Pushcart Prize Nominee: Benjamin Burgholzer

Along with publishing emerging writers, one of the public roles and great pleasures of an independent, small literary journal is to nominate individual poems, essays, and stories for awards like the Pushcart Prize. This is one more way to say “thank you,” to the hard working writers, without whom LPR wouldn’t exist. These nominations also require renewed attention to the craft and presence of the pieces LPR publishes, and often that attention is rewarded with renewed joy.

Don’t Go Over Your Hipboots

I lie awake my first night in rehab, a few days after my first arrest, sleepless counting ceiling tiles. A row of 5.

I think about what it was like to be 5 and think about my parents in their separate houses in separate states looking at the same picture of me in a stroller holding a brook trout on a stick, wearing a Mickey Mouse hat and a smile. Dad always says, “You can’t fish without a hat on,” and I followed this advice even then. I think I can remember that exact day the picture was taken, those worm-and-bobber afternoons in the stream-fed pond loaded with native brook trout down the street. I remember Dad’s exact words, “Put your finger on the line, open the bail, and let ’er go!” and he’d draw out the “goooo” and make me laugh until the line and bobber hit the water, over and over and over again until I got it well enough or at least until he pretended I did. I remember watching the red-white bobber come to life, disappear, take off running, as Dad set the hook and handed the small blue fishing pole to me, telling me to “reel, reel, reel!” until I was holding the tiny fish in my tiny hands, smiling.

I think forward a few more years to learning how to cast with a kid-sized fly rod with yarn tied to the end of it instead of a fly so I didn’t hook myself or anyone else. I was wearing the same Mickey Mouse hat and now equipped with a ridiculous pair of shades Mom made me wear to shield my eyes because everything was so bright then but mostly because she thought it was cute to dress me up in a hat and glasses like Dad always wore.

He said, “Fly fishing is an art performed between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock.”

Dad’s giant hands holding my wrists and flicking them back and forth to 10, and 2, 10, and 2, 10 and 2, 10 and 2 until I finally got it a few weeks later, or at least he pretended I did.

The tiles in a column. 9.

I was around 9 when Dad took me to a real river—not a lake not a pond not a stream not a creek, but the West Branch of the Delaware where he had bought a plot of land and built a cabin outside of Deposit. The drive was long, and I remember watching the telephone wires and how they seemed to move in the same rhythm as the truck. He sat me on the tailgate overlooking the cornfield and the nearby factory pumping plumes of smoke into the air and showed me the pair of tiny hipboots he had bought as a surprise and helped me put them on repeating over and over again: “Don’t. Go. Over. Your. Hipboots” as I waddled alongside him on the path through the cornfield, this time with a Mets hat (because I knew by then that you can’t fish without a hat) and sunglasses that I knew were without a doubt the coolest sunglasses in the entire world. I waddled the whole way and tried to make sure he didn’t see how many steps I had to take to keep up with his because I figured I was a grown-up now or otherwise he wouldn’t have taken me here to begin with, so I better act the part.

We reached the riverbank and he held my hand for the first few steps. I remember being surprised at just how cold 45 degrees was, even with a pair of hip boots and the three pairs of adult wool socks Mom made me wear.

“Remember, don’t walk over your hipboots!” He let go of my hand and smiled and walked out into the river a little bit above his waist. He began to tie on an alewife imitation he cleverly coined “the white fly” because, well, it was white. He was close enough that I could still hear him humming.

I remember those first steps deeper and deeper into the river watching the water grow closer and closer to the top of my boots and the way it got so much deeper so much faster than I thought and how for a moment the water seemed to pause, the meniscus yet to break. Before Dad even started casting, the boots were filled with cold water and I was crying “I’m sorry, Daddy,” over and over, hysterical. The snot and tears poured out of my face as he carried me back through the cornfield to the truck, more embarrassed at the failed attempt at adulthood than miserable from being wet and cold.

“It’s okay,” he said, propping me up on the tailgate with a half-grin that seemed to say he would have been more surprised if I didn’t walk over my hipboots in 5 minutes.

