Bacopa Literary Review

Writers Alliance of Gainesville's international print journal in its 8th year -- 2017 cover design by Dancing Ghost Productions -- This blog cited among Top Literary Blogs for Writers and Publishing Agents -- To read examples of the quality of work we seek, click for flash, poetry, fiction, or nonfiction

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bacopa Literary Review 2017: From the Editor

The intersection of arts and political activism are two fields defined by a shared focus of creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships and creates new paradigms... a space where valuable insight can be found through reflection and sharing.
~ Art and Politics, The Power of Creativity and Activism Across the Globe," Annette Blum, Huffington Post, THE BLOG, 03/21/2016.

We live in an age of environmental concerns, political dissent, divisiveness, war, discrimination, and suffering made personal by instant internet access. No wonder poets, writers, and artists seek meaning and provide inspiration through their creative efforts. Certainly our 2017 contributors have rendered art that will bring readers inside life's deepest truths.

Delving first into the deeper blues, whether reading of the unknown lost, the well-known, or those known only to our writers--fathers, mothers, siblings, children, friends--you'll wonder if your heart's response is more joy or sorrow or a mix of both. Omit the sparrow and the thought / of bird remains. . . So it is with loss, writes Sally Zakariya. (Click here and scroll down to "Up From the Tropics" to see "Theory of Omission," from which these lines are borrowed.)

Exploring life's unexpected bits of sweetness, we admire the wild bite of stars, hug a baby close against fears of an unknown future, heal addiction in our dreams, recall as children how we were good help even though we also peed in the family pool, remember vividly such characters as Stephanie Dickinson's Velma, whose voice was a laughing gull's.

We still believe in love, that feeling every time you dazzle in the shine of someone new, being touched as if our scars are beautiful, even when love is like a blade, when we fear we might drown, when we pay a fine, when we ponder ways to lose a guy/girl. And we hope, with Tamara Adelman, that being alone with a lover in nature will provide some reassurances.

Our contributors, at liberty to sink caution, bemoan news that's about what sells, lying to ourselves while others wake up to violent explosions. They grieve coming-out children who hear echoes of "abomination," challenge the message for young girls to be patient and pretty and sending boys to war who would rather be foraging for berries. Then a reprieve in "The Soloist" by Andrew Brown: What would divide us meets in her radiant throat.

These writers and poets are concerned about earth's well-being, the only home you ever knew. In a world that's ending, just once more, as though any generation could avoid its end by consuming the next, mothers carry their children through waist-high water, streets full of soda cans and road signs, trees uprooted like a jumble of giant pick-up sticks. Still, some believe this is only a test. We are lulled by the blue rush of the surf and we nail old shoes in trees for homeless birds to live in. If anyone felt desire, Clif Mason assures us, the wind would blow again.

The final section features work where buzzing of bumblebees is the soundtrack, their honey a sovereign remedy, a muffle-hush falling when mountains breathe mist. While driving in boiling turnpike traffic we see: Suddenly--sheep!  We feel with each bloom its thin green legs, see hummingbirds careen in plein air, watch the powdery glitter of snow. We believe, with Jim Johnston, that the seeds of courage are planted in darkness, and from there they must grow. . . if we do not want to call the darkness home.

May the artful reflections of contributors to Bacopa Literary Review 2017 bring you valuable insights in our tumultuous times.

Mary Bast
Editor in Chief
Bacopa Literary Review

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Against the Storm: We Are Dazzled by Love

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
The question of whether climate change "caused" any particular weather event is the wrong one; instead, we must probe how climate change alters extreme weather. Aside from the warming atmosphere, rising sea levels and surface ocean warming have likely contributed to the impact of both Irma and Harvey. Dann Mitchell, NERC Research Fellow at the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute.
Here in Gainesville, Florida, as we prepare for the impact of Irma, it's difficult to concentrate on anything. And yet it seems the perfect time to reiterate our theme of the intersection of art and activism, time to remember that art "mirrors the aesthetic standard of the day and also provides a window into the historic context of the time." A vital part of that context is the element of love, stories of human connection, of friendship, helping, and heroism amidst the storms.

I had hurt my back carrying bags of canned food in from the car and was dreading bringing in everything from the patio; at that moment there was a knock on the door and a member of our maintenance team brought in everything for me. One of my friends was shopping for plywood to board up the window in her 95-year-old mother's room when she noticed two young men who live near her; they returned with her and helped her board up the window. I read about a woman who needed a generator for her father's oxygen machine in case their power fails; the man who had just picked up the last generator gave her his, and she fell into his arms, weeping.

We at Bacopa Literary Review believe in love, we love Ellaraine Lockie's poem "In the Friendship Lab," featured in our 2017 issue, and we invite you to remember the power of love, "every time you dazzle in the shine of someone new . . .
If it overflows, be like the flower it waters
when you meet someone worth unfolding for . . ."


More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Emperor Has No Clothes

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
We may feel the need to be that voice crying out. . . "The emperor has no clothes!" Most of us will not be spearheading protest marches. . . masterminding boycotts. . . or leading the charge against oil exploitation. But we do what we can. We write. (Mary Pipher, PhD, Writing to Change the World, pp. 29-30)
You remember the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Emperor's New Clothes," a cautionary tale about the danger of believing what's not real: Caring only about his appearance in the finest clothes, this Emperor's vanity led him to believe a couple of swindlers who told him they could weave clothes in which he'd be invisible to those unfit for office or unusually stupid. He thought he'd be able to determine who in his empire was unfit. Of course, neither he nor anyone else could see the clothes but all were unwilling to admit they could be unfit or stupid. Finally, as he rode through town a little child said, "But he hasn't got anything on!" Only then would others acknowledge the reality.

