Tuesday, December 10, 2019

How to Do it Right: Second-Person Narrative

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
If ever there was a rule that most editors and publishers agree on, it's this: Don't write a novel with a second-person point of view. In fact, that's exactly the feedback Jay McInerney got when he was drafting his debut novel . . . Second-person narration can bring readers closer to the story. But often, it's actually used to create a greater sense of distance between the true narrator and the story they're telling--as editor Matthew Sharpe suggests is the case with "Bright Lights, Big City." (Second Person Point of View: A Writer's Guide.)
As indicated in the above quote, writing experts tend to argue against using the second-person perspective, in creative nonfiction as well as fiction. Though Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City "took the literary world by storm [it's] often cited as the exception that proves the rule."

Second-person point of view can alienate readers if they aren't able to identify with the author's thoughts and feelings. However, Ed Coonce's Creative Nonfiction Pushcart Prize nominated "The Photograph" demonstrates how to do it right, as Seb Reilly suggests in "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Second-Person Perspective:" submerging readers "into the narrative completely . . . delivering sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch . . . ." Coonce's second-person narrative of his war experience and its aftermath allows the author some distance from traumatic events while engaging readers as if we, too, were there: 
      You remember what his face looked like when he fell onto the ground. The smell of cordite and white phosphorus hung over that ruined landscape, like it always did. You and those around you had been awake for the last twenty-four hours; one cannot sleep during a battle. You must keep one another alive; there are only four of you.
       Hot war had come for you on the small outpost atop a grass-covered mountain . . . You were in their country, it wasn't yours, get out, the lady on the radio said . . .

       A hundred yards down the mountain path, you came face to face with an enemy soldier, bloody and limping, a black rag tied around his head. He raised his weapon.

       You were faster . . .
       You still awaken at three a.m. . . . Sometimes, at the very moment you are taking that fatal shot you wake up screaming . . . .
*     *     *
Ed Coonce is an Encinitas CA artist, writer, actor, and the Creative Director for Theatre Arts West. An alumnus of San Diego State University where he studied art and anthropology, he hosts a weekly meetup, East Hell Writers.

Read Coonce's Creative Nonfiction, "The Photograph"
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Edition), pp. 31-32

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Behind the Scenes of "90 Seconds to Shelter"

by Jennifer Lang, Mixed Genre contributor to Bacopa Literary Review 2019

In Israel, during the summer of 2014, air raid sirens rang off and on for 50 days during Operation Protective Edge. Down south, near the border with Gaza, people slept in bomb shelters and sealed rooms. In the center of the country, where we live, we marched on life-as-usual mode, only nothing was usual. The ear-splitting up-down-up-down alert undid me. Long after Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire and sirens stopped, I couldn't shake the sound.

I thought about how people living in the cities, villages, kibbutzim surrounding Gaza had 15 seconds to run. Our 90-second warning seemed luxurious. I thought about what 90 seconds represents, what else I could do with that time if I didn't have to race for cover.

*     *     *
Founder of Israel Writers Studio, I obsess over where I live. Israel is complex and intense and the political and the personal inseparable.In 2016, Ascent nominated "Fifty Days of Summer, 2014" for a Pushcart Prize.In 2019, "Uprooted" won first place in The Baltimore Review's themed contest: Up in the Air.In 2017, "The Fabric of Peace" won finalist in Crab Orchard Review's John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize.

Read Jennifer Lang's Mixed Genre work, "90 Seconds to Shelter: 
If an air raid siren didn't sound and I didn't have to run for cover then I would" 
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Edition), pp. 68-69.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

2019 Poetry Prize Winner, "When the saints come among us"

by Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk

We received more than 500 submissions of 1-3 poems each this year. With room for fewer than 30 poems in the journal, we had to make some tough choices.

In the end, I chose Raphael Kosek's "When the saints come among us" as this year's prize-winner because of its almost-understated combination of straightforward, even folksy language, lovely natural imagery, and surreal, almost mystical perspective. I felt that the closing in particular reached right into my body. Like the slim blade in her simile, it punctured some inner wall of illusion or delusion, lifting me out of my immediate surroundings and into that dreaming, timeless place where the best poetry can sometimes take us. It left me shaking, blinking away tears, shrugging off the kind of chills that can only be summoned by words crafted so finely as to connect one consciousness directly to another via page or screen.

