Bacopa Literary Review

Thursday, January 28, 2016

surf-hushed in dusk's first breath

by Editor-in-Chief Mary Bast

As you'll note below in links to Justin Hunt's many publications and prizes over the past few years, it's no surprise that this prolific poet won Bacopa Literary Review 2015's second-place poetry prize:  
Autumn, Huntington Beach
They curl in sand,
October in their sagging
skin, pocked bodies
poured bronze with sun.

Others sit, lips and teeth
as dull as their chairs
corroded frames, hair
frayed like plastic seats,

time unraveled. Men
plump into years or shrink
on bone, knees knobbing
into wind, last probes

of day. Women murmur,
cull words from brine,
sigh until they're sated,
surf-hushed in dusk's

first breath. Soon, dark
will come. They will stand,
gather belongings, plod
gray sand and dunes

back to their Harleys,
campers and tents. Soon,
but still they sit or lie, eyes
seaward, empty moons--

no thoughts of leaving,
no thoughts at all. 
In 2015, Justin's poems appeared in Comstock Review (2nd prize, 2015 Muriel Craft Bailey Contest for "Two West and a Half South"), Atlanta Review (International Publication Prize for "Oblivion," Fall Poetry Issue, 2015), Kansas City Voices (Whispering Prairie Press, 1st place for "Of Light and Time"), Spoon River Poetry Review'2015 Editors' Prize Contest ("Nocturne" was 1st runner-up), 2015 Freshwater Review ("My Mother, My Father"), and Northern Colorado Writers Pooled Ink's annual poetry contest ("Cold Night in March" was Editor's Pick). 

Justin's poem "On the Phone with Kansas" appears in the poetry collection What Matters (Jacar Press, 2013) and his poem "Half-Light" in Pinesong (North Carolina Poetry Society, 2013). He was also published three years in a row in Main Street Rag's Kakalak ("Requiem in Wide Open Minor" in 2013, "Baseball" in 2014, and "Who Looks for You" in 2015). 

Submissions open until June 30, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

MORE CREATIVE SPARKS, FROM VLADIMIR NABOKOV

by Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie

Sometimes when you're reading a creative writer, just a few words set off the sparks in your mind. Here's an example. Lately I've been reading Nabokov's Letters to Vera, which, like everything Nabokov has written, is full of sparkling passages. At one point he mentions Joyce and Proust:
"Joyce met Proust just once, by chance; Proust and he happened to be in the same taxi cab, the window of which the first would close and the second would open--they almost quarreled. On the whole it was rather tedious" (p. 267) 
On this same page Nabokov gets into some fascinating macaronic word play, taking off on Joyce. Here is my embellishment of that passage, which I recently inserted into a long novel I'm preparing for publication: 
"Joyce and Proust ended up by chance in the same taxi-cab one day. They had never met before. Joyce would open the window, Proust would ask him to close it. Drafts. This opening and closing and opening again and closing again went on for the whole of their life together (ten minutes). Then they climbed out of the taxi--thoroughly disillusioned with each other--and went their separate ways for all time."
Is this plagiarism? No, this is creative borrowing plus embellishing. A pedantic reader might also object, "But are you sure you have the facts right? Is this what actually happened? Aren't you, to some extent, making up this scene between two great writers?"

Yes, I am making up the scene, embellishing upon two great writers. But I'm not writing a scholarly work. I write fiction. I can make up Joyce and Proust in my fiction if I like. I can even make up Nabokov. I've already made him up once, in my short story, "Hobnob." 

It's a wonderful life, being a fabricator! 

Submissions open until June 30, 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Safe Place to Escape

by 2016 Bacopa Managing Editor, Mary W. Bridgman

Two of my pieces have been published in Bacopa Literary Review, "Happy Hunting" (fiction) in 2012 and "Garbage Mass with Class" (creative nonfiction) in 2013. Both of these are humorous. Although I do compose some serious pieces, I prefer to write for entertainment. I like to laugh, and I love to bring a smile to readers' faces. 

In "Garbage Mass with Class," for example, I described lying awake at night "tormented by fears of impeding disaster--an inevitable avalanche of unwanted, unusable, unfashionable, hermetically sealed boxes of chemically preserved wedding gowns.

In "Happy Hunting," stepmother-in-law Rosebud's efforts to help around the house included "a tacky shower curtain, with an image of Elvis Presley, hanging in our bathroom." When a shot in the night awakened everyone: 
"What's goin' on?" she asked. "I heard some loud noises and I figured it might be the Rapture, but I wasn't taken up."

"Must not be the Rapture after all," I said through gritted teeth. It was clear Rosebud didn't expect we would wind up in the same place should the Rapture occur during our mutual lifetime.
Books have been valued companions on my life journey, often an escape from the stresses of everyday living. That's what I want to create for readers: a safe place to escape and relax for a while. I've written a book of short stories, two middle-grade novels, and most recently, a cozy mystery. These haven't been published yet--I'm trying to go the traditional route, seeking a literary agent, which may be an impossible dream. Who knows? It doesn't hurt to try, and it's exciting to have a dream.