This tale signifies the importance of speaking the truth when we see it, no matter what the social pressures. And nothing is more powerful than communicating at a symbolic level. When we look at our planet's increasingly failing capacity to support us, for example, we're appalled to note how many people still insist they're seeing the emperor's fine new clothes. How can writers and poets convince others of the naked truth in time to make a difference?

Perhaps by transporting readers into a starkly imagined future in earth's "silent periphery / on one of the cooler planets / far removed from walls and barbed wire / crosshatches of lies and alternative facts . . ." (from Poetry First Prize winner Claire Scott's "A Mote of Dust" in Bacopa 2017).


More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Poem is Not a Political Protest, or is it?

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
If you are a person who truly cares about the environment or politics or equality in matters of race or gender . . . these concerns will naturally emerge in your poems. Your only job is to follow your instinctive, personal, idiosyncratic sense . . . and to see what emerges . . . "What Poetry Can Teach Us About Power: Political Poems Use Language in a Way Distinct From Rhetoric." Matthew Zapruder, Literary Hub,  August 16, 2017
The article above points out the danger when poets try to consciously bend their work to a political message. The author quotes Keats: "We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us." Instead, the most powerful poems carry a political message by re-enlivening and reactivating language in a way that invites attention and raises awareness.

Such is the power of Adrian S. Potter's "This is Not a Protest Poem," Bacopa Literary Review 2017's Poetry Honorable Mention. Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk and I loved this poem from the title alone, knowing Potter would reactivate the meaning of "this is NOT."  Instead readers are simply invited to watch . . .
a grown man shooting baskets
at a deserted playground
under partly sunny skies.
"This poem is not a metaphor," the poet assures us, "not code / for some political agenda," It's "not an allegory / about activists and antagonists." Yet readers will not be able to forget this "quiet guy practicing / shoulder fakes, pivots, and drop steps . . ."


More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

From The Dark Side

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast
The intersection of arts and political activism are two fields defined by a shared focus of creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships and creates new paradigms . . . "Art and Politics, The Power of Creativity and Activism Across the Globe," Annette Blum, Huffington Post, THE BLOG, 03/21/2016.
It's intriguing to ponder how art itself can take an activist stance, rally followers, change minds, shift people into new ways of thinking. That's the theme you'll find in this year's Bacopa Literary Review, now available at Amazon.com.

It's immediately obvious that persuasive writing can influence thinking through rational means. We can also give voice to the voiceless, instigating empathy and compassion from readers by providing an inside view of experiences completely different from our own. Even more subtly, our metaphors can act quietly below the level of rationality's conscious defenses.

The metaphor of "dark matter," for example, describes all we cannot see, known only through astrophysicists' math. We writers can support more obvious activism by planting our metaphors outside the spotlight, part of the dark matter of raising consciousness.

This is exactly where you'll be left after reading our concluding piece, Jim Johnston's "Dark Water, Silent Grace." Ostensibly about a boy's experience in the lake at camp, persuaded by older boys to take a frightening dive into murky waters, the subtle undercurrent of this piece will tow readers to Johnston's deeper message, "how the seeds of courage are planted in darkness."

Bacopa Literary Review 2017 now available at Amazon.com

More about the intersection of art and activism to follow.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 Bacopa Literary Review Prize Winners

Congratulations to our 2017 Bacopa Literary Review prize winners:

Flash Story Prize: "Excerpts From the Trakl Diaries"
Stephanie Emily Dickinson

In this four-part flash, Stephanie Emily Dickinson "explores and illuminates the short and tumultuous life of the brilliant Expressionist poet, Georg Trakl (1887-1914). Born into a middle-class Austrian family, this towering visionary fought the demons of mental illness and drug addiction before committing suicide in Krakow at age 27."

An Iowa native, Dickinson lives in New York City. Her novel Half Girl and novella Lust Series are published by Spuyten Duyvil, as is her Love Highway, based on the 2006 Jennifer Moore murder. Her other books include Port Authority Orchids, Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg, and the recently released collection, The Emily Fables.

Poetry Prize: "A Mote of Dust"
Claire Scott

According to some, "Our time here on earth is finite, and we better find our way off it sooner rather than later." Claire Scott's poem pulls us into that future: "have you thoughts of moving to Saturn / or Neptune or even Pluto / . . . maybe one night you will look out / and see a pale dot / a mote of dust in the night sky. . ."

An award-winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee, Scott's work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam, Causeway Lit, and The Healing Muse, among others. She is the author of Waiting to be Called.


Creative Nonfiction Prize: "Caregiver's Journal: How to Survive, or Not"
Raphael Helena Kosek

"One of the most honest and heartfelt pieces I've ever written," says Raphael Helena Kosek of her "Caregiver's Journal: How to Survive, or Not."

Kosek's work has appeared in many journals and magazines including Big Muddy Poetry East, The Chattahoochee Review, Catamaran, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and Southern Humanities Review. Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won the 2014 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition and one of her essays tied for first place in the 2016 Eastern Iowa Review Lyric Essay Contest. She teaches American Lit and Creative Writing at Marist College and Dutchess Community College.


