Monday, June 29, 2020

Bacopa Literary Review 2020 Prize Winners

2020 FICTION PRIZES (Editor James Singer III)

First Prize ($300): James D'Angelo, "Proxy" 
Second Prize ($100): Siamak Vossoughi, "Junk"

2020 SHORT-SHORT PRIZES (Editor Kaye Linden)

First Prize ($300): Sarina Bosco, "An interval of time just before the onset"
Second Prize ($100): Joshua Jones, "Remember the Mayflies"


First Prize ($300): Virginia Boudreau, "Grass"
Second Prize ($100): Rachel Amegatcher, "What Nightmare is This?"

2020 POETRY PRIZES (Editor J.N. Fishhawk)

First Prize ($300): Caitlin Cacciatore, "Sacrament"
Second Prize ($100): Patrick Cabello Hansel, "First Snowfall on 18th Avenue"

2020 HUMOR PRIZES (Editor Stephanie Seguin)

First Prize ($300): Jon Shorr, "Jesus's Bar Mitzvah Speech"
Second Prize ($100): Cadence Mandybura, "Notes from the Editors on Orange is the Darkest Color"

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Contagion of Rhythm and Pacing

by former Bacopa Literary Review Fiction Editor U.R. Bowie

On Creative Writing and Creative Writers 
Writing shows its influences by the contagion of rhythm and pacing more often than by exact imitation of ideas. We know that Updike read Nabokov in the nineteen sixties by the sudden license Updike claims to unsubdue his prose, to make his sentences self-consciously exclamatory, rather than by an onset of chess playing or butterfly collecting." (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, Jan. 16, 2017, p. 84)
Writers imitate other writers: their themes, their literary form, their tone, everything. Much of what is published amounts to bad imitations of bad stories. How does a writer avoid such a misfortune? Read the greatest writers who have ever lived. Read Leo Tolstoy, Flannery O'Connor, Gustave Flaubert, Nikolai Gogol, Rebecca West, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, many, many others in the grand pantheon of world literature.

About imitation. One thing that's ever so hard to be is original. Good writers present something novel in tone or style; a good writer has his/her own voice. When you find your voice you have begun.

Here's the layman's image of a writer who teaches creative writing in a university:
". . . a dramatic figure striking in appearance, wearing boots and jodhpurs, perhaps, with long white hair like a prophet and bearing a kind of literary ichor, the fluid in the veins of the gods" (James Salter, The Art of Fiction, p. 57).
Can that white-haired prophet teach you to write? No, you have to learn yourself, through years and years of intensive practice, while reading only the best creative writers and learning from them. 

On Envy of the Creative Writer
One day a writer of creative literary fiction sits down and writes a masterpiece. Other writers are plunged into sorrowful depression, thinking, "Dang, there are only a limited number of masterpieces to be written, and now this guy has filched another one and run off with it" (paraphrase of Salter, The Art of Fiction, p. 50).
I just read the brilliant novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer. Didn't feel envious of him, just thought, Wonderful, how great to have a young writer writing at that level of creativity.

What do good creative writers do? They "make the shape and rhythm of sentences intensely felt" (Salter, p. 56). Yes! 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dean Gessie's award-winning collection, "Anthropocene"

by Bacopa Literary Review Editor Mary Bast
Readers searching for the artful language of Fitzgerald and the cultural relevance of Achebe in a volume that speaks directly to global citizens of the twenty-first century have finally found their lost ark . . . Keith Kupsch, Director of the Joshua Weinzweig Creative Writing Program.
Bacopa Literary Review congratulates our 2018 Short Story prize winner, Dean Gessie, awarded the Uncollected Press Prize and the Eyelands Book Award for his new short story collection, Anthropocene, published recently by The Raw Art Review/Uncollected Press.

