Blue Bustard Books is a new Jaded Ibis Press series publishing novellas by 2 different authors in 1 beautifully illustrated print and ebook. Each novella is also available individually as black & white paperback. Series Editor: Debra Di Blasi
Each novella is also available individually, in black-and-white only. (see below)
Coming Fall 2015
Women Born with Fur
by Beth Couture
“An intoxicating book and brew.”
Out from the Pleiades
by Leslie McGrath
“a rollicking, raucous, new myth”
Forget You Must Remember
by Nathan Hansen
“Powerful stuff. A clear and strong voice to be reckoned with.”
Greetings from Gravipause
by Brian Bradford
Amanda Montei holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, and is currently a PhD student at SUNY at Buffalo, where she is a Presidential Fellow. She has taught, performed or presented work in Los Angeles, New York, Uganda, Rwanda and Germany. She is currently the co-editor of Bon Aire Projects, a press that publishes collaborative poetry and connects otherwise divergent aesthetic communities. She also edits the literary journal P-QUEUE. Her poetry and fiction has appeared in P-QUEUE, Gigantic, Pinwheel, Joyland, Explosion Proof Magazine, Delirious Hem, PANK, Night Train and others. Her critical writing has appeared in American Book Review, Performing Ethos, Harriet: The Blog, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, and Ms. Magazine.Her short story “We Are All Animals” was a nominee for the 2010 Million Writers’ Award. Her poetry manuscript The Failure Age was a semi-finalist for the 11th annual Slope Editions Book Prize, and was published as a chapbook by Bloof Books in 2014. She is the co-author, with Jon Rutzmoser, of Dinner Poems. She is also a contributor to the Ms. Magazine blog.
Amanda Montei Books
Coming Fall 2014
a biography + art
by Amanda Montei
ABOUT THE BOOK
As a young girl, the narrator of Two Memoirs finds herself imitating her mother. She fastens to her mother’s stories about childhood and the family’s blue blood lineage. When her parents divorce, and the family is forced to leave behind their elite Los Angeles life, the narrator and her mother grow closer, as they endure financial struggles, a childhood acting career, and feuds over family inheritances. The narrator becomes increasingly aware of her mother’s relationships with men, money, and Hollywood, and begins to see her mother—the daughter of an alcoholic Hollywood producer, a runaway, a twin sister, and an Emmy-winning assistant to Barbara Streisand— and her stories in a new light. Her mother, however, makes repeated incursions on the text, defending her “ugly” behavior, challenging the veracity of the story, even censoring the text.
What emerges is narrative about growing up in a family for whom story-telling, Hollywood, houses, and eugenics-obsessed ancestors like Aaron Burr and Jonathan Edwards provide the only means of escape from a less than perfect past, and an unusually troubled present. This is a story of a girl, and a mother, learning about motherhood, sexuality, and the instability of memory.
Two Memoirs is a biography of a mother, an autobiography of a daughter, a story about being a girl in Los Angeles—but also a conversation, an argument, an elegy, a letter, a manuscript at an impasse, and a search for an archive of memory that can never be found.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge was born in Los Angeles and raised in the suburb of Laurel Canyon, where she attempted to rub shoulders with the hip and famous. Though she was not successful in that endeavor, she rode horses, took ballet lessons, participated in the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, and graduated from Hollywood High School. After finishing her bachelor’s at UCLA, she worked as a journalist in California, Maryland, and upstate New York. She studied writing in the Kate Braverman workshops of the early 1990s in Los Angeles before attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. At UMass, she was a Delaney Fellow and a researcher for two of Jay Neugeboren’s books on the public health system, Transforming Madness and Open Heart. Since earning her MFA, she has taught college reading, composition, and literature part-time in the New York metropolitan area; published critical articles on African-American literature; and four volumes of poetry: After Voices (Burning River 2009); Half-Life (Big Table Publishing Co. 2010); With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women (The Aldrich Press 2012); and The Navigation of Loss (Red Ochre Press 2012), one of three winners of the Red Ochre Press’ annual chapbook competition. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize (once for poetry, and once for fiction) and once for a StorySouth Million Writers Award. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Patrick, and their daughter, Eva.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge Books
An Unsuitable Princess
A True Fantasy | A Fantastical Memoir
Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Fine Art by Mary Ann Strandell
