An elaboration on writing the poem “On Darkness”

The following is a guest post by Jordan Charlton, whose poetry appeared in in issue 19 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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Although I primarily write poems, my natural inclination is to understand the world through narratives. What narrative offers is a consistent structure that “makes sense” to me and that I return to often while generating material prior to writing. Stories possess a familiar structure: a beginning, a middle, and an end, regardless of how we enter or exit, this seems to be true.

Because writing poems relies so heavily on memory, and memory can be understood in similar structures as narratives, this is also how I understand writing poems. Though most of my poems follow that same tripartite narrative arrangement, I’m never worried about the movement of a poem that traditionally happens in most narratives. This is also to say, I understand poems more like pictures than films, as static creations instead of fluid or dynamic renderings. My greatest desire while writing a poem is to recall a memory and invite the reader to focus on the one moment that seems to be most pressing. Sometimes this is the first memory, other times, my mind wanders to some other bright, shining substance illuminated by contemplation. I think this is because poetry relies so heavily on emotional truth, which foils the narrative structure of how we tell stories.

In the poem “On Darkness,” I recreate a moment of surprise during a conversation with a friend. The poem begins at the end of one moment, at the end of the snapshot. My understanding of the poem is that, by writing from the end of one moment, what happens is that whatever is said is frozen in time and rendered less important than the impact, by my embodied response. What invokes this response is listening to a friend say though she is mixed raced, she identifies more with her whiteness than anything else. What comes next in the poem, or, “the middle” is less important. There is no hero’s journey; this is a picture and not a film. The ending is more interesting, this new beginning.

The ending of the poem involves looking back at the moment, like looking back at an image in a context that exists outside of the one rendered. I’d call the revelation at the end of the poem understanding the beauty of being present and being vulnerable with one another,amid the beauty of a setting so far removed from outside thought and noise, mainly technology. I believe the context in seeing the poem’s moment can change, especially considering our own moment now as we are faced with the challenges of rethinking our institutions, our privileges – what being together means amid televised violence and harmful rhetoric. When I write poems like this, I want to create a picture, but I also understand that how we see these things can change. I’m interested in holding on to moments, but that also includes seeing the connections that exist beyond a still frame.

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Jordan Charlton is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska. He also works with the Nebraska Writers Collective, working with both high school youth poets and incarcerated writers through the programs Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains and Writers’ Block

My Year of Movie Poems

Addison RizerThe following is a guest post by Addison Rizer, whose short story We Float Alone appeared in in issue 19 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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My primary emotion as a writer is guilt. I am guilty when I don’t write and when I have written, but not enough. When I have written, but written badly. When I meant to write but got caught up doing something else. I am guilty when I have no ideas and when I have so many ideas I can’t write them all and also when I have one idea, but can’t figure out how to write it.

Mostly, I am guilty when I do anything that isn’t writing. When I watch movies, read books, play games, go bowling. Because I am not writing and could be, the guilt consumes my enjoyment in one large swallow.

At the beginning of 2019, the guilt was so bad I’d deny myself anything fun before I had written, and then, because of the guilt, I’d be unable to write at all. It had built it up in my mind, the act of writing and how many words I needed to write and how perfect they had to be, I couldn’t bring myself to try.

So, as an experiment, I decided to write a poem after every movie I watched for the entirety of the year. Yes, every single one. Yes, even ones I hated. Yes, even the ones I loved.

Now, I am not a poet. As such, many of the poems were terrible. Some were only two lines long. Others went on for many horrible pages. I experimented. A lot. The quality didn’t matter. These poems were simply an excuse to let myself do something other than writing. It was okay, to take a break, because I was using these movies to create more, not less. I wasn’t procrastinating, I was experimenting. The guilt ebbed. I began having much more fun. Writing got easier, when I wasn’t so guilty about every facet of it.

And, though many, many of them were bad, some of them were good. Good-enough-to-be-published good. Good-enough-I-was-proud good.

I realized, then, how necessary consumption is to my creative process. I can’t be all output and no input. The water flows both ways, for me. It must flow both ways or else there will be nothing left but a dry riverbed from which I am expecting myself to produce the miracle of water.