From Anaphora Literary Press, Anna Faktorovich, Director, PhD, 1108 W. 3rd St., Quanah, TX, 79252
Gessie's poetry is "Genius with a pocketful of broken fetters." Tongo Eisen-Martin, shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize and a California Book Award
Gessie is "one of the finest short story writers in the world." Henry Stanton, Founding and Managing Editor, The Raw Art Review, Publisher, Uncollected Press, Maryland.
Dean Gessie is a Canadian author and poet who has won multiple international prizes. Dean won the Angelo Natoli Short Story Award in Australia, the Half and One Literary Prize in India, the Eyelands Book Award in Greece, the Short Story prize at the Eden Mills Writers Festival in Canada and--in Maryland--the Uncollected Press Prize for a short story collection. Dean also won the Enizagam International Poetry Contest in California and he was selected for inclusion in The Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2018 and The Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2019 by Black Mountain Press in North Carolina. In addition, Dean won the Bacopa Literary Review Short Story Contest in Florida, the Two Sisters Short Story Contest in New Mexico, the New Millennium Sunshots Flash Fiction contest in Tennessee and (twice) the After Dinner Conversation Short Story Competition in Arizona. Dean also won second prize (of 2000+ submissions) in the Short Story Project New Beginnings competition in New York and his short story made the shortlist (of 2800+ submissions) for the Alpine Fellowship Prize in Sweden.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Criteria for Accept/Decline Decisions

"Kjell Espmark won't say if there are new criteria [for Nobel Literature Prizes]. 'What is important,' he says, 'is changing the criteria so the decision remains unpredictable.'" Stuart Tiffen, DW, Made for Minds.
Say what?

It is truly difficult to convey the criteria used for accept/decline decisions, but most literary journals at least try to clarify the type of work they seek.

As do other editors, we suggest reading recent issues of our publication to get a feel for what we publish. In addition, we describe the criteria each year in calls for submission.
    However, as we wrote notes within Submittable about entries during a recent submission period, one of our team members couldn't understand why we were accepting some pieces and declining others. This led to an informal round of emails to clarify our thoughts for each other. The editorial team suggested these might be useful for future submissions, as well. Some comments below:
    • I know from submitting my own work that a decline letter almost never meant the piece was not worthwhile. I've had poems declined by one publication and accepted by another. I've had rejections accompanied by a note from an editor who voted to accept but was outvoted by the rest of the editorial team. Now, after several years' experience with Bacopa, I've found almost every submission holds merit. Each choice of one piece over another is based on countless influences, a subtle blend of experience, education, what we've read historically and recently, personal preferences, themes developing in a given year's submissions, and whether we've already accepted something similar.
    • I accept pieces that capture my attention in the first sentence, inspire me to keep reading to the final period, don't go off on tangents (author sticks with the subject), have clear timelines, trigger emotions (such as empathy, fear, nostalgia), teach but don't preach (the message is conveyed through the story), make me smile, bring tears to my eyes, and/or cause me to continue thinking about the piece long after I've read it.
    • This is not an easy procedure. I have learned to detach in most cases when declining because it is a hard thing to reject and know from my own experience how that writer might feel. I have had my own pieces accepted with praise when the same piece might have been rejected multiple times by other journals. I have had books accepted by publishing companies after other rejections. We all respond according to our own emotional history. The one thing I have trouble judging is a political or religious piece. This takes detachment and the skill gained from experience. We each have bias, no question. However, I respond to writing with my gut. I either like it or I don't. Above all else, I will accept based on a powerful voice. A great voice will hook me every time. 
    • I try my damnedest to be flexible, both for the authors' sakes and for the sake of the publication, especially when my co-editors express strong opinions one way or another. That said, my criteria are roughly as follows: first and foremost, lively, engaging, fresh, and well-put together language, a relatively accessible or "universal" subject, or at least a perspective that hints at or touches universality or breadth or depth in some sense, even if it is radically individual or subjective. It is important to me that lively language is employed in the service of at least a few of the essential elements of poetry: compression of language (language operating on multiple levels at once via imagery, metaphor, symbolism, etc.), soundplay (rhyme, consonance, assonance, etc.), rhythm/pacing, appearance on the page (use of lineation, white space, stanza breaks, punctuation, etc.). The major criteria are those basics, plus whatever sense of the individual poet's voice I receive from the piece(s) and how that voice strikes my fancy/appeals to my sensitivities and sensibilities.
    Clearly, we have consensus that declining work does not mean it's without merit. And though we all use time-honored criteria for good writing in the various genres, we also agree that both conscious and unconscious personal preferences come into play.