PRAISE for An Unsuitable Princess
“Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s An Unsuitable Princess is a daring combination of old-school storytelling and the true wit of the best of contemporary memoirists. The first of these is a fairy tale about a young woman who cannot speak, while the second tells of the author’s awkward coming of age within the shadows of a disintegrating Hollywood neighborhood. But it is when these two narratives prove themselves inescapably linked that the novel takes its most affecting turn. ‘Tell me the story of your life,’’ the author’s daughter asks, and so the author does, with both hilarious and heartbreaking repercussions. ‘Finally,’ the author writes, ‘I am famous.’” –Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening
“It’s two, two, two tales in one. On your left, a deftly told Early Modern horsey fantasy; on your right, an aching memoir of the authorial teenage Ren Faire trauma that begat the tale. Rosenberg LaForge has crafted a quirky and compelling new class of literary mashup.” –Jess Winfield, co-founder, Reduced Shakespeare Co. and author of My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
“Rosenberg LaForge lays out her dreams and desires in this tender and heartbreakingly candid reinvention of memory. An Unsuitable Princess is an entirely original look at life, personal history, and one’s original hopes.” –Kate Southwood, author of Falling to Earth
ABOUT THE BOOK
An Unsuitable Princess: A True Fantasy/A Fantastical Memoir tells two stories simultaneously. In the first, which takes place in Renaissance England, a mute stable girl of mysterious talents and potentially dangerous parentage finds herself punished for saving the life of the boy she loves. The second story, told through a series of footnotes to the first, is situated in the late 20th Century and explain the inspirations for the first story. An overly talkative, solidly spoiled, middle class girl muses on the social and economic phenomena the author observed while growing up in Hollywood during the birth of the hippie movement, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, and the growth of Renaissance England re-enactments. She does not save the boy she thinks she loves. Indeed, she may have hastened his death. Even years later, the only way she can acknowledge this failure is by spinning an elaborate fantasy that becomes the tale of a wretched orphan who turns out to be a princess.
Download a pdf of our 2014-2015 Catalog
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Original art by Janice Lee
Original music by Resident Anti-Hero
While you patiently wait for the catalogue and the book to be read, you can take some time out and explore the world of cryptocurrencies. First you need to understand about the benefits in trading bitcoins. Once you get to know more about it, you will be hooked to it.
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ANNA JOY SPRINGER
Original art by Shelly Jackson, Kristie Fleming, Rachel Carns, Belden Sezen, Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens (Love Art Lab),
Elizabeth Earley holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her stories and essays have appeared in Time Out Magazine, The Chicago Reader, Geek Magazine, Outside Magazine, Gnome Magazine, and Hyper Text Magazine. Other fiction has appeared in The Windy City Times Literary Supplement, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The First Line Magazine, Story Week Reader, Fugue, and Hair Trigger. The Hair Trigger piece won the David Friedman Memorial Prize for the best story in that anthology. Elizabeth has twice been a finalist for the AWP New Journals Award, has received two pushcart nominations, and was a finalist for the 2011 Able Muse Write Prize for Fiction and for the Bakeless Literary Prize for Fiction. A new novel excerpt, “Backbone”, won an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train March 2013 Fiction Open contest.
About the artist, Christa Donner
Elizabeth Earley Books
“inventive, searingly honest, gorgeously written.”
– Gayle Brandeis
“eloquent, moody and strangely poetic.”
– Michelle Tea
A Map of Everything
a debut novel
|by Wendy C. Ortiz I’m left-handed. Age twenty-eight, in the depths of my Saturn return, I designed a tattoo. An artist etched the two images I had combined into my skin. From that point on, a black cat in mid-run crosses in front of an enormous red flame on the bicep of my writing arm.
I’m in a fecund writing valley right now, where, at this moment in time (not to be confused with the moment you’re reading this, or the moment after, or the moment after), I’m experiencing publication after publication. I’ve heard a constant refrain from friends and fellow writers:
You’re on fire!
It puts me in mind of the afternoons I face most days of the week, when I’m hoping my toddler will fall asleep for a few hours so I can write. But the truth is, I’m wilted by the two o’clock hour. I am lit by morning fires. The dampened afternoons stretch in front of me. I’m overtaken by water, by mud.
