Robin Talbert’s Essay: “Please,North Carolina,Be the State of Love”

Robin Talbert serves as one of LPR’s nonfiction reviewers and graciously granted us permission to reprint her essay.  Talbert offers us a lot to consider about making our society more just, welcoming, and inclusive.

Byline: By Robin Talbert, Reprinted from The Charlotte Observer

When I was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, I was quietly aware of disparities that seemed both commonplace and unfair. We sang a song in Sunday school that instilled in us the belief that Jesus loved everyone, regardless of color. We took it to heart as we innocently sang the well-intentioned, if insensitive, words, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

In those days, North Carolina was a segregated society. The rural Appalachian county where we lived was home to neither the KKK nor to civil rights activists, but Jim Crow was the cultural norm. In our small cotton mill town, blacks lived on a dirt road, referred to as the white line. Black men worked as janitors and black women in white people’s homes cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. African-American children were bused miles away to attend the county’s “colored” schools.

Robin Talbert

Gradually, things began to change. Church seemed to be one place where soul-searching about racism and segregation could happen. I’ve never forgotten the night our youth group leader made a confession. He was a young, “cool” high school teacher, and the older teens looked up to him.
Pacing and sweating, he told us about attending a meeting in a town nearby. Both white and black leaders were there. That would have been unusual, perhaps a first for him, as it would have been for most of us. He said that after the event ended, he went directly to the restroom and washed his hands. After some self-reflection, he realized he was washing because he had shaken hands with a black man.

Like a good educator and preacher, he taught us with a parable so vivid, so personal, so disturbing, that none of us could help but wonder if we would have done the same thing. Racism, we learned from him that evening, was a sin we might not even be aware we were committing.

When I started elementary school, my naïve belief that North Carolina was part of the north during the Civil War was shattered. No matter how eager I was to be a Carolinian on the good side, our state had a long way to go. But that young white teacher at my church, and many others, wanted to change. They inspired us. They eventually led us in peaceful integration of our schools. We wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to live up the teachings of Jesus.

“Political correctness” was neither a phrase nor a value in those days. Coming to terms with our history, culture, and personal beliefs and actions on race was a moral imperative.

Over the past several decades, North Carolina has made much progress towards racial equality. Yet there is still much to be done. Minority voting rights are threatened, and now there are new targets for bigotry – including immigrants and gay and transgender people.

It appears to me North Carolina is, once again, at a crossroads. Communities face a choice between values that are forged in fear and disdain, or those that spring from love and acceptance for all – regardless of race, religion, country of origin, gender preference or identity. We all must look in the mirror sometimes to examine the roots of our discomfort, to challenge our assumptions and stereotypes, and to question our actions and reactions.

When our older son was about 10, he figured out that some of his relatives in North Carolina were in a different political party than his parents. “But they go to church,” he said, struggling to reconcile what to him was inconsistent. I explained that good people could have different political beliefs. I want to believe that, and I hope and pray that our nation is able to overcome disharmony by focusing on what we have in common, while also embracing our diversity.

I’m proud of my home state for many reasons – mountains and beaches, music and culture, barbecue and basketball. I hope the good and gentle people who live there don’t give in to the haters. Please, North Carolina, be the state of acceptance. Be the state of love.

End Note: This article was first published by The Charlotte Observer on May 6, 2017.

Bio: Robin Talbert’s work has appeared in The Healing Muse, Chest, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Better After 50, Global Impact, and Stoneboat, and was included in Ekphrasis,an exhibit presented by the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  She is a book reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books and a nonfiction reviewer for The Little Patuxent Review.   A nonprofit management consultant, she was formerly a legal aid lawyer and was President of the AARP Foundation.

Advertisements

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.

Meet Lisa, gardener of flowers, words, and love.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill could have been looking ahead, thinking about Little Patuxent Review’s volunteer staff. Each works tirelessly behind the scenes to read your submissions, edit the draft and design the final printed journal. In other words, it means something to them when your work gets published (almost as much as it does to you). As review continues on the Myth issue submissions, let’s continue to meet our volunteers.

Lisa BiggarLisa Lynn Biggar began reading fiction submissions for Little Patuxent Review in 2013.  She received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and is currently marketing her first novel, We Were Here. Her short fiction has appeared in The Dickinson Review, The Main Street Rag, Bluestem Magazine, Roadside Fiction, The Little Patuxent Review, and is forthcoming in The Minnesota Review.  She currently teaches English at Chesapeake College and co-owns and operates a cut flower farm on the eastern shore of Maryland with her husband and four cats.

What’s your process for going through submissions? I give each quality submission an honest read. Sometimes a piece that starts off slow can surprise me in the end.

When you’re reading a submission, what draws you most about a piece? There is no one thing, but I do like character-driven plots, be it realism or magic realism.