    Take heart in knowing that even famous writers have been turned down at times, most rejections not quite so tongue-in-cheek as publisher Arthur Fifield's letter to Gertrude Stein:
    Dear Madam, I am only one, only one, only one. One one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
    Sincerely yours,
    A.C. Fifield
    And this letter from Edward Weeks of The Atlantic in 1949, when Kurt Vonnegut was still unknown, hangs in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis (Slaughter-House Five is rumored to have developed out of one of the rejected samples):
    Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

    We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, "What's a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?" have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance....
    In our standard Bacopa decline letter, we address each author by name/title of submitted work, express appreciation for the submission, and write,
    "Our editors have given your work careful consideration and decided it's not a fit for this issue. We wish you all the best in placing it elsewhere."
    We believe this accurately reflects the truth, and we do sincerely wish everyone who receives a decline letter from Bacopa will be successful in placing it elsewhere.

    Monday, April 27, 2020

    Guidelines Don't Limit Your Freedom!

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast

    Year after year, we're surprised by how many submissions ignore our guidelines. If you want to be published, why would you do that?

    Wouldn't you would want to be seen as thoughtful of the editors' time demands when considering the merits of a submission and its fit with a particular issue? If you haven't followed the guidelines, might we fairly assume you haven't read past issues or have any idea of the kind of work we publish?

    We are not trying to limit your freedom. We do not want to make your life more difficult. We have these guidelines because we want to give each submission the best chance of an unbiased and positive reaction.

    If we've asked for Arial font, size 12, why would you ignore that request? Aren't you at least curious about that choice, when you're so familiar with Times New Roman? This matters a great deal because we read submissions onscreen, and Arial size 12 is the best font and size for comfortable online reading (we receive more than a thousand submissions in the two-month submission period). The familiar serif font of Times New Roman ("little feet and embellishments on the tip and base of each letter") is fine for print, but more difficult to read online. Arial's "sans-serif" font (no embellishments), size 12 or larger, doesn't use as many pixels and is easier on the eyes, especially for long hours of onscreen reading.

    If you've identified yourself on the document after we've asked that you not do that, might we not assume you think your name should carry weight, because of your reputation or because we know you? We've set Submittable forms so we can't see the cover letter with author's name and experience until we either Accept or Decline. We do this to approach each piece afresh as best as we can, to let the work speak to us without knowing how many publications or literary awards (or lack thereof) the author can list, or how often we've had coffee together or shared similar views on Facebook. Of course there's always bias, some of it unconscious, and we've written about our own in this post.

    I'll let you in on a secret: I hate Times New Roman font. Even on a good day, when I'm feeling patient and haven't yet read ten submissions of close to 2500 words each, I still have to suppress my Times New Roman bias when I hit Ctrl+A ("select all") and change the font to Arial so I can read it with my already fatigued eyes.

    Thursday, April 16, 2020

    2020 Contest Open Until May 31!

    $300 First Prize, $100 Second Prize in each; all contributors receive a print copy of the issue, prize winners receive 3 copies.

    FICTION: Send us the best fiction you can write (1000-3000 words). We care about well-written stories that make us feel or think and leave us with memories that will stick with us for years to come. No matter the subject, be it genre or literary fiction, what matters is the effect your story has on us.

    CREATIVE NONFICTION: We publish true stories up to 2500 words, written beautifully, and based on the author’s experiences, perceptions, and reflections in the form of personal memoir or literary essay (for example, nature, travel, medical, spiritual, food writing).  

    POETRY: Let us hear your particular voice. Ground your words in the world, or the body, or both. Break genres and bend boundaries, or pour your own cosmos into, and extract alternate universes from, hoary ancestral forms.

    SHORT-SHORT: Writing short is a unique skill. Short-shorts include fiction stories of 750 words or fewer with a clear story line, minimalistic tight writing and compressed story structure. There is no minimum on word count. We love 25-word hint fiction as much as 750-word stories.

    HUMOR: Make us laugh in any literary form up to 1500 words intended to be humorous. This can include personal essays, satire, poetry, short fiction, grocery lists, manifestos, or modified insurance policies.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2020

    Melding Music and Memory

    by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 contributor Korena Di Roma Howley

    With "A Soundtrack for Early Motherhood," I didn't set out to write something that could be called mixed genre, but whatever I managed to put on the page ultimately came together like the days themselves--out of bits and pieces of light, weather, movement, and memory.

    New to motherhood and new to Montana, I was also newly capable of the kind of stillness and repetition that those early months demand and that would, looking back, serve as a sort of trial for living in the world in 2020. After all, in ordinary times parents of newborns are often struck by the sudden isolation that comes with needing to shield the vulnerable from all that's toxic and transmittable.

