Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Strangers in Their Own Country

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

Paddy Reid
Paddy Reid, winner of our 2017 Bacopa Literary Review's Honorable Mention in Creative Nonfiction, recently published an anthology of his stories, Deserted. From the book's Kindle description:

"Ireland has always been a Neutral country. But during World War II, thousands of Irish soldiers left the Irish Army to fight alongside the British forces and their allies, against Germany and Japan.

"These soldiers were 'dismissed' in absentia by the Irish Army and found guilty of desertion. On their return home, instead of receiving a hero's welcome, they were treated as pariahs, outcasts in their own towns and villages. Paddy Reid was a child of this era. His father, also Paddy Reid, was one of these soldiers.

"The stories contained in this anthology have more than a grain of truth to them. In his own beautiful prose, Paddy tells of Ireland during the decades following the return of his Dad. They paint a vivid picture of the hardship and suffering of life during those years, that at times will have you laughing out loud, or reaching for the tissues. His stories are a reminder to us all that life is precious, there is laughter even in the most destitute of homes, and the human spirit is indomitable."

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Walls Around the Ring

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

Bacopa Literary Review 2018's Poetry Prize winner, Patrick Synan, has published a chapbook that includes his prize-winning poem, "Outside the Clinic." From his publisher:
It is with great pleasure that The Orchard Street Press announces the publication of The Walls Around the Ring, the first chapbook from Patrick Synan, an exciting young poet from Watertown, Massachusetts.

Mr. Synan, who has previously had work appear in Crosswinds and Bacopa Literary Review, first came to our attention in Orchard Street's Poetry Contest last year. Two of his submitted poems were selected for inclusion in Quiet Diamonds, our annual poetry journal.

We were struck then, as we were with all the other poems in this new collection, by the freshness of the language, the imagery. Patrick paints with new brushes and presents life and experience in an exciting and insightful way. David Dragone, editor of Crosswinds, notes of Synan: "it becomes clear almost immediately that this poet is not satisfied with mere poetic descritpion or good crafting" as "he takes us through an exmination of what one might call the 'geometry of the heart.'"

J.N. Fishhawk of Bacopa Literary Review writes: "The Walls Around the Ring offers clear-eyed descriptions of personal and social experience couched in accessible but boldly deployed, vital language."

In the poem "First Day," Synan writes:
The pen goes around again
For the students to draw lines
Between their hometowns
And their classmates' hometowns,
The final shape is an imperfect
Circle, whose dips and curves
Record moments within moments,
A handful of facts that alter us
To learn the infinity of others.
The Walls Around the Ring is available for $12 (check payable to Orchard Street) at The Orchard Street Press; P.O. Box 280; Gates Mills, Ohio 44040. Please call us at 330-264-7733 if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Wear Your Erudition Lightly, But Wear It!

by Fiction Editor/Senior Editor Mary Bast
Read, read, read. Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window. -- William Faulkner (cited in Literary Works)
We're half-way through our contest, I've read hundreds of fiction submissions, accepted one so far, and have about a dozen Maybes awaiting further reading. We've learned to wait a few days before declining a piece, because people don't believe we've thoroughly considered their work if we respond within a few hours.

But, truthfully, don't you know within a page or two, when reading others' fiction, if you are compelled by the unfolding story, astonished by the strength of its voice, impressed with the quality of writing, and/or mentally chewing over a fresh perspective?

I read all kinds of fiction, classic and contemporary. I read a LOT. And everything I read hones my ability to ferret out good work quickly. I hope it will help those submitting fiction to Bacopa Literary Review to know what kind of work has recently compelled, astonished, and impressed me.

Siri Hustvedt's work is so intelligent, I could weep. I'm currently reading Memories of the Future, savoring every sentence. For example, "I am still in New York, but the city I lived in then is not the city I inhabit now. Money remains ascendant, but its glow has spread across the borough of Manhattan. The faded signs, tattered awnings, peeling posters, and filthy bricks that gave the streets of my old Upper West Side neighborhood a generally jumbled and bleary look have disappeared. When I find myself in the old haunts now, my eyes are met with the tightened outlines of bourgeois improvement" (p. 10).