If I had not watched those movies, I would not have written about aardvarks, about birthdays, about cowboys on the run, about Franca Carrozzini. I wouldn’t have considered these topics at all. It wasn’t only guilt-relieving, it was inspiring.

In the end, I wrote 10,000 words in little bits and pieces of poems. I watched 86 films. I felt less guilty. I realized, for me, production and consumption will always have interlocked fingers.

This year, I’m writing blank-verse sonnets. They are harder, these poems. They are just as terrible. But, I am having a lot of fun and feeling less guilty and I’m writing, I’m writing,and isn’t that the point?

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Addison Rizer is an administrator in Arizona with a B.A. in English from Arizona State University. She has had pieces published in Taco Bell Quarterly, Typehouse Magazine, Hoosier Review, Little Somethings Press, Hashtag Queer Vol. 3, Canyon Voices, Libraerie Magazine, Anatolios Magazine, Strange Creatures, and Kingdoms in the Wild. She loves writing, reading, and movies critics hate. Find more of her work on her website at www.addisonrizer.com.

Chasing the Absurd Muse

The following is a guest post by Gene Twaronite, whose poetry appeared in in issue 18 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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My prose poem “Food Chain,” published in Typehouse Issue 15, begins with a line guaranteed to put a reader to sleep: “I was out walking my dog.” What was I thinking? Blame it on James Tate. I had just finished reading his last book The Government Lake, consisting entirely of prose poems, published four years after his death in 2015. Many of his first lines are equally prosaic. Example: “The dog played in the snow all afternoon.” But here’s the thing about James Tate. You just know he’s going to take that line somewhere you didn’t expect—a strange world where anything can happen and you end up either guffawing or scratching your head in befuddlement.

Tate was a master of the absurd. Watching him chase after his muse like a hound zigzagging through the woods, with surreal situations and wordplay, is a mind-bending treat. I was intrigued by his poem “My New Pet” and was inspired to take the subject matter in a new direction and try writing a prose poem of my own. I’ve never been big on dogs. I’m more a python and tarantula kind of guy. I got to thinking about what would make a really weird pet, and a bright yellow banana slug popped into my head. But because it’s a dog lover’s world, I decided to have my main character out walking his slug as if it were a dog. I didn’t have a clue where this was going, but the chase was on. If there’s any message to my poem, perhaps it’s simply to enjoy the ride.

Edward Lear was another poet who inspired me to follow the absurd muse. Here’s the first line from one of his poems: “They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,” (The Jumblies). With its perfect meter and silly setup, it has stayed with me from the first time I read it. Just where are they supposed to go in a sieve? Why, to visit “the lands where the Jumblies live,” of course.

Poets who write for children are especially attuned to the absurd muse. Shel Silverstein’s poems range from pure silliness, as in “Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich,” to profound, as in the sad lesson of “Lester” (from Where the Sidewalk Ends). But even in his most silly poems there is a depth of profundity that’s hard to define. Maybe silliness itself is the message.

Any reader of Billy Collins knows that his poems are often laced with absurdity. My favorite example is his poem “Cosmology,” in which he replaces “that image of the earth/resting on the backs of four elephants/who are standing on a giant sea turtle” with one of his own: “resting on the head of Keith Richards.” And maybe I’ll just leave you with that image.

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Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of ten books, including two juvenile fantasy novels as well as collections of essays, short stories, and poems, and a forthcoming picture book. His poetry book Trash Picker on Mars (Kelsay Books) was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His latest book is My Life as a Sperm. Essays from the Absurd Side. Follow more of Gene’s writing at his website: thetwaronitezone.com.

Updated Submission Information

Hi all Typehouse readers and submitters! Due to several internal factors, we need to change our open reading period for this issue. Through September 1, our reading period will look like this:

  • We are closing to regular submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction as of July 11th
  • Black creatives can send regular submissions through July 25th
  • All works submitted before these dates will be reviewed, no one will rejected because they were not reviewed by the closure date
  • Feedback and visual arts submissions will remain open
  • We are also looking for a Black creative to submit artwork for the cover
  • We will remain closed to regular submissions at least through September first. Issue 20 comes out that month, and we will evaluate at that time what date we will open to regular submissions.


