Road Trip #1 by Devon Miller-Duggan

The trip was arguably over-prepped. The car had enough nut bars and organic
granola bars for a scout troop. It had a tablet, a smart phone and a satellite
nav system. Water, dried apples, two blankets (even though this was late July
and the car and I were headed to Santa Fe via the southern route. A couple of
pillows. A case of cds, all the AAA guides for all the states I’d cross. There
were reservations at grown-up hotels at carefully-selected intervals (courtesy
of a student who works for a big chain and was a little fretty about my
traveling so far ALONE).

I turned 60 in the spring. It seemed momentous. It also precipitated a
large-scale existential crisis, and, since I am not constitutionally capable of
having a subtle crisis, nearly drove my long-suffering family and friends a
little bats.

There was whimpering about all my large-scale life failures. Lots of it. I never
lost weight. I never made any money or got a tenure-track job. I am not only not
famous, my 2nd full-length manuscript has been through so many revisions I
hardly recognize it and no one wants it. 60. 40 years out of my MA program, and
I have one book and one chapbook. I also have a nemesis I sort of made up for
myself in order to have someone to blame and have thoroughly enjoyed loathing
that person for decades. Then I found out that, her eminence notwithstanding,
her life has been rather rougher than mine in marital terms—I’ve been happily
married for 37 years to one of my first-year professors. She’d been very
unhappily married and eventually divorced. I mention this only because finding
it out might have been the crowbar that began to lever me out of the morass of
self-denigration in which I was wallowing.

Several realizations ensued:
1. I needed to stop worrying about fame and work harder on being a good poet.
Not that I haven’t worked hard, just that I needed to work harder.
2. I needed to push myself into new places poetically.
3. I needed to stop whining before one of my daughters put the whole family out
of my misery.
4. I needed to do something mildly (we are talking about a bourgeois,
comfort-loving, safety-seeking broad here) badass—hence the 4-day solo roadtrip
between Newark, DE and Santa Fe, NM (where I was going to the Glen Workshops for
the third time). Also, I didn’t feel like dealing with TSA. I don’t fly
frequently enough to shrug the invasions and discourtesies off, and I get a
little crazed by strangers putting their hands in my hair and lifting my clothes
in public and getting all aggressive because my titanium knees make the machine
go beep. It is possible that deciding to drive 30+ hours, 2/3 of the way across
this rather large country was a bit of an overreaction to my loathing of TSA
encounters, but the decision felt good when I made it and kept feeling good as
the time to leave approached. It felt badass, even if driving a recent model
Subaru and staying in nice hotels wouldn’t count for most people. I think it was
badass mostly because it meant spending over 100 hours pretty much alone,
(except for a surprise stop in Nashville to see a dear friend from college I
hadn’t seen in decades).

Three Questions for Poet Donna Snyder

Questions

What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

Aside from childhood efforts, I began writing poetry in my early 30s, without any academic training. I was an obsessive lap swimmer, and my line length tended to be similar in length, read aloud as my natural breath. I soon became aware of the use of lines to emphasize specific words and images. Later, my line breaks began to signal both punctuation and continuation. My writing is innately rhythmic, likely influenced by performing my poetry with a band of musicians, artist, and performance poets from the West Texas/Northern Chihuahua/Southern New Mexico border region.

Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

The connection between my body and my poetry is multilayered. I tend to write in an uncalculated fugue, implicating my hand and arm most in an almost automatic writing, but while “hearing” my own voice, which consequently involves an instinctive understanding of my breath and lung capacity. There is also a strong correlation between my process of writing and the chakras. When I am silenced by circumstance or emotion, I feel the unarticulated words like clots of static energy in my chest and throat. Often my poetry arises from my root chakra and ultimately releases through my crown in an almost ecstatic rush, even when the subject matter is not particularly happy or positive.

Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

As I write these responses, I am currently in the final throes of releasing my book from Chimbarazu Press, and am all too intimately involved in its promotion and distribution, particularly as my publisher just recently had surgery and can’t be as active as he might like. I am the antithesis of business-oriented. Nonetheless, I very much want my publisher to recoup his investment, which is not always a given for small, independent presses, particularly those publishing poetry, and so I am committed to do my part to facilitate that likelihood.

