Archive for December, 2011

Bonus Material: Grumbling, Kalscheur, Wagner

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

You know how Joyce said that if Dublin burned to rubble, you could use Ulysses to rebuild it? Well, after Tuesday’s fine intro, we (some of us, anyway) have decided to make this blog, in part, the Ulysses of Joe Dargue. (But don’t burn to rubble, Joe!) Ten more facts about him:

1. Like most of us, he tries to match his socks.

2. He can run the 100 in about 13 seconds. (Quite above average!)

3. When a virus invades your network, he will hunt it down and delete it in all its nefarious forms. Then, a few weeks later, he will call that virus’s mother and calmly explain why what he did was necessary.

4. At a fancy restaurant, he will often order two appetizers in lieu of an entree, for variety’s sake and because he can’t help choosing entrees mostly for their sides.

5. He has seen the future and is far too modest to admit that it is himself.

6. When CEO Reed Hastings was thinking about raising the rates for Netflix subscribers, the first person he called for advice was Joe. But Joe was snorkeling off the coast of Guam, and his voice mail was already full of messages—from Michael Bloomberg, who just keeps leaving messages until you call him back.

7. If you see Joe in a hat, that hat will be a trilby.

8. “Joe” is short for “Jocephus,” which itself is a transliteration of “Joseph.”

9. He is a superb judge of fiction and poetry, though he loves all nonfiction indiscriminately.

10. His favorite American Idol judge is Randy.

And now, without further ado, three comments from contributors to Issue 8.1.

Megan Grumbling: The poem “Kept” began with a small but curious discovery I made about an old friend—a guy about whom I thought I knew everything—when he showed me a certain keepsake in a jar. Seeing his souvenir, and realizing the hold it had on him, I found that something had shifted ever so slightly in my understanding of him: It was as if a new celestial object had been introduced into the psychic universe between us—a tiny object, but one which nevertheless had its own gravitational field. The encounter got me thinking about the things we hold to, their hold on us, and the increasingly complicated orbital shenanigans that develop as they accumulate. I wrote the poem as a sonnet, but in deference to unexpected astronomical pushes and pulls, I let the line breaks depart from the form’s conventions, hoping to convey just the slightest shift in gravity.

Josh Kalscheur: On “Advisement”: There was an ex-pat I knew when I lived in Micronesia who always talked about the various opportunities that could be had in the U.S. for young Micronesian guys (since they have work rights in the U.S.). He told stories about Micronesians he knew in the 1980s who he thought could’ve starred in old Westerns as American Indians because of their hair and skin tone. He said they could wash windows on high-rise apartments or do trapeze in a circus because of their experience climbing coconut trees. The stories were often long and ridiculous, and sometimes ignorant as far as I was concerned. This poem is an exploration of his voice (as he is the speaker), in both its rhythm and its wild, sometimes troubled reasoning and imagination.

Jeanne Wagner: Before I wrote “Ovid” I’d been reading Ted Hughes’s translation “Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses.” At the same time, an old friend of mine, in the last stage of a debilitating disease, believed that he’d spent his whole life wearing someone else’s body. I wanted to write a poem that celebrated the essentially transformative nature of the body itself.

“Reciprocity”: Why We Like It

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

In the CR office, we get to know our volunteers pretty well. There are the weekly meetings, of course, and also we require every volunteer to put in office hours. This is largely so there’s someone for Matt M. to wrestle; someone who’ll salivate when Lisa heats up her leftovers from home; someone to act blinded when Becky walks in wearing her blaze-yellow coat; someone to say, “I’m a peach person, myself,” when Matt O. polls the office on which fruits are favored, which frowned upon; and someone to scribble notes when Nicola holds forth from her doorway on the best way to get a tick to disengage so the mouth parts don’t get trapped in your epidermis and cause a nasty local infection at least and at worst transmit some icky ticky disease (she grew up in the woods; she also fed a lot of chickens, but that’s a post for another day).

At any rate, volunteer Joe Dargue was, at first, a bit of a cipher. A quiet type. Tall, but not too tall. Slender, but not excessively so. Mysterious and blond at once. He wrestled, salivated, went blind on cue, and scribbled raptly as required—all with the genial air of a tolerant go-along guy. Then . . . one day . . . Joe said no. He said it pleasantly, quietly, but with an unmistakable undertone of steel. Joe’s no was a no in its very essence. Negativity in its purest form. We all recognized it. Matt M. stopped practicing head-locks, Lisa stopped blowing on her spoonful of delicious homemade chili, Becky stopped twirling around in her brightly fashionable coat, Matt O. stopped pondering his pear, and Nicola . . . Nicola realized something. She realized that you can ask Joe to write a few paragraphs about a poem, no problem a-tall, but you can’t ask him to do data entry.

Joseph Dargue: Every once in a while, you’ll stumble across a poem that makes your heart beat faster, your lungs ache. Laura Eve Engel’s “Reciprocity” does just that. In fact, the poem anticipates and encourages this kind of visceral reaction in its fragmentary description of the dissolution of a relationship. This is the reciprocity not of building but of breakdown.