Typehouse issue 8, artwork by A. Riding
and S. La Fe
y

We know this is somewhat short notice, so we appreciate all of your
understanding and support! This is going to be a great issue, and we can’t wait for you all to see it.

Creating Micro Worlds: Speculative Flash Fiction

The following is a guest post by AnnElise Hatjakes, whose short work “A Diminished Chord” appeared in in issue 19 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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The first time I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, I was too young to really understand its commentary on war, trauma, and violence. Rather than analyzing the work’s thematic ambitions, as my English assignment required, I could not stop thinking about what the book did in terms of craft. I had read other works of speculative fiction, but those books seemed to follow a clear set of rules, rules that dictated how the worlds of the novels operated. What Vonnegut created did not seem to abide by any rules at all. Once Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time,” all bets are off.

Creating a fully developed world can require pages and pages of subtle exposition. When I was workshopping my speculative novel in graduate school, I was frequently asked for more details about the parallel universe I’d created. While I was revising, I kept worldbuilding because I thought that would make it feel more “real” and would answer questions that could be distracting to readers. What I realized, though, was that the more details I added, the more questions readers had. As soon as I got into the nuances of the economic structure, which runs on a new form of cultural capital, readers asked about how taxation would work, whether this new form of wealth could be transferred, and how exactly people could earn more capital.

For my story in Typehouse, which is a retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, women have literally been silenced and marked by a tattooed “A.” I spent a long time reading medical journal articles about vocal cord paralysis, and in my first draft, that research materialized in about two hundred words explaining the procedure of severing one’s vocal cords. After doing so much research, I felt like I needed to include that research to lend a greater sense of authority to the story. In the second draft, I did the opposite. I tried to take out as many of the details as I could while still giving the reader enough information. The narrator explains, “This morning, you make a cup of green tea from the stash that you secreted away last week. The flavor is sharp, and you have to take your time because since they severed the nerve to your vocal cords, swallowing has posed problems.” Rather than explaining the actual procedure, I chose to focus on the character’s experience of that procedure’s aftermath.

While I originally believed that only a novel could capture the intricacies of a different world, whether that’s a space opera or a dark fantasy, I now believe that flash fiction can do the same on a different scale. It provides enough space to pose a “what if?” question and allow the reader to contemplate the possible answers. For me, the key is not to get caught up in the minutiae of the fictional realm that’s been created.

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A native Nevadan, AnnElise Hatjakes holds an MFA degree in fiction and a master’s degree in writing from the University of Nevada, Reno. She lives in Reno, where she teaches English at a public high school. One of her stories was shortlisted for the Neil Shepard Prize in Fiction. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Juked, Tahoma Literary Review, and Typehouse, among others. She is currently completing revisions on her novel and will be attending the University of Missouri in the fall to earn her PhD in creative writing.

Humanity is the Heart of Horror

Eli HeadshotThe following is a guest post by Eli Ryder, whose short story “What Should Have Been” appeared in in issue 18 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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There’s an iconic moment in every apocalypse film you’ve ever seen wherein a character tiptoes through a grocery or pharmacy, navigating the mostly empty shelves and sweating through the quiet. Sometimes the character is Our Hero, bravely risking their own life in service of others. Sometimes, it’s a hapless redshirt whose brief time on screen serves only to let us know how horrific getting killed will be. We live their tension with them, knowing the stakes are life and death. We love to feel vulnerable, even need to, and that’s how good horror can be so good—it reminds us we’re human.

There’s a lot of blood-spraying, flesh-tearing horror slashing its way into our hearts on life and death alone. Any of the canonical slashers and their reboots, the glorious B-horror catalog, and even some comedy gems like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil draw revolted grimaces across our faces, and we love them all for it. They’re magnificent escapes, and we feel more alive when we return from those fantasies because we survived, dammit. We need those characters to suffer so that we can achieve that moment of arrival.

