What’s To Like? Derrick Weston Brown’s “Bruuuuuh…”

George Clack is a board member of the Little Patuxent Review. In this post, he shares one of his “Staff Picks” from the Summer Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

At the Little Patuxent Review’s Summer Issue launch reading on June 2nd, Derrick Weston Brown blew me away with his reading of his poem “Bruuuuuh or When Brothers Debate Black Panther in a Safeway Parking Lot: A Found (Overheard) Poem.” It’s a poem that feels as if it wants to be performed but a work that also offers the pleasures of a close reading on the printed page.

Virtue #1: authenticity, the ultimate literary value for me. It’s the writer’s ability to make me believe in his story, his setting, his tropes, his you-name-it. Call it the art of the real. To my ancient white guy’s ear, this poem pulses with authenticity. Brown creates this effect primarily through an old reliable technique, putting the vernacular—or, as some might say, the language of the street—to use for some serious fun.

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Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Anthony Moll

Anthony Moll is a poet, essayist, and educator. He holds an MFA in creative writing & publishing arts and is completing his PhD in poetry & Queer theory. His chapbook about the melancholy of the modern workplace, Go to the Ant, O Sluggard, is available from Akinoga Press. His debut memoir, Out of Step, won the 2017 Non/Fiction Prize from The Journal and will be available in July 2018 from Mad Creek Books.

Moll’s poem, “A Jumpmaster in DuPont Circle,” appeared in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link). He read this poem and other work at our issue launch in January (video below).

Our Summer Issue 2018 launch is on Sunday, June 3, at 2 p.m. (information on our events page).

Q: You said at the launch that this was your third try submitting poems to your friend and our editor, Steven Leyva. Can you say something for our readers about the persistence required for publishing?

Yeah, at the launch reading I mentioned how even though the editor of LPR is a close friend of mine, I twice had poems rejected from the journal before this poem was accepted. For readers worried about rejection, I think this demonstrates two (sort of conflicting) ideas:

1) Rejection can be an act of love—to have a piece rejected that isn’t yet ready can be a good thing for writers submitting their work. In the long run, I’d rather have a smart editor say no to a piece that isn’t yet done than to have work with my name on it out there in the world when it isn’t yet fully polished. BUT,

2) Editors have their own tastes and biases too, so writers really need patience if they’re going to find the right home for their work. Sure, in some instances that work might not be ready, but there are also cases in which a writer is submitting solid, well-developed writing that just doesn’t fit an editor’s taste, a publication’s literary aesthetic, or an issue’s vision/theme.

One of the skills that writers need to develop (and continually recalibrate) is the ability to determine when one needs to keep looking for a home for a piece, and when one needs to pause and turn back to revision.

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Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Meera Trehan

Meera Trehan was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in nearby Virginia. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School, she practiced public interest law for over a decade before turning to creative writing. Her work for children has been published in various magazines. Her first novel is The Science of Seeing. Trehan lives in Maryland with her family.

Q: When you were working as a lawyer, were you also writing on the side?

No. A lot of my work as a lawyer involved writing, but even though I was an avid reader and loved the idea of writing creatively, it didn’t occur to me that it was something I could actually do.

Q: What gave you the confidence to focus on creative writing?

After thinking about it for much too long, I took a class at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then another and then another (and then one at Politics and Prose). I also worked through the exercises in Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin, as well as other books on craft. Eventually, I joined SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where I had my work critiqued by authors, agents, and editors. All of these things were crucial to my development as a writer.

But I don’t want to imply that I always feel confident! Confidence is elusive. One day you have it, the next day you don’t. Part of writing, in my experience, is pushing through on those harder days, knowing you can revise, and if there’s an aspect of craft that’s holding you back, working on that.

 Q: How did you end up writing for children and young adults?

I had an idea for a YA book with a teenage protagonist during the first class I took at The Writer’s Center and when I gave the one-minute summary to Susan Land, my teacher at the time, she told me that was the book I should be writing. I didn’t believe her at first, but after a few years of the characters rattling around my head, I got there. Joining SCBWI was also instrumental to teaching me about the children’s market and connecting with other writers.

Q: Does writing for younger audiences require any sort of special approach?

Yes and no. I think about the audience when I first get the idea for the story and particularly when I’m developing the protagonist(s)—who for a middle grade or young adult book will be about the age of the targeted readers or a little older. Getting that perspective and that voice right is critical. And when I have a close-to-final draft, I edit with my audience in mind, in case I’ve accidentally slipped into my lawyer-voice. But when I’m in the middle of drafting, I just focus on trying to tell a story that moves, with characters who are real, and that ultimately feels true.

I think it’s important not to underestimate young audiences or write down to them. The basics of craft are equally important for any readership.