    During those days, I must have played Mark Knopfler's Princess Bride score a hundred times, it being the only album that both lulled my infant to sleep without fail and stood up to that level of repeat listening. Uncoupled from the wider exuberance of the movie, many of the songs--with their soaring synth instrumentals and plucked guitar accompaniment--have a worldly flair that's overlaid with mystery and melancholy.

    Initially, the music made me think of the future, of a time when I might hear it and be transported to our first full winter in Montana, when my son still fell asleep in my arms and the daylight shifted noticeably, hour by hour. I wanted my future self to cast her mind back to my present and describe what she saw. 

    But the songs kept pulling me into the past, and particularly to a school year in the early nineties that somehow managed to assert itself above all the others. As I listened, images and impressions from that year would surface through the dense commotion of decades. Wide library tables stenciled with slivers of tropical sunlight. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" read aloud. The opening theme of National Geographic Explorer and the ripples of excitement that it sent through the last class of the day. So many moments to choose from, but the stars won out in the end.

    *    *    *
    Korena Di Roma Howley writes about science, food, and travel for print and online publications. Her prose poem "Mary Is in the Marketplace" recently appeared in Unbroken Journal. You'll find her mixed genre work, "A Soundtrack for Early Motherhood," on pp. 126-127 of Bacopa Literary Review 2019.

    $300 First Prize or $100 Second Prize in each of five genres

    Friday, March 27, 2020

    Hermit Crab Essay: One Story in the Shell of Another

    By Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    "A hermit crab is a strange animal, born without the armor to protect its soft, exposed abdomen. And so it spends its life occupying the empty, often beautiful, shells left behind by snails or other mollusks. It reanimates these shells, making of them a strange, new hybrid creature . . . we've dubbed a particular form . . . the hermit crab essay, [which] appropriates other forms as an outer covering, to protect its soft, vulnerable underbelly." (Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola, p. 111)
    Miller and Paola demonstrate this hybrid form with Lorrie Moore's "How to Become a Writer" (from her collection Self Help), a personal account told in the style of a "how-to" column. 

    Similarly, 2019 Creative Nonfiction contributor Perry P. Perkins' "No,You Don't Understand" begins as an opinion piece: 
    It seems like every day I see some new politician or news personality or celebrity talk-show host discussing a recent eye-opening, life-changing experience of living for a month on a 'Food Stamp Challenge,' the simulated grocery budget of a family on food stamps.
         Invariably, when the receipts are tallied at the end of the month and the last journal entry or blog post is made, the summation of the experience begins with a heartfelt "I never understood before . . ."
    Perkins then bridges to his personal story by assuring the reader "I appreciate the desire to help and the compassion or empathy or social awareness . . . that comes along with this experiment." Very quickly, though, the frustration and anger of his own experience begins to illuminate the shell of an opinion piece about understanding poverty:
         Don't think that you can load up a couple of bags of cheap groceries in the back of your Outback, cruise on home to your nice house in the 'burbs, fix dinner in your modern kitchen . . . and know what it's like to be poor . . .
          Until then, all you've done is shopped like us.
         Until you have carried those groceries home a hundred times through two bus transfers and walked eight blocks through a rainstorm past the drug deal in the parking lot and up two flight of stairs to an apartment that may have had the electricity turned off . . .
          Until then, you don't understand. . .
    The author continues sharing his personal experience within the shell of an opinion piece, repetitively drumming the refrain, "Until then, you don't understand," and ending with advice that will strike at the heart of every one of us now living with the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of whom will be suffering the fate of Perkins' childhood:
        Volunteer at a food bank, contact a local ministry or non-profit, and be part of an outreach program. Give to local charities, become a constant, burning, unyielding, pain-in-the-ass advocate to your local politicians and decision makers. And God bless those of you who do these things.
         If, however, you really want to know what it's like to be poor, so you've "been there, done that," do me a favor . .. do it for a year, or five, or ten . . .in my old neighborhood, on foot, in the cold and dark, with your children.
         Until then, no . . . you don't understand.
    *     *     *

    Perry T. Perkins is a writer, columnist, and professional blogger who's been published in magazines from Guideposts and Writer's Digest to Bass Master and Bible Advocate. His work has been included in 16 Chicken Soup anthologies, and he writes a monthly column, "Renaissance Dad," for Vancouver Family Magazine.