Cozy mysteries, my favorite reading pastime, feature amateur sleuths and interesting casts of characters that reappear throughout a series of books, such as Stephanie Plum in Janet Evonovich's well-known series (One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to Get Deadly, etc.). Readers gravitate to this genre because the cozy world generally makes sense: in the end, the mystery is solved and justice prevails. And I'm intrigued by the puzzle-solving aspect, trying to figure out Who did it? as I read along. It doesn't matter to me whether I can figure it out or not, as long as I've enjoyed the ride.

So maybe that's a good place to end this post. I'm up for a new challenge as Bacopa's Managing Editor, which is more of an administrative role than a literary one. I'm responsible for monitoring and acknowledging submissions, making sure there's no identifying information, so the genre editors will judge solely on merit. At the end of the day I hope I can say I've learned something new and, in the process, enjoyed the ride! 

(See also: Attorney Puts Retirement in Context; "Christmas Chaos" in From Our Family to Yours--Florida Writer's Association, Vol. 1; Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom

Submissions open until June 30, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PICKING UP SPARKS, THEN SPARKING NEW SPARKS

by Bacopa Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie

A Story by Hillary Mantel, "The Present Tense," London Review of Books, Jan. 7, 2016

 
In what is otherwise a realistic story, about teaching in a third world country, the teacher injects a bit of fantasy in making up a tale to tell her students. About a man whose head got turned around backwards. The fantasy infects the reader, grows inside, so that we end up with something like this, part Hillary and part Hillary+reader:
"A man went off to work one day and came home to his wife with his head turned backwards on his shoulders. His bare feet were as long as his calves, his toes were fat, arthritically so, and he wriggled his fat arthritic toes as he walked, grinning from ear to ear out of his bassackwards-fitting head, exposing blockish teeth like gravestones."
This is writing with verve. Don't you think so? Doesn't it beat the run-of-the-mill thing about middle class Americans and their tribulations, told in a style that is dull and pedestrian? You can find the original Mantel story online if you wish, and you can compare what she wrote to the embellished paragraph above.

But the point I make here concerns, precisely, the embellishments. You read something that has a certain creative frisson. Then that spark ignites something inside you, and you become creative, creating new flame out of someone else's creative spark. So goes the creative process down through the ages: art inspiring new art that inspires new art, ad infinitum. Thanks, Hillary.


Submissions open until June 30, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

I Do Not Know Any Home

We're delighted to feature excerpts from Bacopa Literary Review 2015's First Place Fiction winner, Ellen Perry. Readers will find a hint about what to expect in Perry's prize-winning "Milk--Bread--Soft Drinks" with her beginning quote: 
I do not know any home. So why should I be homesick? (Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter)
Notice how Perry creates a strong sense of place with echoes of memories: 
Watching my clothes dry at a 24-hour laundromat in New York City, I eased myself into a corner seat near the window and took one sip of "Co-Cola," as my family back in south Georgia called it, and all of a sudden I was ten years old again, sitting on that wobbly bench outside Kincaid's Store, waiting for Mama to get off work at River Girls and take me to the fireworks. . . My mother, Ada Lee, gave birth to me when she was 17. My father was 18. . . "Your daddy used to could throw a baseball like they was no tomorrow," old Mr. Kincaid told me at his store when I asked about Dewey. . . I'd pay for my Coke and sit out front under the red and white "Milk--Bread--Soft Drinks" sign. . .

. . . everyone in town knew about River Girls, the bar and strip club down by the railroad tracks. . . At various times the church ladies (armed in Hamrick's pantsuits and tight, short perms) marched door-to-door to get signatures, trying to close down the "devil's juke joint." But River Girls stayed busy and. . . I was in heaven with all the store-bought clothes, TV shows, Bible stories, Cokes, and freedom until one day I noticed that Ada Lee had stopped laughing. . .
I like to think that my mother had argued with her boss at River Girls, stormed out of there and drove like crazy to get to me before the fireworks started, but I won't ever know. . . I stayed for a while with the Kincaids and then with Dewey, but his girlfriend said it wasn't working out so I moved to Athens to live with my grandparents. . . the only time I'd returned to Georgia was to attend Mr. Kincaid's funeral just before I finished school. I cried for days and swore I'd never go south again.