I've re-read the piece any number of times since first opening Ms. Kosek's submission file, and it still hits me the same way. A quiet sense of sadness lingers in images such as the leaves dropping unceremoniously, done / with summer's hoopla, and her description of the beauty of mourning doves going unnoticed until we catch just a glimpse of their feathered breasts glowing pink in morning sun, if we are lucky. The loveliness of these images stands in sharp contrast to the acute sense of the ineffable power and mystery of nature, and its expression in our shared experience of embodiment, that Raphael Kosek gifts us with in the poem's closing lines.

It was a difficult process to whittle all the fine work we received this year down to just one poem for the award. In the end, I went with my gut and, pierced as it was by the incisive power of her deceptively simple phrasing, the choice was clear.

(Click on image for larger view)

*     *     *
Raphael Kosek, our 2017 Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner, is 2019 Dutchess County NY Poet Laureate. Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won Concrete Wolf Chapbook's 2014 Prize, and Brick Road Poetry Press has published her poetry collection, American Mythology. Her 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.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

About Shiva

by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Fiction Contributor, Edward M. Cohen, author of  "Shiva."

I am 83 years old, have been a writer all of my life, but in the last few years have seen a distinct reduction in my creative energy, my discipline and, most of all, my inspiration. All that remains, essentially, is the habit.

Still, I try and, this year, discovered a new approach. With a huge store of unpublished, unfinished, unsatisfactory stories, I decided to go back, look them over, rethink them and see if, with increased maturity, a new viewpoint, less anxiety, I could make them work.

"Shiva" is one of the results of this experiment. The original story was, as it still is, about my mother's funeral. It was about the way the family translated sorrow into rage. Only in the original, there was a central plot which crystallized what I was saying in dramatic fashion. Trouble was it was totally unbelievable and forced.

So, in the reworking--and in the new freedom I was finding to throw things away--I cut this center right out and just left the fringes, the senseless anger, the yelling, the background. I have always been a traditional writer. My stories always have had a strong sense of plot; a beginning, a middle, an end. Here I found a story that seemed scattered, that had no real plot, no definable center. I thought it was the strangest thing I had ever written--yet, I could see at once that it worked. Bacopa accepted it almost immediately.
Excerpt from "Shiva," by Edward M. Cohen, pp. 153-158, Bacopa Literary Review 2019:

My mother's funeral was sparsely attended. She had done so much complaining in her final years that most of her friends had drifted away. She blamed it on my father, who had grown crazier as he got older . . .
      Where were all those old ladies now? Where were their kids? My parents had spent every summer at the beach with the families of my father's pals from the local Tammany Hall Club. Why weren't they here? I was furious with them all.
      I was even furious with those who attended, especially my Aunt Celia who herded guests into cars and barked instructions and whispered cues to my father. . .
     "One thing Dot had was taste." Celia's voice filled the pause. "She knew exactly what went and what clashed and what fabric and how much. If you were decorating, you went to Dot before you went to Bloomingdale's! . . .
     "When he first met Dot," sang Celia, "all we heard was how she was the best stenographer in his office . . ."
     "With her hats and her rings! Dot was the fanciest lady in the world!"
     "Pop, I want you to shut your sister up. My mother is not yet cold in the grave and she is defiling her memory!" . . .
I tried it with another one, "Golden Boys and Girls," with similarly successful results which can be viewed on the web site for Porter House Review.

*     *     *
Edward M. Cohen, recipient of grants from the N.E.A. and N.Y. State Council on the Arts, has published a novel ($250,000, Putnam), nonfiction books (Prima, Prentice-Hall, Limelight Editions, SUNY Press), more than 35 stories in literary journals, and articles in Cosmopolitan, Child, Parenting, American Woman, and Out.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Each Morning I Pray to the Microwave

by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Poetry contributor Claire Scott Rubin

Years ago I saw a play where a character prayed to a microwave. I thought it was a hilarious spoof on religion. The scene stayed with me, planted the seed of a poem. I wanted to continue with the humor, the over-the-top-ness of it. I played with the idea of a competition between god and a potato:
"I prefer God to a potato most of the time"
A pretty outrageous comparison that I hope makes the reader smile. I thought about the fact that both God and a potato have eyes and felt that would be fun to include.

