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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Print Issue Preview: Summer 2014 Unthemed Issue

A portion of Lee Boot's "Brick Garden Series" appears on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue.

A portion of Lee Boot’s “Brick Garden Series” appears on the cover of the Summer 2014 issue.

This summer Little Patuxent Review will release its first unthemed issue, but as incoming Editor, Steven Leyva, writes in his first ever Editor’s Note for LPR, “I trusted that thematic elements would emerge.” In my own experience as editor of the University of Maryland literary journal, in picking well-written poetry and prose that is thematically rich, it’s impossible to avoid the confluence of concerns of human beings. Blessed by a community that consistently delivers us just such writing, Laura and Steven both speak of this issue as being shaped and guided by change and transition – not just in terms of the transition from one Editor to another, but manifest in the lives of the characters our community has presented us with. To remix both Laura and Steven’s Notes [i], I invite you as readers to take your first steps with these characters and stories through doors opening onto vistas we weren’t expecting.

Even when seeking transformation, by its nature change eludes prediction.  Characters seeking to be transformed may still not expect the processes leading to that transformation [ii] or what the endpoint of that transformation may be. [iii] Similarly Michael Salcman explores how artist Lee Boot has come to an integrative approach combining painting with multi-media by first shifting among the dazzling array of digital possibilities. [iv]

But many times, the transformations are ones our characters did not choose at all. They are pushed, sometimes stumbling, over a threshold by an act of violence. In Cynthia B. Greer’s “Doris and the Dolls,” smoldering self-loathing from society’s rejection of Black Americans leads an eruption of bullying of “white girls” among Black schoolchildren, robbing the speaker of her identity and compounded the feelings of rejection. [v] In Jerri Bell’s “Vigil,” the speaker is raped by an ex-boyfriend and adopts the position of a sentry isolated in the peaks to guard against attack. [vi]

Of course, many other thematic threads emerge as well in the upcoming issue. I am confident that no matter what our readers are grasping for in their literary lives right now, their hands will land on something that holds fast in our new issue. You are invited to join us for the launch of the issue at Oliver’s Carriage House, 5410 Leaf Treader Way, Columbia, MD 21044, on Saturday, June 21st at 2:00 pm. We will have the issue for sale and contributors will read their work, followed by light refreshments and opportunity for discussion between contributors and those in attendance. The launch reading is part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

[i] Laura Shovan and Steven Leyva’s Editor’s Notes set the transitional tone of the issue.

[ii] Alison Turner’s story “A Runner” follows who finds her body and mind transforming during a vacation in Peru.

[iii]  Benjamin Burgholzer’s* essay “Don’t Go Over Your Hip Boots” narrates a son’s slide into drug addiction and subsequent recovery by rediscovering his roots.

[iv] Michael Salcman explores the transformations of artist Lee Boot* in his essay “Time Machine: Lee Boot’s Multimedia and Conceptual Art in Service to the Urban Ideal”

[v] Cynthia Greer’s* essay “Doris and the Dolls” recounts personal and interpersonal struggle among Black schoolgirls during the Civil Rights Movement.

[vi] Jerri Bell’s* essay “Vigil” follows her up a volcanic caldera where she guards herself against rape.

*These contributors will be present for the June 21st launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House. Details of the launch reading can be found here.

Print Issue Preview: Science Under the Microscope

Science LPR-cover front only-1 (2)One of the first blogs I wrote as the new Online Editor of LPR was about my experiences as a poet and physicist. Concluding the blog, I sought our communities’ experiences with and thoughts on science. One respondent sent a poem by Robinson Jeffers that ruminates upon what possibility of mankind precipitating its own destruction with science. Mike Clarke, Co-Publisher of LPR, pointed out the huge challenge we had undertaken with a theme that cannot help but run up against the legacy of C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures”.

Evidence of these concerns and many other ideas runs rife across the pages of the Winter 2014 Science issue, and this issue has been one of the most exciting and richest experiences I’ve had with LPR yet. The pieces speak to each other in ways that remind me that in both science and art, human thought revels in theme and motif.