This was about the same time the Wednesday night visitations started fresh after the divorce and the first move and how this was a new thing to everyone involved so we all did what we always did and fished. The closest lake was just close enough that Dad could swing by the new condo after work and pick up my younger brother and me, get dinner and fish for a few hours before he had to drop us off again and we wished he didn’t have to keep leaving but were finally starting to understand why. The lake was named the Monksville, which we cleverly renamed Skunksville due to the incredible amount of times everyone left there fishless.

Dad’s friend Larry would meet us there and he would bring his son Joey and the five of us would fish together, all wearing hats, catching nothing, wondering why exactly we continued to come here every week. But we all showed up the next week anyway.

Joey pulled a record musky out of that lake one afternoon and my brother and I hated him for it.

One row plus one column: 14.

The first joint and first drink, both alone in that same year, and how I got caught the first time smoking pot inside the house on a snow day by burning three bags of popcorn in the microwave to hide the smell, and how Mom to my complete shock declared, “It stinks like fucking pot and burnt popcorn in here,” the second she opened the door. Nobody believed me when I said it was my first time because nobody smokes pot alone for the first time, but I did and continued to most of the time and tried almost everything for the first time alone because I thought I was conducting some kind of experiment with my own body as the test subject and wanted to feel whatever it was I was supposed to feel without the hindrance of other people to interject their way of using drugs onto mine, man. Or at least that’s what I said when people asked, but really I just wasn’t very good at making friends or keeping friends or interacting with people in general.

My first funeral that same year. Record-musky-holder Joey died from a motorbike accident at a party and he smashed his head on the pavement and his brain swelled and they had to put him on life support until they found out he wasn’t going to recover. I smoked way too much that day before receiving the phone call that said we were going to the funeral. This was the first time I’d seen two grown men cry in each other’s arms and one of the only times of maybe four or five that I’ve seen Dad cry, only over drugs, only over his sons.

A row of 2 behind the dresser.

Then 2 to 14 years, and I stopped wearing hats and sunglasses and Dad was very confused by this, stating, “How can you fish without a hat?” over and over shaking his head and I used to hate it just so much. I’d stand there listening to him hum and the noise would never stop between my ears and the humming and the silence made me so crazy and by then my brother and I, who had also stopped wearing a hat, used to sneak off the river and into that same corn field by that same factory, now forgotten and overgrown, to smoke pot and cigarettes and drink and fall asleep in the sun. And we both wondered just how and why the fuck Dad spent so much time on this stupid river humming to himself and I wished I was at home getting fucked up in some kid’s basement and dropping acid and talking about philosophy and stuff and the interconnectivity of all things that people who don’t drop just don’t understand, man, but mostly just laughing for 12 hours and trying to do anything, to run away from ourselves.

That same year over Christmas break my friend said he went through his parent’s cabinets and found a lot of Percocet and that he would gladly give away for free, since we were such good friends and all, and I snuck out of the house at the exact moment he said this via AOL Instant Message and walked 3 miles to his house in the middle of the night in the snow. His dad walked out right after he gave me the pills and asked “What exactly in the fuck were you two doing talking outside at 2 in the morning on a Thursday in a fucking snowstorm?” and my friend made up some ridiculous story that I needed to talk to someone right away and his dad just kind of shrugged and went inside and then carefully made sure not to talk about that night again. I took a Percocet that night and went to bed not sure about what all the fuss was about, but the next day figured out how much to take and understood exactly what all the fuss was about.

A column of 4 behind the dresser.

Add 4 to 14 for 18 when I had stopped fishing completely.

“It’s just not my thing anymore,” I’d tell Dad who still asked every single weekend if I wanted to fish even though he knew the answer he’d get. I wanted to tell him how my head couldn’t stop racing and I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that I had done and couldn’t stop doing that I wasn’t raised to do and things I was supposed to be and wouldn’t ever be every time I went somewhere quiet, but couldn’t.