Underneath the cat and the flame is a banner. Former Catholic School students always inquire or guess at its meaning. Latin, it translates to “harmony in discord.”
I interpret this in two ways. One: I have found harmony in discord. This is a legacy I keep. Two: I can transform discord into harmony. This is my life’s task. This is a black cat bounding across dangerous territory.
This is trauma finding its escape valve in art.
Tinder. Kindling. Oxygen. This is how to sustain a fire. Let me translate this into something that can sustain me through afternoons, sustain me through the very difficult dry spells that writing, and publishing, inevitability present.
Plastic. Tires. Treated wood. This is how to ruin a clean fire and make toxic the air around you. Let me translate this into how to care for the body writing its way through fire.
My right arm maintains its über-usefulness by completing all actions other than writing.
At thirty-three, I brought images to the same artist: this time, an anatomical heart and tidal waves. She sketched and resketched. Again she etched the designs into my skin. It was not until years later, looking in the mirror, that I realized I had fire and water on opposite arms.
The unconscious knows.
How to sustain “being on fire”? In this metaphor the subject is hot. Maybe, like the wildfires that come in the wake of Santa Ana winds, the subject is fast-moving, carving its anarchic path through what was once not-on-fire.
What happens after someone sets themselves on fire?
The pain is described as ‘excruciating.’
“Once the burn becomes severe, it’s burned down to the nerves so you don’t initially have any sensation in those burned areas. Then the adrenaline kicks in. It’s our mind’s way to protect us from the tragedy that we went through.“*
My mind’s way of protecting me from any tragedy I went through?
The sign ascending at the Eastern horizon at one’s birth is used to consider how the person presents to the world. One interpretation used to describe one’s ascendant, or rising sign, is the exterior of the house, where the moon is the interior and the sun is the house’s foundation. My rising sign is Sagittarius. A fire sign.
The only other evidence of fire in my chart is not a planet or a star or even a node. It’s Chiron, a comet. The most common interpretation of Chiron’s placement uses the words “wounded” and “healer.”
Meanwhile, my chart is dominated by the other elements — mostly air, followed by earth, then water. Least present is fire. This lack of fire in other areas has sometimes disappointed me. Even my Mars is in Pisces.
Imagine a fighter fish, hiding among the rocks. The moments when I’m not on fire but safe in my cave, surrounded by water.
Inevitably, after several times of hearing and reading You’re on fire! I have to think of Bruce Springsteen.
“I’m on Fire,” 1985.
Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley
Through the middle of my soul
Yes, that sounds about right. That’s what writing can sometimes feel like.
Tattoo guns like a match caressing the skin.
I’ve resolved to remain open to the words that will next appear on my skin.
One word hovers in the smoke but I’m not ready to pluck it from the air just yet. There is a period of waiting, stoking, letting embers fall where they may until the time is right to set another wood on the log, etch another design onto my skin. My forearm’s skin is patient. The blue veins show up just enough that I’ve contemplated blue tattoos following their unique rivers.
How, then, to tend this fire, keep it burning?
Writing, of course.
A History of The Jirí Chronicles
The Jirí Chronicles is a book without boundaries. Its aim is a multimedia invasion into the real world, where real people interact with a fictional character, Jiri Cech, whether they know it or not. Each project within the Chronicles expands Jiri Cech’s 13-year infiltration and “bastardization” of aesthetic forms, creating narratives within narratives that overlap narratives, ad infinitum. To date, there are over 500 individual works of prose, poetry, video, audio, music, visual art, websites, and ironic consumer products.
Eventual “products” of the Chronicles married two literary explorations. The first began in the early 1990s with the question, “What if fiction wasn’t limited to page and ink?” An unfinished novella, The Second Millennium War: What We Found At Birmenstau, was a first attempt to produce fictive elements that readers could interpret as “real.” Two- and three-dimensional artifacts related to the plot were produced or attempted. Computer technology had not yet advanced to where writers could affordably manufacture believable artifacts on home computers and peripherals. Nor was the Internet or services like personal web site hosting available to economically challenged writers.
By 1998, however, personal technology had exploded, making a wide range of media feasible and the potential for real-world infiltration seemingly limitless. Likewise significant was the increasing shift in speed, consequent reduction of attention spans, and non sequitur thinking produced by the Internet. Reduced to bits and bytes, information grew increasingly fractured, virulent and difficult to separate into truth or fiction. The age of Information Excess had taken root. Thus began the second exploration: an experiment in randomness and meaning.