A theme through human history is the search for our origins. This issue brings us the wonders of new life [i] and newly (re)discovered [ii] life in the primordial soup of the sea. Contributing Editor, Lalita Noronha, and invited contributor, Myra Sklarew, make the most of time by guiding us through the billion year history of evolution from the first complexities of plants [iii] to the development of the biological machinery of intelligence [iv].

One of the gifts of that machinery, which continues to vex scientists with the challenge of its complexity, is the gift of introspection, empathy, and critical thought. This issue celebrates those creatures sacrificed for science [v] and critiques the inhospitable laboratories dominated by so-called “enlightened” men [vi]. Meanwhile, Michael Salcman contextualizes the artwork of Soledad Salamé’s, featured in the issue and on the cover, clearly living on the supposed border between science and art [vii].

Returning to a more taxological approach, you will find poetry living in the world of flying creatures [viii-x] and poetry about genetic inheritance [xi-xiii]. In each category sharing an aesthetic — the songs of a twittering towhee [x] and a reticent mute swan [xi] — the poets view their object with a diverse set of lenses, sometimes evoking binoculars and at others a microscope.

The issue concludes with Susan Thorton Hobby’s interview [xiv] with Nobel laureate John C. Mather, whose view takes us from the microscopic all the way out to the largest field of view possible: the entire universe. John will be giving a talk on the history of the universe as part of LPR’s and the Columbia Art Center’s ongoing salon series in April.

When we opened the reading period for this issue, we asked you to “write with your most exacting eye, your most dogged pursuit of truth, and, of course, your utmost imagination.” I am thrilled to see how our community has met that challenge.

Before the bibliography, there is also a little book keeping. Please don’t forget to join us for the Science issue launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House,  5410 Leaftreader Way, Columbia, MD on January 25th at 2:00 pm. Those authors who cited below who will be reading at the launch are marked with a † symbol. Additionally, we have recognized those authors cited below who we have published in this issue only after submitting to LPR two, three, or even four times with a * symbol. Please keep in mind that rejection often means that your poem was not the right fit for our current issue, and your persistence may mean that your work will find a happy home in our future issues. Click on links in the citations to be taken to previews of the work.

[i] Kim Roberts’ poem “Protandric” tells of the mating habits of oysters.

[ii] Whitney Gratton’s† poem “Coelacanth” recounts the rediscovery of the fish of the same name.

[iii] Lalita Noronha’s† poem “Mustard Seed” celebrates pays homage to biological and ecological complexities found in such seeds.

[iv] Myra Sklarew’s poem “Ode to Astrocytes” celebrates the astrocyte cell, recently discovered to be more important to brain function than previously believed. The issue also features a conversation between Noronha and Sklarew on their experiences as scientist-poets.

[v] Rebekah Remington’s† poem “To Science Fair Plants” gives thanks to plants who have become grade school science experiments.

[vi] Mary Jo LoBello Jerome’s†* story “Dermis” recounts the difficulties faced by a female scientist.

[vii] Michael Salcman†, LPR’s Art Consultant, presents an essay entitled “Earth, Water, and Fire: The Art of Soledad Salamé”.

[viii] Catherine Bayly’s†* poem “Wait and Collect” examines butterfly collecting.

[ix] Barbara Daniels’* poem “Ode to Binoculars” praises the power of bird watching.

[x] Barbara Crooker’s* poem “Rufous-Sided Towhee” listens carefully to a bird of the same name.

[xi] Anne Barney’s poem “Old Song” begins with an ancient flute carved from the wing bones of a mute swan.

[xii] Marlena Chertock’s† poem “Short Curve” examines the far reaching consequences of genetic inheritance in our everyday lives.

[xiii] Marian Kaplan Shapiro’s* poem “LUCA” begins with the human species’ last universal common ancestor.

[xiv] Susan Thorton Hobby† contributed an interview with John C. Mather entitled “A Modest History of the Universe.”

†These authors will be present for the January 25th launch reading at Oliver’s Carriage House.

*These authors were published after submitting to Little Patuxent Review at least twice.