Fiction Prize: "Ignis Fatuus, and More, at Eleven"
Chad W. Lutz

"Ignis Fatuus, or 'foolish fire' (because of its erratic movement). 1. a flitting, phosphorescent light seen at night, believed to be due to spontaneous combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. 2. Something deluding or misleading."

Chad W. Lutz is a runner, and you should be prepared for a read that will leave you breathless. Currently enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, California, and working toward an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction), his publications include The Chaos Journal, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Fish Food, Gravel, Jellyfish Whispers, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Jazz Cigarette, and Route 7 Review.

*     *     *



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 Bacopa Literary Review Honorable Mention

Congratulations to Bacopa Literary Review 2017 Honorable Mention winners:

Poetry Honorable Mention: "This is Not a Protest Poem"
Adrian S. Potter

Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and short fiction. He is the author of the fiction chapbook Survival Notes (Červená Barva Press, 2008) and winner of the 2010 Southern Illinois Writers Guild Poetry Contest. Some publication credits include North American Review, Obsidian, and Kansas City Voices. He posts, sometimes, on his blog.


Fiction Honorable Mention: "Cry on Command"

Joe Dornich

Joe Dornich is a PhD candidate in Texas Tech's creative writing program, where he also serves as Managing Editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. His publications include Word Riot and Cahoodaloodaling.


Creative Nonfiction Honorable Mention: "Starvation"

Paddy Reid

Paddy Reid writes about army deserters in wartime, men such as his father, and the consequences for their families. He welcomes readers' feedback to his email address.


Flash Story Honorable Mention: "Terminal Trance"

Charlotte M. Porter

Charlotte M. Porter, published poet and award-winning fiction writer, lives in an old citrus hamlet in north central Florida. Enjoy her recent short fiction in Axolotl and her novella, Agnes Person, currently serialized by Visitant Lit. She is readying Falling from Grace, a short story collection, for press.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Audacious Ekphrasis

by Bacopa Editor in Chief Mary Bast

If you want to know more about me, Googling Mary Bast will first evoke echoes of my other life as an Enneagram coach and related books. But I've also written flash memoir and several forms of poetry including found poetry and ekphrasis, an audacious poetic form that's among many we encourage in our print journal.

You'll find a long history and many definitions of ekphrasis. I like the most open, contemporary version best:
Ekphrasis: the intersection of verbal and visual arts.
I first learned about ekphrastic poetry in a workshop with Melanie Almeder, who drew our attention to two famous poems written in response to Pieter Brueghel's painting, The Fall of Icarus: William Carlos Williams' "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" and W.H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts." 

Note that Williams' poem to some degree follows the tradition of describing the visual scene (a farmer was ploughing / his field / the whole pageantry / of the year was / awake tingling / with itself), while Auden's interpretation is a bit wider (About suffering they were never wrong, / the old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position: how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window). 

Almeder invited workshop participants to write our own poems in response to the Brueghel painting, encouraging us to range as far as our muses would go. My poem "plummet" (published in Bacopa Literary Review 2012) imagined Icarus as a woman:
somewhere
there is an Icarus
a woman who flies 

on intricate
feathered web
of covert

sheath
shaft
veins

warm-blooded
she breathes faster
learns to soar

ignores
the admonition
do not fly too high


her efforts full
of sky
of wind

her breasts
still flecked with honey
dripped from wings' wax

heavy with her father's
architecture
heavier than water

when she dives
no sun's light
scuffs the surface
As a visual artist I've explored other ways to interpret "the intersection of verbal and visual arts." For example, in response to Kim Addonizio's poem "Divine(Oh hell, here's that dark wood again. / You thought you'd gotten through it--), I created my acrylic painting, "Oh hell, here's that dark wood again." Then I reacted to my own painting with the poem "Backdraft" (again the dark wood. / Guardian of the Abyss hovering above / like a gold flame to incinerate what's left of my life).

Remember Bacopa's 2017 poetry statement: We're looking for well-wrought poems in any form or genre, or none. Intrigue us, move us, surprise us with stunning imagery, lyricism, soundplay, structure. Disturb our well-trod patterns of thought.      



Leave a Trace of a Time and a Place

by Creative Nonfiction Editor Susie Baxter

Back in the 1990s when I was an acquisitions editor at Mosby, a health-science publishing house in St. Louis, a colleague gave me a tiny pillow on which she'd cross-stitched: "So many books . . . so little time." So true.

Frankly, I started out far behind most readers. As a youngster, 18 miles separated our home from the nearest library, and for several years our family owned no vehicle. Granted, we did have our own home library: Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Dad's high school world history book, a storybook of tales like "The Three Little Pigs," the Sears and Roebuck catalog, and five copies of the Holy Bible . . . It wasn't until I read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca in high school that I fell in love with reading. 

The thought of becoming a writer myself never occurred to me until I lost my beloved grandmother. I decided I had to write about her, which led to writing down more and more memories, and eventually offering workshops to help others record their stories.

I think of myself as a recorder of history, leaving a trace of a time and a place that is no more, such as the Suwannee River flood of 1948:
Water began seeping up through the ground in early '48, the year Granny died, just as the onion sets were sending up healthy-looking green spikes . . . Since we'd become accustomed to seeing the river rise and fall, a little bit of water around the onions didn't seem like a big deal. After all, Daddy had planted at the right time; he relied on the Farmers' Almanac, which told him when the moon and stars were in the right positions for planting.