The momentum of the poem is realized through the simple power of anaphora and rhetorical questions, which also create a sense of endlessness and circularity (lacking question marks, the lines carry a foregone feeling of futility). Every line begins with “And” and contains the twice repeated “who”: the partners in the poem inflicting and experiencing reciprocal and escalating kinds of pain on each other. With the termination of each line, a new, slightly more unsettling aspect of their entanglement is brought to bear. We move from “who shields who from the shadow’s big tree” to “who sends who to the bottom of a sweet drink” in a mere ten lines. This is not a poem of compromise; it’s downhill all the way.

At the end of the poem, a barrage of repetition blurs the distinction between the unhappy lovers. We, nor the speaker for that matter, can tell where one ends and the other begins. The reciprocity has been reduced to tears and confusion. The last line—“who cries for who and who cries for who”—is wrenching to say the least.


Friday, December 9th, 2011

The past few weeks have brought some good news for those connected to Cincinnati Review:

Trophy, by Michael Griffith, our fiction editor, was named to the Best Fiction of 2011 list by Kirkus Reviews. The original (starred!) review said, “Griffith’s word wizardy, his facile puns, his insight into the human heart and his topsy-turvy sardonic approach make for a one-of-a-kind reading experience.”

Ryan J. Browne, a contributor in Issue 8.2, (due out soon!), won the 16th annual Bright Hill Press poetry book competition. His book, Outside Come In, selected by judge Neil Shepard, will be published in Spring 2012.

Jenn Habel, the University of Cincinnati’s new coordinator of fiction writing, won the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition run by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Good Reason, her first full-length book of poems, will be published in late spring. She’s also the author of the chapbook In the Little House (Southeast Missouri State Press, 2009).

Congratulations to all three!

The _________ Is……..

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Our Game of the Month was a popular one. A lot of you enjoy the grammar-based creativity of Mad Libs, and we were _____________ on the floor of the office as we read the entries., Pomeranians, yodeling? All awesome. (Even better when we think about the debunking of the yodeling Pomeranian chain email.)

We’re feeling generous at this time of the year (after all, yesterday was both St. Nick’s Day and Microwave Oven Day), so we’re giving you the gift of the Cincinnati Review. If you’re one of the adept wordsmiths who tickled our ______, you’ve won! Please email editors [at] cincinnatireview [dot] com to claim your prize (thermos, slingpack, or issue of choice).

Adaptation Speculation

Monday, December 5th, 2011

With the news that HBO will be producing movies based on Faulkner novels, we wonder if poetry will ever be adapted in the same way. PBS recently aired an adapted poem, The Song of Lunch, as part of its Masterpiece Contemporary series. The film is appropriately PBS-style, with British accents (Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play the two main roles), and deep, unexpressed longings.

But what if HBO were to air an adapted poem? What would fit best alongside Boardwalk Empire, Sex and the City, The Wire, and The Sopranos? Here are our nominations:

Robert Frost’s “Home Burial”: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks could play the nonromantic couple, giving them a chance to stretch their range and reach for the Emmy. The screenplay would write itself, since the poem’s a dialogue, and a mysterious spade and melodramatic violin music would create a great trailer.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Recuerdo” (“We were very tired, we were very merry— / We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry”): James Franco could dress in drag and eat a pear, and Meryl Streep would be stunning as the “shawl-covered head” at the end of the poem.

Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour”: Who doesn’t love a film with skunks in it? Though Pepe le Pew wouldn’t be right for the part of supporting animal, Daniel Craig could play the tormented man who voyeuristically watches for “love-cars” at a look-out point and realizes that his mind’s not right.

What obvious adaptation-ready poems have we missed, blog readers?

Game of the Month: Literary Mad Libs!

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Remember when, riding in the back of your parents’ old Dodge van, which spewed black noxious smoke and had way too many miles on it and was by all measures totally and completely uncool, you and your older sister used to crouch in the backseat to avoid being spotted by your junior-high classmates? And remember how you used to play Mad Libs to dull the pain when the popular kids pointed and laughed at the FOR SALE sign that your parents insisted on posting prominently in the van’s cracked window, shouting “I’ll give you five dollars!”?

Well, we’re going to re-create this memory for you, minus the crushing shame component. This year our amazing writing program is even more so due to the hiring of Danielle Deulen and Chris Bachelder—and because the latter also happens to be a two-time Cincinnati Review contributor, we’ve selected his work for our literary Mad Lib treatment. (It’s a tribute. Sort of. Anyway, he gave us permission.) So: The following is an excerpt from Chris Bachelder’s “Like Dylan at Newport,” from CR 3.1. In the fashion of Mad Libs, we’ve removed some of the words. Give it your best, most creative shot filling them in—then leave your contest entry as a comment on this post by clicking its title. Winners get the choice of free back issue, CR thermos, or CR slingpack.

The ______ ward is in the basement of the ghetto hospital. Dan Boone and Lester come in through the nonautomatic front door, drunk, smelly, and the lobby is packed, bad news, people have gone and gotten themselves very ______. There’s a lot of ____ing and _____ing. There’s plenty of blood, hardly any ________, looks like. Dan gives the rest of an opened beer to some _______ guy who has what looks like a ________ coming out of his abdomen.