    Only four more days until submissions open 
    for Bacopa Literary Review 2020!
    Maybe you'll win the $300 First Prize or $100 Second Prize
    in one of our five genres!

    Saturday, March 21, 2020

    A Journal of the Plague Year

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    Being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London. Never made public before. (Daniel Defoe, "A Journal of the Plague Year")
    Daniel Defoe is best known for his novel Robinson Crusoe. But he was a prolific writer of more than 300 works on politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He wrote about everything that drew his interest, so--of course--when the plague began to threaten Londoners, he decided to remain in the city and chronicle its progress.

    As deaths began to be reported, Londoners of 1665 reacted much as we in the U.S. have reacted to early reports of  "a corona virus" from other parts of the world--initial concern, then forgetting about it, reading more specific information about "COVID-19," but raising our hopes again and back to life as usual. Until it was upon us.

    Well, it's here, and while self-isolating to help flatten the curve (two phrases most of us had never uttered before last week), things can be a little too quiet. So why not use the time to write some creative nonfiction?

    We can learn from those who suffered the AIDS plague, of which Andrew Sullivan writes, "Like wars, plagues can make us see where we are, shake us into a new understanding of the world, reshape our priorities, and help us judge what really matters and what actually doesn't." Many good fiction, nonfiction and poetic works came from writers affected by and/or documenting, "a body of work that educates even as it confronts . . .."

    Interestingly, long before there were rumors of the scary year to come, we at Bacopa Literary Review decided to invite literary essays (nature, travel, medical, spiritual, food writing) in our Creative Nonfiction category, as well as personal memoir.

    The literary quality of writing is still primary to us, with emphasis on the word literary. As noted in my first year as Senior Editor, creative nonfiction is in some ways like jazz, fact-based writing that metaphorically has the quality of ragtime or classic, bebop or swing, the blues or even a cross-rhythm--in other words, a moving inner voice.

    Good creative nonfiction can be as experimental as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact. It is writing-of-the-real that incorporates the styles and elements of any good writing such as sense of place, voice, and character development.

    Maybe you'll win the $300 First Prize or $100 Second Prize
    in one of our five genres!

    Thursday, March 19, 2020

    Questioning Your Own Reality

     By Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    Gaslighting is a pattern of manipulation tactics used by abusers, narcissists, dictators, and cult leaders to gain control over a person or people. The goal is to make the victim or victims question their own reality and depend on the gaslighter. "Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do?" by Stephanie A. Sarkis, PhD, Psychology Today, January 30, 2017.
    Much is being said these days about political gaslighting, conversations about "fake" news, twisting of details meant to make us question our understanding of reality. And now--in the wake of COVID-19--a dawning awareness that the world as we knew it has dramatically changed, yet still thinking to some degree "This can't be happening." Even when we admit the awful truth, denial defends us as we engage in escapist strategies to help us cope.

    Perhaps now is the time to better understand the nature of gaslighting in childhood, experiencing--beyond the words of 2019 Creative Nonfiction contributor River Kozhar--the horror of a tortured existence where everyone outside the family wants to believe "This can't be happening." 
     "When My Cat Died"
    River Kozhar

    When my mother gaslit me as a child, telling me over and over that what I was experiencing wasn't bad enough to be traumatic, I began to feel that what I was saying didn't actually reflect the horror of my childhood . . .      
         They were serial killers, but no one seemed to have the slightest idea that was the case. Guests would come and tell me how wonderful they were. They couldn't see the burn marks . . . the scars . . . never heard the words . . . whispered into the quiet corners of my life like poisonous wraiths until I forgot where they originated . . .  
         Children's Aid came once, when my parents were not so careful, but they left me there . . . dismissing it as a one-time thing. It was, however, shortly thereafter that I received a gift from my parents--two kittens . . .
         That nightmare was a dungeon in some abyss of the world, a hall of narrow cells always damp with blood or tears . . . and it did not take my life for two reasons: I had a vague recollection of love from my early years and had glimpsed goodness in people from the outside world, both of which gave me impossible hope; and I had two neighbours in the cells next to mine . . .
         They became my kin as well as my cellmates, but they were not human. Like some Tarzan of the feline world, I was raised by cats . . . slowly learned their language and their culture . . . learned to track scents on the wind, to walk in a circle before I curled up to sleep . .  how to snarl like a jaguar, how to wake to the particular meow that that meant someone had brought back a kill, how to purr, how to say I love you . . . 
    *     *     *
    River Kozhar has published prose and poetry in 15+ literary magazines and is seeking an agent for her second novel, a diverse NA/YA fantasy romance. Her nonfiction (under this nom-de-plume) has also appeared in the Deaf Poets Society. She lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