The almanac didn't tell him where to plant, though, and that year he'd planted the onions--five acres of them--on the lowest spot of ground on our property, an area we called "the bottom" . . . dark, fertile soil, unlike the dirt elsewhere on the place, which was similar to the white sand along Florida's beaches . . . 

Daddy rotated the crops every year to prevent disease, and that year he decided to plant the tobacco next to the onions . . . Mama and Daddy led the way along each row. Mama walked backward, facing Daddy, and we girls followed. Mama carried the plants in a cloth bag slung over one shoulder. She dropped the plants, one at a time, into the metal "tobacco setter," the planter Daddy toted . . .
Some farmers in the area owned modern planters that were pulled by tractors. The planting process, for us, was entirely manual, but the five of us moved together like a machine: 
     Drop plant. Drop setter. Squeeze lever. Step forward. Pack dirt.
Though it took less than ten seconds to put each plant into the ground, planting two or three acres took days.
By the time we finished that year's tobacco planting, water covered most of the nearby onion crop. Daddy said the onions might not make it, but then joked that we now owned "lake front" property.
Mama didn't even smile . . . She had never told us that when she was seven years old, she'd seen the Suwannee River flood the crops. "I spotted the very first sign of the 1928 flood," she told us later. "I noticed water seeping up from insect and gopher holes in the railroad ditch where I played."
~ 
Susie Baxter's memoir Pumping Sunshine, will be available in early October. You can benefit from her experience as memoir writer and teacher with her recent book, Write Your Memoir: One Step at a Time.

Baxter says "The creative nonfiction Bacopa Literary Review publishes has a moving inner voice. It holds to the same standards as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact." Examples here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  


Saturday, July 15, 2017

J.N. Fishhawk: Poet, Writer, Agitator

Our Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk (AKA James Schmidt), asked this year for submissions of "well-wrought poems in any form or genre, or none. Intrigue us, move us, surprise us with stunning imagery, lyricism, soundplay, structure. Disturb our well-trod patterns of thought."

Jimmy has been a friend of our journal since Bacopa Literary Review 2010, in which his prose poem a prayer helped inaugurate our first annual edition:
O bear, O rabbit, O moon, O woods with yr million million twiggy fingers clutching after disappearing fur, nestling features, lifting scales and claws and soft suction toes, scuttling buggy digits of horn and chitin, little dust-kissed hooks of moths, O things in thickets crawling, O clatter of lizards under leafmold, O slip of spider silk like cat's cradle played with death on the shivering green breeze-reaches, O underscrub where all breaths die, blaze of sun among dry wrecked shells in sand, you ancient snailshacks going slowly apart over centuries for lime, liner for the guts of the native earth, O hell all you racket of growth and vigorous destruction, come on, come on, burn and turn, let's all go down together and come up again some other time, who knows what beings we'll be? 
For longer than our seven-year acquaintance, our poetry editor has been a moving force of the Civic Media Center and Library (CMC) in Gainesville, Fl, a nonprofit, independent, grassroots, street-level alternative library and progressive community organizing space. He's often the MC for CMC's Thursday night open mic where many of our local poets and writers have given voice to their work. He's also a freelance writer and editor, with emphasis on education, outreach and promotions, academic, and artistic projects.

From one of his latest creative works: "The Darklands may be caught in infrared glimpses framed by ancient shade trees. They glimmer just below the surface of sunset rivers older than time..." So reads in part the back cover of Dancing Ghost's 2016 Production, Postcards from the Darklands, Photos by Jorge Ibáñez,* Poems by Jimmy Fishhawk.**

Jimmy's ekphrastic poems in Postcards from the Darklands are beautifully evocative of Jorge's photos, as evidenced in #20:
in wall so worn
by forgotten centuries' winds
that the puddled glass
between the windows' lead
is the ancestor of the ancestor
of the bubbled plate
that was the first pane
placed there,
where the shades still recall
the wartime blackout
even in the claybake
ovenheat of noon,
a ghost of her face
may be seen
to keep watch
on the darkest night
electric light fails
under the ice-weight
of winter
and even the stars howl
with grief
where the spines
of their own illumination
stab them
Postcards from the Darklands can be purchased from Wild Iris Books.

__________________________________________________________
*Jorge Ibáñez, a graphic artist and web developer who's had numerous shows in Florida and Puerto Rico, is currently Director of the Santa Fe College Information Technology Education program.

**Jimmy Fishhawk, poet, writer, and agitator, has called the swamplands of Florida home for about twenty years. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals; he's also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Virus, Pt. 1:1 Infest Yer Consciousness (Dreaming God Productions) and Gone (Ghost Dog Press).

Not Someday. Now.

by Associate Editor Cynthia D. Bertelsen

I began my writing life thanks to some little green men.

One morning, it was spring, I think, Mr. Richard Hawthorne, the only male teacher in the whole of Franklin Elementary School, asked my sixth-grade class to write short stories.

"About anything you want to write, that's it" he told us as he shuffled piles of papers on his old oak desk, as big as a small rowboat. I scrunched down in my seat at the back of the room, aimlessly pushing a pencil across the top of the lined paper in my three-ring binder notebook. My seat mate, Sarah, gnawed the pink eraser at the end of her pencil. We glanced at each other with a look that only best friends share. Today we'd probably say, "WTF," but then we just shrugged.