After the first few lines, the speaker spins out into a tangled personal story of a failed relationship:
"Sara left in a bitter cloud of flying shoes, DVDs & fuck you's"
I wanted to show the speaker's life is chaotic like the lines in the poem, zigzagging from "a failed science experiment" to a cat who "rarely uses its litter box." The speaker is trying to sort through the chaos to find some solid place to stand. The best she can find is the blurry God who may or may not be a potato.

The poem is meant to be humorous, not sacrilegious. I hope that comes across (click on image for larger view):

Claire Scott Rubin, our 2018 Poetry First Prize winner, has received multiple prizes and Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam, Causeway Lit, New Ohio Review, and Healing Muse, among others. She is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn't.

Monday, November 25, 2019

You Had Me At Hello

by 2016-2019 Creative Nonfiction Editor Susie H. Baxter

In the 1996 film Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, she uttered a line that I and many others would never forget: "You had me at hello."

Likewise, Hugh E. Suggs, author of "From One Field to Another" in the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review contest, had me at hello:
The afternoon they took Daddy away to die at the VA, I just sat stunned beside that leased hospital bed in the Florida room we'd built together. The shape in the disheveled mattress, way too small for the void left behind.
From the last words of that introduction, I assumed I was about to read a poignant portrait of a beloved father who was missed deeply, and the story did not disappoint. Suggs continued painting a picture of his daddy with a a vivid brush as he showed how perseverance and optimism pulled his young father through hard times.
Daddy became good at looking ahead, to where he was going. That was all he could do in all those fields plodding behind that mule. That, and hold on tight. Because there was one thing for sure, there'd always be more dirt to plow and better days, somewhere ahead. Days when no one would beat him. Days without hunger in hollow places. Some that ached, others that pinched. But despite every injustice he'd suffered, every time he felt the strain of it all, he just kept believing. And he later reminded me--that you, and the rows you plow in this life, must not get bent.
That paragraph resonated with me since my own father, a farmer, endured some of the same trials as the father in this story, and mine was also adamant that his rows be arrow straight.

I was pleased to nominate "From One Field to Another" for First Prize in Creative Nonfiction and delighted that it came from Writers Alliance of Gainesville's own Hugh E Suggs.

If you have not read this piece in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (pp. 136-140), check it out!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

New Editor Stephanie Seguin: Bumping Against Humorous

Humor is an icebreaker. It brings people closer, it makes people feel good. It relieves pain and transforms the way people look at the world. "Seven Ways to Become a Master Humor Writer When You Don't Think You Have a Funnybone," Sarah Cy, The Writing Cooperative.
Even if the history of your own funny bone involves that awful twang of ulnar nerve bumping against humerus--definitely NOT humerous--you've certainly experienced the joyful release of out and out laughter when reading something well-written and funny, from subtle satire to sappy slapstick.

You also "get" why the best cartoons make us laugh. It's the element of surprise, the shift from the brain's usual track to a fresh perspective. That can happen with good writing, too, even if it's not a version of stand-up comedy. Think of those memories that bring a smile to your lips and tears to your eyes. Writing with inherent humor might bring on nostalgia, anxiety, grief, joy, or a host of other emotions.

