election madness

Getting a little weary of the decibel level and alternate reality(ies) of campaign season. It’s like a tide of static that floods through the country, turning all of us into ciphers, categories, and statistics.

It’s helped to be buried in the revision stages of some stories - 5 bright water, ocean crop 088 bisand the imagining stages of others. And I’ve found refuge in reading Langston Hughes (short stories, Saratoga Rain, Who’s Passing for Who?, On the Road) and Vendela Vida (Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name). Another good antidote: walks by the water, where the tides, grasses, and trees aren’t running for office.

favorite passages recently read

Gil Adamson, The Outlander

The world was huge, endless, and the widow in her body was not.


In the mornings heavy fog poured upward from the earth and drifted in ghostly forms through the trees. …She watched a gaggle of vaporous forms trouble the surface of a little forest slough, and it gave her a curious image of what her own mind endured. …Furies born and soon dead with a simple breath of sun; but potent while they lasted and terrible.


Jeffrey was in the stalls sorting through old bridles when the door went dim, as if a cloud had passed over. He looked up to see the silhouettes of two large men standing side by side. … He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. He waited. He was a man accustomed to waiting. And slowly, the men, who had been stiff and unmoving as statutes, began to shift and shuffle as doubt overtook and annoyed them, impelled them forward on their fine black boots into the gloom of the barn. Two horses watched them come, the animals’ long faces hanging over the stall doors with the guileless, expectant gaze common to all horses, even the hellraisers.

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Megan Mayhew Bergman, “Yesterday’s Whales” Birds of a Lesser Paradise

There were unspoken routines and rituals, shoes underneath the bed and books on the nightstand that reminded us what kind of people we were, should we forget for a moment, or be tempted to change.

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Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

…we wait at the bus stops, managing our intricate and tiny mental kingdoms…


“But what if,” I said, still gazing at her, with her sly sexy smile like a little dawn on her face, “what if the love we feel, what if it’s central, what if it’s what makes the world’s soul possible, what if it’s what made the world and keeps it running…”


She hadn’t thought she could love a man of my race, but once I showed up in her life, I turned to be the man she loved, what is the word, regardless. To this day I don’t know exactly what she loved about me and that’s because I don’t have to know. She just does. It was the entire menu of myself. She ordered all of it.

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Other voices, (4) good reads

005 cropRegret, Resignation Day First Class Literature
flash fiction by Steven Ray Smith

Read it here

Falling in Love with Bahia & Brazil: On Negritude, Saudade, & Surrender Words Without Borders
by Naomi Jackson

[Excerpt] Determined to keep my hot foot off Brazilian soil, I cut short conversations with friends who traveled to Brazil and caught Luso-fever. I thought that the Caribbean, West Africa, and South Africa, where I’d traveled in search of blackness that both reflected and diverged from my own in ways that were instructive, affirming, provocative, and occasionally downright maddening, were enough.

Read the article here

Conversations with Contributors: Brian Tierney (Issue 11, Poetry)  Adroit Journal

[Excerpt]  I…was pretty far down the path of prose and literary studies graduate-level work when I realized I wanted to be writing poetry more seriously…poetry was the most natural way of exercising my humanity.

I wanted the “I” to be recognizably me, and so, be able to hold the weight of authentic experience, but also be capable of multiplicity and difference, of expansion and contraction, of observation and experience that could mean something to someone else.

Read the article here

Translating Southeast Asia  Moving Worlds
Editorial by Shirley Chew

[Excerpt]  With Moving Worlds acquiring a second home in Singapore in 2011, ‘region’ which had meant Yorkshire when the journal was based solely in Leeds, now includes Southeast Asia…places of historical and cultural antiquity and modern nation-states astir with the often aggressive business of progress and  development.

Against the turmoil of public events, this issue explores some invigorating examples of crosscultural creativity in the region.

Read the article here.


Bay Area Book Festival thoughts

677 treated cropOn Being from More Than One Place

There will probably be a few posts with roots in Bay Area Book Festival, which is a fantastic event. This one grew from a session about, in my words, the effects of interconnectedness between cultures and continents and of being a child of more than one culture or country.

It was moderated by Marie Mutsuki Mockett (Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye) http://www.mariemockett.com/, who is Japanese and American, and created by Mutsuki Mockett with Sunil Yapa, who also participated in the discussion and is Sri Lankan and American (Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist) http://sunilyapa.com/.

The panel also included Yaa Gyasi (Homegoing) who was born in Ghana and grew up in the States. Interview: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2016/06/yaa_gyasi_on_her_debut_novel_homegoing_and_getting_blurbed_by_ta_nehisi.html and Ali Eteraz (Children of Dust, Native Believer), who grew up in Pakistan, the Caribbean, South Asia, and the American South. Author site: http://alieteraz.com/; his writing in the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/alieteraz.

One of many interesting points came from Mutsuki Mockett, who mentioned that people from different cultures literally see landscapes differently, some creating a hierarchy of perception that begins with the foreground and others having a more integrated view.

The rest of the conversation was so lively and involving I hardly took any notes. Each of these authors is someone to follow and read. Their work opens doorways to worlds you immediately want to know more about. They all had a solid sense of humor and thoughtful outlook—character traits that (I think) allow people to put themselves in any landscape without the need to dominate it, which in turn makes a person an excellent observer and synthesizer of information and experience.

Yapa spoke about the importance of successive drafts and revisions, of digging deeper and deeper into the story and point of view of each character. In something of a mirror-image observation, Gyasi spoke about the evolving process of learning her family’s history and genealogy, how things that were either curious or unquestioned became clearer and gained depth as she came to know their origins.

One of the authors, and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t recall who it was, made the point that it’s important to not promote myopia with our work, that it’s important to instead promote the opening up and deepening of our own and a reader’s point of view.

That triggered a thought about my own experience, being an American and also a child of two very different cultures in the context of my immediate family.

One of the results of this background is a discomfort and skepticism with any opinion based in the concept that there is only one point of view that has primacy and validity. I feel as though Americans fall into this because our country is so vast and populated and dominant in both good and bad ways on the world stage. It is, in a way, a myopia that prevents perceiving the validity of other points of view. I think it’s a flaw in our vision,and that it needs the correcting effect of exploring the view from other countries, people, and landscapes.