Sarah's green sweater fit a bit snug across her chest, the white plastic buttons gaping a bit here and there when she raised her shoulders. In that moment, with the flash of green, I knew what my story would be about. The little green men from one of my brother's sci-fi comic books I'd swiped a few days earlier, that's what. In big rounded letters of preadolescence cursive, I painted a word picture of the gleaming steel curves of a space ship manned by green men as tall as my three-year-old baby sister. I made sure to mention the cool reptilian texture of a green man's hand. The real story began when two little girls stepped into the silvery ship, which whisked them off to another planet, one thick with lush jungley plants, ponds burbling with water as clear as glass, and blueberry-dark skies. School didn't exist in that fabled place, because with one intramuscular injection of some mysterious substance, the girls became wise and learned and all-knowing in an instant.

Mr. Hawthorne wrote at the top of the first page of my story, "My wife and I loved your story. Keep writing. A+"

And I tried.

I yearned to live life as defined by Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. I hung onto a tattered copy of Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write through countless moves, from Gainesville, Florida to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and back again. For a long time, I thought of writing as frivolous, because I knew that doing what I loved did not necessarily mean the money would follow. The dollar sign turned out to be my biggest stumbling block. At times, rarely, money exchanged hands. Rejection letters piled up, too. I identified fiercely with a comment that Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez made to his mother, "After all, there are better ways to starve to death [than being a writer]."

It took a daunting bout of illness to wake me up.

I could no longer say, "No, not today. Someday, yes."

In other words, when the surgeon leaned over me in the O.R. and whispered, "Here we go," I stopped being a Someday Writer.

My preferred genre is creative nonfiction, in the form of essays laced with elements of storytelling. I've indulged that tendency in work such as "Why I Write, with Apologies to George Orwell," as well as in many articles and book reviews.
I could spend all my time reading what other people say about the world and what's in it and never write a word about myself, joining the passivity parade of today's technological culture. But if I don't write, I feel a weakness of spirit, a sense of Ennui spreading its wings and enveloping me in a vampiric kiss. I lose my juice, so to speak. On a day when I sit at the keyboard and finish what I start, well, that's a day filled with light, even if clouds strangle the sun and rain bleeds all over everything.
Fiction lured me, too. I'm hoarding an as-yet-unpublished novel following the trans-Atlantic journey of an English cunning woman, or witch in the parlance of some:
          That night had been a cold one, as a December evening would be in Colchester. She remembered the clip-clop of the horses' hooves, prancing into the village from the fields, their breath frothy and misting in the freezing air. Clutching Old Hortense's grimoire to her chest like a sick child, she'd patted the book of spells from time to time, as if to calm its grief at the death of its mistress. Julian detected an odd odor about it, too, a puzzling fragrance, of what exactly she knew not. It took the shape of a living being, nestled in her arms.
As a writer, and avid reader, I seek the telling detail, the lingual equivalent of what French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called the "decisive moment." Such a technique captures the essence of a character or place or an emotion in a flash, creating work that transcends the ordinary.

Those extraordinary little green men, as it turns out, taught me a lot about writing.

It is a lifelong process.

Writer and photographer Cynthia Bertelsen has published essays, book reviews, and photographs, both online and in print. Her book, Mushroom: A Global History, sprouted from her blog, "Gherkins & Tomatoes," while her magical realism novel-in-progress grew from the roots of medieval mysticism and herbal healing. For inspiration, she draws upon her experiences living and working in Mexico, Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti, Morocco, Burkina Faso, and France.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flash is No Longer Fiction. . .

By Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden

Bacopa Literary Review 2017 submissions included "flash story," a genre we'll continue in our 2018 edition. "Flash" can include creative nonfiction, memoir, fiction or a combination of these genres in 750 words or less, including micro-flash which might consist of 250 words or even fewer.

The criteria I look for in a flash story submission include these:
  1. Creative nonfiction, memoir, fiction, or a combination of these genres
  2. Tiny plot or character driven
  3. Compression: almost every word counts or carries meaning  
  4. A minimum of adverbs
  5. Focus on one scene or event
  6. A minimum of dialogue
  7. A great title
  8. Consistency of tense and point of view
  9. Fresh expressions without the use of cliches
  10. Riveting language or language that moves the reader
  11. Originality
  12. Story structure: a purpose, a beginning, middle and end with conflict, conflict, conflict and resolution.
Here's an example of my own 376-word flash story, written in response to the newspaper article cited below: 