We're smiling because we've added a new editor to our 2020 team, Stephanie Seguin, winner of Bacopa Literary Review 2012's Second Place in Fiction, among whose many talents is humor writing. Even in fiction that's not outwardly intended as "humor writing," you'll find her adept with external/internal dialogue that surprises and/or makes you smile:
Kylie rolls her eyes. The girl isn't even walking right. Zombies don't hold their arms stiff out front like a mummy. Mummies hold their arms like that because they are wrapped, their elbow joints constricted. Zombies' arms hang limp at their sides. . . . (Stephanie Seguin,"Skank," Penduline, Issue 5.)
In this same piece, notice the author's playfulness with language:
She heard the word so many times it had shaken loose its husk and become something else, like when you repeat the name of a common object over and over until melts into something foreign, something that sounds strange to your ears and feels odd in your mouth.
*     *     *
Stephanie Seguin, received a B.A. in English and French from the University of Florida. Her dormant humor blog will soon be back online, featuring relevant topics such as fake collectible primate babies and rubber truck testicles. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, where she writes, mothers, and conspires to overthrow tyranny.

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 Pushcart Prize Nominations


   Michael Dylan Welch, "Shengxiao" (Haiku)
Michael Dylan Welch has served as Poet Laureate for Redmond, Washington, and runs National Haiku Writing Month and his website Graceguts, devoted mostly to poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in more than twenty languages. He lives in Sammamish, Washington.
   Raphael Kosek, "When the saints come among us" (Poetry)
Raphael Kosek is 2019 Dutchess County NY Poet Laureate. Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won Concrete Wolf Chapbook's 2014 Prize, and Brick Road Poetry Press has published her poetry collection, American Mythology. Kosek's poems have appeared in  Poetry East, Catamaran, Briar Cliff Review, and elsewhere. She teaches English at Marist College and Dutchess Community College.
   Avra Margariti, "The Calligrapher" (Fiction)
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, Glintmoon, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Terse Journal, 50-Word Stories, pif Magazine, and other venues.
   Jeff Streeby, "A Brindle Bull: After Kuoan Shiyuan" (Mixed Genre)
Jeff Streeby is an American poet and haibunist. His mixed-form collection, An Atlas of the Interior, is available from Unsolicited Press. His chapbook of haibun, Wile: Sketches from Nature, was published by Buttonhole Press. Streeby is an Associate Editor for poetry and prose at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters.
   Miranda Sun, "Red Elegy" (Poetry)
Miranda Sun is twenty years old. An alumna of the NYS Summer Young Writers Institute and Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and published in Body Without Organs, Lammergeir, TRACK//FOUR, Red Queen, riverbabble, Sobotka, YARN, The Gravity of the Thing, and more. She loves bubble tea and aquariums, and currently reads for Ninth Letter Online..
   Ed Coonce, "The Photograph" (Creative Nonfiction)
Ed Coonce is an Encinitas CA artist, writer, actor, and the Creative Director for Theatre Arts West. An alumnus of San Diego State University where he studied art and anthropology, he hosts a weekly meetup, East Hell Writers.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Short Story Swoon

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor/Fiction Editor Mary Bast
The short story should consider staging its own kidnapping and then show up three weeks later in The New Yorker claiming that some things happened that cannot be discussed. [Short stories] are better than the novels I've been reading. They are more daring, more artful, and more original. Yet while I know plenty of people with whom I can discuss novels, there are only two people I know with whom I can swoon over short stories. . . Ann Patchett, foreword, The Best American Short Stories 2006.
Short stories have a special place in literature, not pint-sized or incomplete fiction, but a genre all their own. In calls for submission we've emphasized the construction of a good short story as "tight and concise writing that includes characterization, conflict, change, and draws in readers with its depth, clarity, and powerful, authentic voice." To describe how those components lead to daring, artful, and original work, however, is not an easy task.

Paris Review's "The Art of the Short Story" cites Ernest Hemingway's preface to a student's edition of his short stories:
"There is very little to say about writing short stories . . . If you can do it, you don't have to explain it. If you cannot do it, no explanation will ever help.
        A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened . . . But it is all there. It is not visible but it is there."
You've probably heard of the shortest short story, often attributed to Hemingway:
"For sale, baby shoes, never worn."
Do you see? Important events have seemingly been left out, yet the story is there.