Then that laundromat Co-Cola sneaked up on me and tasted like home. It took me right back to the banks of the Altamaha where I first heard stories running smooth like the river and, on Independence Day, where I learned to make them up.
More stories by Ellen Perry:

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," Gravel
"Divorce, $189: Fast and Affordable," Spank the Carp 
"I Wonder," The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature 
"Letters from Asheville & Beyond: A Fictional Journey into Western North Carolina" (blog series): Part One: "We Take 'Em All" and Part Two: Get on the Bus."
"Mature Adult Cat Chow," Wussy
"Customer Service," Deep South Magazine
"Derby Day," Finalist for A Room of Her Own Foundation's Orlando Prize for Short Fiction (Fall 2015)

Submissions open until June 30, 2016

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Prose Poem: An Eccentric Genre

by Bacopa Poetry Editor Kaye Linden

Our poetry statement reads: Dare to submit an experimental form, a prose poem, a lyrical narrative, a series of haiku, a ghazal. Shatter our ability to hold it together when we hear the passionate voice in your writing. Come at us from a different angle, a refreshing perspective that weaves poetic language and techniques into fixed or mixed forms. We are open to riveting poems that play and turn our world upside down. 

We'll speak to a variety of poetry forms over the following weeks and months. This post addresses the eccentric prose poem, not honored as poetry by many writers because it is modern, nontraditional, and misunderstood. A prose poem breaks the rules of poetry. Prose poetry is the rebel with a cause, a woman ruling her own country, a mixed genre that identifies with no form in particular.

Prose poems don't use the line breaks of traditional poetry and may offer complete sentences in narrative form or odd fragments strewn across a page. They might consist of half-page or three-page narratives or one-line symbolic declarations, the obvious and the implied work in balance to surprise the reader. Whether a prose poem runs in broken lines or dense narrative, its major element, as with all poetry, is its language. That language is often simple, with implied symbolism, as with Edson’s "The Ant Farm" (The Tunnel: Selected Poems):
In spite of Columbus the world collapses and goes flat again.
The sky is a bell jar where a child in another scale watches his ant farm.
When the bored child yawns two thousand years pass.

Someday we have crashed to the playroom floor; the careless child knocks us over
with his fire truck. . . All that dirt lying in its broken sky.
Swept up, it is thrown into a garbage can at the back of the universe. 
Few writers can define this eccentric genre. At the same time, the use of sentences as opposed to broken lines does change the rhythm and oral read of any poem, and the use of sentence structure in dense or loose narrative elicits a different feel and expectation for the reader. 

Prose poetry allows experimentation and a breaking of poetic rules because of its flexibility and lack of strict definition. It often, but not always, has a specific shape on the page. Except for line breaks, it makes use of poetic device and tactics such as imagery and doesn't employ a plot or story line as does short fiction. 

For the amazing geography of the world of prose poetry, take a look at Great American Prose Poems From Poe to the Present edited by David Lehman (Simon & Schuster). In his Introduction, Lehman describes the prose poem as "an insistently modern form. . . inherently subversive. . . a hybrid form, an anomaly if not a paradox or oxymoron. It offers the enchantment of escape. . . ." 

Prose poetry and flash fiction hang out together like best friends. The poem above by Russell Edson doesn't boast all the definitive elements of flash story but it does have some—small frame, compression, minimalism, a tiny world, word weight. Not much of a story line though, is it? This poem works by implication and imagery, subtext and symbolism, the marks of poetry. And my flash piece, 1st prize winner for Creative Nonfiction in Bacopa Literary Review 2015 before I became Poetry Editor, could just as readily be considered a prose poem:
The Linear and Circular One Sentence of Tattoo Designs over His Body

David runs through Goliath with a sword but Goliath stands strong, his sandal strap broken by the tip of steel, blood at the ankle, a few hairy hairs shaved from his knee, but he stays upright, an angel of the bottomless pit, the hero of one tattooed story with its swirly blue ink marks connecting letters over each vertebra of spine, letters that spell out “Never again” and “violence is not the way” with the word “way” spiraling down the spinal column, each lumbar protrusion covered with inky lines and letters, until the ink bleeds into Popeye opening a can of worms on the left buttock, and Olive smoking a pipe on the right buttock, the pipe smoke weaving a curly-Q whirly loop and merging into Spider man’s web on the left thigh, the web webbing its lacey stars and stripes network down and around the shins, around and around until it splatters inky blue spiders over the gastrocnemius of the left calf muscle and covers the ankles and feet with tiny Buddhas that continue under the feet and protect the soles of feet and the soul of the man, (but how on earth did he suffer through that painful tattooing?) and seen from under jeans, the feet appear dirty and garden-weary but when rolled up, like Eliot’s Prufrock on the beach, the design works magic like a waterfall works magic, a watershed of rainbow colors spreading in a rainfall of tattoo etchings across his massive shoulders, his sharp abs, pecs, scapulae, triceps, biceps, quadriceps, embellishing and fertilizing all six hundred and thirty-nine muscles, a landscape of linked vessels and lines emerging whenever he takes off his shirt, a rare occurrence, only when the gorgeous and the giants come to town and he dreads the time when he runs out of tattoo space on his skin and he must share his stories with his words instead.


Suggested reading:
The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry, Gary L. McDowell and F. Daniel Rzicznek (Eds)
An Introduction to the Prose Poem, Brian Clements and Jamey Dunham (Eds)
(Drawn from two of Kaye Linden's posts in the Writers Alliance of Gainesville blog)