Note that Hustvedt doesn't bludgeon readers with her erudition. For example, she further explains what she means by bourgeois improvement: "Legible signage and clean, clear colors have replaced the former visual murk. And the streets have lost their menace, that ubiquitous if invisible threat that violence might erupt at any instant and that a defensive posture and determined walk were not optional but necessary."

The Irish Times sums up Hustvedt's style succinctly:
"... under the control of a consummate intelligence, Hustvedt wears her erudition lightly and her cool intellect has a playful and warming passion."
Claire Adam's Golden Child is a very different kind of reading--compelling storytelling with lots of dialogue between characters and richly described scenes. For example, notice how much is conveyed by this interaction (p. 6) between Joy and Clyde, a married couple who are members of an Indian family that's migrated to Trinidad, and parents of the twin boys Peter and Paul:
Joy is sitting down when Clyde comes in, the fan set to blow breeze straight on her. The sheets that they laid over the couch and armchair since the break-in are all smoothed out and organized, but the place still looks terrible...

Water gone? he asks.  


When? In the morning?

About lunchtime, she says, I saw the pressure was getting low so I filled up the pots. She keeps talking as Clyde goes through to the kitchen to put down his keys. He waves away the flies from the dishes stacked up in the sink...
Golden Child is particularly characterized by depth of character, especially with Clyde and Paul (the twin who is not the "golden child"). You learn from Clyde's conversations and inner dialogue, for example, why he is reluctant to accept help from anyone and what goes into his decisions about schooling for Peter (the brilliant one) and Paul ("slightly retarded").

From The Guardian's review of Golden Child:
"Overall, this book manages to combine two things rarely bound together in the same spine: a sensitive depiction of family life and the page-flicking urgency of a thriller." 
My all-time favorite author of mysteries is Tana French, an American-Irish writer and live-theater actress who lives in Dublin. I'm currently reading The Witch Elm, and--as with French's other mysteries I've read--the psychological depth of her characters is unsurpassed. The reviewers below agree with me: 
"[Toby is] so deep into his own artifice that he doesn't recognize that's what it is. He thinks he's a pretty terrific guy and ignores any evidence to the contrary... In the aftermath of his brutal attack--his first major misfortune, and the first of many to come--the thing that frightens him most is the possibility that some essential part of this great shining self is gone: He can't remember parts of his life, can't seem to finish a thought. He is facing, for the first time, the possibility that he is, in some fundamental way, incomplete." The Nation
"Most crime fiction is diverting: French's is consuming. A bit of the spell it casts can be attributed to the genre's usual devices--the tempting conundrum, the red herrings, the slices of low and high life--but French is also hunting bigger game. In her books, the search fo the killer becomes entangled with a search for self." The New Yorker
So if you want to know what kind of fiction we'll accept for Bacopa Literary Review 2019, show us your erudition, let us know you're a smart reader because we see in your work what I've described above: a compelling story, a powerful voice, beautiful writing, a fresh perspective, depth of character, but don't try to hit us over the head with how smart you are. Wear it lightly.

Bacopa Literary Review invites submissions until May 17 
for Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Haiku, and Mixed Genre

Sunday, April 7, 2019

New Category This Year: Mixed Genre, An Ungendered Genre

by Kaye Linden and Mary Bast

Bacopa Literary Review's editors coined the term diffusionism for writing that merges, blends, or removes the definitions from traditional genres. We've opened this Mixed Genre category for 2019 submissions and invite writers to mix up traditional genres, to write skewed or in shapes, with creativity, imagination, and clarity--meaningful writing with a powerful voice, offering readers a consistent evocation of justified emotion or imagery.

Examples of diffusionist writing might include a prose poem, a creative nonfiction piece written in one long sentence, creative nonfiction or fiction written in lists, prose narratives with intermittent broken lines, or shaped prose that offers a concrete image or images on the page that support the writing's themes. Other examples might include a poem written backwards, or from right to left, bottom to top, or in a series of boxes.

As always, we seek great writing and originality, our main criterion for success the voice of the piece and its impact on readers.

Where did the term diffusionism come from?

While creating a lecture on diffusion, Kaye--a Registered Nurse--considered the comparisons between physiological diffusion and writing across genres. In the simplest of chemical terms, "diffusion" is the movement of molecules from a higher to a lower concentration, a scattering of particles across borders. While researching further, Kaye came across the term applied to the diffusion of cultural ideas across geographic borders.