But sometimes the stakes are higher. Sometimes it’s a kid shaking and gasping through the store, freezing when a stray can falls off a shelf and clangs on the floor. It’s still life and death, but we’re doubly and triply afraid for the kid. Goes for dogs, too, and well-crafted relationships. There’s more than life to lose with those cases—there’s life worth living. And that adds heartbreak to horror. The kid has innocence, potential, things we still see in ourselves and lose right along with him when his toy shuttle’s lights and sound go off and the monster blurs furiously across the screen, leaving only a memory where the kid once stood.

I’m obviously thinking of A Quiet Place, but there are plenty of other examples. The first three seasons of The Walking Dead come to mind. 28 Days Later—if you didn’t mist up when Selena sees Jim’s eyes and doesn’t kill him, you’re probably a zombie.

Literary examples include Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door, which forces us to live through not only the physical torture portrayed in the book but also the emotional torture of being compliant in those gruesome acts and thus partially responsible for them. Another must-read is Stephen Graham Jones’s Mongrels, whose werewolf mythos is a doorway into the most beautiful and painful parts of growing up, of finding yourself. Of family. And, of course, there’s The Stand, Stephen King’s now seemingly prophetic chronicle of love that makes life worth living through the virulent plague ending the world.

These, and many others, use horror and its foundational elements to scare us into seeing ourselves and each other anew, into accepting and feeling things we’ve avoided, into processing and healing. Great horror scares us into loving harder and deeper than we thought we could and being better people for it.

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Eli Ryder is a college English professor in Texas, and his short stories and criticism appear in various online and print publications. He stole his MFA from UC Riverside’s low-residency program in Palm Desert, CA and can be found on Twitter @theeliryder.

The More You Discover, The More You Search

Fabio LastruccithThe following is a guest post by Fabio Lastrucci, whose artwork appeared in in issue 18 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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If a straight line is the shortest way to join two points, an arabesque is certainly the most imaginative. This example could perhaps explain the blurred logic of my artistic experience, a journey studded with changes of direction that took me far from the typical path and led me to discover fascinating destinations and new creative skills.

You don’t have to be (or believe you are) a new Leonardo Da Vinci to operate on several different dimensions. Everyone can do it if they do not stick to preconceived notions of success, or too rigid of plans. In my case, this choice to remain open to change was due to necessity, creative hunger, and not being someone who likes to say “no”.

Growing up between the canvases and brushes of my father, a professional painter, I had an early interest in drawing and painting. I nurtured other strong passions such as comics, science fiction, film and television, but without thinking these passions could become future professional experiences.

In 1987, at the end of my degree course in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, I joined the “Lanterna magica” theater company. The group commissioned me to design a graphic novel based on their successful play, La Guerra di Martin Senzasperanza Scemo Legale, thus starting a collaboration as a graphic designer.

The teaching of the great playwright Francesco Silvestri, who introduced me to the theatrical scene and its language, led me to open my horizons from painting and comics to set design and sculpting, where I learned to produce masks and muppets. For a young man looking for work, like me, it was exactly what I wanted. The training in painting proved very useful in this new field, and in a short time sculpture and SPFX became a full-time occupation. I joined forces with other associates in professional studios such as Golem Studio, Metaluna, and Forme. My team, based in the outskirts of Naples, specialized in the processing of foam rubber, latex and fiberglass, working for the main Italian theater and broadcasting companies.

The work was very engaging and full of challenges. At the same time I couldn’t resist cultivating an interest in creative writing, which culminated a few years later in the play “Racconti salati,” (a double-meaning phrase that means both “stories with salt” and “intelligent stories”) a children’s comedy about the new legends of the sea interpreted with actors and puppets and performed in the Dohrn Station, the Liberty Aquarium of Naples.

The variety of works in the theater asks us to develop eclectic expertise and to look for new creative impulses. With friends Fioravante Rea and Delfina Autiero, we opened a long chapter dedicated to the study and production of video clips ranging from directing to screenwriting and special effects production

This winding path has returned me to my roots, to a renewed interest in comics and illustration, working with Italian and American magazines.

