Archive for the ‘From our Contributors’ Category

Art Song Video Premiere!

Friday, May 20th, 2016
David Clay Mettens and Mary Kaiser

David Clay Mettens and Mary Kaiser

Don Bogen: With its score for alto flute, bass clarinet, viola, cello, piano, percussion, and soprano, David Clay Mettens’s setting of Mary Kaiser’s “He Dreams a Mother” in our Summer 2016 issue (just released) is one of the most intricate and haunting pieces in our series of art songs. It’s also the first for which we have a video of the premiere. “Hypnotic” is a word the composer uses several times in the score, and it certainly fits what happened on stage this past April. To watch, click here.

Be sure to check out the subtle performance by All of the Above, with soprano Jilian McGreen and all those varied instruments bringing out the calm yet deeply strange vision in Mary’s poem. The ending is particularly striking. Thanks and congratulations go to the composer, the poet, and the ensemble.

The poem and full score are in the issue.  You can find the other four settings we’ve commissioned to date in the art-song category of the blog.

Enjoy!

Obstacles & Aversions

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Rochelle Hurt: There is something to be said for writing against or away from received traditions and natural proclivities. Often, the result is a kind of verve and vigor we may not otherwise access. Several contributors to CR 12.2 describe their process as that of writing against the grain, whether by challenging predecessors, staking out marginal territory, or disavowing process altogether. In thinking about this, I also noticed that many 12.2 contributors formed their pieces out of difficult or negative experiences—not by turning away from them in search of comfort, but by turning toward them. This is an interesting and indirect counter to the idea of writing against. Perhaps sometimes the same kind of verve attained through writing from aversion can also be attained through writing from adversity. In other words, try the darker path.

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David Mohan: “Semblance” explores how a lover treats with time, and the psychological temporality of a relationship. My key trigger would have to be John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising,” one of the great poems about love and the passage of time, but it should be pointed out that I was inspired to write against that poem, and explore something similar to a counterpoint to Donne’s playful conceit. I love the idea in Donne’s poem that it might be possible, within the exalted temporality of being in love, to control time, but I was more interested in how someone in love has a more pronounced sense of how transient any form of human contact is. If the lovers in Donne’s poem are at the center of the universe—according to the poet, at least—the lovers in “Semblance” are rendered close to anonymous when viewed in the context of moment-by-moment flux and change.

Charles Rafferty on “Leisure,” “Antique,” and “Because He Had Been Crying”: I used to have an aversion to prose poems. I thought of them as mules—sterile hybrids. Now, I see the prose poem as a euglena—that cutthroat survivor with a foot in two kingdoms.

Allison Campbell on “Necessity”: I think I can safely say this is the first poem I’ve written via food poisoning. Maybe this is an argument for how much intelligence is in the gut, rather than the brain. I don’t know. But after a turkey sandwich from a questionable, smoothie-making-health-food-like joint, I was up all night and in incredible pain. To pass the dark hours and try to ease the discomfort, I listened to a meditation podcast. The woman’s almost unnervingly calm voice kept calling for space, to create space. And I noticed that when I could breathe around the areas of my body that felt distressed the space that breathing created opened room for some relaxation and relief. I started thinking about how the heart needed similar space, similar opening. Now, I say I started thinking about the heart—but in truth, I didn’t think, I just started writing the poem. In place of the meditation, I used the lines of the poem I was writing to pass the night. I repeated them and added to them and wrote my first draft of the poem the next day. Life’s gifts come in strange packages, right?

Dana Koster on “Endeavour”: There is ineloquence in grief, in that heart-ripped-out feeling that happens when you lose someone. You feel gutted. But you can’t write that your heart feels ripped out or that you feel gutted because those descriptions are cliché. So at a time when it’s difficult to come up with the name of a food that sounds appetizing, you’re left searching for new words to describe the oldest form of sadness. “Endeavour” came out of such a time. In the weeks after my friend Rick T. Jones died suddenly in 2014, I came across a photo of the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it was retired: its stark silhouette set against the huge and vibrant ombré of Earth’s atmosphere. It struck me how profoundly alone it was and it reminded me of Rick—both his wanderlust and the lonely manner of his death. In its way, the poem is an elegy for them both.