Mary added that the word's original meaning was from the Latin diffundere (pouring out), and in general refers to the spreading of something more widely. Of two particularly relevant definitions, one refers to "the action of spreading light evenly from its source to reduce glare and harsh shadows," the other to "intermingling of substances by the natural movement of their particles."

We apply this concept to the intermingling of genres and genders, driven not by low or high concentrations, but by natural movement from creative energies:
Reducing the "shadows," expanding the light.
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Submissions at Bacopa Literary Review's Submittable page are open until midnight on May 17 for Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Haiku, and Mixed Genre (no submission fee this year).

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Prose Poetry: The Playful and Daring Edge

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

We eagerly await submissions of prose poems in the Mixed Genre category of Bacopa Literary Review's 2019 print issue. Prose poems are modern, nontraditional, and often misunderstood. 

Instead of the line breaks of traditional poetry, prose poems may take any form, but they share the major element of all poetry in the quality of the language. As stated in our 2019 Prose Poetry guidelines:  
Prose poems are pure creation, the playful and daring edge of poetry. We're looking for powerful lyrical language and a truthful, commanding voice.
Here's an example from our 2018 Bacopa Literary Review, one of three prose poems by Darren Demaree in "bone requires bone":
traditionally i would have already been stoned for knowing the witch for loving the witch for paying the witch for asking the witch to curse my father for taking all of the oxygen in every room he walked in when i was a child traditionally this would be considered a confession of sorts but now we know we know we know that he owes me a deep breath that i am entitled to walk up to him his mouth and leave him behind me panting until his grandchildren grow up to the age i quit drilling holes in the walls of the house on concord street
Another post describes Prose Poetry Prize Winner Cynthia Roby's "U-Turn." See also Prose Poetry Editor Kaye Linden's "The Prose Poem: An Eccentric Genre."

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Submissions at Bacopa Literary Review's Submittable page are open until midnight on May 17 for Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Mixed Genre, and Haiku (no submission fee this year).

Friday, March 22, 2019

Fiction That Creates Its Own World

by Fiction Editor Mary Bast
Every story has its own world, and its own feel, and its own mood... to create that sense of place... good enough for close scrutiny, for the little details to show. You may not ever really see them all, but you've got to feel that they're there, somehow, to feel that it's a real place, a real world. "A Sense of Place," p. 117 in David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity.
As fiction submissions begin to arrive, one of the first things I look for is a sense of place, "fiction that creates its own world." As a reader, I want to know where I am in space, and this may be reflected in character, plot, theme, atmosphere, voice, language, as well as the more obvious descriptions of the setting.

I chose the above David Lynch quote because the concept of place becomes immediately evident when we think of films--we wouldn't waste ten minutes on a film that had no feel of a world.

So I look for writers who have immersed themselves so completely in their stories that the world in which their characters live seems effortlessly drawn, yet we as readers step right into the action with them.

Here's an example from Lore Segal's "Dandeliion."
On the road at the end of the hotel gardens, a group of silent walkers passed at the steady pace of those who have a day's march ahead of them, young people. I followed them with my eyes. This was the moment that the sun crested the mountain--a sudden unobstructed fire. It outlined the young people's back's with a faintly furred halo, while here, in the garden, it caught the head of a silver dandelion, fiercely, tenderly transfigured into light.
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Submissions at Bacopa Literary Review's Submittable page are open until midnight on May 17 for Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry, and Haiku (no submission fee this year).

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tenth Anniversary Celebration

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

With our 2019 issue in September, Bacopa Literary Review will rejoice in ten years of publication. To celebrate, below are our First Place prize winners from each year (follow links for more about the authors and/or the works):

Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): Rick Sapp, "What the Old Man Knew About Time"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Mary Bast): Elaine Jordan, "Swimming with Joan Baez"
Poetry (Editor David Maas): Angela Masterson Jones, "At the Crossing"

Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): JoeAnn Hart, "Open House"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Mary Bast): Amanda Skelton, "Warding Off the Monkey"
Poetry (Editor Eldon Turner): Colleen Runyan, "mr or the tea"

Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): Cecile Barlier, "Legionnaire"
Short Fiction (Editor Kaye Linden): Grier Jewell, "Girl in the Gibbous Moon"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Dorothy Staley): Jeremiah O'Hagan, "The Hymnal"
Poetry (Editor Eldon Turner): Sb Sowbel, "Room 5, Guest 1: Being Human, American Style"

Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): JL Schneider,  "Dick and Jane Meet Again"
Short Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): Stephanie Barbe Hammer, "Red"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Dorothy Staley): Gina Warren, "A Sparrow"
Poetry (Editor Eldon Turner): Carolyne Wright, "Sestina: Into Shadow" 

Fiction (Editor Gen Aris): Charlotte M. Porter, "Pangs"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Dorothy Staley): Melani "Mele" Martinez, "Burned"
Poetry (Editor E.R. Turner): Julia Wagner, "Coming to Center"

Fiction (Editor Shellie Zacharia): Ellen Perry, "Milk--Bread--Soft Drinks"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Dorothy Staley): Kaye Linden, "The Linear and Circular One Sentence of Tattoo Designs"
Poetry (Editor Gen Aris): Diane Stone, "Local Weather"

Fiction (Editor U.R. Bowie): Afia Atakora, "The Crooked Man"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Rick Sapp): Jessica Conoley, "I Am Descended from Giants"
Poetry (Editor Kaye Linden): Carolyne Wright, "Sestina: That mouth..."

Fiction (Editor U.R. Bowie): Chad W. Lutz, "Ignis Fatuus, and More, at Eleven"
Flash Story (Editor Kaye Linden): Charlotte M. Porter, "Terminal Trance"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Susie H. Baxter): Raphael Helena Kosek, "Caregiver's Journal: How to Survive, or Not"
Poetry (Editor J.N. Fishhawk): Claire Scott, "A Mote of Dust"

Short Story (Editor Kaye Linden): Dean Gessie, "Nobody Knows How Much You Love Him"
Creative Nonfiction (Editor Susie H. Baxter): Roberta Marstellar, "I Said No"
Prose Poetry (Editor Kaye Linden): Cynthia A. Roby, "U-Turn"
Poetry (Editor J.N. Fishhawk): Patrick Synan, "Outside the Clinic"

Monday, February 25, 2019

Writing on the Head of a Pin

by Haiku & Mixed Genre Editor Kaye Linden

The language of haiku demands precision and restraint. Each word must count, each word must offer meaning. This tiny poem expresses a truth or viewpoint in layers of concrete detail and juxtaposed visual imagery, demanding skill and focus, and language control.

Haiku captures a moment when the mental chatter ceases and the heart "feels" a connection previously unseen. In just a few lines, haiku embodies the essence, the holiness of being alive--a flash of surprise, an interesting perspective. Such brevity demands skill and focus, like writing on the head of a pin. The reader is the yin of the yang in this form where the writer and reader meet half way.  A reader might take away an intellectual concept from the haiku or "feel" the emotion of the poem like a light punch in the solar plexus.

According to Higginson in The Haiku Handbook, haiku happens when we "see or sense something that gives us a bit of a lift, or a moment's pure sadness. Perhaps it is . . . some scent on the wind . . .
At midnight
A distant door
Pulled shut
and we find ourselves more alone, because of the being on the other side of that door."

Perhaps you have heard of some of the greatest Japanese haiku masters. Basho, Issa and Buson were a few of the most well known. In 17th century Japan, poets often met in groups to compose a single long poem and together contributed two or three lines in an ongoing string of poetry, sometimes traveling throughout the country and adding to the linked poetry. This original linked haiku writing was known as Haikai no renga or haikai.

In traditional style, the three-lined poem had a "kigo" or seasonal word, but today this is not necessarily the rule. The traditional criteria to include a seasonal theme has expanded to incorporate other themes such as human or animal themes or playful irony:
Years later--
she polishes the silver comb
with his toupee
Notice that haiku does not demand a title. It is a snapshot, and a title would suggest and distract the reader from an immediate response. The "image" of a haiku must capture the reader with specific concrete words such as "toupee" and "silver comb." Instead of "anger," which is a vague word to visualize, we "see" a disgruntled woman, possibly a widow, or an angry divorcee. This is the classic "showing not telling." Can you see the irony in the juxtaposition of the use of the word "toupee" for a bald head, and the use of a rich man's comb, a woman polishing with his hairpiece? How does she feel about this man?