It is this quality, along with her elegant writing, that drew me to 2019 Fiction First Prize winner Avra Margariti's 890-word story, "The Calligrapher." All is there, though not visible:
"Ink clings to the bristles of Mihiro's brush, hovering over the parchment on top of her varnished heartwood desk. The kanji blossom like flowers in a midnight garden . . ."
We know immediately that Mihiro is not simply a calligrapher, but one whose work is artful. We learn scant details of Mihiro's relationship with boyfriend Robert, that he has a firm handshake, that "his work takes him to the West Coast, where he closes deals and fattens his bank account."

All is not well between Mihiro and Robert, but instead of documenting specifics, Margariti implies the action though the metaphor of calligraphy:
       " . . . her fingers curl around a sturdy brush handle. She begins working on her commissions, only to halt when she glances at her right wrist. An inkblot that looks like a bruise, is her first breathless thought, but no.
        A bruise that looks like an inkblot . . .
      She doesn't remember sleep dragging her eyelids shut, but knows something is different.
        Her hands--those fragile things Robert so likes to swallow in his own strong palms--are stained black and gray. Love, life, fate: every line on her palms stands in relief, so that her hands look like cracked earth, like something powerful and tectonic. . .
        Scrambling to her feet, Mihiro takes in more of her body. . . The still-wet kanji overlap with each other and blend with the now-fading bruises. More words emerge right before her eyes, written in the sure swirls and swipes of an invisible calligraphy brush.
        On her body is a story that Mihiro has yet to read. To her surprise, it's a story she wants to know."
And this is where Margariti's words end, though of course we readers know what is there

*     *     *
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, Glintmoon, The Arcanist, Flash Fiction Online, Terse Journal, 50-Word Stories, pif Magazine, and other venues.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Adaptation and Applause

Guest post by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 contributor Dror Abend-David

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." But there is certainly a great deal more to imitation than flattery. "Mirror," "imitation," or "adaptation" poems, rewrites of well-known poems with slight but pivotal changes, are referred to by many names that betray different attitudes. They all share the flattery of using the original poem as a form to work with--but to different degrees, they can also include elements of parody, criticism, and, of course, competition--the attempt of adapting poets to perform the original poem better, or at least differently, from their own unique perspective.

In my poem, "A Supermarket in Brooklyn Heights," I adapt Allen Ginsberg's well-known poem, "A Supermarket in California." In my adaptation, I compare the works of two important Jewish Modernists: Allen Ginsberg and Louis Zukofsky. The two are contemporaries (although Zukofsky is 22 years older), and they redefine American identity in different manners. Ginsberg courageously discusses his gay identity (hence his reference to Walt Whitman) while providing only scant and sporadic references to his Jewish heritage. Zukofsky, with equal courage, provides extensive and erudite references to his Jewish heritage, creating a model for Jewish American poets that followed him.

Of course, there are other themes in this adaptation as well: West Coast versus East Coast, spectacle versus textuality, and my own perspective as an immigrant who is unable to share the optimist national statements that are made by Whitman and Ginsberg (click on image for a clearer view):

Articles & Books by Dror Abend-David: 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Brindle Bull: The Search for Enlightenment

Commentary by Mixed Genre/Haiku Editor Kaye Linden

Some writers possess the skill and passion to transport a reader to a magical place where we hold our breath for a few moments and sigh with the beauty of the read. Such is Bacopa Literary Review 2019's Mixed Genre First Prize winner Jeff Streeby, with "A Brindle Bull: After Kuoan Shiyuan."
          morning with a caul of mountains
          other things
          I have not forgotten

Those FWP guys I ran into up at the boat launch told me that right below a big tangle of old blowdown the channel would deepen and widen, and sure enough it did. The river was running pretty high for the time of year, but not so high I had trouble with the few low bridges on that upper stretch. 

          July 15th
          again the hours
          disappearing into each other 

At an old diversion dam, a little surprise--a dozen late salmon flies the size of hummingbirds climbed and dived over the one big boil.

          At just the right moment 
          firewood blooms
          making good on their promises . . .
In order to fully appreciate this lovely story, one must understand the analogy expressed. Kuoan Shiyuan was a Japanese Zen practitioner and artist who offered ten images representing the search for enlightenment, symbolized by the slow emergence of a bull. At first one is searching for the "bull" externally until, during years of meditation practice, one realizes the "bull" has been standing there all along.