Poem

Her blood, a faded ribbon

A star plummets from a blood ribbon.
Its mate follows.
They quiver above a flesh canvas.

The blood dries.
The sky’s scab crumbles.
The stars, once brilliant, now dead, their light
nothing but flickering memory. Flesh
nothing but a picture, rotting.

The bones of the Moon become earth,
her crown, sunlight, hovers above.
Her blood, a faded ribbon
covered with dust.

Bio note

1

As a writer and cultural organizer, I put to use the lessons of writing practice and reading aloud learned from my early mentors who led groups in Santa Fe–you, Miriam, along with Joan Logghe, Judyth Hill, Natalie Goldberg, and Ana Castillo. In 1995, with funding secured by Judyth Hill, I founded the Tumblewords Project. Committed to the notion that to give voice is an inherently political act, I have continued to offer free weekly writing workshops, as well as performance events and publication opportunities. The Project has flourished, with presenters from throughout the United States and Mexico, as well Chile, Peru, Cuba, Hungary, and Jamaica.

Around 1988, Joan Logghe changed my life with the gift of a bilingual book of poems by Pablo Neruda and César Vallejo. From that moment, I became heavily influenced by writers from South and Central America and immigrants from those regions. I have also been particularly impacted by Chicana/o poets and activists.

In terms of publications, I am the author of Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal, released by Chimbarazu Press in September 2014. In 2010, Virgo Gray Press published my chapbook, I Am South, and will reissue it in late 2014. NeoPoiesis Press will publish my collection, Three Sides of the Same Moon, in 2015. My work has been published over 100 times in journals, anthologies, and ‘zines. Currently, my poetry or book reviews appear often in VEXT Magazine and Red Fez, and I am a contributing poetry editor for Return to Mago.

Originally from Shamrock, a small town in the North Texas Panhandle, I have lived in El Paso for over 20 years, moving here from New Mexico, where I lived in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and in Navajo country. I worked as an activist attorney for over thirty years, advocating on behalf of indigenous people, immigrant workers, and people with disabilities.

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A bit about Donna’s brand new book. She says interested buyers should write her at donnajsnyderpoet@gmail.com with their mailing information.  They will need to deposit money in her PayPal account, associated with the email donnajosnyder@gmail.com.

The stunning cover art is from the painting Angel in Decline, by Victor Hernández.

Carousel of Happiness

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I recently visited the carousel of happiness–an amazing combination of folk art and community in Nederland, Colorado.

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It’s story:

As a young Marine in Vietnam Scott Harrison had received a tiny music box that he held to his ear to distract him from the horror of the war going on around him. The music, Chopin’s “Tristesse”, brought him a peaceful image of a carousel in a mountain meadow. After rescuing the abandoned Looff carousel in Utah he spent the next 26 years hand-carving animals to bring it back to life.
Scott had never carved before but, starting with the rabbit that is now on the sign in front of the carousel in Nederland, he went on to create more than 50 one-of-a-kind animals, 35 of which can be ridden. As he was finishing, the small community of Nederland (pop. 1500) came together under Scott’s leadership, and raised the $700,000 to build it a home.

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Poem by Miriam Sagan

This poem appeared recently in Purple Pig.
They are a very nicely done e-zine, and publish daily.

The poem is part of a sequence I’ve been writing as an attempt to express the feelings and experience of having a close friend of mine in hospice.

***

I hold the left-handed dying woman’s hand in both of mine

We have the same name

I want to tell you about a third,
Someone young and sad with beautiful eyes
in a rainy city
in earthquake country

who for many years
will have nothing to do
with this story

I live in a beach town. It’s called Brooklyn. Essay by Bibi Deitz

Last Call: Beach

I live in a beach town. It’s called Brooklyn.

Sounds like hyperbole until you consider that Brooklyn’s entire southern coast is a beach. Sand and the smell of sunscreen are an hour’s train ride, give or take, from my front door.