The Future Legend of How Rising Seas Drowned Saint Augustine and its Famous Statue*
The first grain of sand to go slipped unnoticed into muddy seawater and high tide washed a small chunk from the base of Ponce de Leon's statue. Three teenage boys waded to the town plaza, climbed to the top of Ponce's helmeted head and practiced kissing his cold lips, slapping his face when Ponce didn't kiss back, and hanging upside down from the old head that bowed in shame at the youthful play. Perhaps Ponce felt jealous of young muscles and flexible limbs, or of the strength to climb statues and throw popcorn and peanuts from his slumped unyoung shoulders. He never did find the fountain, and with the Atlantic tide rising, rising, rising, his steel boots sucked down further, awash in brine. The boys knew, and Ponce knew, he was going under. Each evening the boys chopped off a finger, a thumb, a toe and the middle finger of the right hand became a tool to gouge out an eye, graffiti the shiny armor with she loves me, she loves me not, and scratch mud daubers and wasps from Ponce's ears. They removed one earlobe with the sawing up and down, down and up motion of a hacksaw, laughing at the crumbling little man as he lost one appendage at a time. The boys removed the mighty sword from the gallant gentleman and topped his head with the blade in a decapitation celebration, the step-by-step ritual of taking a great warrior down. Water washed over Ponce's knees while grains of stone fell away from the foundation in greater and greater chunks until Ponce leaned upside down, headless shoulders standing in water. One night, the boys stretched out drunk, across the rubble, across the broken fingers and toes, across the scraps of Ponce's heroic eyes, those eyes that once upon a time surveyed the fertile flowering of La Florida where surely his immortality lay.
        The water rose and rose and rose during the hurricane of 2019, a category six travesty, off the grid, never before witnessed, never before seen by the boys who drowned that night, never before seen by the city of Saint Augustine that drowned that night, never before seen by Ponce de Leon, whose hopes for a bright future drowned in rising seas.
*The Gainesville Sun, Florida, May 10, 2015: "Sea rise threatens Florida coast but no statewide plan"

See also: "How Can a Mother?"

Other Resources:
  1. Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited by Jerome Stern. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996. Print.
  2. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field. Masih, Tara L. Brookline, MA: Rose Metal, 2009. Print.
  3. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore, Dinty W. Brookline, MA: Rose Metal, 2012. Print. 
  4. As this form can flash short and with impact, I refer readers to "Six One-Sentence Stories" by Bruce Holland Rogers. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

35 Tips for Writing Flash: Four Keys to Revision & Writing Prose Poetry

Bacopa Literary Review Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden generously shares chapters from her book, 35 Tips for Writing a Brilliant Flash Story: a Manual of Flash Fiction and Nonfiction Writing.

CHAPTER 1 ("Small Frame")  
CHAPTERS 2 & 3 ("The House Theory" & "Slice-of-Life Stories")
CHAPTERS 4 & 5 ("Compression, Minimalism" & "A Striking Title")
CHAPTERS 6 & 7 ("First Few Lines" & "I Want It But I Can't Have It...")
CHAPTERS 8 & 9 ("Kaye's Rule of Six C's" & "Compressed Scene/Story Line")
CHAPTERS 10 & 11 ("Stimulus/Response, Chronological Order" & "Whose Story Is it?")
CHAPTERS 12 & 13 ("Moving the Story Forward" & "The Shape of Flash")
CHAPTERS 14 & 15 ("Consequences of Desire Thwarted" & "Characters")
CHAPTERS 16 & 17 ("Setting, Weather, and Crowds as Characters" & "A Sense of Meaning")
CHAPTERS 18 & 19 ("Point of View" & "Tense Choice")
CHAPTERS 20 & 21 ("The Ticking Clock" & "Chekhov's Gun")
CHAPTERS 22 & 23 ("Don't Underestimate Your Reader" & "Word Weight")
CHAPTERS 24 & 25 ("Concrete Details/Imagery" & "CUT Adverbs/Adjectives")
CHAPTERS 26 & 27 ("Dialogue" & "The Verb 'To Be'")
CHAPTERS 28 & 29 ("Subtext/Implication/Backstory" & "Myths and Tales")
CHAPTERS 30 &31 ("Surprise the Reader & "Sentence Structure/Phrases")
CHAPTERS 32 & 33 ("Fixed and Experimental Forms" & "Mastering the Genre")

CHAPTER 34
 The Four Keys to Revision: C.O.A.P.

  • Cut: eliminate unnecessary words, backstory, fillers 
  • Organize: ideas into a consistent and cohesive story line 
  • Add: fill gaps in clarity, add a word or line of dialogue to clarify a confusing story 
  • Polish: Perfect the grammar, check for consistence in point of view and tense, and the story's clarity. Review all previous tips and apply to your story. Voila. Time to submit the story for publication!

CHAPTER 35
A Few Tips About Prose Poetry

Length does not define prose poetry, but length is one parameter that defines flash stories.

Poetry is about language and poetic device such as similes, alliteration, sentence structure, broken lines, verses, imagery.

Language in flash is concise and intense as in poetry, but does not flow into poetic devices or employ traditional forms, such as villanelles or sonnets. However, one can experiment with fixed forms in flash.

Flash most often carries a story line involving conflict and a change in the main character or situation. Poetry need not.

Poetry emphasizes the placement of words and is defined by line breaks.

Narrative poetry, prose poetry, and flash stories can overlap.

In poetry, the description can be a technique in and of itself and offers an overall image for the reader. In flash, the description must advance the narrative.

Poetry need not and often does not contain a plot. Flash usually, but not always contains a compressed plot.

When readers pick up poetry, they have a different set of expectations than on reading flash stories. They expect a story when reading flash, but do not expect a story when reading poetry.

Prose poetry asks readers to lay aside their rules and judgment and prepare for a surprise, a wild ride. Readers must make larger jumps than with flash, and read more deeply into subtext.

Prose poetry lends itself well to experimental writing and mixed forms.

Above all, remember to read your work aloud because this is the best way to hear mistakes, catch skips in rhythm or misplaced beats, hear inconsistent pacing, tense or point of view shifts.

