Enoch Pratt + LPR = a winning contest

When Shaileen Beyer of the Enoch Pratt Free Library contacted Little Patuxent Review to inquire if we’d be interested in partnering on a statewide poetry contest for a fourth year, we jumped at the opportunity.

By the time the contest concluded on March 1, 300 entries from 93 cities and towns, representing 22 counties plus Baltimore City, were submitted in the blind contest. Little Patuxent Review editor Steven Leyva and LPR poetry editor Evan Lasavoy judged the poems. Although they chose three finalists, all of whom appeared in our Summer 2016 issue, “Charlotte Darling” by Saundra Rose Maley was the winning poem.

Enoch Pratt-LPR contest

Contest winner Saundra Rose Maley has had poems in Dryad, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Full Moon on K Street: Poems about Washington D.C., and D.C. Perspectives. Her first book of poems, Disappearing Act, was published in 2015, by Dryad Press. She co-edited A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright with Anne Wright and is currently working again with Anne on a book about Wright and translation, tentatively titled Where the Treasure Lies. She also published Solitary Apprenticeship: James Wright and German Poetry. She teaches Composition and Research at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Join poets Le Hinton and Laura Shovan on Wednesday, July 20, from 6:30-8 pm at the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library as they read in the company of the 2016 Pratt Library Poetry Contest winner and finalists—Saundra Rose Maley, Maggie Rosen, and Sheri Allen. The host is Steven Leyva, editor of Little Patuxent Review, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Life Doesn’t Turn Out as Planned

Little Patuxent Review represents a literary and arts community. Most of our posts focus on literature and arts. Today we focus on our community, specifically highlighting a special member of our staff, business manager Phyllis Greenbaum. She’s our Swiss Army knife. The one who works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure your subscriptions get mailed, events are orchestrated, and vendors receive payment. Just like the Swiss Army knife, she’s got surprises hidden behind a beautiful exterior.

Phyllis Greenbaum with her daughter Tracey

Phyllis Greenbaum with her daughter Tracey

Phyllis joined our tribe 18 months ago, but she’s no stranger to the publication world having spent over 20 years at Patuxent Publishing Co., in Columbia, MD. You may recognize her name from The View from Ellicott City, a weekly newspaper she launched in 1996 with two partners and ran for ten years, growing the franchise to include two monthlies and various specialty publications. The list of Phyllis’ successful entrepreneurial ventures, volunteer positions, and leadership roles is long.

But there’s so much more to Phyllis’ story.

How did you come to volunteer for LPR?
I had lunch with my very close friend and mentor Jean Moon shortly after I retired in May 2014. She had heard that LPR needed some administrative help and thought it would be a good fit for me. I met with Tim [Singleton] and Mike [Clark]. Mike was beginning to downsize for his move to Miller’s Grant and was delighted to have some help. Mike and I met for several months, and by the January 2015 Launch, I was ready to step in.

What appeals to you about working on a literary journal?
LPR is a terrific organization. Besides producing a beautiful journal, we host events (and a terrific website!) that truly promote the literary life in Howard County and beyond. The editors and board members are an amazing group of committed and hard-working people, a true pleasure to work with.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
I assume you mean bookwise, not the medicines and body lotions I use before bed! I have some novels from a World War I literature class I took in the winter (Regeneration, 1914, and Her Majesty’s We) and some novels from a Contemporary Literature class I just finished (Saturday, Crow Lake, The Tortilla Curtain, and Lila). I’m still trying to figure out what to do with them now that I’m done. I don’t usually buy books for that reason. I’m a big library and ebook person. There also are some books I haven’t gotten to yet but like to keep close by … just in case!

When you’re not working on LPR, what fills your days?
I take water aerobics and Zumba classes several times a week. I play mah jong once or twice a week. I’m also pretty busy with my daughter, trying to keep her spirits up during this difficult time.

Tell us about your daughter.
Tracey is an amazing young woman who has had some bad luck. She’s been on dialysis for five years now and is waiting for a kidney transplant — and the wait is a long one! Dialysis has taken a lot out of her. She’s exhausted most of the time. She’s a preschool teacher, and while she was working six days a week just a little over a year ago, she is now able to sub only a couple of times a week, if that much.

What’s your Six-Word Memoir?
Life doesn’t turn out as planned.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Is healing a super power? Because I definitely wish, I had the power to make Tracey better.