THE SHORT STORIES
The first short story “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody Sung to the Accompaniment of Piano” attempted to prove that the mind can — and does — (re)form the daily deluge of unrelated information into a narrative with cultural and emotional significance. (Recent studies have indeed located the region of the brain responsible for creating narrative out of unrelated data.) The result was a mixed media fiction utilizing text and white space as visual elements, and incorporating illustrations, footnotes, and text appropriated from ad copy, news headlines, magazine articles and billboards, song lyrics, movie dialog, and genealogical, scientific and historical facts.
The story’s unnamed narrator writes about “You,” a Czech immigrant whose racism repulses her and good looks attract her, to the extent that she wants to have his baby — though plot is hardly the point. Rather, it serves as an entertaining vehicle for process and product, modifications of what is traditionally defined as fiction writing.
In 2002, a conversation with The Iowa Review’s editor, David Hamilton, led to the publication of “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody”, and Jiri Cech officially entered the real world. (The “You” of “Czechoslovakian Rhapsody” soon became Jiri Cech, a name that translates to a fittingly generic “John Czech” with initials J.C., as in “Jesus Christ,” a [very] subtle nod to the conclusion of J.D. Salinger’s Franny & Zooey.)
To date, Jiri Cech has appeared in seven mixed media fictions, two published in The Iowa Review, one in Drunken Boat, one in Notre Dame Review; excerpts in the anthologies I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writings By Women (Carline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Vanessa Place, eds. Les Figues Press), The &NOW Awards: Best Innovative Fiction of 2004-2008(Robert Archambeau, Davis Schneiderman, Steve Tomasula, eds. Lake Forest Press/&NOW Books: Lake Forest, IL. October 2009), “Glauke’s Gown.” Forms At War: FC2 1999-2009 (R. M. Berry, ed. FC2/University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa, AL. March 2009), “Oops. Sorry” Notre Dame Review: The First 10 Years (John Matthias and William O’Rourke, eds. Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, IN. January 2009); and multimedia presentations at the first biennial Notre Dame’s &NOW Festival of Writing as a Conceptual Art; Riverfront Readings at The Writers Place in Kansas City; at Lake Forest College, Illinois; and T.M.I. (appropriately: “Too Much Information”) reading series in San Diego, California.
Jiri has recorded and produced five CDs of interviews, music and videos (two taught in a college lit course), now downloadable on 25-50 sites including iTunes, Rhapsody, Sony Music and MusicNet. Jiri’s art metal band, Umlaut with 4 dots not 2 (formerly Umlaut: ultimate uber death metal) received their first royalties check in 2006.
In 2002, Jiri published a collection of poetry, Whither: Poems of Exile, for which he won the Mennstrauss Poetry Award. He most recently completed another collection, Comes Life: A Poetic Chronicle, that brutally documents events from September 11, 2001 to Bush’s Iraq War, using appropriated text from the Old Testament, concerning topics from real newspaper articles, such as the high incident of soldiers committing suicide. A revision of the book includes real bullet holes created by various weapons; a limited edition includes a real spent bullet.
Jiri Cech served as guest poetry editor of the Spring 2004 issue of The Melic Review, in which he earlier published poetry. Other poems have appeared in the online site, Poets Against the War, in Other Voices International Poetry Anthology, and in the notable literary journal, Pleiades, prefaced by a brief essay introducing Jiri, written by poet H.L. Hix. His poems, “I Am A Real Estate Developer,” “I Am a Vampire” and “I Am an Opium Addict” — all written in less than 10 minutes (the longest time Jiri can sit on the toilet without his legs going numb) — were purportedly in an anthology of MySpace poetry, edited by Elinor Brown, United Kingdom. (We never heard back from Elinor. Perhaps she was mortified.)
Jiri has been interviewed about his experimental poetry by the critic and fiction writer Steve Tomasula (excerpts downloadable on most music sites and available and on the CD Steve Asks Jiií: “Does Poetry Suck?”). His illustrated essay, “Bohemian Beasts and Their Buttery Buxom Brides” appears in the anthology, Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer (Fall 2007, Wayne State University Press). In December 2007 Jiri also was the subject of an interview by Dr. Kent Gustavson of Sound Authors (www.soundauthors.com).