The journey down the river symbolizes (as rivers always do) the journey of life, where we pass by features and events without truly grasping their wholeness. In this narrator's journey along the river, he undergoes an enlightenment experience when locking eyes with a bull on the bank.
. . . From the shade of a cottonwood, a brindle bull watched my canoe and its reflection move downstream, watched my paddle rising, dripping, then dipping again as it passed into itself at the surface where it seemed to disappear. The old orejano, summer fat and slick and packing a pair of the longest, heaviest horns you ever saw, lifted his blunt muzzle to search the air then looked back at me, no more certain than before.

          On the Jefferson River
          one swallow's perch song
          making a summer
The narrator's perception changes from that experience and the rest is an account of clarity and increased joy.

Why is a bull the choice for the symbol of an awakened experience? The bull is a massive animal, difficult to overcome, manage, or tame. Thus, it is with enlightenment. The more one chases it, the further away it runs.

Jeff Streeby has the knack of holding us spellbound.
And right then, you know, just like that, something happened. Our gazes met and held for maybe a second, no more, each seeing in the other everything in the space between come into focus all at once . . . one second . . . to see it all and figure it out, every last loose end and double meaning clearing up for me for good.
I like the casual way Streeby meanders through his journey on the river, observing and describing such things as "the chirring of cicadas in a willow thicket" or "a stand of tall canary grass." We canoe down the river, enjoying the ride, listening to the guide until "From the shade of a cottonwood," he points out "a brindle bull . . . an old orejano, summer fat and slick . . . lifted his blunt muzzle . . . looked back at me."

The reader is caught up in the effective description of a moment when a magnificent creature connects with a human. The canoeist experiences a true epiphany where he is in the moment and nowhere else, not in the past, nor in the future.

We roll down the river after that experience of now and perceive differently "July's heady musks . . . Elderberry, chokecherry . . . heavy with ripening fruit . . . the chinkle of cowbirds calling."

The journey has truly come alive for this man on his canoe because he has fully realized an enlightened moment with Kuoan's bull.

*     *     *
Jeff Streeby is an American poet and haibunist. His mixed-form collection, An Atlas of the Interior, is available from Unsolicited Press. His chapbook of haibun, Wile: Sketches from Nature, was published by Buttonhole Press. Streeby is an Associate Editor for poetry and prose at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Good Fortune: 2019's Haiku Prize Winner Michael Dylan Welch

by Michael Dylan Welch
by Senior Editor Mary Bast

In an earlier post about haiku, Writing on the Head of a Pin, 2019 Haiku Editor Kaye Linden suggested that each word must count, each word must offer meaning.

Our guidelines also noted that the widely-practiced 5-7-5-syllable format isn't necessary. Japanese haiku is based on sounds, not syllables, and many of our haiku entries--as in other contemporary literary journals--vary in number of syllables (see Haiku Society of America and their journal, frogpond).

We invited haiku with "a juxtaposition, a flash of surprise, an interesting perspective on life," and the symbolism in Michael Dylan Welch's Haiku First Prize winning work arises from a juxtaposition of action/variety of flower/ Chinese Zodiac sign.

The Chinese Zodiac, represented by twelve animals, corresponds to a cycle of years. From February 5, 2019 to February 24, 2020, for example, we are in a Year of the Pig--the pig a symbol of wealth whose chubby face and big ears denote good fortune.

I've added in parentheses below a few qualities of each of the twelve animals, so you can see the clever depth of Welch's few words. For example, in the "year of the rat" (the rat characterized as quick-witted and persuasive), someone who has damaged a violin leaves three exotic African violets with the mended violin as a charming and disarming apology.