What turns you off immediately when you read a submission? Rambling for the sake of rambling, not the story.

Who has informed your reading tastes most? Why? Virginia Woolf and Milan Kundera—such a musical, meandering flow to their work, but nothing beyond the stories at hand.

What’s on your nightstand right now to be read?  One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Are you also a writer/poet? If so, tell us more. If so, tell us more.Yes. I have an MFA in Fiction from VT College and write and publish fiction and poetry. I am currently marketing my first novel, We Were Here.

What’s your Six-Word Memoir: Gardener of flowers, words, and love.

Do you have any superpowers? If not, what do you wish you had? I wish I could jump into the skin of other people and feel what it’s like to be them for just an hour or so.

Online Editor’s Note: You stay abreast of Lisa’s writing, publication, and speaking schedule by visiting her website: www.writinglisa.com. A reminder that LPR’s Summer submission period is “open.” We welcome your creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and art.

Our Designing Woman

Anne Frank wrote, “No one ever became poor from giving.” This is especially true of our volunteer staff at Little Patuxent Review. Each works tirelessly behind the scenes to read your submissions, edit the draft and design the final printed journal. In other words, it means something to them when your work gets published (almost as much as it does to you). Our submission period opened on August 1, so I thought it might be a great opportunity for you to meet them. Over the next several months, look for fun and interesting posts about our stalwart volunteers.

Deb Dulin, 2015.

Deb Dulin, 2015.

Deb Dulin became LPR’s designer in 2011, and the legend of her joining is worth retelling. Co-publishers Mike Clark and Tim Singleton were meeting with then-editor Laura Shovan on the lower level of the Ellicott City Barnes & Noble book store. The journal’s designer had just resigned and Mike was lamenting this loss. Deb, heavily pregnant at the time, leaned over the balustrade and said down to the group, “I’m a designer.” The rest is LPR history. We’ve been grateful for her fabulous work ever since!

When you design the issue, how do you start? We start with a cover design to release in advance of the issue. For the interior pages, I work from beginning to end. There is at least one or two poems in each issue that have very specific requirements for layout, and I work with Steven and the contributor to get as close as possible to their original intent while working within our print guidelines.

What’s your process for selecting the cover? The cover is a collaborative decision among the art editor for each issue, Steven and myself. They narrow down the artist’s selections and then I review each piece to determine the best fit for the cover. The cover itself is secondary to the artwork presented on the front. More often than not, the chosen piece is not perfectly proportioned to a 6” x 9” publication, so I determine how to present it in such a way that the rest of the front and back covers complement the chosen selection. Color options are selected from the art’s palette, and we narrow it down to the final look.

When you’re creating a layout, what draws you in most? To me, layout design is problem solving and each issue is a unique process. For designing the journal, there is a lot of background work in placing text within a text box, but then making several adjustments to create maximum readability. With poetry pieces, there is compromise on longer lines of copy—we work with the poet to make layout adjustments that retain the meaning and look of their work. For the more creative pieces, such as promotional postcards, I enjoy finding ways to make each one unique while retaining certain elements that make LPR recognizable—the logo, the fonts, etc.

What makes you cringe when you look at a poorly designed layout? Text that is over or under kerned (words that are very stretched out or too tightly squeezed in). Or words that have unnaturally large spaces between capital A, V or J and the next letter.  I have to suppress the urge to manually adjust the letter spacing!

Who has informed your design tastes most? Why? Paul Rand has created so many iconic brands that have stood the test of time. I try to follow the philosophy that good design is timeless—you might be able to spot the trendy font or stlye, but it shouldn’t be badly dated within 10 years. I also enjoy reading Brand New (http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/), which is edited by Armin Vit. It’s a good source of constructive criticism of logos and brands of all sizes and nationalities. He covers major companies but also highlights smaller studios that do very creative work.

Do you doodle in your spare time? I do! I have three different sketchbooks at the moment—a spiral-bound book, one with grid squares, and a pocket-sized Field Notes. My projects tend to be scattered throughout, depending on which one is most handy when I get inspired.

What’s on your nightstand right now to be readBrandraising, by Sarah Durham, Color for Designers by Jim Krause, The Three Marriages by David Whyte, and Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. I have a lifelong habit of reading several books at once.

Are you also an artist/writer/poet? If so, tell us more. I dabble in watercolor, charcoal and pencil drawing. One day I will commit to painting and drawing on a regular basis!

What’s your Six Word Memoir: Work in progress, excited for tomorrow.

Do you have any superpowers? If not, what do you wish you had? The Force would be pretty useful in my day-to-day living. If that’s not an option, I want to understand animals. I would love to know what my dog is thinking.

Online Editor’s Note: As Little Patuxent Review approaches its 10th Anniversary, we’ll be showcasing past covers in the upcoming months. Be sure to let us know which were your favorites and why.