Colin Fleming on “Old Pyke”: I see a lot of accounts of how people came to write something where their grandfather had a talisman that was passed down with an accompanying tale through generations, or they labored for years with this idea they fictionalized from a newspaper story. I don’t really work that way. Sometimes stories come to me while I’m asleep, other times they just come to me, sometimes I write them in my head in full on my ten mile walks and I type them out later, and other times I just sit at the computer and say, “okay, time to go, let’s do a story, who do you want in it, what do you want to happen.” And I make it up. For me, it’s just about being myself. I suck at a lot of things—a huge, huge, embarrassing amount of things—but writing is not hard for me. By being myself I don’t mean looking around my life at things that have happened to me, but just doing what I do and knowing that doing that is going to carry the day, find the end point I want. I’m a storyteller. I think we fetishize process nowadays, because many writers like to talk more about writing than actually doing the writing. They sometimes live in fear of trying to make the white page black. So with “Old Pyke,” I’d never been to any of those places, I didn’t base the characters on anyone, and I did it in a couple hours. I had other things to write. You’re not supposed to say that anymore, right? But that’s also how it always was for the people whose work I esteem, across a range of mediums. When the imagination is in place, plus the understanding of what I’ll call human truths, and you can just be yourself, it’s about keeping the line moving and doing the next one. Because if that’s really who you are, they kind of write themselves anyway.

Best American . . . Almond

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

mysteryCongrats to Steve Almond, whose “Now Do You Surrender?” (CR 11.2) has been accepted for inclusion in the 20th edition of Best American Mystery Stories.

As series editor, Otto Penzler picked 50 exceptional mystery stories originally published in North America during the 2015 calendar year. From that short list, guest editor Elizabeth George selected the 20 she judged most outstanding for publication in this prestigious anthology.

A excerpt from Steve’s terrific piece:

 

“How the hell do you know the name of my daughter?”

Scarface set a hand on Loomis’ shoulder. It was a tender gesture that suggested profound brutality. “Settle down,” he said. “There’s no reason for this to turn in the wrong direction.”

Tony Bennett patted his coat in the way of an ex-smoker. “Quicker we clear this thing up, quicker we’re out of your hair.”

Loomis couldn’t figure out how frightened he should be. He had to pee rather ardently. “What thing?”

“A beautiful day like this,” Scarface said. He gestured toward the sky as if the director of a community theater production had just stage-whispered at him to gesture toward the sky. “Who wants to be standing around in a parking lot? Not me.”

“To review,” Tony Bennett said. “You throw this party, what, two weeks ago? All these kids bringing your daughter gifts and whatnot. So then, just as a common—”

“How do you know what’s going on in my house?” Loomis said. “Have you been spying on us?”

Scarface exhaled through his nose, as if he’d been expecting Loomis to behave this way and it bored him. “Nobody’s spying on anybody. You’re missing the point, Mr. Loomis. Just listen.”

“As a courtesy,” Tony Bennett continued, “your wife went out and bought some nice Thank You cards. And you, Mr. Loomis, told her there was no need to waste good money on such an extravagance. Then you threw the cards straight into the garbagio.”

“I didn’t throw them in the garbage,” Loomis said. “I dropped them into a wastepaper basket. I was making a point.”

Scarface ran a thumb down his nose. “What exact point would that be, Mr. Loomis?”

“That it was overkill. We’d already thrown these kids a whole party with lunch and two art activities and gift bags and I was just sick and tired of feeding into this never-ending arms race of bourgeoisie pieties.”

Tony Bennett yawned. “I don’t understand what you just said, Mr. Loomis. But I didn’t like the tone.” He stretched in such a way as to make visible the outline of something gun buttish against his sports coat.

Loomis felt the flutter in his gut go spastic. The air took on a sour radiance. Scarface’s hand was on his shoulder again, again very gently. “Calm down, Mr. Loomis.”

“I feel like you’re threatening me.”

“Nobody’s threatening anybody.”

“We’re having a conversation.”

“Who are you? What do you want from me?”