Feel free to visit Kaye Linden's web site, contact her there, and sign up for her blog.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cleave Poetry

By Editor in Chief Mary Bast

Typically for these blog posts, I search the web for lessons and links relevant to the work we've published. And as a poet I've experimented with poems broken into parts. But I've only found one site that refers to these as "cleave" poems. The Cleave hasn't been active since 2010, but I like the description there of "a poem that is really three poems:"
  • two parallel vertical poems (left and right)
  • a third horizontal poem that fuses the vertical poems
The verb "cleave" is a perfect label, with its two opposite meanings: (1) "to sever or divide along a natural grain or line" and (2) "to stick fast, to become strongly involved or emotionally attached to."

Last year's Poetry Editor Kaye Linden and I particularly love Jacob Trask's "Splintered" (Bacopa Literary Review 2016) because it does all of the above, and also reflects upon itself in its title and its shape:
                Splintered

     the crack   in the frame
      is thin   almost nonexistent
    it runs   parallels
  from top   peak
    of jamb   too far
        almost   impossibly
   to the floor   it's in my head
    only through   this determined
     observation   everything
              all of it   the thought of it even
has been found   scarred, maybe
 deeply fractured   broken

Jacob Trask is a graduate student studying English with a focus in creative writing, The College at Brockport, State University of New York.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Voice That Sirens Our Souls

By Bacopa Literary Review Editor in Chief Mary Bast

We've raved before about Stephanie Emily Dickinson's work, with a sample story from her lyrically charged chapbook, Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg. In response to Dickinson's latest work, Bacopa Flash Story Editor Kaye Linden says "The amazing skill in Stephanie's use of language is that we don't even realize her voice has sirened our souls."

Below are comments from the back cover of Dickinson's The Emily Fables:
Stephanie Dickinson's homage to her grandmother and the lost world she inhabited . . . These beautiful, strange "fables" can read at times almost like scenes from Grimms' fairy tales yet are very American and barely a century gone. Catherine Sasanov.  

Her works are all about the lucid, arresting turns of phrase that make language as surprising and re-readable as it should be. Chila Woychik, essayist and editor of Eastern Iowa Review

Sometimes we feel it is a spirit that lives within the narrator, a dybuk, that shares her mind, strums her emotions with its willful dissonances. Rosemary De Angelis, Director, New York Drama Desk, Award Winning Actress
With permission, here is "Emily and the Ewes" from The Emily Fables:
1887. Someone left me in the orchard, my father said, and since it was January when they waded through the new snow beneath the apple tree, the one that had always favored us with red fruit, their boot prints iced solid. My father was carrying water to the old ewes, whose tarpaper shed leaned against the gnarled tree. Its branches that in spring would blossom blush-pink, with each petal seeping a filthy sweetness, had stiffened, bare-knuckled. It was below zero when my father spied a black-haired baby--such a full head of hair, coiled as if the fleece of a dark sheep. I would have frozen, had not the old ewes crouched next to me, one on either side, their names Libbie and Esther, their pink eyes dimming as if cherries slowly sinking in cream. "Ladies, what have you there?" he'd asked. The old ewes could not answer in his tongue for they lived in time that had already passed. They'd gotten on their knees, their blackened legs under them, one on either side, like a hot tickling breeze. I clung to the long straggling fleece. The ewes' wool was scented with bark, fierce wind, and damp earth soaked in the cider of a thousand apples dying. I shivered when my father plucked me up for I wore not even a rag. The snow had begun again, thick drops that felt like edges of burlap. A snow that pricked. When he carried me into the kitchen, my mother mistook me for an animal he'd skinned and brought home for dinner. "Shall we keep her? Or let Libbie and Esther bring her up?" And then my father would throw back his head and laugh for I was his favorite, it was only a story to tease me with. I had been born from my mother's body like my brothers. I would always love the ewes, as if they alone knew the truth of me. My mother once asked what side of the family had given me my terrible hair. Like an Ethiopian's or a sheep's. No relative had such kinkiness. In Sunday school, the girls poked fun. I thought of the ewes sharing with me visions of the apple tree, the slow seep of minutes, the strange roots hauling up water. Worm rot drawing the wasps. My husband-to-be said that God had given me the most beautiful hair and he would die if I cut it, then closed the window shade like flypaper the first time I let it down. After my third child I began to dream of that place between two sheep. And I hugged the ewes' bedraggled heads. Their offspring had been taken and meals made of them. Still the ancient mothers did not call down a pox upon our house or plagues of locust and toads. In my sleep the frozen sky's no color at all. The trees clatter. We eat the snow apples. The ewes' broken teeth hold the fruit. They bah. I am their January lamb.

Stephanie Dickinson was raised on an Iowa farm and now lives in New York City. She graduated with an MFA from the University of Oregon. Her work appears in Hotel Amerika, Mudfish, Weber Studies, Fjords, Water-Stone Review, Gargoyle, and Rhino, among others. Heat: An interview with Jean Seberg is available from New Michigan Press. Her novel Half Girl and novella Lust Series are published by Spuyten Duyvil, as is Love Highway, based on the 2006 Jennifer Moore murder. Her work has received multiple distinguished story citations in the Pushcart Anthology, Best American Short Stories, and Best American Mysteries.