Meet Scot, collector of lost and discarded things

I read a quote once that said, “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.” Our volunteer staff at Little Patuxent Review works tirelessly behind the scenes to read your submissions, edit the draft and create the final printed journal. In other words, it means something to them when your work gets published (almost as much as it does to you). Our submission period opened on August 1, so I thought it might be a great opportunity for you to meet them. Over the next several months, look for fun and interesting posts about our stalwart volunteers.

Scot Ehrhardt.

Scot Ehrhardt.

Meet Scot Ehrhardt, who has been a poetry reader for over two years.

What’s your process for going through submissions? This is going to sound terrible: a poem is a no until it changes my mind. Good poetry commands a reader, whether the reader is willing to listen or not.

So I say no to just about everything. Then, when Laura (the poetry editor) asks for my favorite fifteen submissions, I give her four and wonder why she keeps me on the staff.

When you’re reading a submission, what draws you most about a piece? A balance between solid, concrete images and something innovative or significant. If a writer can do that, I’ll follow the piece anywhere.

What turns you off immediately when you read a submission? Confusing, esoteric poems. I dislike the contemporary philosophy of poetry, the American hybrid, and all that gobbledygook. Writing has to stay grounded—even with the natural impulse of poetry to elevate and transcend—it all just floats into the sky if a reader can’t follow it.

Who has informed your reading tastes most? Why? Consumer algorithms. I type something like House of Leaves into an amazon.com search, and see what similar books come up. Soulless, but effective.

What’s on your nightstand right now to be readLabyrinths, by Borges.

Are you also a writer/poet? If so, tell us more. I have written poetry for about 20 years, and it’s just starting to get decent. My first small book of poetry, One of Us Is Real, is looking for a home.

I decided a few years ago that writing, for me, should be a community-based practice—I didn’t get much out of publishing a piece where I never saw the journal, or anyone who read it. That’s why LPR is such a nice entity—the journal is one small part of its presence in Maryland. From launch readings to local LitFests, guest speakers at schools to the webpage articles, everything centers on the community at hand. And despite the potential limitations that a locale-based organization can encounter, LPR consistently manages to gather superb content. I love that.

What’s your Six Word Memoir: Collector of lost and discarded things.

Do you have any superpowers? If not, what do you wish you had? I can predict about three seconds into the future. Mostly, it’s envisioning objects that will fall off tables, or kids about to get their fingers pinched. It doesn’t help anything, but it’s there.

Online Editor’s Note: A reminder that Little Patuxent Review’s submission period for “Myth” is open until October 24. 

Meet Tafisha, a Cave Canem fellow

Jane Goodall wrote, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” Our volunteer staff at Little Patuxent Review works tirelessly behind the scenes to read your submissions, edit the draft and create the final printed journal. In other words, it means something to them when your work gets published (almost as much as it does to you). Since our submission period for Winter’s Myth issue opened on August 1, it’s a great opportunity for you to meet them. Over the next several months, look for fun and interesting posts about our stalwart volunteers.

Tafisha Edwards.

Tafisha Edwards.

Today’s highlighted volunteer is Tafisha A. Edwards, a Guyanese Canadian poet and producer who lives in Washington D.C.

How long have you been a volunteer reader for LPR? I’ve been a volunteer reader for LPR since August 2014.

What’s your process for going through submissions? I first have to ensure I’m in a neutral and receptive head space. Then I make a goal for myself about the amount of submissions I plan on reading and set aside an hour or two to get to work, and of course remain flexible about that goal. I take notes on the emotional temperature of a submission as well as its stylistic thumbprints and then give myself a break and return to the submissions for a final check in with myself. It’s very easy to get fatigued.

When you’re reading a submission, what draws you most about a piece? A strong opening line coupled with an uncanny knowledge of how to employ line endings. A poem that forces me to across and down the page and holds me in escrow until the last line and then still doesn’t release me.

What turns you off immediately when you read a submission? Vagueness. There is a distinction between selective obfuscation of the emotional/narrative/structural landscape of a poem and a poem lacking definition.

Also “my lover” poems. My lover does such and such. My lover is at such place doing such vague thing. I’ve written far too many of those, where the lover is a device and not actualized in any significant way. Now I demand details from myself and from the submissions. Why do I care about this unnamed lover? If you won’t tell me a name then I want the most sublime and foul details in that poem.

Who has informed your reading tastes most? Why? It’s not so much who as what has informed my reading tastes. I am drawn to the mystic, for poetry and fiction that is rooted in the intangible as much as it is rooted in the physical and the particulars of its creator’s, speaker’s or characters’ lived experience and/or politics.