“You don’t ask the questions,” Tony Bennett said quietly. “That’s not how this relationship works.” He slipped his hand inside his jacket and let it stay there. “How it works is you go get in your car there and drive home and kiss your wife and send those thank you notes.”

Exposing Our Roots: Coben, Wineman, Revell, Bagdanov

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Seamus Heaney’s famous poem “Digging” provides a well-loved metaphor for the writing process: pen as spade, the past as soil. “Between my finger and my thumb,” he writes, “The squat pen rests./I’ll dig with it.” In discussing their work from our upcoming winter issue (due late November), several contributors similarly explain their process as a kind of excavation—or, by contrast, a palimpsest built upon the past. Whether finding inspiration in family, biography, the literary canon, or the human body itself, these writers all reveal the constant presence of history on the page.

Joshua Coben: “Antechamber” is one of several poems about fatherhood that I’ve worked on in recent years. It reflects some of my most troubling questions about myself as a son and as a father of sons. I am trying to come to grips with the legacy of silence and misunderstanding that can be passed from taciturn father to quiet son across generations. Each son tries and, in many ways, fails to penetrate the mystery of his father. He seeks not only love, but also the means to understand himself. His father’s example, with all the unanswered questions it engenders, inevitably informs the kind of father he will grow into. This poem tries to convey the ancient dance of filial longing and paternal love, where the latter is often concealed behind barriers we do not mean to erect. The three-beat lines give it the lilt of a waltz, as father and son circle each other, changing places with each turn of the generational wheel.

Steven Wineman: When I heard about Alice Goffman’s book On the Run, I was drawn to the subject (a study of fugitive life in a poor African American neighborhood) and curious whether she was related to the great sociologist Erving Goffman. I did some poking around on the internet and found that, sure enough, Alice is Erving’s daughter. I also learned that Erving Goffman died when Alice was a baby, which seemed especially poignant given that he had remarried only the year before, at the age of fifty-nine. I came upon something else I had not known about Goffman: his first wife suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide in 1964. Suddenly I had a very personal link to Erving’s biography; I also was married to a woman who struggled with bipolar disorder and who took her life. I began to think about how to weave all these strands—a young woman taking up the work of the father she lost as an infant; two women crushed by mental illness; two husbands overwhelmed by suffering and loss—into a single essay. “Erving and Alice and Sky and Elisabeth” is the result.

Donald Revell on “Fresh Dante”: The poem for me arose from a crowd of living palimpsests—the city of Toulouse, vivid now as it was vivid centuries ago as the capital of the Troubadors; the Garonne, a river running through the city and through the Cantos of Ezra Pound; a sense of Dante in the midst of all, still and still embodied as he was in Eternity where his shadow dumbfounded the shades, including the shades of the Troubadors themselves; and eventually my own flesh, inscribing and effacing my days. We die into our books and then out of them again. The imperfections of our words match the imperfection of our loves, in the flesh and out of it. For me, Toulouse is at the center of it all.

Kristin George Bagdanov on “Resurrection Body”: I worry about extinction. I wonder how much of my life is actually an interaction with residue (shadow, echo, fossil, language) rather than the thing itself. I wonder if a poem, like the world, is always tending toward extinction, if the poem itself is a fossil in the making. In “Resurrection Body,” I reimagine the concepts of metempsychosis and bodily resurrection by considering the fact that our material bodies are not wholly our own—they are both person and thing, self and other, human and other-than-human. The human body, for example, has ten times more bacterial cells than human ones—so what implications does this have for calling one’s body “human” or saying “I”? This poem also elegizes the current and future loss of this world; the last line could be read as hopeful, or perhaps a realization forged too late in this epoch: that the damage we’ve inflicted upon other bodies is damage we’ve inflicted upon our own, and that this residue will persist beyond any individual’s death.

James McMichael Reading and Our Next Cover!

Friday, September 18th, 2015

For those nearby: frequent CR contributor (see our current issue) and National Book Award finalist James McMichael will be at UC for two events this afternoon. At 3:00 in the Elliston Room, there will be a Q&A, followed by a short break and then a poetry reading at 4:00.