When writing haiku, try to use words that might appeal to the senses, which can include touch, hearing, taste, smell, temperature, movement, pain, and any others you can think of. Therefore, when creating haiku, connect two images in unusual or surprising ways.
After the funeral--
even the mountains
are small
after the funeral--
a blood-red moon
Now write your haiku.

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Submissions to Bacopa Literary Review 2019 are open until midnight May 17, 
with a $300 prize and Honorable Mention in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, 
Mixed Genre, and Haiku (no submission fee this year).

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Found Poetry: The Literary Equivalent of a Collage

by Senior Editor Mary Bast
A successful found poem doesn't simply repeat information. Instead, the poet engages with the text and offers a new context, a contrary view, a fresh insight, or lyrical and evocative writing. Just as plastic bottles can be recycled to make a chair, the source text is transformed into something completely different. ("Introduction to Found Poetry," Jackie Craven, ThoughtCo.
As mentioned in an earlier post, our "From the Editor" pages in Bacopa Literary Review 2018 included Senior Editor Mary Bast's found poem devised of key phrases from that issue's content. We accept found poetry submissions, and our 2016 issue featured Reading Between the Lines of A Tale of Two Cites, where Bill Waters created the additional visual effect of superimposing his found poem over the original text (click on image for larger view):

"Found" poetry is created by refashioning and reordering words or phrases from existing text, changing spacing and lines, adding or deleting text, and imparting new meaning, using any poetic form. The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms has a section on found poetry guidelines, and there's more online. For example:
A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.
Found poetry is the literary equivalent of collage. Much like the visual artist who combines multiple media (newspaper, feathers, coins, sheet music) into collage art, you can do the same with words, pulling concepts and phrasings from various sources to create "found" poems.
Although there are found poets who create this type of work as a literary exercise, most visual artists do it to create a work that is both meaningful and visually pleasing.
A specific type of found poetry is the cento, composed of lines from poems of a single poet or many poets. The word cento comes from the Latin for patchwork quilt or curtain.

Among many other forms of found poetry are erasure poems, which eliminate everything from a page or pages except the words that make up the poem, accomplished by white or black tape, various colors of paint, etc.

Haiga traditionally incorporated an ink-brush or watercolor painting, a haiku poem, and calligraphy. Modern poets stretch these boundaries, superimposing Haiku on photos, for example.

During a National Poetry Month project with the now defunct Found Poetry Review, I combined found poetry and haiga in six found haiku, created by mixing up lines and words from English translations of Japanese haiku masters Matsuo Basho, Yosa no Buson, and Kobayashi Issa (click on image for larger view):

This year's Bacopa Literary Review is open for submissions until May 17, 2019, and we look forward to haiku submissions, a new category this year, as well as poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and mixed genre.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Does Nobody Give a Shit?

by Short Story Editor Kaye Linden

I chose Dean Gessie's "Nobody Knows How Much You Love Him" for Bacopa Literary Review 2018's Short Story Prize because of its powerful voice and edgy style. I like the comparison Gessie makes to traditional story structure and the way he inserts his story into that specific structure while discussing it. For example,
We'll call that mood, a rosy blush in the sunroom. It leaves you completely unprepared for the hook.
This is a story about two people whose child has difficulty breathing and must be rushed to the ER where:
Suspense accompanies you into the Emergency Room at Southlake.
The story is not as much about the child as about the father's response to the life-threatening condition of his child. The story adopts a panoramic, sardonic view of life and what life throws our way. As opposed to a short story where an author has control of the outcome, Gessie relates this narrative as a real event where the outcome is never controlled:
Nobody writes this story... You've won this round, but you can't possibly win them all... hug your baby while you can.
The last sentence of the narrative typifies the attitude of the story:
Because Nobody knows how much you love him and Nobody gives a shit.
There is an unnerving buzz throughout this narrative, spurned by a frightening supposition that the life of an innocent child lies in the hands of those who "don't give a shit." Whether we agree with this philosophy or not is the challenge Gessie throws in our faces.

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Dean Gessie has been a finalist in ten international fiction competitions. His stories have appeared in anthologies in Ireland, England and the United States. He has also published three novellas: Guantanamo Redux is dystopian fiction; A Brief History of Summer Employment is a fictional memoir; and TrumpeterVille is animal allegory.