Jiri Cech’s visual art has been exhibited in 2004 at Urban Culture Project’s “Alias” exhibition for which he received positive reviews from Review arts magazine and The Kansas City Star. Other exhibitions include Beauty and the Beast art auction, and H&R Block ArtSpace exhibition, Making Meaning: The Artist Book. The majority of his hugely overpriced art therapy drawings appear in the book, When the Bluebird of Happiness Shits On Your Armpit. Two of these drawings (that respond to real rejections from real poetry editors at real literary journals) appear in Clackamas Review.
Also extant: Jiri’s newsletter, 10-Minute-Muse blog, personal website, Umlaut website, MySpace page, Facebook page, and various online interviews, music selections and videos on sites ranging from USA Television Network to Notre Dame Review. His test pilot for Comedy Central and his homage to publisher Ralph Berry of FC2, can be viewed at Youtube.com
His consumer products could once be purchased at jadedibisproduction.com, and included tee shirts and undershirts, boxer shorts, ass patches, magnets, paper bags from which to drink Pilsner in public, autographed gravel from one of his suburban sprawl construction sites, and the newest addition: celebrity scents, Hung and pe, which are still available, albeit likely toxic by now.
Jiri frequently wrote inflammatory letters to editors at various publications and receives less inflammatory letters back, junk mail and spam.
The book, The Jiri Chronicles & Other Fictions, is now on the syllabus at a number of college literature and writing programs, and was the subject of a PhD dissertation by Sheffield England linguist, Alison Gibbons.
REALER THAN YOU
As Jiri Cech’s presence expanded, so did his significance regarding contemporary culture and aesthetics. His website, it’s a man’s world, (the title of a poem by Jiri Cech adapted to video and later featured on the website, Poets Against the War, suggests continuing problems regarding gender and power. The project itself chronicles the issues of our times and the democratization of a vast array of new technology, and how the two may be related. It questions the notion of boundaries — whether geopolitical, socio-economic or aesthetic — and the dangers of categorizing people and things according to our prejudicial standards.
On a more somber level, Jiri’s ability to exist as “real” addresses the apparently burgeoning problem of The Lie in contemporary society, where politicians, media monsters, and corporate and religious leaders are able to spin webs of deceit by means of the very technology that allows Jiri Cech to exist as “flesh-and-blood.” It also surreptitiously explores the contemporary problem of sound bites & bytes, wherein the public’s conclusions about people and concepts are reached without fully receiving and absorbing all information necessary to achieve an objective, rational viewpoint. Further, it illuminates readers’ increasing lack of attention to detail and an unwillingness to spend the time and energy required to understand the relationship of all facets within an issue or narrative.
Finally, and crucially, The Jiri Chronicles attempted to explore and document Systems Theory* via interconnections between media and people, fact and fiction, and the resulting effects on our day-to-day lives.
Jiri Cech was killed by lions while chasing the Bohemia Blonde in Botswana. His funeral was a private affair, held at the 2011 &NOW Conference of Innovative Writing in San Diego, California.
*Systems Theory is the transdisciplinary study of the abstract organization of phenomena, independent of their substance, type, or spatial or temporal scale of existence. It investigates both the principles common to all complex entities, and the (usually mathematical) models that can be used to describe them.
Sharp Little Number by Megan Boddy
Composed and performed for Glamorous Freak: How I Taught My Dress To Act, a novel by Roxanne Carter
Pornograph No. 3 by OCNotes and Lisa Dank. Compilation contains Pornographs No. 1 and 2
Composed and performed for The Pornographers and Pornographies
Treed and Ideat by Patch Rubin.