So—not only does New York have an inexhaustible aggregate of art, music, book events, dance parties and edibles, it also has beautiful beaches dotted with sunbrellas and adorable curly-haired children running in and out of the surf, shrieks carried by the breeze.

I was there the other day. I had been watching the weather all week, waiting for the best beach day the way I used to wait for the perfect moment to jump into a round of double dutch, and that was the day. My best friend and I piled towels and thick books and copies of the New Yorker and Vogue into tote bags and caught the A train south.

Fort Tilden is the stuff of daydreams. It’s not the South of France—it’s not even San Sebastián’s urban old-Europe beachfront—but it is relatively clean. There are no dirty diapers or spent syringes floating in the foam of incoming waves. The same cannot be said of the beaches of my youth—Jones, Coney Island—at which I witnessed both such objects drifting along shore.

It’s September, the first day of school in New York City. There is not a cab to be had uptown in the morning, every meter ticking and overhead light switched off in deference to the oncoming school year. Children, ubiquitous yesterday, are nary to be seen on the streets of the city. I spot them whooshing past behind the closed windows of taxicabs, the air conditioning on max against the heat of the late summer day. And I’ve only been to the beach once this summer.

Twice, if you count the Jersey shore.

There are two more beach runs on the horizon. This is how it goes: the Matisse exhibit installs at the MoMA, and everyone waits until the last weeks, when we all flock uptown in droves and wait in long lines to see the colors and brushstrokes that hung in echoing galleries the week before, the open space yawning out before them. A Broadway show is held over in its last weeks, the audience showing up in hordes, a full house every night. We are procrastinators, we humans.

This weekend, my friend with a car offered to drive us to the Rockaways for a sunset beach picnic. I already have my old Laura Ashley plaid wool blanket packed and ready to go. I know which swimsuit I’ll wear, in case I want to splash in the surf at the day’s end. I’ll lug my thick book back for round two, but this time it will be easier to carry. When it comes to the beach, everything is easier by car.

The first time I ever went to Fort Tilden, a few years ago, my childhood best friend and summer sister borrowed a van from her employers and went beachbound, picking up friends on various corners in Brooklyn along the way. We filled the van and headed south along the BQE. I drove.

It was a day of magic. Sun shy, the sky was overcast and mottled with clouds, but we donned pullovers and buttoned up Oxford shirts, the sleeves rolled to the elbows, our little bodies clustered on blankets, sunglasses on against the light of day. We didn’t swim—we didn’t even wade—but we stretched out and read books and told stories all afternoon. There is a photograph of my summer sister and I, taken from the backseat, our heads together, hands touching, holding an iPhone in tandem, searching for the perfect summer anthem to blast as we rolled toward the shore. It is one of my dearest, most favorite photographs, our jawlines in demi-profile, the bones of our wrists outlined with sun.

The beach is this way. It can imbue even the dreariest of days with an enchanted reverence, a glow.

Perhaps my last moment at the seashore will be the weekend after next, when I head northeast for a long weekend at my friend’s new house in the Hamptons. The guests will include three couples and myself. At first I objected: What kind of wheel will that make me? A seventh wheel? But my host laughed and said, You’ll be the baby all weekend. We’ll make you sandwiches. We’ll buy you dinner.

When we’re camped at the beach, bottles of sunscreen flowing and wide-brimmed hats skewing our eyes, it won’t matter who is with whom. The beach is a great equalizer: No matter who you are or what you look like, you are welcome. There is always someone fatter or thinner, more tan or pale. And when the tide is in and the sun is out and the beach umbrella is at just the right angle, there is no one and nothing that can ruin a day on the coast.

To the beach I say: Twice more, with feeling. And then adieu—until next year.

Art by Julia Deisler

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Haiku from Rodney Williams

I’ve selected a few of my favorites from this book of haiku and tanka, A bird-loving man (2013, Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide SA).

For its sense of loneliness:

shingle beach…
trying out its third couple
a dog lost at dusk

This one is humorous, but having been in the “slow reading group” it spoke to me:

library time-
a young boy reads
the fish tank

A memory:

his son’s old room-
from the ceiling little stars
still twinkle-twinkle

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