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Summer 2018 Issue Launch on Sunday, June 3 in Columbia

Little Patuxent Review is launching its Summer 2018 issue on Sunday, June 3rd from 2:00-4:00 p.m., at Oliver’s Carriage House, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia, MD.

This issue is stunning mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. The launch event reading will include many of the writers published in the issue and a chance to mingle and meet them, as well as the editors and staff of LPR, at the reception afterwards.

Our readers will include:

Poetry: Faye McCray, Natalie Illum, Tracy Dimond, Derrick Weston Brown, Gary Stein, Wallace Lane, Paulette Beete, Rachel E. Hicks
Fiction: Ava Robinson, JoAnna Wool, Elly Revilla-Kugler
Creative Nonfiction: Caroline Bock, Gayla Mills

Two from LPR Visit Paul Rucker’s Exhibit in Richmond

Photo of Paul Rucker

Paul Rucker

In our Winter 2018 issue, LPR featured the art of Paul Rucker. Contributing editor Ann Bracken conducted an interview with Rucker, whose work was also featured in our issue launch.

On May 5, Ann and our publisher, Desirée Magney, traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond to see his exhibit. Below are their comments about the installation.

Desirée Magney: On display, in the back section of a large room on the first floor, was a line-up of Rucker’s mannequins dressed in long, colorful robes cinched at the waist. Pointed hoods stood erect from shoulders to well beyond the tops of the heads. Other than the colors, the mannequins’ clothing resembled the garb of the KKK. I had seen photos of Rucker’s figures in our Winter 2018 Little Patuxent Review journal, so I knew what to expect. But I couldn’t have anticipated the impact the actual exhibit had on me.

The figures were very tall and arranged in a crisscross pattern. So, no matter where you stood, you felt surrounded, intimidated, and overwhelmed by them as they towered over you. The eyeholes in the hoods were vacant, contributing to the eeriness the exhibit created. I imagine these were all feelings intended by Rucker—feelings felt in a much greater degree by those who have encountered actual Klan members. Thus, it was a very effective exhibit.

Rucker also had display cases of old Ku Klux Klan newspapers, postcards, flyers, brochures, and pamphlets. There were postcards of actual lynchings. There were photos of people posing with wide smiles on their faces, in front of bodies dangling from thick tree branches.

I queried Ann how Rucker obtained this memorabilia. “He bids on Ebay. He always wonders who he’s bidding against.” Rucker wonders if the opposing bidder is a believer in the doctrines of white supremacy groups or someone like him who wants to make us all aware of this horrifying history and the continued presence of these groups today.

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Meet Our Contributors: Q&A with Wendy Mitman Clarke

Wendy Mitman Clarke’s poetry has been published in Rattle, Delmarva Review, and Blue River Review, and it will appear in the spring 2018 issue of Blackbird. She won the Pat Nielsen Poetry Prize in 2015 and 2017, and her poem “The Kiss” was a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her nonfiction has been published in River Teeth, Smithsonian, Preservation, and National Parks. Her novel Still Water Bending was released in October 2017. You can read and view her work at www.wendymitmanclarke.com.

Clarke’s poem, “Beachcombing,” appeared in LPR’s Winter Issue 2018 (available for purchase at this link).

Q: What’s the name of the form you use in “Beachcombing.” Why did you make that choice?

A: This form is a pantoum. I was really intimidated by form at first, but I learn so much from it. I’m intrigued by the paradoxical way it makes you more flexible, stretches your thinking and your effort, and often takes the poem to a place you didn’t expect or perhaps wouldn’t have gone at first. In this case, the repetition that this form required worked to establish the kind of rhythmic movement of waves upon a shoreline, and so the form complemented the poem’s setting and topic perfectly. I also think it’s fantastic that a form as ancient as the pantoum can so beautifully illuminate a subject that’s so vital in our contemporary world.

Q: Your poem begins with a statement from UNESCO about plastic killing marine animals. What’s the relationship in your writing between literature and social/environmental causes?

A: So many things are happening in our world today that demand that we bear witness and raise our voices, it can be overwhelming. I felt the need to prioritize. I have spent my whole life on the water, have sailed tens of thousands of miles and have been in some really remote places. Everywhere I have found plastic. My daughter and I are avid beachcombers, and yet with every perfect shell comes a disposable razor or a toothbrush or a tampon applicator or a little round ball from a deodorant dispenser or a mylar balloon, or just tiny, colorful, indiscriminate bits of plastic. It doesn’t biodegrade, and fish and birds and whales—anything that lives in or near the ocean—ingest it in some form. Without our oceans, we as a species and as a planet are dead. People don’t understand that with every choice they make for their convenience, they are killing the oceans and the animals that depend upon them—ourselves included. Plastic straws, plastic coffee cup lids, plastic water bottles—it’s ubiquitous and pervasive and it has to stop. I hope if I focus my writing on trying to make people more aware of issues like this, perhaps I can do my small part to help our natural world and the animals and organisms with whom we share it. The Lorax had it right: Someone has to speak for the trees. Also, artists like Chris Jordan—whose work “Midway: Message From the Gyre” absolutely shatters me—inspire me to raise my voice through my writing.