Composed and performed for We: a reimagined family history, a novel by c.vance
Your Metaforest Guidebook, LP by Rachel Carns, Tara Jane O’Neil, and Anna Joy Springer. Words by Anna Joy Springer
Composed and performed for The Vicious Red Relic, Love: a fabulist memoir
by Anna Joy Springer
|Monster by Resident Anti-Hero
Composed and performed for Daughter: a novel by Janice Lee
Ready To Burn by Ron Heckert (Tornado n A Jar)
performed by Ron Heckert (music) and Betsy Carney (vocals); produced by Carlos DeLeon
composed and performed for Unfinished: storied finished by Lily Hoang
Goldberg Variation No. 3 Remix by Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky
Remixed and performed for Blank, a novel by Davis Schneiderman
Logical Conclusion by Yasutoshi Yoshida
AVAILABLE ON CD COMPILATION 2012
Composed and performed for Burn Your Belongings, a novel by David Hoenigman
|Aunt Pig of Puglia
Title story read by the author Patricia Catto. Produced by Jaded Ibis Productions
“Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
– Mary Oliver
“Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”
The decision to leave a wonderful position with a delightful company where I do meaningful work alongside kindhearted coworkers is not one I take lightly. I’ve lost more sleep over more nights than I can count. I’ve poured myself into oversized containers of ice cream, buckets of popcorn, and bottles of wine, abandoning the healthier coping strategies I’ve learned in years of therapy. I’ve spent hours sitting in the darkness, alone in my living room, dreading what I’m about to do.
My boss has been both a friend and mother figure to me. My coworkers have been my cheerleaders. The residents at the retirement center where I work have changed my perspective; they’ve transformed the way I look at aging, love, resilience and mortality. I fell in love with a community of people in their 80s, 90s and 100s — people who offered me an endless and unconditional supply of hugs, wisdom and warmth.
I have to leave, though, and this is why: There is a book inside of me. Or rather, there’s a series of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that I think will lead up to a book. This collection of thoughts — this beast — is nestled between my heart and lungs. It catches on my breaths; it pulls me to the ground. I’m crouched on my feet, wrestling against this thing. I keep trying to press it down, but it wants out.
Regular paychecks and health insurance and free lunches are no match for this thing inside of me. The days I’m putting into my job no longer feel like hours I’m putting in; they feel like hours I’m giving up. The more I give up, the heavier the beast gets. This book keeps pushing against me, jabbing into my core, asking me to take notice.
I tried to be sensible. I’ll only pay attention to the beast at night. On weekends. In my spare moments. I’ll politely ask the beast to be calm during the day, to keep quiet, to stop calling me.
It didn’t stop. It only got louder. I would try to focus on my work — if I only stare at this computer long enough, if I just repeat what that resident said one more time — in an effort to distract myself. This, I would tell myself. This is what normal people do. They work normal jobs like this. They help other people. They sometimes get bored. They laugh with their coworkers. They look at the clock. They think about dinner. They ache when they hear someone new is on hospice. They stoically attend memorial services. They sometimes go home and weep for someone who has died. They often go home and worry about those who are living, those who are facing dementia and disease and the unfathomable loss of a spouse after sixty years of marriage. They carry their feelings and they feel exhausted and they don’t write — not now, Book Beast — and then they wake up the next day and do it all over again.
I can’t do it anymore.
I can’t do it anymore because a book is pushing against me and I can’t release it until I walk away from what’s causing it. This time I’ve spent with people who are 92, 97, 102: it’s made me who I am. It’s helped me to form my story and colored the way I view the world. But I cannot write about it – I cannot sit down and focus my energy on it or anything else – until I walk away.
The best I can do now, while working here full-time, is to come home and fall asleep at 8 p.m., an occurrence that happens with frequency. The best I can do now is to sit in my exhaustion and fret about the things I can’t control, to put off my writing until I’m less tired, less drained. Put it off for another day, and then another, and then another.
I have to leave. I have to leave so I can get in my car and drive. I have to leave so I can visit different friends in different states. I have to leave so I can sit in my grandma’s abandoned house on the other side of the country — the one beyond the reach of internet and cell service — and write. I have to leave so I can write and write and write, free from the interruption of going to work for nine-hour increments followed by hours of sitting numbly at home, feeling too much, thinking about my residents, missing my grandma, worrying about the end of life, until I go to bed and repeat it all the next day. I have to leave so I can take these big, messy feelings and put them down on the page and write and rewrite and rewrite until they make some sense. Until they tell my story.
It’s not an easy thing to explain to anyone. I will have no source of income. I will have nothing, really, except my car and my mind and my bag full of dreams. Does this sound logical to anyone? Does this sound practical?
Is it logical for someone to stay in a relationship long after she’s fallen out of love?
Is it practical for someone to stay at a job if she feels like she’s suffocating?
Is it okay to suppress everything inside of me in an attempt to fit in with the normal way normal people do normal things?