Dickinson won the Flash Story First Prize in our 2017 Bacopa Literary Review. Other links to her work: Eastern Iowa Review:"Emily Overhears a Mourner," "Emily and the Spring Cleaning," Emily and the Mother-in-Law." Kestrel: "Emily and the Whooping Cough," "Emily and the Norsemen," "Emily and the Missionary," Emily and the Blizzard." Verse Daily: "Emily and the Bobcat." Penduline Press Interview with Stephanie Dickinson; Gravel: "Chicago Insomnia."

Monday, July 10, 2017

Misremembering Chekhov

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast

The nineteen works of creative nonfiction published in Bacopa Literary Review 2016 covered a wide variety of types and forms, including the brilliant hybrid narrative/memoir/essay, "Misremembering Chekhov," by Rebecca Ruth Gould.

Our typical call for submissions invites creative nonfiction with "a moving inner voice" that "holds to the same standards as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact." Gould's 2016 contribution (pp. 153-157) is a perfect example.

Notice how she begins by weaving personal experience with literary observations:
Chekhov was not my first love. More obviously delectable to a college freshman just returned from her first visit to St. Petersburg and discovering Russian literature for the first time were the thick novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Those "great, baggy monsters" (as Henry James called them) buoyed me up through my first marriage, my frantic conversion to Christianity, and my equally hasty divorce. . . . Dostoevsky's tortured heroines perfectly matched my overstrung mind, and his philosophical dialogues about the existence (or not) of God were the perfect object of reflection for my theologically conflicted soul . . . .
      Tolstoy struck a different chord, but one which was equally resonant. His ability to cut through racism and prejudice . . . Tolstoy did not pull at my heartstrings in quite the same way as Dostoevsky, but he did speak to my social conscience, and to my desire to make a difference in the world . . . .
      I did not have a chance to taste [Chekhov] until my final semester at Berkeley, after a whirlwind tour of the Russian canon. . . . For our first story, my professor had chosen Chekhov's "Lady with a Lapdog" . . . *
Now the author pulls us into her theme:
The most enduring impression I took away from that story . . . was that, to a much greater extent than Tolstoyevsky, Chekhov was a cynic. After depicting the blossoming of love between a younger woman and her elder lover, he showed how love is fated to not last. This is how I interpreted an unforgettable detail in the Yalta hotel room. . . . Anna Sergevevna laments her lost virginity while Gurov begins to feel bored. . . .
      Fast forward seventeen years. The Russian literary pantheon has lost some but by no means all of its glory to my readerly eyes. A long succession of other loves has intervened between me and Chekhov: Arabic, Persian, Georgian, not to mention the more familiar French, German, Italian, and Spanish. All of these literatures I have tried to know in some intimate way. But, in spite of my promiscuous disloyalty to other literature and languages, Russian keeps cropping up in unexpected ways. . . .
      One of the most unexpected ways in which Chekhov crops up is on an online dating profile on the website 'OKCupid.' A Brussels-based scientist lists Dostoevsky among his favourite authors . . . .
They meet in Paris:
Paris is like a dream. We spend our first full day together strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg, talking non-stop about the books that impacted our lives . . .
      Unlike the way I read in my undergraduate years, we do not linger over the philosophical nuances of Dostoevsky's fictions. We do not ponder the existence (or not) of God. . . .
     You will have guessed, Dear Reader, that this was the beginning of love. And you will not have been wrong. It was indeed the beginning of a certain kind of passion. . . . Our peculiar love had a strangely short duration, and evaporated not long after it was born. Chekhov was the prophet of this evaporation. He foretold the entire story of our love in his "Lady with a Lapdog." 
Ah! Gould takes us to the realization implied in her story's title:
So I thought until I read the story again. . . . I discovered I had misremembered Chekhov's tone. I had taken him for an unadulterated cynic, when in fact "Lady with a Lapdog" depicts the gradual emergence of a love so intense that the world cannot contain it. . . . he was himself a romantic, a believer in the ability of love to overcome social conventions. . . .  My circuitous path towards love was more like the second reading than were the airbrushed tale of playboys and false affections that my undergraduate imagination had remembered . . . .  Chekhov tends to keep the devotion of those who have fallen in love with him for the rest of their writing lives. Perhaps the reason for this lies in his peculiar way of representing the world. Savouring Chekhov's flair for revealing the interstices of memory and forgetfulness makes it difficult to look away ever again.

Dr. Rebecca Ruth Gould is a writer, translator, and scholar whose books include Writers and Rebels: The Literatures of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016), After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016), and translator of The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Central European University Press, 2015). She teaches comparative literature and translation at the University of Bristol in the UK.

________________________________________________________
* Correspondence with Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie, also a Russian scholar, explains why there are various titles describing the dog in Chekhov's famous short story:
Me: "I'm trying to find the exact title for Chekhov's story about the lady with a dog. I've seen 'Lady with a Lapdog,' 'The Lady with a Pet Dog,' 'Lady with a Dog,' and other similar titles. This is the Russian: Дама с собачкой."

U.R, Bowie: "In Russian the sobachka of the title is a diminutive ("little dog"), but you can't get exactly that effect in English. Translators try by using terms like 'lapdog.' Of course, there is no 'correct' translation. To read the definitive Chekhov, you have to read him in Russian!"
And from The Possessed by Elif Batuman, page 20:
"In 'Lady with Lapdog,' Gurov's wife, Anna's husband, Gurov's crony at the club, even the lapdog, are all nameless. No contemporary American short-story writer would have had the stamina not to name that lapdog."