Fresh out of high school and I’d already had been kicked out, dropped out, fired, and selling drugs to keep the habit going. After painkillers exploded in high school it was easy to think all of this was okay because, well, everyone was doing it, and some were just doing it a little more and if people felt the way I felt they would be too. That same year this kid Nick who I used to swap pills with asked if I could get heroin because he had heard me brag about how I’d sniffed it before. I told him no, but he must have found it somewhere because he was found dead in his bathroom two days later, the first of many deaths from my old school.

I remember thinking about those almost-overdoses and almost-911 calls when friends wouldn’t wake up and thought of all the times waking up to a pounding on the door on the floor and all the blackouts and the times waking up places I didn’t remember going to and thought about how good of an addict I must be, how good of a criminal to never get caught, avoiding the truth that it was the only thing I ever really put my mind to.

I thought about an ex-girlfriend who was there through all of this who overdosed in a sporting goods store parking lot that I used to go walk around in with Dad and my brother years before and how her lips turned purple and her face turned white, then blue and how I took out the phone to call 911, screaming “Someone help!” as she woke up and said “What happened?” and “Can I have more?”

Then 18 and just so goddamn cool because I could get people anything and the phone was always ringing from people who only talked to me when I had drugs and never ringing anymore from the people that loved me for who I was. Fresh out of high school and freshly addicted and we all knew what we were doing and the ones that weren’t right there with us would try to warn us. “Relax,” I’d say and scoff, “I can’t get addicted because a pill or a chemical couldn’t have that kind of power over me,” because I was just too smart and knew all about dopamine and serotonin receptors and how drugs affected them and that they should worry about their own fucking lives because what I do with my body was none of their fucking business anyway.

Another row of 2.

Now 20 years old with a serious collection of junkie friends in their late 20s or early 30s who got a kick out of having a young kid who was such a mess around because I always figured out ways to scam somebody to get money and had an honest face and geeky glasses so I was good to talk to the cops and got out of a lot of shit because I was just so goddamn cool and slick, man, and knew that “the key to a good lie is to believe it yourself,” which I told them all to make myself sound just so cool but really had stolen from an episode of Seinfeld.

Eventually the day came that they, they, said, “Man, you need to get some fucking help; you’re a mess,” and I could never believe the nerve of these people, stupid junkies, always so goddamn rude, and moved on to a new set of friends but the same thing kept happening until I found two men in their late 30s with enormous heroin habits that I would surely never be worse than, that I quickly became worse than. “Man, you need to get some fucking help,” they both said from the couch in between bowls of ice cream, half-dead blinks, and un-ashed cigarettes. Goddamn junkies, always so rude.

Another column of 9 on the other side of the ceiling.

9 months alone nodded-out in bed, disappearing once a day for about 3 hours to go to a ghetto between the changing shifts of cops and rush hour, still just so fucking smart, to wait in some sketchy neighborhood for however long hoping to not get beat again and that the dope is as good as it was last week and that I please oh please don’t go to jail today. Fly rods and waders dusty and forgotten in the garage somewhere but fucking Dad kept leaving voicemails to call him sometime if I’d like to go fishing with him with a sad scoff before he hung up the phone that always went unanswered.
9 months walking that tightrope all junkies know between having lost the will to live but not wanting anyone to have to find me dead in the basement one sunny afternoon because, well, they’re already fucked up enough and that would just be fucked to do to somebody. But that voice that keeps saying to shoot shoot shoot those few extra bags gets louder and louder every single day and by then I’m sure, absolutely sure, that I’ve crossed an imaginary line that people just don’t make it back from.

The perimeter of the tiles. 28.

28 days later and I’m leaving and chainsmoking the whole way home thank god and passed the program with flying colors, ready to start anew and get back on track and I’ve got everyone fooled except myself and I’m high again that same night, high again looking in the mirror after the rush wears off and nobody knows but I do and for the first time in a long time that actually makes me feel something I can’t suppress with a syringe.

I decide to give myself a chance and go to a 12-step meeting the next day, already certain it will be awful, and I analyze how it’s all just a clever pyramid scheme based on a lot of bullshit and pseudo-psychology.