    (Read the rest of River Kozhar's "When My Cat Died" (pp. 96-100), plus
    more Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Mixed Genre, Fiction, and Haiku
    in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)

    Friday, March 13, 2020

    Everything About Today is Violet

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast

    Today the US President has declared a National Emergency, and we are reminded of our connection to all living beings, beginning with the animals we slay and eat and from which COVID-19 leapt across species, stretching to our fellow human beings around the globe during a time of shared crisis.

    We are reminded that those of us who lead relatively safe lives too easily forget the frightening conditions experienced by many, many others, until we also are frightened.

    And so it seems the time to bring forth "Everything About Today is Violet" by Bacopa 2019 contributor Ojo Taiye, from Nigeria.
    Everything About Today is Violet
    Ojo Taiye 
    everyone i love is dead. & a field of charred bones flaking off the low Bogoro veldts is enough to say there is a giant girl in my belly craving salt-fish. i dial a number but cannot speak. today a boy curls a soft query over the lobes of my ears: do you write poems that speak to troubled teens? & i alphabetize my grief by country of origin, Borno comes first. yesterday is one place to bury two million undocumented displaced children & what you say after. i am the grand-daughter of a butcher: my mother comes from a long line of turban boys who sing jihad of evolution & teddy boys, a scar roves through my skin & the spark smells like a hemorrhage of bodies raised alongside us as nations. a pool of sorrows asking for exits: how we all want to rinse ourselves of last night's fire only to sink to the lower decks of summer's spare room of loneliness. my mouth is too dry to translate this search for words & words & words--a bowl of howls every time i cut garlic for happiness like a doorknob in a hallway that doesn't exist.
    *    *    *
    Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry to hide his frustration with society. His poems and works have appeared in Rattle, Frontier Poetry, Palette, The Stinging Fly, Notre Dame Review, Vallum, Crannog, Argot, Brittle Paper, Glass Journal, Elsewhere, Eunoia Review, Lit Mag, Juke, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2020

    Killer Words: "Admirable Men"

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    The U.S. government introduced the Kudzu vine into the ecosystem in the 1930s to prevent soil erosion . . . instead . . . Kudzu chokes trees and plants that it grows near, climbs buildings, and destroys foundations. ("Killer Words," in 12 Thought Provoking Examples of Irony in History, Literary Devices: Definition and Examples of Literary Terms)
    We're all familiar with the notion of irony. A particular version is situational irony, which occurs when there's "a twist that plays with the expectations of the audience."

    When I first read J. Nishida's 2019 poetry submission, "Pantoum: Admirable Men," I noted to Poetry Editor J.N. Fishhawk that "simply reading it to myself created a deep shock."

    Fishhawk responded, "And indeed, when Nishida reads it live from the Civic Media Center stage, the power is intense--shock, anger, grief, it all comes through . . . putting that power and feeling into such a strict formal piece--quite an accomplishment."

    Nishida's perfect presentation of the pantoum poetic form* makes "Admirable Men" a notable example of situational irony--line after line begins with "he said... he said... he said..." and the title leads us to expect.the rest of each line will laud achievements of a particular admirable man. Instead we are challenged, line by line, with killer** words:

    Pantoum: Admirable Men
    J. Nishida
    he said, if there are many, shattering one is an act of artistic discovery, not destruction
    he said, if she'd only tell him the truth, he could truly love her, possess her
    he said, she's too naive, too simplistic; he explained, the vomit rising in her throat is not valid
    he said, the slaying of his finest herds was an act of selfless penance
    he said, if she'd only tell him the truth, he could truly love her, possess her
    he said, in personal growth to strength, one must not fear the act of destruction
    he said, the slaying of his finest herds was an act of selfless penance
    he said, blondes make the best victims

    he said, in personal growth to strength, one must not fear the act of destruction
    he said, it was her face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the city's towers
    he said, blondes make the best victims
    he said, the achievement of military objectives justifies collateral damage

    he said, it was her face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the city's towers
    he said, were he to come back as woman, she must have beauty to have value
    he said, the achievement of military objectives justifies collateral damage
    he said, he burned them without even looking, he deemed stupidity love for a woman

    he said, were he to come back as woman, she must have beauty to have value
    he said, he'd win his wager by show of her obedience
    he said, he burned them without even looking; he deemed stupidity love for a woman
    he said, don't you think it's worth it? Their suffering, for human advancement?