This is no longer a story of Normal. This is the story of a Book Beast, a road trip, a lonely house, and a plan that defies logic. The plan goes like this: Write, write, write, write, write. There is no room in this plan to drive residents to medical appointments. There is no room to edit a newsletter or update a Facebook page or listen patiently when someone tells the same story again. There is no room for letting my compassion for my coworkers override my need to do something for myself. There is no room for letting the moments and days and years go by, waiting for things to arrange themselves differently, waiting for something to present itself to me, waiting.
This is no longer a story of Waiting. This is a story about making a difficult decision — one that I feel in my gut with an immensity that scares me — and standing behind it. People leave horrible jobs and situations all the time, but I am not one of those people. I am leaving a wonderful position with a delightful company where I do meaningful work alongside kindhearted coworkers. I’m leaving my friends and family and apartment and job and everything I know and love.
This is why I have to leave. That book lodged inside my organs? Someday I’m going to let it out. But first I have to get to it. I have to chip away at it. I have to remove the layers of fat that cushion it. I have to peel back the debris and clutter until the beast is all that’s left. And then I have to release it.
Who knows how far his poem will travel? For many of us, most of our poems won’t make it past the rectangular space of our door. And, if a poem does manage to make it into the world and thrive, it’s often without our intent. The poem makes its own way, finds its own home, and seeks its own friends. And who knows if one of the friends won’t be an old acquaintance of yours upon whom, years before, you made a poor impression? And who knows what relationship that person will have with your poem, and how such a relationship might affect the regard in which you’re held.
Part of the mystery of writing is that the destination of our work is often concealed from us. Still, we continue the daily ritual of waking early to sit at our desks and sail seas full of fragmented ideas, blurred beginnings, and uncertainties with the hope of arriving at some distant shore where what’s beyond us comes together in the language of our experience.
How We Know We Are Forgiven
We know when our words
Are finally allowed
To travel routes of the heart
That once were barricaded
Against them as strangers
And they are given reign again
To stretch out upon sands,
Chat with newly arrived travelers,
And left alone to haggle
With silk and spice merchants.
Instead of being kicked
From tents and caravans,
Our words will once again
Be pulled into the crowds
By friends left behind,
Wiped clean of grime
Collected in the desert,
Then given fresh robes and pants,
Before being led unto hammocks to snore
After bread and wine.
In this poem, there are custodians of the imagination who impose and preserve a normative world view. And we see to what lengths these “wise men” will go to make children think “what’s right.” It seems to me, however, that sometimes writing is the act of dancing the wrong dance – the act of taking elements of the taught-imagination and stretching them as far as one can.
Solomon’s Montessori School
The school is popular among children.
And upon their gathering,
Each swears of her own experience –
“Yesterday, I saw ten golden gates
Standing without fences”
“Today, I saw god appoint Winds as sages”
“I’ve seen angels floating east” –
To suppress these claims,
Wise men from town
Stand children against the wall
Without food, for hours
Until each confesses a change of heart –
To the relief of parents
And the esteemed Council of The Wise –
That Solomon’s school never existed
And is only seen by the mad.
Precisely at that moment,
A girl hears Solomon’s invisible call.
She pulls down her veil,
Listens to the hymns,
Then runs like one taken
To begin studies
“In how to climb god’s fences
And wrestle with Winds.”
After years of toil, how does a writer handle himself when his work is finally recognized? Some writers become lost in the pageantry. Some accept the recognition for what it is, are grateful for what they are given, while keeping in mind that what’s more important is returning to that place of unknowing, which often is the source of poetry.
The Measured Notion of One’s Self
How blessed the man,
Who despite praise,
Acclaim and applause
Remains in the end,
Essentially as he was –
Unaffected by the ribbons
Taped to his door,
The bouquet of flowers,
The certificates framed
In his halls,
And in his study,
The hung medallions.
Not for this man
The quiet relief of being paraded
Through the village on borrowed horse
All for being the first of its sons
To sail the Indian Ocean and
The first to write several volumes
Scholars hold in high estimation.
Quite admirable that after waving
Through the confetti and horns,
He returns home not thinking
“Tomorrow praise is again assured.”
But that it is already gone
And he is again as he was.
No wonder he is now at his door
Untaping the ribbons.
No doubt he’s taken down
In the morning,
He’ll return the horse.