I walk in way too early and ask the only guy who’s there already if he needs help setting up the chairs to which he responds, “Well, they don’t set up themselves,” so I start grabbing chairs and wait until he is just far enough away that he maybe could and maybe couldn’t hear me say, “Fucking asshole,” under my breath and that’s all I remember happening, not anything anyone else said. But I went home with a list full of phone numbers from people who all insisted that I call them, please call them, because they want to help, but a room full of strangers couldn’t help and most of those people were probably high and just lying about it anyway.

That night I’m trying to sleep but I still only sleep for a few hours at a time and tonight I can’t even get those few hours and I don’t believe in God or fate or anything like that because I am smarter than all that and “religion is the opiate of the masses” and anyone who’s anyone knows that and plus if there is a God in the Catholic sense I was just so incredibly fucked at this point so why bother but I ask for a sign anyway, for a stupid burning bush from whatever imaginary force will listen just to get some sort of fucking clue as to where I go from here because I just simply don’t know and this fact makes me cry until I can’t breathe, snot and tears pouring out of my face for however long until I finally take a second to think about how ridiculous I must look, face all swollen and red and covered in mucous and laugh at myself for the first time clean and grab the list of phone numbers and notice that one name, Sean, has an asterisk next to it. And I think “what kind of self-centered dickhead is this guy putting an asterisk next to his name to make himself more noticeable or something Jesus Narcissistic Fucking Christ” but call him anyway because I remembered he looked young. He picks up.

“Hello?”

I ramble that I hope I’m not bothering him and that I saw him at the meeting tonight and that I don’t know what to do or say and I was never good at this kind of thing or most things really and usually just kind of average or below average and that I always tend to give up on everything and everyone so prematurely and how the fuck did he stay clean for so long at such a young age and how the fuck could I possibly expect to adjust from the fast-paced lifestyle that I was so accustomed to living to one without drugs and was he really happy and he should tell me the truth and just what the fuck do you guys do with your spare time because it seems that quitting heroin has kind of freed up my entire schedule and—

“We fly fish,” he says. “Me and two other kids from meetings. This guy Larry and this guy Danny. We have extra gear if you need it and can teach you—”

“Where?”

“This weekend we’re going up to the West Branch of the Delaware outside this little shitty town Deposit, you can—”

“What pool?”

“Umm, there’s this spot we go to by what used to be a cornfield a lot? There’s this ugly fucking factory right by it, but the trout are big and everywhere year round. They release water from the dam so it stays cold year—well, you probably don’t care. . . .

“Hey, Ben, are you still there?

“You been fly fishing before?

“Hello?

“Ben, you there?”

Five years later and the four of us still spend as much time as possible together side by side waist deep in some river somewhere listening to the sounds of the river and the fly line zipping in and out of the guides, all wearing hats.

I find myself humming often.

About the author: Benjamin Burgholzer is a Ph.D. candidate at Binghamton University and an English professor at Rockland Community College. When he is not teaching or writing, he spends as much time as possible in the mountains, woods, and rivers. This piece originally appeared in Little Patuxent Review’s Summer 2014 issue.

Concerning Craft: Shirley Brewer – Revisited

The “Concerning Craft” series introduces Little Patuxent Review contributors, showcases their work and draws back the curtain to reveal a little of what went into producing it.

Please meet poet and educator, Shirley Brewer. Shirley previously contributed to the Concerning Craft series exploring the creation of her poem “Fairy Tale, Interrupted”, which we published in our Summer 2012 Audacity issue. In the interim she released a collection of poetry, After Words, a reaction to the murder of Stephen Pitcairn in Baltimore. When she showed up again in our Summer 2014 issue I wanted to seize upon the opportunity to return to one of our contributors to explore not just their approach to their craft in the present moment, but to observe an evolution in technique and aesthetic. Without further adieu, Shirley Brewer on her poem, “Above Chicago“:

I have developed a daily habit I find most nourishing. Every morning I read The Writer’s Almanac. Starting the day with a poem keeps me focused on my passion. I also enjoy reading the prose tidbits Garrison Keillor includes beneath the poem – birthdays of writers/anniversaries of events in history. I sometimes find material for new poems there.

