Clarinda Harris: Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Clarinda Harris is one of our featured poets in the Summer 2017 issue. She has graciously allowed us to reprint her poem here. 

Clarinda Harris

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

“I asked for water, boy; you’ve brought me beer.”

—Attributed to Mrs. Siddons, ca. 1850

Here comes my man playing man-servant,
bringing me a pretty wineglass full of milk.
the third so far. I’d asked for a glass of water
to drink at my computer, pretending to write,
unable to escape from email. “You’re so sweet,
sweetheart; just put it in the fridge for now.”
No water but more and more whited wine
glasses will be on their way. I think of the buckets
of water the sorcerer’s apprentice set in motion.
I remember the flood. I forget what stopped it.
I remember the famous Shakespearean actress
who lilted iambic pentameter even in a pub.
I forget how to make any rhythm of my own
In the din of glass on glass on glass on glass.

BIO:

As well as being the longtime publisher of BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland’s oldest literary press, Clarinda Harriss is a professor emerita of Towson University. Her published books include two academic books (one of which is a co-authored translation of the medieval poem “The Pearl”), five poetry collections, and one short story collection. She also co-edited with poet Moira Egan Hot Sonnets; An Anthology.

NOTE: If you enjoyed this poem, please check out LPR’s Summer Issue 2017. Order copies here (Note that annual subscriptions are available online as well.)

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Gary Stein: How A Trial Lawyer and Poet Speaks His Truth

Contributed by Mike Clark, Publisher Emeritus

Poetry with a spirit of its own tends to find varying human forms of expression.

Emily Dickinson, a recluse, wrote her metaphorical, magical poems in an upstairs Amherst bedroom. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive who had “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. Walt Whitman, a news reporter, nursed the Civil War wounded and proclaimed a “barbaric yawp” that gave a new vision to American poetry. And William Carlos Williams, a pediatrician, let his poetry speak in everyday language.

So it is not too farfetched for Gary Stein, a 68-year-old plaintiffs’ civil trial attorney, to speak his own poetic truths as well as advocating for his personal injury and divorce clients.

Gary Stein

The Rockville, MD-based lawyer says he finds “poetry to be a process of looking for connections just like the law. Neither law nor poetry exist without language—one analytic and the other intuitive.”

Gary Stein came out of the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop with a master’s degree and an unpublished novel, a penchant for short stories, and a yearning to write poetry. He later got his legal training from Georgetown Law School and is a member of both the Washington D. C. and Maryland bar.

Besides the practice of law and his preoccupation with writing poetry, Gary Stein says his spiritual life also defines him.

Raised as a Catholic, Gary Stein has spent the last 30 years of his life as a Quaker. “I tried Unitarianism. I studied Judaism and Buddhism. But I have come to like the Quakers with their emphasis on a personal relationship with the divine or the Spirit without an intermediary. It encourages questioning and seeking truth and does not discourage it. It is not dogmatic, but inclusive because if you accept that of God in each person, you are likely to respect diversity.”

His first published poem, “Dark Room,” turned up In Prairie Schooner in 1975. Since then his poems have been published in Poetry, Folio, Wordwrights! and

The Sow’s Ear with more than a dozen of his poems finding their way in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s(JAMA) Poetry and Medicine section.

“I represent injured people as an attorney, so I learn about medical things,” he observed. “JAMA has the widest circulation of any magazine in which I’ve been published, and I have received a lot of fan letters from doctors over the years.”

A compilation of his poetry appeared in a chapbook entitled Between Worlds published by The Finishing Line Press, when he was a finalist in the small press’s national poetry contest. He currently is seeking publication of a 70-page manuscript called Touring the Shadow Factory.

“Many of my poems start with a factual event, and a lot of my poems become a compressed narrative,“ Gary Stein noted. He has written about the loss of his father, who before dying in his old age had been his sailing and fishing companion, and even poetry that touched on the strange, unanticipated death of his mother-in law by a bee sting.

Other poems are less personal, and some take a satirical bent, he added.

“I get a reward when I say something that is fresh and that has not been read before,” he said. “A friend of mine had a wonderful quote: ‘I write to find out what I have to say.’ When I write a poem, I never know where it is going. Like a reader, I want to be moved, jolted or amused. If the poem does not teach me something, why did I bother?”

He has a penchant for reading his poetry to groups. The mild mannered attorney said he actually accepts all requests to read his poetry, which allows his poetic side the platform of “a performer.” He has read at a Library of Congress poetry event, at book stores, retirement communities, book groups, churches, colleges, and even in natural settings.

Gary Stein says: “A poem should sound right so people hear its rhythm and rhyme. It cannot only be effective on the page, but poems also must be heard.”

Here are two of Gary Stein’s poems. Enjoy!

DARKROOM

You float up beneath my fingers.
I rub old sun into your hair,
hear bees bother our meal beyond the lens.
In the dust free air it is grass again;
it is years ago not this small night.
Your image whispers itself in silver,
the echo so perfect I leave the room.

Prairie Schooner, 1975

JUST A TRIM

The Vietnamese woman
who snips my hair
in Andre’s Salon
was just a child when
our planes flamed
her village.

Now she calls herself
“Ann,” the ghost
of a name. Eight
thousand miles from
home her busy blades
whirl over
my small head.
For twenty bucks
she tries to tame
the thin forest
of time’s gentle
defoliation.

Poet Lore, 2015

Peter Marcus: Black Light for Etheridge Knight

Peter Marcus is one of our featured poets in the Winter 2017 issue. He has graciously allowed us to reprint his poem here. 

Peter Marcus

Black Light for Etheridge Knight
after Terrance Hayes

Count those living a locked-up life who sleep with one
eye open, always open. Black is the horse running from
the fires. Ka-toum Ka-toum, Ka-toum. Ka-toum. Black are
the horses galloping in silhouette across the stone-white
face of the moon. This song in which the dream-god said,
I will give you two hands that cut with the skill of Kara Walker.
The dead you left behind on Korean fields. The near dead
you lived among in wintertime on Midwestern city streets.
Those kept temporarily warm by Pluto’s snowy light.
The cemeteries of the heart one carries like an ancient vision.
Who among us is not less than their history of grief?
Who’s never drowned in the wine of their own blood?
Who’s not been beset with a vision of America without
its prisons, shelters, slums? I too lost faith in the systems;
sustained only by friendship, family, forgiveness, art. How
you sung the talking drum, the kindness drum. Bearded bard
of Memphis, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh. King of cobalt. King
of indigo. Ka-toum. Ka-toum, Ka-toum. Ever shadowed by
a racial blues: its horses, her tender hands. That primordial
blue where the stars still yearn to feel themselves scatter.

BIO:

Peter Marcus has poems upcoming in Miramar, Slipstream, and Prairie Schooner and in Broken Atoms in Our Hands, an anthology on nuclear war and disaster. He will be attending an upcoming residency fellowship at PLAYA (Oregon) in May 2017. He has published one book, Dark Square (Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press imprint, 2012).

 NOTE: If you enjoyed this poem, please check out LPR’s Winter Issue 2017. Order this issue. (Note that annual subscriptions are available online as well.)
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The Salon Series: A Smorgasbord of the Arts and Scientific Inquiry

Thank you to Publisher Emeritus, Mike Clark, for this blog post on the LPR Salon Series.  

If you have any interest in mythology, jazz, classical Indian dance, folklore, the Big Bang Theory, the fate of the Whooping Crane, a refugee’s escape from a war-torn country, Baroque music performed on reed instruments, the historic mission to Pluto, an expanding universe, the practices of world religions, ceramics, how food has influenced film, and protest art then I may have seen you at a salon.

Sponsored by Little Patuxent Review, a journal of literature and the arts, and the Columbia Association Art Center, the salons typically occur on a scheduled Monday night September through June.

The regular attenders say they find salons food for the mind, the senses and the spirit.

With the salon series entering its ninth year, Little Patuxent Review and the Columbia Art Center strive to bring in local artists, scientists and authors and engage with them in dialogue.

Salons have a unique history. In early 18th century France, they usually took the form of intellectual discussions where wigged, powdered French aristocratic men and women assembled in a drawing room. Closer to home is Chautauqua in southwest New York where 100,000 folks gather in the summer to enjoy a diverse cultural program. The salon series in Columbia typically draw 30 to 60 patrons.

The concept of initiating a salon series at the art center was first discussed in February 2008, when the literary journal staff members Susan Thornton Hobby, Tim Singleton, and I met with Liz Henzey, director of the Columbia Art Center and her deputy Trudy Babchak.