I remind myself that in these times, facing our current crisis, art represents confidence and hope in a future. Change feeds the soul. New projects, new targets are both a price to pay and a prize for every artist. What will be the face of the next, unforeseen goal to be achieved?

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Fabio Lastrucci, after graduating at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, has worked for more than twenty years as a sculptor/scenographer for major television networks, opera and prose theatre, and from 2012 to the present he returns to the figurative arts with his brother Paolo (group Nuages–morbidi approdi) exhibiting in solo and group exhibitions. As a cartoonist and illustrator since ’87 he has been drawing comic books (“La guerra di Martin”. “Esodare incerto”), collaborating with advertising agencies in Campania and since 2016 he has been producing comics, illustrations and covers for Italian quarterly (Ronin, Sherazade) and American magazines (Perihelion Sf, Shenandoah, Metaphorosis, Bards and Sages, etc.).
As a writer from 2000 to today he publishes numerous short stories and from 2014 novels, essays and anthologies mainly in the field of the fantastic. He collaborates with Italian literary magazines (Rivista Milena, Delos SF) and foreigners – science fiction magazine Teoria Omicron (Ecuador).
https://www.behance.net/fabiolastra2ab
http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?275986
https://morbidiapprodi.wordpress.com

A Cat’s Inner World: The Process of Painting Cats

Jing KongThe following is a guest post by Jing Kong, whose artwork was on the cover of Issue 18 of Typehouse.

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The first time I saw Louis Wain’s painting was in a newspaper. The tabby cat in the picture has big eyes and looks left. The picture is so unusual and the cat seems to have a human expression. It looks cunning, curious, a little shy. The paintings I have seen about cats can be roughly divided into two types: realistic and cartoon. Both record the joy of life. I like cats very much, and I also like this kind of pure and childlike painting, so I searched for more of his paintings online. I was greatly affected. His cats have feelings, souls and many interesting behaviors.

For example, Wain painted a light yellow cat’s profile with a light blue background. There is a smile on the cat’s mouth. Its eyes look back. The cat looks very cunning and clever.

Another of Wain’s paintings has two cats sitting at a table and playing poker. Each cat is biting a cigar, looks leisurely and confident. They are not only looking at the cards in their hands, but also speculating opponent’s cards.

My favorite painting is the tabby cat picking grapes, the cat has a dumpy figure and a thick tail, the background is red. The tabby cat has picked bunches of grapes in its hands, but its eyes are looking at the scattered grapes around its feet. Its greedy expression looks like a person, wanting more. In order to further understand his works I tried to copy them.

For my submission to Typehouse, which became the cover of Issue 18, I drew a cat who plots to sneak-attack a parachuting mouse. A tabby cat appears in the blue sky, inhaling through its big mouth. On the left, the mouse under the parachute is very scared and holds fast the parachute rope. The cat watches the movement of the mouse closely. The cat looks cunning, but pretends to be innocent. The cat wants to eat the mouse and is determined to win.

When I draw a cat, I first determine the posture of the cat’s body, the direction of their head and the line of the cat’s sight. Then I focus on the cat’s eyes. The size and shape of the eyes convey the cat’s mood. Then I determine the position and highlight of the pupils. A cat with round eyes and large pupils expresses curiosity, happiness, concentration and even uneasiness. A cat’s eyes narrowed and squinted, feel disdainful and dissatisfied. The corner of a cat’s eyes tilt upward to indicate anger. A cat’s round eyes look up and have the feeling of fantasy and supplication. Similarly, a cat’s ears lean forward when it is curious. When a cat is angry, its ears are back, its chin is down or forward, its nose is wrinkled, and sometimes it bares its teeth. I think these details are very helpful to explore the cat’s inner world.

