BY LIZ AXELROD
For months I’ve been following the blogs, the posts, the lists, the rants, the raves and the ravishings. I’ve been horrified, dumfounded, hysterical and generally nauseated by what I see as the breaking-down of women’s rights and liberties. Before I go into a major serious RANT, I need to parse it out. Not just for you but also for me. I’m not going to talk politics or Hillary or Gloria Steinem on Bill Maher – it’s all out there, click and see. I’m going to talk about what we need to read to make sure we don’t fall further down this slippery slope.
I’m going out on a limb here by (almost) admitting my age – I grew up after the “Bra Burners” and before “Girls Gone Wild.” This sandwich of time, was idyllic. I thought I could be anyone, have anything, and my tits would never matter in the choices I made (well, they would – but only to my advantage).
slit-eyed at my hollow desk
Seven hours sleep beats three
the night before nothing
beats your torso wrapped on mine
Braced my face deep inhale
curling chest hairs tracing
brown and blond locked in
clocked in alarm set: 2:15am
Cold cab harsh to warm cave moments
dark and eyes pasted to the bridge
my fingers through my hair
Buildings, lights, a blur
How much time to Penn
Station moving into sight
The clock sighs 3:00a.m
35 flights up and still sirens?
Wind whips ash from balconies
Cold warm deep depth dive
dove darling mindless
searchpoint lost to smoke
wine, time, and justus
Embrace this lost direction upside
down GPS garbled giddy vocals
turning sharp left into arms
(Yes, that’s better).
Where did that hour go?
5:19am train filled with lost
Mohawk boys and cheerleaders screaming
“We won we won we won the game!”
Keep your mouth shut
on the drunken train
Kiss me quiet
(yes, that’s better)
Brunching home with adolescence—
Teenage hopping round the room
First kiss business!
While you and I laugh and
worry ‘bout our nakedness
Inbed dreaming crazy
red and grey school colors
Waking azure and hot day smoking
Navigate sand and high tides
Rocks not ready for spring yet
budding green anyway
Sharpen knives slice thick
dip in egg
Strawberry soup me
Maple syrup messlick away
I tossed them in the pyre to roast and boil. I don’t need to visit that place again. The pain and blisters do no good, so why shouldn’t I just face the wall and slam my head up on it. That might be safer than reliving life’s tribulations. Why do I write this side by side stuff anyway? To put my pain and pleasure on the page, to sway you to my politics of dancing and feeding birds who attack me for my bread? Would you like some bread? I enjoy garlic bread but then no one wants to talk to me and your black tee keeps sprouting chest hairs in my peripheral. Why do I keep powdering my look for when we meet again; clinging naked to my assumptions. And you walked right past me tonight without even saying hello. Oh wait. That was me. I left before you had the chance. I didn’t want your conversation interrupted by my presence, or my sweetness interrupted by your sour. That wall you leaned on turned to face me. I’m leaving now to move backwards, sideways, and return to this loop of never ending whatevers.
Electric pulse turns
sand to glass.
Salt erodes the
clean white sand
blackened oily shells.
I gave you depth.
You dredged up garbage.
Storms give weight to water.
While crests lap up
this silent coast
pulling in upon
*Published in the lovely Log II
Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing: The Works of Stuart Sherman
(NYU Steinhardt, 2011)
Stuart Sherman’s friends—Yolanda Hawkins, John Hagan, and John Matturri—spent countless hours reading, cataloguing, viewing, and organizing the plays, writings, paintings, line drawings, and sculptures piled into the front closet of his sublet apartment on West 22nd Street. Going through that mountain was a labor of love and led to Beginningless Thoughts/Endless Seeing, a curated exhibition at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery in the winter of 2009, and an art book/catalogue of personal reminiscences, descriptions of his plays, and re-prints of his drawings, paintings, and collages. The book, released this month, beautifully and lovingly illustrates the man and his work, but just barely manages to scrape the heart of Sherman’s creative genius.