Liz Henzey pointed out in our early discussions that the art center would prove a welcoming artistic environment. “We would be using our space in a better way for all the different arts in our community,” she said.

At our first salon event, Tim Singleton expounded on haiku, a form of poetry tracing its imagistic influence to 17th century Japan and resonating with the Beat poets of the 1960’s. “Haiku,” he told the audience seems “very little (in verbiage), but it does big things” to stir our imaginations.

From there we reached as far as the stars. Nobel Prize winning NASA scientist John C. Mather told us about the story of the universe. Hubble Space Telescope Astronomer Thomas M. Brown let us know that astronomical sightings indicate that our universe is expanding. Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Manager, told us of the ten-year mission to Pluto with a spine tingling challenge the mission faced in the last minutes before reaching its goal.

Recent salons included a demonstration of classical Indian dance, a jazz performance, Tom Glenn’s bitter memories of the fall of Saigon, and Professors Mike Giuliano and Marie Westhaver exploration of how food has become a vibrant theme in movies that not only makes our mouths water but also affects human relationships.

The schedule for the 2017-2018 salon series is being put in place with the assistance of Columbia Art Center staff members Liz Henzey and Monica Herber along with Little Patuxent Review’s supporters– Liz Bobo, Phyllis Greenbaum, Sabina Taj , Tim Singleton and Kimberley Flowers. The first salon for the 2107-2018 series will be held at the Columbia Art Center on September 18, 2017, at 7:00pm and will explore the first 50 years of Columbia’s history. Featured presenters, Robert Tennenbaum and Prof. Sidney Bower, will present a talk entitled “The Book, Columbia, Maryland: A 50 Year Retrospective of a Model City.”

Kyle Graber: Reading Comes First

The LPR staff is pleased to welcome our new poetry reader and my friend, Kyle Graber. I met Kyle my sophomore year of college, and amidst many of our similar interests, we found that poetry provided us with a common bond.  Over the years, I’ve asked him to edit many of my poems, and here he shares his trials and errors of writing poetry in college. We look forward to his insight and input on the LPR team. Welcome, Kyle.

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To forgive, or merely to make sense of our younger selves from the perspective of our currently occupied selves, can be very hard work. When we stumble upon an impressive, but inept drawing from childhood, we laugh, maybe even get a little sentimental. But I challenge anyone to revisit a poem written at age eighteen, three years later, and try to find that kind of inability adorable. For most people, the experience will be disturbing and maybe a little embarrassing.

When I look back at the poems I wrote as an 18-year-old freshman, I’m acutely aware of how different a person and, invariably, a writer I was. For example, I used to write much more than I read, much more. Sometimes I’d even watch people recite their poems on Youtube and call that reading. I also took no issue with length — excepting the work of others –which might be indicative of a belief that everything and anything that I wrote was fundamentally pretty good. Naturally, I wasn’t big on revision, though one can name any number of admirable writers who’d claim not to be either. But what really matters is, from then to now, I didn’t possess anything you could call doubt.

It wasn’t until late in my freshman year that I was introduced to a little emotion called shame. Along with a friend, I attended my first poetry workshop — which, as it turned out, was a casual one, facilitated by a senior, Noah. As a kind of parody of fraternal initiation, Noah joked that “the new kid” would be the first person work- shopped in the group. (But then, how much of a joke could it have really been, seeing as I was, in fact, made to go first?) I read my poem and received a couple comments of timid praise. Then, it was Noah’s turn. He spoke disinterestedly and proceeded to all but instruct me to re-think my personality, publically, no less. There was even a point, toward the end, when my work actually got him reflecting on his younger self.

“Y’know, ha-ha, when I was a freshman, I remember, I thought I was really smart,” Noah said, not quite looking at me, “like, really smart, but then I kind of realized, actually, ha-ha, I didn’t know shit.” Here he gave his most expansive laugh of all. “Anyway, thanks for sharing your stuff, uh, Kyle?”

“Yeah, Kyle,” I said.

What’s funny is that, aside from being a senior, Noah didn’t even have any intimidating credentials. He was just a guy who was openly unappreciative of my work. But since I had a hot streak of confidence, I suppose it’s true that no one had yet challenged me so directly. This might explain why I took it as hard as I did, allowing doubt, for the first time in years, to seize the higher ground. I didn’t produce any writing for a long time.