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Jenny loves life, nature and animals. She thinks painting is a way to explore human and animal souls. She likes traditional painting, using gouache and ballpoint pen. She gets inspiration from interesting pet stories, literary works and movies. She tries to discover the inner world of animals and human from painting

Important:

****THREE NOTES****

1.) We don’t take many current event pieces as with time between acceptance and publication they are often outdated or no longer relevant. But right now we invite Black authors to send us work of any kind, and we will have a section in issue 20 dedicated to amplifying your voices. And, the pieces don’t have to be about current events, or politics (although they can be if that is what you want). Just be a Black author or artist, creating what you love
#blacklivesmatter

2.) Also: Happy Pride Month! We still have work to do, but we’re proud of you! And that goes for ALL identities and orientations including QTPOC, two-spirit, trans, queer, bisexual, pansexual, nonbinary, asexual, genderfluid, genderqueer, intersex, demisexual, lesbian, gay, and more!

3.) We will not be accepting COVID-19 works for our September issue. The situation is too fluid, and changing by the day. We will however consider nonfiction pieces on a VERY limited basis, and they would have to be intersectional for us to consider them. If you have or will submit a piece for feedback we will still do feedback on it, and this does not apply to pieces in progress right now.

What Karate Taught Me About Dramatic Tension

Alan SincicThe following is a guest post by Alan Sincic, whose short story “Congratulations” won third place in Typehouse Literary Magazines 2019 short Story contest, and appeared in Issue 18 of Typehouse.

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I took karate for a year or so in college, and one of the things we learned early on was to be in complete control of our punches and kicks. The goal is to throw a full-power, full-speed punch that stops just short – within millimeters – of that vulnerable point on the body you’ve targeted. At the same time, you’re supposed to picture in your mind’s eye that fist of yours (specifically the ridges of the first two knuckles as they come twisting around with a snap of the wrist) smashing through the target. The idea is to punch, not at the target or on the target, but straight through the target – to shatter the ribs or to break the nose. We practiced on a “mock war-board” – a lightly padded wooden slab, a kind of springboard anchored to the wall with coils to absorb the shock. The board we would strike full-force, over and over again, to toughen up the striking knuckles and to perfect our form. Each blow we’d punctuate with a kee-aaa yell emanating from the solar plexus – a cry designed to focus the full force of one’s energy and, at the same time, to (presumably) unnerve one’s opponent.

When we sparred, however, we were never allowed to engage in full-contact fighting. Aside from the obvious difficulties – one blow, even from a beginner like me, could easily break someone’s nose – the whole point of sparring was to demonstrate, even under pressure, one’s complete mastery of technique. A blow that touched the karate gi or snapped to completion within an inch or so of the face was considered a “hit” and points were awarded. Not unlike fencing, where you don’t have to skewer someone to win the match.

Okay. So this has what to do with writing? Think of what happens in all those stories that keep us in suspense. Into the recipe they stir:

  1. A character strong enough to bend the course of events, to leave an imprint on the world around him. Before the battle the character – in a display of strength – spars.
  2. A decision of consequence. The character chooses – has it within her power to choose – whether to act or not. The choice matters because the stakes are high.
  3. A character who deliberates, confronts the options, and shares with us the moment of decision.

So here we go. The ingredients gather: the mugger meets the amateur ninja. The hero coils up into his ninja stance… and then pauses. Into the scene we lean. We find ourselves invested in the outcome. What will he do? What will he decide? How long will he hold us here, suspended in the balance?

And so it goes in a million movies and stories and books we’ve read. It’s the unconsummated kiss that ignites our interest, the slugger who sees the opening but stays his hand, the spy with the secret who (almost, but not quite) speaks. Not the bullet in flight but the finger on the trigger; not the leap into the abyss, but the lean out over the edge; not the ka-boom – no, but the tick of the timer.

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A teacher at Valencia College, Alan’s fiction has appeared in New Ohio Review, The Greensboro Review, Hunger Mountain, Big Fiction Magazine, A-3 Press, The Gateway Review, Cobalt, and elsewhere. Short stories of his recently won contests sponsored by The Texas Observer, Driftwood Press, The Prism Review, Westchester Review, and American Writer’s Review. He earned his MFA at Western New England University and Columbia and — back in the day — published a children’s chapter book, Edward Is Only A Fish (Henry Holt) that was reviewed in the New York Times, translated into German, and recently issued in a Kindle edition. For more info, visit alansincic.com.