Online Editor’s Note: For those of you who are parents, you understand the gut-wrenching worry that comes with the territory. To stand by and watch your child suffer is perhaps the worst kind of torture. You’d do anything to take away the pain. Phyllis is our star on dark nights, and we’d like to be her’s by raising awareness about kidney disease and asking that you keep Tracey and others on the transplant list in your thoughts and prayers. Any messages received in response to this post, here or on our social media sites, will be passed along to Phyllis and Tracey.

There are 100,791 people on the organ donation waiting list for kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The median wait time for someone who needs a kidney transplant is 3.6 years. Here are a few sobering statistics:

  • In 2014, 17,107 kidney transplants took place in the US. Of these, 11,570 came from deceased donors and 5,537 came from living donors.
  • Over 3,000 people get added to the kidney transplant waitlist per month. That’s one every 14 minutes.
  • Every day, 13 people die while waiting for a kidney. Those people leave behind parents, children, siblings – heartbroken families.
  • In 2014, 4,761patients died while waiting for a kidney transplant. Another, 3,668 people became too sick to receive a kidney transplant.

If you’ve ever considered organ donation, giving a kidney is one you can donate while you’re still living. To learn more, visit The Big Give.

Ten Questions for Rafael Alvarez

Photo credit: Jennifer Bishop

Photo credit: Jennifer Bishop

When Little Patuxent co-publisher Mike Clark emailed and requested that I interview his former Baltimore Sun colleague Rafael Alvarez, I launched into research mode. I also downloaded to my Kindle a copy of his latest book, Crabtown USA: Essays & Observations and began to read. Alvarez has been a screenwriter for “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “The Wire” as well as a ship deckhand and newspaperman. He’s best known for his short story collections, The Fountain of Highlandtown and Orlo and Leini.

Mark Kram, Jr., wrote in his introduction to Crabtown, USA, “Rafael not only winked [at the city], he laid his Orioles jacket over a puddle for her as they crossed Eastern Avenue and eloped with her to Dundalk. Baltimore is nothing less than a beauty queen to him.”

Being a Philadelphia native, I marveled at the Baltimore Alvarez describes — and so clearly loves — because it’s so different than the one I have lived in for the past 21 years. In fact, his love affair with his hometown will leave you feeling as though you must get out more often, wander the streets of Charm City, and pay closer attention.

To give our readers a taste of Alvarez’s ninth book, I excerpted ten particularly interesting segments and asked Rafael to elaborate. Here’s our conversation.

Little Patuxent Review: “[Anna Jones] had a way with the local patois that I inevitably conjure for characters in my fiction and screenplays, not cartoons like the beehive pretenders at that shit-hole restaurant in Hampden but real people who live with the water of Bodkin Creek in their veins.” Describe for us your version of a real Baltimorean.

Rafael Alvarez: It may be somewhat fossilized in the post-factory  Baltimore but to me a real  Baltimorean is someone who goes to work every day and if the work dries up or goes away they hustle to find the next thing, sometimes mainstream and sometimes under the table. I think of my good friend Petey who paints houses and is never too busy — no job too small — to help someone out with a quick paint job or caulking job for less than what the market would bear. And then Petey goes home and feeds stray cats behind the Royal Farm store because he hates to see them go hungry. That’s a real Baltimorean to me, male or female, child or adult. My Polish grandmother was as real a Baltimorean as I ever knew — she ventured across the city on transit buses, treated her grandkids to movies downtown at the Hippodrome and worked in sweat shops as a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

LPR:  “My father’s mother, Frances Prato Alvarez, died when I was at sea in 1976, just a year or two before I realized that while good stories can be found all over the map, the best ones are stirring something on the stove with a wooden spoon.” Tell us about your grandmother and in influence on you.

RA: Perhaps no one has had a bigger emotional influence on me than my Italian grandmother, Francis Prato Alvarez, 1906 to 1976. She is at the heart of every story grounded in the Macon Street rowhouse where my father (born 1934) grew up. The early “Basilio” stories only hinted at her (read Fountain of Highlandtown) because Grandpop loomed large over those early stories. “Francesca” became real in my fiction when I discovered that she was Leini’s best friend and they had known each other as adolescents. It is Leini who teaches the legally blind Francesca, at age 15, to sign her name by showing her how to trace it over and over again.

LPR: While sick and feverish in the late 1990s, you saw the specter of Anne Frank hovering near your tin ceiling. You wrote that “but for the rest of that year, by diminishing degrees, it felt as though she and I were the same person, that somehow I became Anne Frank while remaining myself.” What was that experience like and how did it impact you?

RA: Although I hint at it in my writing from time to time, this is a very private experience and I don’t want to tarnish it by talking about it too much. Suffice to say that when I told one of the more learned Orthodox rabbis in the Northwest Baltimore shtetl about it, his response was, “You were Anne Frank for two weeks and you didn’t tell me?”

LPR: Your father was a tugboat man with Baker-Whitely Towing Co. He knew before you the late poet David Franks, about whom you wrote an essay in Crabtown USA. Share with our readers the story about the tugboat symphony, “Whistling in the Dark.”

RA: The Franks’ tugboat symphony was well documented by Franks, whose archives have been preserved in the basement of a rowhouse deep in the bleeding heart of the Holy Land. My father told the story at the dinner table when I was maybe 12 years old and it was fascinating. I wanted to meet the kind of people with ideas wild enough to ‘conduct’ a fleet of tugboats and their shrill whistles. Here is the Baltimore Sun obit on Franks, written by a friend of mine — Arthur Hirsch — whom I introduced to Franks several years before the poet’s death.

LPR: Reading your book helped me to see my adopted city and understand its quirkiness and charm in a new way. You delve deep to highlight character and place, such as Kramer’s Golden Crisp Popcorn Shop and Miss Anna, Monkey Row, and A-Rabbers. When you think of B’more, what images pop immediately to mind that you’d want others to know?

RA: So much of what I want them to know is gone – Karcz’s Café on South Broadway, Corral’s Spanish restaurant, also on South Broadway (Vagabond Theater in that spot now); the Broadway Recreation Pier will be condos by the time this interview is published, when I was little (and my mother and her mother before then) it was an urban rooftop playground (visible in some scenes from the NBC show ‘Homicide, Life on the Street’); the marble steps are still here but no one scrubs them, Martick’s Restaurant Francais – gone. So I have used my work not only to tell stories and weave fact and fiction into ‘tales’ but I use the narrative to preserve places that are gone. The images I want people to see have to be read in my books and then ‘conjured.’ If they can truly “see” them, I’ve done my job.

LPR: In the early 2000s, you made a pilgrimage to Los Angeles about which you write in Crabtown USA. Along the way, you meet all kinds of characters and deposit 78 copies of LINK and Crabtown Stories with those deemed worthy. Each copy included ways to get in touch with you. Has anyone ever reached out?

RA: Nope. Not a single person. Though apparently I gave a copy of my book Storyteller to someone in a Starbucks south of Kalamazoo, Michigan back in 2014 who wrote and told a friend about it. I am often greeted on the road by fellow Baltimoreans because I am always wearing my orange, floppy Baltimore Orioles “cartoon bird” hat.

LPR: What did you learn about yourself on that trek?

RA: That as I grow older I love solitude. That on long trips across flat states where the road ribbons out for miles in front of you stories not only come to you that you could never have imagined sitting at the keyboard but often SOLUTIONS to literary puzzles set down in early drafts of existing stories sometimes make themselves clear. I learned how much I love the early morning, sipping coffee and saying the rosary with the sun coming up as I drive east toward home from Mississippi; how much I love the magic hour of late afternoon after a roadside nap, sipping coffee and listening to the blues in the orange/pink/gray sunset as I drive west toward Iowa and the cornfield where Buddy Holly crashed in February of 1959, the great Dion DiMucci miraculously spared death.

LPR: You wrote, “Now to be an artist or poet in Baltimore — a weirdo, a drifter, a dreamer — is common but good jobs are scarce.” You’ve had many interesting jobs. Share highlights with us. Looking back, would you do anything different?

RA: I would have partied less and read more. I would have taken advantage of the wide array of theology and religion courses offered at Loyola College while I was there (1976 to 1980) and spent less time wondering what Keith Richards and Robin Trower were up to. I would have taken more photos of things that are gone.

LPR: Your description of a real hon made me laugh out loud. “You know how to have a good time but you also “know your place.” You’re not cheap — either in your morals or “pocky book” — or else other Hons “will talk shit about you.” How do you like to have a good time? If a Hon were to “talk shit about you,” what would she say?

Illustration by Billy Ray Gombus

Illustration by Billy Ray Gombus

RA: She might say, “He’s a charmer, I wouldn’t trust him …”

LPR: Good to know! What are you working on these days?

RA: A book about World War II love letters (non-fiction) and a new short story (fiction) called “Spellbound in the Family Circle,” about following a woman through India as she buys a wedding dress during the week of Mother Teresa’s funeral.

Online Editor’s Note: Thank you, Rafael, for showing me the unexpected beauty of Baltimore and reminding me what I love about this city. Whether you’re a native Baltimorean looking to take a stroll down memory lane or a transplant like me, pick up your own copy of Crabtown, USA. If you’d like to meet Rafael in person, he’s hosting a reading of his new story, “A Banquet of Onions” at Ikaros Restaurant (4901 Eastern Avenue) in Greektown on Sunday, April 10 at 4 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for Mother Seton Academy.

Read Susan Thornton Hobby’s 2011 blog post on Alvarez.


10-Year-AnniversaryTen. Do you remember hitting that double-digit birthday? Or the first time you counted to ten? You felt like a big kid.

Then there were David Letterman’s famous “Top Ten Lists.”  (I’m still mourning their demise.) On the eve of the millennium, the hit film “10 Things I Hate About You” opened in theaters. Bo Derek loped across the screen, a perfect “10” in Dudley Moore’s — and every red-blooded male’s —fantasy.

Ten years ago, Crash won an Oscar for best picture, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a serious stroke and transferred power to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Baltimore’s arch-rival’s, the Pittsburgh Steelers, won the Super Bowl (again).

Why am I fixated on the number ten? Because ten years ago, a group of literary-minded, forward-thinking folks gathered in Columbia, MD, and decided to resurrect a defunct journal called Little Patuxent Review.

Here’s an excerpt from our “About” page:

LPR was named for Little Patuxent River, one of the three major tributaries of the Patuxent River. Like LPR, the river flows over stones — the Algonquin word “Patuxent” means “water flowing over smooth stones” — through Howard County, Maryland, gathering strength as it carries content to the Chesapeake Bay and out toward the larger world.

LPR was founded in 2006 by a group of local writers — Mike Clark, Ann Bracken, Ann Barney, Brendan Donegan — to fill the void left when a periodical of the same title, founded by poets Ralph and Margot Treital, closed a quarter century ago.

They envisioned LPR as a forum for area writers and artists. In doing so, LPR not only provides readers with a diverse array of local offerings but also attracts contributors of national repute.

LPR has featured poetry from Donald Hall, Poet Laureate of the United States and Michael Glaser, Poet Laureate of Maryland. In addition, from Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award winner Stanley Plumly, the late Lucille Clifton, winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Poetry and recipient of the Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Society of America and Joy Harjo, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

There has been fiction from Edith Pearlman, whose collection Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories won the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award,  Michael Chabon, whose Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for FictionRafael Alvarez, whose screenwriting contributed to the critically acclaimed television series Homicide: Life in the Streets and The Wire, and Manil Suri, whose The Death of Vishnu became an international bestseller.

There have been myriad early efforts from writers and artists who will look back on Little Patuxent Review as the publication that gave them their start.

As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary, we’ll be showcasing previous issues, highlighting cover art, and inviting you to engage with us in new ways. Thanks for your support!

Attention, Poets.

shutterstock_121715392St. Valentine’s Day has come. And gone. St. Patrick’s Day is still a month away. In between, lay an opportunity ripe for the plucking. Rather than divulge outright what is afoot, let me offer for your edification a little quiz. Sharpen your yellow No. 2 pencil and your wit. Cheating will not be tolerated. (Don’t worry this multiple choice test won’t burn too many brain cells.)

  1. Are you 18 or older?
  2. Are you a Maryland resident?
  3. Are you a poet?
  4. Do you have an unpublished poem not exceeding 100 lines (this includes in print, on the Web, Twitter, or Facebook)?
  5. Do you have an unpublished poem (not exceeding 100 lines) which is not currently under review for possible publication?
  6. Are you or any member of your immediate family a paid or volunteer staff member of the Enoch Pratt Free Library or the Little Patuxent Review?
  7. Have you ever won first place in a previous Pratt Library Poetry Contest?

You may put down your pencil.

If you responded “Yes” to questions 1-5 and “No” to questions 6-7, you really must consider submitting a FREE entry to the Enoch Pratt Free Library Poetry Contest. Why? (Other than you have nothing to lose.) The winning poem will be published in Little Patuxent Review, enlarged for display in a Central Library show window, and honored at a public reading at the Central Library. Runners-up may be considered for publication in LPR.

Would you like examples? Check out 2015’s winning poem by Inga Lea Schmidt and 2014’s by Joseph Ross.

What are you waiting for? Submissions are due by March 1, 2016. Rules and submission guidelines can be found on the contest page www.prattlibrary.org/poetrycontest.

To learn more about how the collaboration between LPR and the Enoch Pratt began, read “Meet the Neighbors: Enoch Pratt Free Library.”  A reminder that the submissions period for the summer issue closes on March 1, 2016.

What’s a Salon, anyway?

Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Photograph by Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature.

Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Photograph by Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature.

When I heard the phrase “literary salon,” I thought immediately of Gertrude Stein and her famous Parisian salons of the 1920s. Invited to participate in one of her events, you knew you were definitely hot shit. Couldn’t you see the flapper dresses sway, feel the crisp bite of champagne, and hear Gertrude bark at Hemingway? I’d love to have been there.

Baltimore’s thriving literary and arts community offers so many opportunities to participate in lectures, readings, and openings that one could fill one’s social calendar with one event after another. These modern salons abound, yet thinking of them in terms of Parisian excess, I couldn’t quite figure out what to expect. Who attended these events? How did one dress? Would I fit in?

Oliver's Carriage House

Oliver’s Carriage House

The first Little Patuxent Review launch reading I attended was last January. Snow drifts piled high then, too (though not as impressive as today). Oliver’s Carriage House, a stone edifice, felt welcoming and warm. Voices drifted down from the second floor. I mounted the steps and arrived to find throngs of people gathered. Three groups of chairs, arranged in rows, fanned out to face an oak podium, which stood before a great unlit fireplace. The afternoon sun poured in through high windows, casting a warm glow throughout the room.

As the attendees shed their coats, I observed that they were a mix of old and young, smooth and wrinkled. Some wore scarves and jewels, others jeans and sweaters. Some were shod with L.L.Bean duck boots while others had feet encased in modest pumps. When the moderator spoke, a reverent hush descended. We all anticipated the words to follow.

Poets recited. Essayists read. The audience laughed. We leaned forward, rapt. Tears formed in the corner’s of eyes and were wiped away with the backs of hands. We asked questions and shared refreshments. Contributors received direct feedback about the impact of their work. The whole event felt positive, reaffirming.

In short, salons aren’t the stuffy, by “invitation-only” events they once were. (Sorry, Gertrude.) They’re attended by the curious, the learners, the adventurers, the dreamers, lovers of words and art and song. Everyday people attend. People like plumbers and cooks and lawyers and teachers and parents. Sometimes, there are even teenagers.

We hope you’ll consider attending this Sunday’s salon launch of Little Patuxent Review’s Winter 2016 Issue “Myth” or any of the upcoming Salon Series jointly sponsored by LPR and the Columbia Association. All events are free and open to the public.

Still not convinced? Here are a few photos from a recent Salon Series event where guest editor Patricia VanAmburg spoke on “Pulling Adiadne’s Thread.” She discussed myths, ancient images, and symbols using her own photographs. The next Salon Series event is scheduled for February 22 at 7 pm. It features blues singer Denee Barr, who will share her repertoire of songs by Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Judy Garland.

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Launch Delayed to January 31

The launch reading of the Winter 2016 “Myth” issue has been postponed due to expected inclement weather. It will be held from 2-4 pm on Sunday, January 31, 2016, at Oliver’s Carriage House, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia, MD 21044.

LPR Contributing Editor Susan Thornton Hobby will serve as our MC. Light refreshments will be served and copies of this and older editions will be available for sale. Please join us.

Our program will feature the following contributors:

  • Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka
  • Pat Valdata
  • Minas Konsolas
  • Ann Quinn
  • Amanda Miska
  • Michele Wolf
  • Edgar Gabriel Silex (introduced by Patricia)