Such was the case this past January 25th, when I read about the first transcontinental commercial jet flight on that date in 1959. I might have let that nugget pass, but knowing Carl Sandburg was on the plane tweaked my interest. I love Sandburg’s poetry, and once visited his family home, Connemara, near Flat Rock, North Carolina, where I bonded with a newborn goat named Wyatt. The Sandburgs raised goats, and the estate was still flourishing.

In writing “Above Chicago,” I decided to begin with actual items from the flight menu. Have the reader salivate! The names of the dishes had great alliteration: Maine lobsters, filet mignon, macaroon ice cream balls. I courted assonance in the first stanza as well: macaroon, ooze, saloon, fueled troubadour. I could have submitted this to LPR’s Food issue!

Although I have no idea about the actual flight plan, I love imagining the jet flew “Above Chicago,” and I can visualize Sandburg singing lines from his famous poem about that iconic American city. He was quite the musician, as well as a superb poet. I wanted to include crimson, as Sandburg used that word in a number of his poems and I think it must have been a word he liked.

Gin and ink wed inside his journal, a line that just appeared! Sandburg – in his early 80’s at the time – did keep a journal. And the booze flowed freely on that flight. Like all of the other passengers, Sandburg participated in the frivolity of the occasion! One of the pleasures I relish in poetry is selecting a verb that sounds fresh and fits, and wed seemed like a winner.

I decided to end the poem with another reference to Sandburg’s Chicago poem. Hogs and butchers in the last line to balance the filet mignon in the first line! What pleases me about crafting a poem is making word choices, and playing with sounds. It may take at least a dozen or more revisions, but it’s such a joyful task!

The subject of my previous Concerning Craft piece was Cinderella, in my poem, “Fairy Tale, Interrupted.” Poetically speaking, both Cinderella and Carl Sandburg piqued my interest! And when I care enough to write a poem, I’ll begin the process and see where it takes me. I think, initially, I wrote “Fairy Tale, Interrupted” as one stanza of fifteen lines, before I decided it would work well as five tercets. I often don’t decide on the format until I’m well along in my writing. Two stanzas of nine lines each seemed to work well for “Above Chicago.” I wanted to begin the second stanza with Sandburg’s reference to Chicago as City of the Big Shoulders, an image I find miraculous.

I obviously had a long history with Cinderella – a story and movie I have loved since childhood. A blurb on The Writer’s Almanac inspired “Above Chicago.” Whatever the genesis, once the idea set in – I want this idea to be a poem – I go into my space where I just write and see where it takes me.

Both poems surprised me. In “Fairy Tale, Interrupted,” I start by writing about Cinderella. Then, I speak directly to her. I didn’t plan that ahead of time. In “Above Chicago,” I initially thought I would write only about Sandburg on that transcontinental flight, maybe touch on the food and drink, and Chicago inserted itself! I love it when that happens.

In both poems, I pay attention to sounds. I’ve already mentioned alliteration and assonance in “Above Chicago.” In “Fairy Tale, Interrupted,” each tercet ends with a rhyming word.

“Fairy tale, Interrupted,” appeared in LPR’s Audacity Issue. I think of Carl Sandburg as a thrillingly audacious poet. Maybe I’ll write a poem in which Cinderella meets up with Carl Sandburg. And they’ll raise a goat named Wyatt.

Every poem is an internal adventure. Whether the source is family, the past, mythology, an item in the news – the poet invites us to experience the depth of his/her vision. I find the process both challenging and exhilarating. The poem I craft tomorrow may be totally different than anything I have previously written. I can only hope all of my poems carry some freshness into the world. Carl Sandburg once defined poetry as “the journey of a sea animal living on land, waiting to fly in the air.”

Oh, Carl, I’m glad you flew in the air on that first transcontinental flight! 55 years later, I honor your journey – the literal one as well as the metaphorical. I know you’d concur that, in poetry, there’s always a place for cat feet and glass slippers.

Shirley J. Brewer graduated from careers in bartending, palm-reading, and speech therapy. She has served for two years as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts and Technology inBaltimore County. She also teaches poetry at LitMore in Baltimore, and at Howard Community College. Shirley presents workshops on Creativity, Poetry, and Healing Through Writing. Recent poems appear in: The Cortland Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Pearl, Comstock Review, Passager, as well as in Little Patuxent Review and other journals. Her poetry chapbooks include A Little Breast Music, 2008, Passager Books and After Words, 2013, Apprentice House/Loyola University.