It is our good fortune to have haiku master Michael Dylan Welch's work in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, and I leave readers to further discern the symbolic range of sign-flower-action in his prize-winning haiku:

         Shēngxiào / 生肖
year of the rat--                         (quick-witted, persuasive)
three African violets
by the mended violin

year of the ox--                          (patient, kind)
peach blossoms
left in the letterbox

year of the tiger--                       (authoritative, courageous)
the glow of cineraria
in misty moonlight

year of the rabbit--                     (compassionate, sincere)
the unfinished painting
of purple jasmine

year of the dragon--                   (fearless, charismatic)
a bleeding heart
fallen to the mantel

year of the snake--                     (introverted, smart)
yellow orchids
for the election winner

year of the horse--                     (impatient, independent)
a pair of calla lilies
nodding in a vase

year of the goat--                       (mild-mannered, peace-loving)
a red carnation
in the journalist's lapel

year of the monkey--                 (fun, active)
the encyclopedia opens
to chrysanthemums

year of the rooster--                  (independent, practical)
talking so much in the garden
she misses my gladiolas

year of the dog--                       (diligent, faithful)
rose bushes hiding
a garden gnome

year of the pig--                        (loving, appreciative of luxury)
the abundance
of hydrangeas

*     *     *
Michael Dylan Welch has served as Poet Laureate for Redmond, Washington, runs National Haiku Writing Month and his website Graceguts, devoted mostly to poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in more than twenty languages. He lives in Sammamish, Washington.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

From the Editor: 2019 Issue

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
The worldwide perspective of this year's Bacopa Literary Review arises from a great diversity of authors' ages, backgrounds, gender identifications, and countries of origin--from Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Nigeria, Tunisia, U.K., and from coast to coast in the U.S. As a result, it's not surprising to find reference to displacement and immigration across genres.

In the current editorial team's four annual issues, each year's world events have been reflected in submissions, from 2016's disorientation and anxiety, to 2017's concerns about the environment and human suffering, then to 2018's accusations of a culture ignorant of reverence where so much is wrong, culminating in 2019's works that bemoan universal wrongs.

Rumi's Rules of Love are introduced in Batool Alzubi's "Illegally Alive," whose protagonist thinks, These quotes are for people with a bearable amount of sadness... my life wasn't only turning upside down, my life was falling out of my hands.  Yet, the mother, daughter, and son in this story do bear the sadness of leaving their Syrian town, and a treacherous first crossing in their exodus to Europe.

An immigrant boy's fate is more tragic in CB Follett's "Photograph of a Very Young Boy," as there were too many waves and each too big... this was never the escape he was promised.

In "Everything About Today is Violet," Ojo Taiye tallies the costs of geographic borders, lamenting that yesterday is one place to bury two million undocumented displaced children.

Robbie Curry refers to old borders between countries as "Ghost Fences," where specters whisper of... electric deaths.

In "A Simple Sea Song for my Father," Jennifer Grant deepens our view of the sea as a gulf of unfinished stories. This is one of several works about lost fathers and mothers, most in grief, some in relief. B.W. Jackson's Jacob has cared for his invalid father since his mother's death, eyes opening to the beauty and character of the family home as he has gradually restored it. River Kozhar's cats have provided lifesaving company, from childhood to adulthood, in the face of her parents' gaslighting. Edward M. Cohen's Shiva after the mother's funeral was sparsely attended because she had done so much complaining in her final years that most of her friends had drifted away.

Threaded throughout this issue you'll find a variety of Haiku, whose very nature emphasizes the Yin-Yang balance of existence: nothing is all bad or all good; instead, these apparently opposite qualities are intertwined.
Tall yellow grasses
sewn by barbed wire. Then mule deers'
leaps rip the stitches (Carolyne Wright, p. 7)

sparrowhawk fence
an ending to the summer
as leaves start to stutter (Alan Summers, p. 39)

old    worn    out of touch
past prime    show up anyway
arrive like morning  (Jani Sherrard, p. 82)
There is also much joy in these pages, from "A Soundtrack for Early Motherhood," through "Cool Party Mix" and "Kiss Rehearsal," to a "Middle-Age Cartwheel." Even the loss of a parent can be held dear, as in "My Father's Irises" by Sayuri Ayers: ...a bulb / in my hand, its roots / clinging to my fingers. And Raphael Kosek reminds us the saints still come among us, When... the cry of the hawk punctuates / our sleeping and our waking, / calling us to all that is unnamed / but keener than a slim blade / piercing the only body we know.

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast