the observation that the “miles I tally / in my sweet red book” become an obsession: “How close this comes / to addition, junkie behavior or worship.” Joseph’s choice for the prize, Nancy K. Pearson, is represented by six poems, most of which are marked by association of image and theme. The choice to include multiple pieces by a prizewinner is smart. Often winners of poetry contests appear arbitrary and one-note, while Pearson’s mini-collection portrays a stronger ability.

Other notable poems in the edition include John M. Chávez’s “Dust of Industry, Spring” (“Evening interred again / a stand of pine shadows / is a cemetery”), Darin Ciccotelli’s long poem “Cyclops” (“Boys race. Boys uncrinkle their kneeskin. / Feel on their necks the sun’s brawn”), and Doug Ramspeck’s “Medicine” (“This is the garland they must wear: / the swamp smell clinging to the skin / as fetid dream.”). The best poem of the issue, Christopher Salerno’s “Protest Songs,” begins “Every kiss has an army” and continues, focused and terse, bound by an implicit and explicit “us.”

The prolific and always-engaging Stephanie Dickinson has three prose poems/flash fictions in the issue, each with a pinch of the macabre. “(43)” has a father saying “You’ll always be my little girl. My love for you won’t suffer”—followed by narrative, “I licked the cheesecake from his spoon. A trapdoor has been kicked into my guts.” “(41)” continues the mood, where physical and emotional pain coalesce, the literal existence of either irrelevant: “Bitter dandelion and shad grass. He unfleshes my bones and says he is dressing me.”

Jan LaPerle’s “Purple Heart” is an excellent compliment, another compressed piece with a lyric, dark quality. In it, Lonnie Lee Oliver discovers his wife “hanging from a rope in the barn.” LePerle steps back in the succeeding sentences, noting “a spring calf frolic in a far field” and how sunlight “split his wife into two pieces.” Lonnie “worked less and less in the fields” after the death of his wife, instead writing “sad postcards.” The second-half of the piece becomes nearly fantastical in order to replicate Lonnie’s pain, and the final paragraph is a beautiful representation of pain: “He screamed and the snows around his house melted.”

It was refreshing to see eight non-fiction pieces appear in this issue, though not surprising, as two of the advisory board members—Patrick Madden and Michael Martone—are accomplished practitioners of the genre. Several are worth specific mention: Susan Bryant’s “Madame X’s Soup Pot” is a tale of that stained cast-iron pot’s travel from “a family of ‘pieds noirs’”—French Algerians—to Bryant’s own kitchen. Cassie Keller Cole’s “Full Stop” is a wonderful meditation on the punctuations of prose and life: “The purpose of original notation was musical: when to give emphasis, speed, emotion, volume. Spaces gradually invaded, came between words and created new boundaries.” Considerations of prose become considerations of body: “Menarche and menstruation allow a slight pause in time for me to reflect on a consistent, unadvertised, basis. My period is mine: so private yet linking me to other women.” Catherine Curtis’s hilarious “Smells” begins with an appropriate jewel from Montaigne (“To smell good is to stink”) followed by “I can’t remember if I put on deodorant this morning.” Curtis’s prose is beautiful in representing the rank: “Odor seemed to rise from the white floor tiles like steam, to sigh out of the small red lockers.” Like the non-fiction of William Gass, Curtis curls all possible meanings from the concept of smell, a convention also adopted by Jennifer Nicole Sullivan in a later essay in the issue, “Mustachio.”

Michael Danko’s “Red” is the most dynamic work of the issue; again, like Gass, Danko unpacks a color—red—through all of its existences. The discovery of such a piece in a literary magazine is met with thanks (and further thanks that Danko’s piece is merely the best of many good works in the issue). Danko’s essay is encyclopedic without being overwhelming, full of litanies and observations, though grounded in common sense and humor: “When you roll out the red carpet for someone, that someone is a very important person, like Red Auerbach. And my favorite excerpt:

The flame of shame seems to be an involuntary physiological revelation of some plan (or just stray plain hope) you want to hide.  Blushing reveals desire, libidinous infatuation, fantasy, or perhaps some other hidden agenda (or unrequited emotion) that some of us work like devils to keep concealed.  Sometimes, as Adam Phillips writes, the unexamined life is worth living.  Other times, perhaps, public confession is good.  Determining the correct place and time for each is the trick.

Danko’s prose is always self-aware and avoids the appropriation of infallibility that dogs so much of today’s intellectually-minded creative non-fiction. The same is true for this entire issue: palpable prose—sometimes dark, always honest—with a healthy sense of humor and self.

Open Letter to Open City

Dear Open City—

Please publish fewer stories written by post-MFA academics living in New York City. I still love you, but I’m getting tired.

Thank you,

Mary Miller


1. Bitter

Open City is one of two literary magazines that I currently subscribe to, and it’s a magazine in which I’ve always dreamed of having my work appear. I have an Open City tote I carry around, feeling a little bit cooler than everyone else in Mississippi. But with each issue I receive, I feel a bit less so.

The magazine used to be better—more interesting, engaging, risk-taking, with more stories and poems I found myself rereading. I still read my back issues of Open City, particularly issues seven through nine, and I love them almost as much as I love my three issues of the defunct print version of Swink. Back then, Open City contributors were more likely to be nobodies (though, to be fair, they were disproportionately nobodies from New York) who had simply written a good story or poem.

According to Duotrope, Open City is ranked #7 on the slothful list (the markets with the slowest mean average response times reported). I can attest to this. I have yet to receive a rejection from them that fell under the 365-day mark. The last thin, inkless slip I received had to track me down in another state.

2. Sweet

I’m done bitching. I want to say that Open City 29 is STILL far better than your average literary magazine, and worth picking up, if only for Terese Svoboda’s poems, Antonya Nelson’s “Hello, this is Bob.,” and Leopoldine Core’s “When Watched.”

I want to say something about Svoboda’s poems. Though I read quite a bit of poetry, I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know how to write it without using obvious metaphors. I don’t know what all the white space is doing. I can’t imagine people writing good poetry without being very, very messed up. All I know is if something works for me—and these five poems did. This is the final stanza in the first in the series, titled “Dove-Whirr”:

But smoke reaches.

I’m no one, we say, over and over,

though with oxygen. We slink, cocktail dress by

dress, into girl positions,

wearing black already.

Goof up now and the dryer

will tumble on in darkness.

While I don’t really understand what’s going on here, I can see the smoke reaching and I know I am also no one and I, too, am always trying to arrange my body into pleasing “girl positions,” even though it makes me kind of hate myself. These poems made me feel things that I can’t articulate; they made me want to reread them and try to make connections I missed the first time.

Another highlight is Antonya Nelson’s essay, which begins with Nelson sending copies of her first book to her relatives: her brother complained that she’d exposed the family’s secrets and her grandmother kept the book on her coffee table only to announce that it was “nothing but smut” to anyone who inquired (I love that). I think most writers have made this mistake at some point. Not long ago, I saw one of my father’s relatives at a party and she told me she’d read my story collection. Since there was nothing to do but ask what she thought, I did, and she said, “If I didn’t know you, I’d have thought you were the saddest girl in the world.”

Nelson’s essay explores the balance between writing what she wants to write about, while also staying in the good graces of her friends and family. She says, “I can only hope that I’ve interrogated the autobiographical sufficiently and arrived at the ideal: a fiction that can be made of no other configuration. Too much distortion can pull you, the author, away from your initial interest in the material. Too little tweaking can leave you open for losing friends or disappointing your children.”

Lastly, not only does Leopoldine Core have a really neat name, but this is her first publication, and—other than Svoboda’s poems—this is probably the only piece in the issue that I’d read again. The voice is strong, as are the images and details: “Theo felt buzzed. She sauntered past a long line of kids waiting with orange trays. Then past exhausted lunch ladies who leaned with big drippy spoons over vats of hot meat in sauce.” So many of the images are ones that we already have in our heads but they’re so vivid that they bring us back to this place—to our elementary schools with their tiny toilets and rectangular pizza slices and the girl who brought a tupperware container full of mayonnaise every day to slather on her sandwiches.

The Layout of the Carnival

The Summer 2010 issue of the Colorado Review has bold streaks and brushed hints of hyper-glow tinting on the cover. There’s a carnival tent and a menacing sky in dull greys and faded peaches. I find it eerie. As if it’s suggesting something playful is going on, but beware: the thunder’s coming.

Looming cover aside, the layout of the journal intimidates me straight away. A quick flip through the pages shows all the prose together in one hefty section, the poetry following, all clumped together in their verse. (That arrangement always unnerves me; there’s something so rigid about it.)

I open the book, almost resistant, and I begin “Touch”, the first of three short stories. Another tale about the distance between a husband and wife. I brace myself for the slow pace—and before I know it there’s a babysitter mock breastfeeding their baby! The act is unsettling. And quirky. The sexual tension between the husband and the babysitter is almost a worry. (And quirky.) I’m captivated by the plot and the sorrow, and the near-comic manner in which author Candice Morrow tackles them. Then Melissa Lambert paints a masterful image in the story “When the Rains Came” (2009-10 AWP Intro Journals winner). I can still see the terrified and helpless cow being pulled out of waist-deep mud as a group of children look on through the door of their ramshackle school. Finally, Martin Cozza zigzags his way through ‘Pennsylvania Polka,’ and in the end manages to bring that thunder.