Jaded Ibis Press holds an odd shaped, polished and engraved stone in a hand-carved painted slingshot. Like David, they are poised with ready aim to hit the big publishing houses dead square in the eye. Their creativity and innovation push the limits of “Indie Press” publishing to new levels.
In this email interview, Debra DiBlasi, Publisher and Sam Witt, Poetry Editor muse on their unique process, philosophy, aesthetic iteration and mutation, string theory in regards to publishing, new technological platforms, artistic vision, and shifting the segregation of narrative forms (literary, visual, musical, performance, etc.) toward integration:
Liz Axelrod (Rail): You named your press after the James Hurst story “The Scarlet Ibis.” That tale about two brothers; one fit, one crippled, revolves around the themes of pride, cruelty, love, redemption and death. Why did you choose that particular tale and how does “Jaded” come into the picture?
Debra DiBlasi: “Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree.” I was nine years old when I heard the first sentence of “The Scarlet Ibis.” I experienced a spectacular epiphany regarding the distinction between ordinary stories and literary art. I recognized symbolism for the first time, how it could create meaningful maps within a narrative. Such veracity had never appeared in the books I’d previously read, or in most people I knew, or in me.
My fourth grade teacher, Miss Heberlin, read to us every day after lunch – not “children’s books” but rather serious literature with significant themes exploring the human condition. She traveled extensively and had witnessed, I suspect, terrible inequities in the world. Miss Heberlin instilled in us far more than rote learning skills by teaching us how to become better human beings – to empathize, respect and share – just as I try to do now in my role as publisher.
I grew up. Lived. Sighed a lot. Ibis Productions became Jaded once I realized that the majority of books published, sold and read in the U.S. sought not to enlighten but to anesthetize and even stupidify – quite the opposite of Hurst’s story. Yet it is possible to be jaded and optimistic. You just have to quit complaining and take the reins. Jaded Ibis essentially premiered at the 2011 Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, within Table X (where the cool kids hang out. 😉
By the way, the Ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, was the patron of writing and scribes, who were highly venerated in Egyptian culture. Thoth has the head of an ibis.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I’ve got chocolate hearts on the brain and vanilla scented candles burning as I try to melt into the freezing cold of my sweet love’s arms after he so beautifully shoveled my car out of waist deep snow. This is our first Valentine’s Day after moving in together and though both of us are exhausted from the overwhelming amounts of white and winter, I’m lusting over these extended snow days together.
In honor of all things red and sweet and glowing, I’ve compiled a heart shaped box of books for you to break open and savor the sweet insides. These are not all love stories as not all of us have a love story to celebrate right now, though we can all find a bit of sweetness, even if it’s just reveling against the corporate holiday or getting lushed-out on pink frothy drinks and blood remembrances.
As always, these are in no particular order but they do share the common theme of heat, camaraderie, and RED. In honor of the holiday:
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Patrick McGrath is the author of two short story collections, Blood and Water and Other Tales and Ghost Town, and seven previous novels including Asylum, Martha Peake, Dr. Haggard’s Disease and Port Mungo. His novel, Spider, was filmed in 2001 by acclaimed director David Cronenberg, from McGrath’s script. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the United Kingdom and a member of PEN America and the Writers Guild of America East. His most recent book, Trauma, is a dark psychological drama full of love and loss set against the back- drop of 1970s New York, just as the Twin Towers were going up. 12th Street met with Patrick McGrath at Cafe Loup on a Monday night before his seminar at The New School.
12th street: Your latest novel, Trauma, focuses on the New York City of the past—a city that’s gritty, drug-filled and economically barren. How do you feel about the city as it is today?
Patrick McGrath: I really don’t like that the city is so rich and clean and safe. It was none of those things back in the seventies. I have nostalgia for the New York I came to at the end of that decade, when it was dirty and dangerous; artists could afford to live in Manhattan then and you had to watch yourself on the street. I enjoyed New York very much in those days, and while I suppose in one way it’s a good thing that the place is rich and clean and safe, at the same time there is a sense that something—some edge—has been lost. I remember when the High- line was a ruin, something you avoided on Tenth Avenue.