And now we unveil the cover for the upcoming winter issue (12.2), featuring the work of visual artist Alicia LaChance, as well as poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by Carl Phillips, Rebecca Hazelton, Allison Campbell, Dave Mondy, Colin Fleming, Wendy Rawlings, and Nicholas Montemarano.

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Art Song Recording: “The body remembers . . .”

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

bodymemory

Composer and poet Kevin Simmonds has provided us with a recording of his setting of C. Dylan Bassett’s poem “The body remembers . . .”. The score is featured in our current issue. As poetry editor Don Bogen writes in his introduction to the piece: “Music, like poetry, doesn’t belong to just the eyes. Both arts find life also in the ears and in the breath—the body remembers, indeed.”

Ongoing Subscription Offer

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

poetryAs a followup to Monday’s post, whereby we offered readers sample passages from our forthcoming fiction, we’re now presenting a poetry gallimaufry, as it were. AND we’ll make good on our subscription bonus till the end of this week. In short, if you subscribe today, tomorrow, or Friday, we’ll send you a gratis copy of our graphic play MOTH with your first issue of the journal.

FORTHCOMING IN CINCINNATI REVIEW 12.2

From “Not the Waves As They Make Their Way Forward” by Carl Phillips (Visiting UC in the spring!)

Like Virgil, Marcus Aurelius died believing that his triumphs,

when pitched against his failures, had come to very little.

I don’t know. Given the messiness of most lives (humble,

legendary, all the rest in between)—their interiors,

I mean—it’s hard to say he was wrong. Black night.

 

From “Necessity” by Allison Campbell

You can’t put a cold heart in the microwave for sixty seconds. It will not heat evenly. Some portions of the heart will still be cold, others much too hot. No, you cannot reheat the heart. The heart needs space.

 

From “Fresh Dante” by Donald Revell

Berries are nice, Lady.

Grishkin is nice, Lullay.

The soul of Toulouse rots through.

Creation is one way. Creation

Is the other way too.

 

From “April Incantation” by Maggie Dietz

Crack new bourns and boundaries

into parceled plots. Wreck even

 

the season that reared you: lick

the lilacs into sobbing heaps.

 

From “Reach for Your Inside Rain” by Emily Vizzo

How easy to be on my knees. My face on the bed.

Take whatever you want, I tell God. My buddy God

ignores me. Patience is his best trick

 

From “St. Louis Symphonic” by Philip Schaefer

A chorus of fingers

connected to a chorus of brain activities

which leads to a final chorus of breaths

on the other end of the street. A body

becoming a mural, a glowing coral reef.

 

From Translation series: part of a twelve-poem series “Lu Neza / Sobre el Camino” (“On the Road”) by Irma Pineda, trans. Wendy Call

The sea went deaf and tossed us

into the desert’s arms

The sea went deaf and hurled us

on a path to other places

 

From “Make No Bones About It” by Cindy Beebe

Make no bones that float. Or sink, either. Make hay, rather. Make barley, alfalfa, the cows will love you. The cows will bow to you in one smooth, synchronous plié. A little cow ballet.

 

From “Traveling Circus” by George David Clark

The stilts telescope. The big top folds and folds.

My shirt is the lion inside out, his canines for the cufflinks.

When I’ve vacuum-sealed the acrobats inside their leotards,

I use the high wire to tether the tent stakes.

 

From “Ant in Amber” by Ashley Keyser

Tiger-iris, me the pupil

learning history

is density. Bride, bare

 

your throat. You palaces

burning at the bottom of the sea,

fathom me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snifters of Snippets

Monday, August 31st, 2015

werebackFall term is in full swing here at UC, and the halls are hopping. So is our office. We have two new staffers—Rochelle Hurt and Jose Araguz—as well as a fresh group of grad volunteers. We’re already in the thick of the submissions you fine people are sending our way—and we’re awaiting the proof (due next week) of our winter 2016 number, which is positively primo (if we do say so). Here are a few snippets of prose from 12.2 to wet your lit whistle. To belly up to the CR bar, become a subscriber. As added inducement, we’ll send those who subscribe this week a gratis copy of our 64-page, full-color graphic play, MOTH (a $12 value). It’s the literary equivalent of an absinthe fizz. Look for more excerpts from our forthcoming issue later this week!

