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.

Advertisements

It’s No Myth: LPR Announces Guest Editor for Winter 2016 Issue

When the Winter 2016 theme of Myth was announced to the LPR staff, I felt a flutter of possibility ripple through my body. I’d just returned from Italy, having done my fair share of cavorting before various Roman temples, and my mind immediately turned to the Medusa myth. As my eldest son tells it, Athena came upon Zeus “getting funky” with Medusa in Athena’s temple. Athena cursed Medusa, hence the snakey locks and turning-people-to-stone thing. Myths take all forms. They are a collected body of stories, told to explain nature, history and customs. Myths occur in every culture. Remember the urban legend of Mikey and Pop Rocks? Thank goodness for Snopes, who confirmed my theory that Mikey lives. (In my home, we’ve got our own faux version of Snopes called reliablesource.com, to which we “refer” whenever some outlandish story is told at the dinner table.)

Patricia VanAmberg, June 2015.

Patricia VanAmburg, June 2015.

When the LPR staff decided to invite a guest to edit our Winter 2016 Myth issue, our choice seemed clear-cut. Baltimore poet and writer Patricia VanAmburg balances literary credentials with scholarly training in classic myths. Lucky for us, Patricia is as excited about the intersections between myth and literature as we are.

Here is guest editor Patricia VanAmburg, to tell us more about her thoughts about LPR’s Myth issue.

I have been a writer/poet since the moment I learned the alphabet. I have been a teacher for most of my adult life. My favorite class has always been world literature because I marvel at the diversity and sameness of its stories—especially those of the ancient world.

One of the defining moments of my life was my introduction, by Maryland poet Edgar Silex, to the Sumerian myth of Inanna. I had been teaching the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh (c. 3000 B.C.E.) for many years before I first read the Inanna text of the same era, a story in which the female hero takes an inward, spiritual journey. Immediately, I started a library of mythology which expanded to archeology because I loved the visual symbols that went with the earliest texts.

This is how I learned about the work of archeologist Marija Gimbutus, who claimed that millions of small prehistoric figurines were evidence of a very early mother goddess worship. A seminar on Gimbutus’ findings in the early 1990s provided my first trek in search of ancient artifact. Soon after, I travelled through Turkey (the Greek/Roman ruins at Ephesus) and the Greek Islands gathering material for a course I would teach at Howard Community College titled Ariadne’s Thread: the link between the images of prehistory and classic Greek Myth.

Patricia VanAmberg on Cyprus.

Patricia VanAmburg on Cyprus.

Later in 2004 and 2006, I arranged student/faculty trips to Greece and Crete. In Athens, we visited museums and ruins including those of the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. On Crete, we saw the ruins of palaces (c. 1600 B.C.E.) at both Knossos and Phaestos and the archeological museum of Herakleion with its wonderful bulls and snake goddesses. We also visited Mycenaea in the Peloponnese, and the ruins of Apollo’s temple at Delphi. Some of these travels will be featured in a slide presentation for the 2015-16 LPR Salon Series.

Aphrodite's birth place

Aphrodite’s birth place

More recently, I have searched for stories and ruins in Italy, France, Brittany, Vienna and Cyprus. In Vienna, I sought the tiny fertility figurine named goddess or woman of Willendorf. On Cyprus, I was searching Aphrodite—sometimes called Cyprus by the Greeks because of her rumored birth amidst sea rocks of that island. I have seen the very place from which the legend sprang, as well as, the temple ruins of Paphos and the wonderful museum of prehistory at Nicosia.

I can tell you that the Aphrodite of Cyprus has more in common with the Sumerian goddess Inanna than than she has with the Venus of classical myth and western art. As a fertility goddess, she also has something in common with both Willendorf and the Greek kore Persephone. It is all about season—season of place and seasons of life—cycles and lapses:

Some Mythic Lapses
by Patricia VanAmburg

Visions of Demeter dangling
darling Demaphon in the fire
causes his startled mother
to lose her faith in the gods.

Metira’s startling lack of vision
causes disappointed Demeter
to turn heels on earth and
lose her faith in humanity.

Envisioning mother burnout
human and divine
causes darling Demaphon
to lose his immortality.

A lovely vision in flame
Persephone awaits Demeter
eats three seeds and
forgets about spring.

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