Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In The Time It Takes To Snap A Photo

by Editor-in-Chief Mary Bast

What's the worst advice anyone ever gave you about writing? an interviewer for the NDR Blog asked Michael Farrell Smith (AKA Mike Smith of Albuquerque). "Kill your darlings," Mike said. "I hate it, I hate it . . . seriously, that's going to be your guiding creative metaphor, people? Baby murder? . . . what is artistic vision and creation but the process of giving life to a darling? To something only you can see and feel and understand, that you have to create in order for it to be real?"

Now you're beginning to get a feel for this one-of-a-kind writer who is both seriously trained (BS English, MFA Creative Writing) and an innovative rule-breaker whose life is devoted to "art and exploration." Mike describes his Bacopa 2016 piece, "--the Speed of Grass--the Speed of Us," as experimental nonfiction, a memoir of 1/60th of one second. A sentence fragment about a fragment of life. A memoir of the time it takes to snap a photo.

In his acceptance letter to Mike, Bacopa Literary Review 2016's Creative Nonfiction Editor Rick Sapp wrote: "Loved it, hated it, left me looking for a place to set it down, breathless and tired all at the same time. Joyce-ish in approach." Mike's memoir is indeed a lyrical, Joycean rush, well- deserving of comparison to the modernist, stream-of-consciousness genius, James Joyce, and that's why we've nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. Here's a sample; but you really want to read the original. It's quite literally breath-taking:
                                 --the Speed of Grass                                                                                                                                   --the Speed of Us
--a memoir--of a fraction of an instant--in a fraction of a place--an exploration--of something so fleeting--one sixtieth of one second--more momentary than a moment--a world of time in time--rushing--rushing--surging--flooding--from the sixtieth of a second that came before--toward--and into--the sixtieth of a second bound to follow--a progression--so inevitable--instantaneous--pure motion--whatever that is--the apparent motion of time--whatever that is--a moment--yes--a moment--make any choice within it--not consciously anyway--a moment like all moments--seemingly still--and yet made of movement--unstoppable--relentless--fast--something so small it is maybe only a description of something larger--one  sixtieth of one second--on maybe one quadrillionth of the surface of the Earth--an infinitesimal portion of all time and all space arbitrarily parceled away--held down--held close--by a piece of shining sidewalk--a trapezoid of growing lawn--a cracking concrete slab--and--along almost all that--by the front of a house--its eroding pin-orange bricks--its glistening white trim--its slumping screen door--the lawn settling up against it like a new broken wave--closing liquidly around a branching lavender bush--around greenery tangling beneath a faucet--around a snaking of garden hose--around two volcanic young elms rising uninvited from a grass-erupting flower box beside the slab--the slab a raft--and riding that raft--a family--a family of four--a woman--tall--my then-wife--then twenty-eight--legs crossed--crisscross applesauce--the kids would say--in green-strapped Teva sandals--bare legs--jean shorts--a green t-shirt--V-necked--green eyes--ponytail--hands on her legs--eyes and smile aiming up--and a man--me--taller--sitting slightly apart--my then-self--also twenty-eight--also cross-legged--also in Tevas--mine brown-strapped--in blue jeans with two fraying holes over one knee--in a soft blue shirt showing a screen-printed silhouette of power lines and two double-beamed utility poles--in rectangular wire eyeglasses--brown eyes--brown hair--sideburns--eyes and smile aiming up--and why were we smiling--did we feel anything--think anything--in that sixtieth of a second--that splinter of a splinter of the late-afternoon of August 18th--2008--and how could we have--in that emerging-evanescing--blooming--dyinginstant--thoughtless--emotionless--senseless--perspective-less--even with this persistent--unsettling--unverifiable sense that I did exist--was conscious--that everyone was--something sensed not in any sixtieth of a second but in bigger--baggier--more ill-fitting--times--in seconds--in minutes--this feeling that I was experiencing the world--that the woman--my wife--and our kids--and our cat--nearby--were experiencing the world--that all those plants were experiencing the world--shifting toward light--stretching toward water--displaying simple preferences and desires--but in this moment--only motion--hurtling--hurtling into something on our way toward . . . .

Michael Farrell Smith's work has been published in Tin House, New Delta Review ("101 Jokes for Epileptic Children"), Baltimore Review ("Notes from a Slowly Dying Suburbanite"), Booth ("Origins"), The 3288 Review ("The World Greening Wildly"), and elsewhere.

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