When I tried to, it always came out as unbearably self-conscious. Every poem I wrote was about how I was struggling to write an unselfconscious poem. Although, amidst all the turbulence, I stumbled into a genuinely fulfilling relationship with books. It was a novelty, really, to read a book just for the purpose of enjoyment. I’d previously conceived of reading to be a type of necessary training for writing, but it was around this time that I understood reading as a pleasure unto itself. Memorable books from that time are Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, to name a couple. Both writers nurtured in me this kind of poetic value of focusing on the small things, even if, and especially when, what you really want to say is something big.

Looking back on what I’ve learned, it’s the reading- comes-first mentality that I’m most grateful for developing. When I ask myself now, What’s more important to me, writing or reading? the question is at least tougher than it used to be. To enjoy a book, without constantly having to worry about my own writing, instills a kind of modesty that ultimately works in my favor when the time finally comes to write.

If I have any advice for a young writer who’s about to enter their first workshop, it might be this: Prepare to be fractured. Or, even better, perhaps: Don’t prepare. Don’t prepare at all.

Bio: Kyle Graber was born and raised in New York City and is currently studying psychology and English at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

Desiree Magney–Writing from the Heart, Shaping it into Art: How Memoir Evolves into Prose

 

LPR’s publisher, Desiree Magney, offers some insight on writing narrative and memoir.

Little Patuxent Review is always searching for captivating true stories. But having a great story to tell is just the first step to writing a compelling memoir or personal narrative. What makes a memoir stand out? What gives it appeal? What makes it relatable to a larger audience? How does a good story become a work of art?

Elements such as a narrative arc, character development, dialogue, incorporating sensory detail, scene writing, and musing all contribute to making a good story a work of art, just like in fiction. But in memoir writing, the narrator is you, and the story to tell, uniquely your own. And in telling the story, a good narrator shows the reader how events created a conflict, a change, a transformative moment. We see the narrator grapple and muse and come away with some kind of reckoning of the situation. And even though the reader may never have experienced circumstances like the writer has gone through, the reader can relate to it at some level. The reader is on a journey with the narrator and sees the bigger picture.

The relevance to the reader may occur in myriad ways. For example, there may be a commonality in circumstance. In, “White Shoulders,” a story I published about my mother’s lifelong favorite scent and her decline and passing, readers may be able to relate to the link between scent and memory, to the illness or death of a dear one, or to a daughter’s guilt as she sees her mother slip away. In circumstances where a reader may not be able to relate to the specific story, there may be a larger relevance or lesson to learn. For example, perhaps not many readers of “Taking Flight,” a story I wrote and published about my daughter’s decision to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan, soon after the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, could relate to those precise circumstances. But anyone with a child can relate to the struggle of parents to let go of their young adult children, especially when fear for the child’s safety feels overwhelming.

Desiree Magney, LPR Publisher

Vivian Gornick in The Situation and the Story says, “Truth in a memoir is achieved not through a recital of actual events…What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened. For that the power of a writing imagination is required.”

In a class I teach at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, I delve into more of the elements that make a story engaging to a reader. My other favorite books on craft are: The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers by Laura Oliver; Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz; Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg; and The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Our editors are looking for stories that are true, well written with all the elements mentioned above, and that connect, as memoirist Cheryl Strayed says, “to the greater, grander truth.” Send us your story.

Desirée Magney is a former practicing attorney who writes narrative nonfiction and poetry. Her nonfiction has been published in bioStories, Bethesda Magazine, The Delmarva Review, The Washington Post Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine (Washington Voices column), and The Writer’s Center – Art Begins with a Story. Her poetry has been published in Jellyfish Whispers and was included in the Best of Anthology, Storm Cycle, published by Kind of a Hurricane Press. She is the publisher of Little Patuxent Review and teaches at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Open Call for Submissions

The submission window for the next issue of Little Patuxent Review opened on December 1, 2016 and will close on March 1st. The issue is unthemed.

LPR is looking for the very best smart, engaging and well-crafted submissions of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. The editors welcome vibrant creative writing that demonstrates a strong sense of craft, a clear voice, and an ability to captivate the reader. The editors and readers of LPR have a variety of aesthetics and welcome a broad range of work, from the experimental to the conventional. Send work that will engage the imagination. Please read the information here. We thank you for your submissions!

Little Patuxent Review is a community-based publication focused on writers and artists from the Mid-Atlantic region, but all excellent work originating in the United States will be considered.

Interested? Keep reading…..