 

Wendy Rawlings, “Restraint”

The hotel room door opens as if on its own. He always steps behind it. More ceremony. Maybe it’s military. One time he had her to his house when the wife was away and asked her to take off her shoes. She thought at first his request must be forensic. Shred the evidence. If he killed her he could dispose of the body. Illicit acts, illicit thoughts. They sat in his den and drank bourbon with Coke and lime. Fabulous heavy glassware, made in the last century. One day she would be a real adult, and own things. He had made another request. Would she remove the rest of her clothes? She had chosen a short black skirt with a pink silk blouse and black sandals with tiny pink flowers hand-painted on them from her one time in Spain. All that effort for flowers. She took her time removing each piece and folding it. Then sat with her legs crossed to drink a second bourbon.

 

Michael Byers, “Stone”

After minutes of liquid agony, during which he was reduced to a burning nothingness, there came the urge to urinate again, and he gingerly felt for the bottle and applied it to himself in time, and after two more codeine the ceiling began to paint itself in deeply saturated tones of gray and blue, and when he woke the room was dark and someone had turned a Mariners game up very loud, very far away, or so it seemed. Then more time passed without making an account of itself and he was in pain again—this time the pain seeming to have acquired a mind and a will, now wanting him to understand something, that obligations had to be met, that certain performances had to be assured. He spent what seemed like weeks in conversation with this entity. They were on a wide, sandy desert, and then they entered a large open sandy room, which was also the sandy desert. In this way the pain was showing him the terms of their agreement.

 

Leslie Pietrzyk, “How We Leave Home”

Talk about Roger Ackroyd. Talk about the gig, a good one with a cranking crowd and a decent take. Two glasses of bourbon for me, bigger, taller. Five for him. We found the bottom of the bottle. When he grabbed my shoulders and jammed his lips onto mine, when his tongue scooped through my mouth, when he moaned my name, my real name, no childish nickname, and muttered, “Oh shit-shit-shit-shit,” when his hand snaked down through my tube top and I straddled him right where he sat in my father’s chair, when these things happened and then more things happened, more, I kept my eyes open. I saw everything. It was my own life arriving—finally—and there I was, watching it all spool loose.

CR and Poetry Daily

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Poetry Daily is once again featuring some of our content. Today’s poem: Benjamin S. Grossberg’s “McGuire’s Twenty-Five Minutes” from our newly released summer number.

 

Song of “Sefiros”

Monday, July 20th, 2015

At last we can present the recording of our “art song” offering based on Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros” (both published in our Winter 2015 issue). Contributor and musician Claudia Monpere offers her informed and sensitive response to playing Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score.

Claudia Monpere: I love the fusion of music and poetry, but I’ve never been involved in a collaboration of the two arts. After reading the winter 2015 issue of The Cincinnati Review, I sit at the piano and play Ellen Ruth Harrison’s score of Jakob Stein’s poem “Sefiros.” Oh, what a haunting and lovely composition of a deeply moving poem. Since the parts for both violin and soprano are in the treble clef, I experiment, playing the soprano part an octave higher, then trying the violin section an octave lower. I experiment further, sometimes singing the words, other times reading them silently as I play.

The key of A minor is perfect for this elegy, and the music enhances the poem’s emotional intensity. Holocaust images of fire, bones, and ash are juxtaposed with private loss. As my left hand plays the frequent sequences of triplets, the keys accumulate waterfalls of grief. There are no full chords in this piece. Instead, there are double-stops which heighten the mournful quality. I play slowly, very slowly—“In every abandoned chamber of names charred limbs & leaves read by black flame”—until the tempo quickens and the music turns discordant: “bone-known and written in skeletal verse.”

Stein’s language is replete with consonance and assonance. Harrison’s score lingers on some words and phrases, intensifying the music in the language. With those searing final images: “black plume, bottomless chasm, blazing gate,” my right hand strikes the high A hard—forte—a tied note holding on, gripping through another waterfall triplet,falling downward while the left hand fades—pianissimo. Then the final double-stop of D and A, a long tie, echoes of loss, eons of loss. Silence.