In the nonfiction, Rachel Jackson’s “Hellcat Court” slowed everything down for me. Jackson let comparisons and juxtapositions of black/white and ghetto/hip hop cultures remain surface. She presented them, then let them lie. (For example, She told us there was fear, but she didn’t attend to it.) A discerning interview with David Eggers by Anis Shivani follows. Finally, an essay. In the end I can’t help think three consecutive non-fiction pieces can be a lot to ask from a reader, and so I’m back to wanting to diversify the layout, back to being unnerved.

The issue’s penultimate piece is the last of the nonfiction works: “Songs Primarily in the Key of Life.” Brian Kevin takes us through the album of the People’s Temple Choir, He’s Able. If you’re not already experiencing goose bumps then you might need me to remind you that the People’s Temple Choir is the Jonestown Peoples Temple Choir. Some topics are just endlessly fascinating. That a preacher could rise to cult-status and drive 918 people to commit suicide—a third of those people being children—will never cease to astound. I’ve heard the story so many times, but this time it’s new. Kevin introduces us to various people in the choir—those who helped with the sound, produced the album, sang the lead vocals—and all along he’s giving us these animated descriptions of each utterly joyful soul-induced hymnal. The story gets personal, and what’s so appealing about that is it allows us to think of those who died in the Jonestown Massacre as individuals with histories, with real pain before the People’s Temple “lifted” their spirits. But of course we know the end of the People’s Temple, and there’s no reason to rejoice. That’s one of the lingering ironies of this piece. We’re on a rollercoaster of emotions. We want—actually can’t help—to feel happy when the story gets on a role, basking in the music:

The chorus of “Walking with You Father” has this great organ part floating around in the background. It’s wild and unrestrained and not completely on key, and when I hear it, I picture a googly-eyed monster from the Muppet Show band just wailing away on a Wurlitzer or a Hammond B-3. It’s like a carnival anthem on fast-forward, a series of whirring, scattershot chords as a pair of hands bounce with only vague intention from one assemblage of keys to the next. Above it, a pair of duelling divas channel their best Aretha Franklins, proclaiming:

Wash us!

Fill us!

Cleanse us with your power!

While we’re walking with you Father!

But always that reminder that these people died, and that their love for their God and the Christian faith was sorely taken advantage of. Kevin makes reference to it more than once, as if he’s constantly reminding himself: wait…should I get this carried away?…should I allow myself these excited paragraphs? It’s the kind of reading you can’t put down.

Sad to say I wanted, however, to put the poetry down. Not only are the poems all clumped together, but they are arranged alphabetically. I noticed that the fiction and nonfiction sections weren’t showcased alphabetically, so why the poetry? It took me eleven poems and nineteen pages to reach Michelle Hicks’s “Bellaghy” (another 2009-10 AWP Intro Journal winner), which is a tightly crafted and revealing poem about a woman’s visit to Seamus Heaney’s hometown, Magherafelt:

Stepping off the bus from Magherafelt,

I feel my ass pinched by a boy not yet

out of junior school and, deposited

all alone, am greeted by a quartet…

Yet I can’t say that a single poem before “Bellaghy” lingered. I’m of the mind that this wouldn’t have been the case if the editors had opted for the un-alphabetical route, forcing styles and tones to contrast and compliment—and, on that note, I found that the contrasting and complimenting techniques of the combinatory poetics of Trey Moody and Joshua Ware made the hair on my arms dance. There exists in the Moody/Ware works a “feeling” (or poem) element on the left and a “learning” (possibly prose poem) element to the right, and through the winding course of the elements’ dissected connections, we glimpse both humanity and history, humor and awareness. Hats off!

Yet one aspect of the sectioned-off layout always works for me: placing the book reviews at the back. Here, Darcie Dennigan’s reviews of The Tangled Line and Union! were as reflective as they were entertaining, as scathing as they were sympathetic. And I think Julie Carr helped me decide to seek out Andrew Zawacki’s latest, Petals of Zero Petals of One.

But I expected this particular section to work; keeping the reviews at the back is a very common practice with most journals, so I’m just used to it. Still, layout aside, I’m going to say that my introduction to Moody and Ware, my reading about the Peoples Temple with new eyes (and ears), and my discomfort at the teenager dry-feeding a baby with her breasts were more than enough. Succumb to the carnival tent.