Concerning Craft: Greg Luce – Revisited

The “Concerning Craft” series introduces Little Patuxent Review contributors, showcases their work and draws back the curtain to reveal a little of what went into producing it.

Please meet LPR veteran and award-winning poet, Greg Luce. Greg’s work first appeared in our Water issue, a poem entitled “A Decent Happiness”, and was among the first contributors who explored their craft in this series started by Ilse Munro over three years ago.  We recently published another one of Greg’s poems, “Failing to Sleep,” (click link for text) in our Summer 2014 issue, and I decided to seize upon a unique opportunity – to return to one of our contributors to explore not just their approach to their craft in the present moment, but to observe an evolution in technique and aesthetic. So without further delay, Greg Luce:

Greg Luce (Photo: Naomi Thiers)

Greg Luce (Photo: Naomi Thiers)

“Failing to Sleep” combines two of my favorite themes (some might say obsessions): insomnia and birds. Those who remember my poem “A decent happiness,” published in the Water issue in January 2011, and the accompanying craft essay that I wrote shortly thereafter, will note some significant differences in the style and treatment of content.

I wrote “A decent happiness” many years ago, long before it found its home in LPR. As I described my process in my earlier essay, at that time I was intensely concerned with concision and brevity, suggestiveness rather than explicit statement. That poem showed the strong influence of W.C. Williams and Robert Creeley in particular. “Failing to Sleep” is a rather more recent poem and reflects my desire to loosen up my approach and try some new things in my writing.

While I did not and do not disavow my earlier work or the continuing importance of Creeley, Williams, and others for me as a reader and writer of poetry, I was beginning to grow bored with what I was able to write within the guidelines I had set for myself. I felt that I could write the short, intense poems like “A decent happiness” pretty easily but I was in danger of becoming too facile. In short, I was in a bit of a creative rut.

One element I was especially desirous of incorporating into some of my poems was narrative, tell a bit of a story rather than just describe a scene or an emotional experience. I had always admired Frank O’Hara’s work, especially his deceptively simple-seeming accumulation of events and details culminating in a humorous or moving epiphany, such as in “The Day Lady Died” (a great favorite of mine). So I began writing poems that told little stories, mostly drawn from my own experiences, though a few of them are fictions that synthesize various observations of and reactions to people, places, and situations I encounter.

“Failing to Sleep” is an example of this new direction. It describes a typical night-into-early-morning in which I drift in and out of sleep, the various thoughts, feelings, and images that run through my mind as I drift in and out of sleep, and wake up too early with birdsong in my ears. A new craft element in this piece is the attempt to render a few of the songs that arise in the speaker’s thoughts and capture his attention when morning finally arrives. On the other hand, a carry-over from earlier practice is my use of linebreaks (and fairly short lines) as a formal element in the absence of fixed meter or rhyme; in the case of this poem my intention was to impel the reader forward almost headlong and keep up a steady if not exactly fast pace. To further push the pacing, em-dashes provide one slight pause midway through, but otherwise there is no punctuation until the closing period. This sparing use of punctuation is another part of my practice that has been fairly constant from my earliest work until today.

As in my earlier reflections, I must mention the readers who read all my poems prior to my launching them into the world and without whose feedback I would have been far less successful in publishing. Foremost among them as always is Naomi Thiers, who has also published poems and a craft essay in LPR and whose keen eye and ear never fail to discern potential improvements. I would also like to thank Laura Shovan, LPR’s eminent poetry editor who made a couple of very useful suggestions before accepting this poem, just as she did for past submissions. Such incisive editing, along with this opportunity again to write a few notes on my approach to craft, are among the reasons why it is such a profound pleasure and honor to be counted among the LPR community.

Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), and Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the Arts and Humanities Council in Washington, D.C., where he lives and works for the National Geographic Society. He blogs at http://enchiladasblog.blogspot.com.

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.