What’s on your nightstand right now to be readI’m notorious for beginning a book and then becoming distracted by another books, so it’s not so much what is on my nightstand but what is slowly taking over my house like vines and taking up psychic space. I’ve promised myself by the end of the summer I would finish Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World, Mary Ruefle’s Trances of the Blast, Aracelis Girmay’s Teeth and Kingdom Animalia as well as Dawn Paley’s Drug War Capitalism.

Are you also a writer/poet? If so, tell us more. I am a poet. What that actually means in my life is constantly in flux; at this moment poet means I am a truly my mother’s, mother’s mother, mother’s mother’s mother’s daughter. I am my maternal aunts and cousins. The women in my family dream dreams and tap into a non-academic, non-linear, intangible stream of information and can translate it for those who may not have honed that ability, the only difference being I transcribe and publish and they do not. Being a poet also means I am familiar with writing my poems in my own blood.

What’s your Six Word Memoir? Yours in Fury and in Laughter.

Do you have any superpowers? If not, what do you wish you had? I am, at select times, intuitive. Only if I am in diligent in recognizing and avoiding distractions. I come from a family of women who understand the language of dreams, so we ingest information in non-linear and circular ways. And that is essentially my superpower.

Online Editor’s Note: Tafisha A. Edwards is a Guyanese Canadian poet and producer who lives in Washington D.C. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Bodega Magazine, The Little Patuxent Review, Fjords Review, Fledgling Rag, Vinyl Poetry and other publications. She is a Cave Canem fellow, the recipient of a Zoland Poetry Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House, and a former educator with the American Poetry Museum.

We’re the lucky ones

Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We’re fortunate at Little Patuxent Review to have a team of dedicated volunteers, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to read your submission, edit the journal and create the final printed product. With our submission period opening on Saturday, I thought it might be a great opportunity for you to meet them. Over the next several months, look for fun and interesting posts about our stalwart volunteers.

Lynn Weber Rehoboth

Lynn Weber at Rehoboth. Photo credit: Jay Kissel.

First up is Lynn Weber, who not only reads poetry submissions, but performs double duty as the line editor for our print journal.

How long have you been a volunteer for LPR? About three years.

When you edit a submission, what reference materials do you use? Webster’s and the Chicago Manual of Style. And the Internet, of course, as specific questions come up.

What’s your process for going through submissions? I tend to read submissions in large batches to keep the competition fresh in mind. It’s easier to see trends—and deviations from the norm—that way. I don’t have a very sophisticated method of reading, however. I just plunge in and see if that spark lights up. I avoid comments or ratings by other reviewers until I’ve cast my vote—and also avoid the names of submitters, to avoid any unconscious biases.

When you’re reading a submission, what draws you most about a pieceMy byword is “different.” I want to experience a fresh use of language. There are tons of beautifully crafted poems with a modest, slightly mournful tone about mortality, dying parents, the evanescence or fragile beauty of the natural world. Lyrics describing the earthiness of gardening or cooking. Poems about the sensuality of vegetables! At this point—and I may be in the minority here—I’d rather read even a poorly crafted poem that is fresh and vital than a well-wrought poem that is safely within our current traditions.

What turns you off immediately when you read a submission? The word “I.” Semi-colons. Lyrical description. Melancholy.

Who has informed your reading tastes most? WhyIn terms of poetry, the textbook anthology Western Wind by John Frederick Nims. In college at Towson University in the 1980s, I took a poetry course with the luminous Clarinda Harriss, the great Baltimore poet and long-time friend of LPR, and Western Wind was our primary text. For ten or fifteen years afterward, I read from that anthology every single night before bed. Anthologies show you how wide language can be stretched, from the beautiful formality of “Dover Beach” to the insanity that is Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffrey.”

What’s on your nightstand right now to be readMostly novels that I review for the magazine Booklist. My favorite book of the last year was Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, a tour de force that exemplifies that byword “different.” I’m also making extremely slow progress on my made-up curriculum of the great works of Western civilization. I started, literally decades ago, with the ancient Greeks and got stuck at the Middle Ages, when everything goes haywire. So many little kingdoms and shifting borders. I’m reading some medieval history now to try to wrap my head around it. I just finished The Plantagenets by Dan Jones and will pick up some Peter Ackroyd next. I also need to read the new one by Ta-Nehisi Coates, our homegrown Baltimore genius.

Are you also a writer/poet? If so, tell us more. I’m an occasional dabbler in poetry writing, a more dedicated writer about culture. I have a blog, www.theredmargins.com, and am working on a book about the feminine aesthetic in popular culture.

What’s your Six Word Memoir? Lucky lucky lucky lucky. So far.

Do you have any superpowers? If not, what do you wish you had? The only superpower worth having is a big heart.

Online Editor’s Note: Submissions for Myth open on Aug. 1 and remain open until Oct. 24.