Q: You seem to write everything—poetry, nonfiction, fiction. What got you into writing?

I have been writing since I can remember. I come from a family of voracious readers, and writing was always valued in my family. My dad could recite things like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by heart, and at every Christmas or major family event like a wedding, he would write a poem to commemorate it. I had an amazing English teacher in high school—that one teacher you worship and for whom you want to excel, and after a I wrote a short story about a post-apocalyptic world, he encouraged me to pursue more creative writing. My nonfiction writing began when I was in college with a semester left to graduate and the urgent need to find a job. I started working as a reporter at my hometown newspaper, then was hired by The Associated Press, where I really learned the value of brevity, accuracy, and efficiency in writing. Eventually I shifted into magazines, and that’s where my nonfiction really was able to stretch.

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Meet the Neighbors: Jerry Gabriel of the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference

Jerry Gabriel’s first book of fiction, Drowned Boy, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and was published in 2010 (Sarabande Books). It was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick and awarded the 2011 Towson Prize for Literature. His second book of fiction, The Let Go, was published in 2015 (Queen’s Ferry Press). His stories have appeared in One Story, Epoch, Fiction, Five Chapters, and The Missouri Review, among other publications. His work has been short-listed for a Pushcart Prize and he has received grants and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2004), the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (2011), and the National Endowment for the Arts (2016). He lives with his family in southern Maryland, where he teaches writing at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and directs the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference.

Q: I can say that I love the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but I’m less sure I can honestly say I love the Chesapeake Bay. I just haven’t spent much time on or around the water. What’s the Chesapeake Bay mean to you?

When I was in perhaps fifth grade, I wrote a “paper” on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which I guess fascinated me at the time, but that was probably most of the thinking I did on the subject until I moved here with my wife twenty-five years later.  But my relationship with the Chesapeake Bay is actually pretty rich, if mostly mediated through my children. We live about five minutes from the bay, and we spend a great deal of time there, digging around along the wrack line and in the tidal pools, swimming, getting ankle-bitten by the insidious flies. Though I am not a native Marylander, and I don’t especially like crabs or extreme humidity, I have come to see the bay as a special place. There is a museum on Solomon’s Island—the Calvert Marine Museum—that does a great job of showing the interconnectedness of life in and around the bay, and at the college where I teach—St. Mary’s College of Maryland—we try to speak to that same interconnectedness. I act as faculty editor for a journal on campus that is dedicated to the environmental and cultural change in the region—it’s called Slackwater—and being involved in that project has also made me appreciate much about the bay and its bounty, as well as its fragility.

Q: Has proximity to the bay in St. Mary’s City influenced your writing at all?

I wouldn’t say my writing has been affected yet by this proximity, but I certainly think it’s slowly working on me. I have lived a number of places, and in some important ways, I think of myself as a place-based writer, so I’m not especially comfortable just dropping my characters into new landscapes. I have to feel like I know a place. That said, I’m working on a book set in the 1860s in the Midwest, a place I couldn’t possibly have known, so take all of this with a grain of salt, I guess.

Q: There’s a lot of history to St. Mary’s. I know very little but I think of early Catholic settlements and of slavery. Have you written about these or other aspects of the history of your region?

Through my involvement with Slackwater these last several years, I’ve learned a great deal about the history you speak of. It’s powerful—and goes way back. Again, I have not yet had any of that seep into my work. But I certainly don’t rule it out. I have become very interested in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lately, so it could be a case of adding two and two together, creatively.

Q: What’s the origin story of the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference?

Well, there was a poetry festival at the college for many years that was created and directed by Michael Glaser, a poet who is still lives in the area. This conference is an extension of that work, in some ways. But it is also an attempt to make this beautiful spot a hub for literary connections in the region. The campus is very quiet in the summer and it is a great place to get together and talk about ideas related to writing. I’ve been very lucky to gather some incredible faculty members—including folks like Patricia Henley, who has been a finalist for the National Book Award—and it’s just been such a rich experience across the board, for me, for the faculty, for all the folks who attend (including high schoolers and SMCM undergrads).  The ethos—and I think this, too, goes back to Michael Glaser’s festival—is rooted in possibility. No one here subscribes to the “cut me down to make me stronger” theory of creative writing instruction.

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