    he said, he'd win his wager by show of her obedience
    he said, only the shallow take her slaying literally, the deep see empowering symbolism
    he said, don't you think it's worth it? Their suffering, for human advancement?
    he said, do not permit her to preach, to teach; she must cover up her head

    he said, only the shallow take her slaying literally; the deep see empowering symbolism
    he said, she's too naive, too simplistic; he explained, the vomit rising in her throat is not valid
    he said, do not permit her to preach, to teach; she must cover up her head
    he said, if there are many, shattering one is an act of artistic discovery, not destruction
    *Four-line stanzas, the second and fourth lines becoming the first and third lines of the next stanza, and often the first line becomes the last.

    **Synonyms for killer: hunter, slayer, assassin, butcher, slaughterer, executioner, exterminator, cut-throat, gunman, hitman, murderer. 

     *    *   *
    J. Nishida came to Gainesville in 1989 and has yet to escape. She's been a student of science, education,. language, linguistics, and literature, working variously as a teacher, library story lady, mom, and with non-profits supporting arts and education. Sometimes host of Gainesville's Thursday PoJam.

    (Read more Poetry, Mixed Genre, Fiction, Haiku, and Creative Nonfiction works
    in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)

    Thursday, March 5, 2020

    Too Many Promises

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    3-year Alan Kurdi, 2 September 2015

    In an earlier post devoted to mixed genre, Kaye Linden and I described this form as a powerful voice that evokes emotion or imagery in writing that merges, blends, or removes the definitions from traditional genres.

    Our 2019 Honorable Mention prize in Mixed Genre went to CB Follett's "Photograph of a Very Young Boy," a perfect example of work that crosses traditional boundaries, offering many layers of story in only 94 heartrending words:
    CB Follett, 2010-2013 Marin County Poet Laureate, multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, recipient of many awards and prizes--including a Marin Arts Council Grant for Poetry--and author of 11 poetry books and several chapbooks, was editor/publisher of Arctos Press for 25 years and co-editor/publisher of RUNES: A Review of Poetry. (See also A Cry Breaks the Silence" in Canary: A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis.)

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    (Read more Mixed Genre, Fiction, Haiku, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction works
    in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)

    Sunday, March 1, 2020

    Haiku: The Art of Implication

     by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast
    Haiku . . . the shortest of short verses, with an intentional rearrangement of words . . . to tempt the reader's reaction beyond that of the words laid down. (Alan Summers, "Haiku: The Art of Implication over Explication," The Living Haiku Anthology)
    Our 2019 Honorable Mention in Haiku was awarded to Ed Bremson for "old oak tree." The first time I read this haiku, when I reached the third line I burst into tears. And now, I'm simply at a loss for words and must let this lovely version of an ancient tradition speak for itself:
    the old oak tree . . .
    its history told in rings
    and losses
    Ed Bremson earned a BA in Philosophy from North Carolina State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from National University. An award-winning haiku poet, he has been published in various English language and Japanese journals and in 2017-2018 was three times NHK Haiku Master of the Week on Japanese TV. He also won grand prize in the 2018 World Haiku Competition. Ed lives in Raleigh, NC.

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    (Read more Haiku, Poetry, Mixed Genre, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction works
    in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)

    Wednesday, February 26, 2020

    This Will Bring You To Your Knees

    by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor, Mary Bast
    "Stoicism is not about repressing your emotions and neglecting the truth of a situation . . . Learning to be in charge of your emotions rather than letting them control you is a powerful experience that grief can provide. Lean into your sorrow, but refuse to sulk." Daily Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Everyday Life.
    We humans lean into sorrow in a variety of ways. When we can experience loss while at the same time connecting with the soul of human experience, we search for words that capture transcendence and anguish simultaneously.

    The phrase I use originated with a dear friend who introduced me to Albinoni's Adagio for Strings and Organ in G Minor, promising, "This will bring you to your knees."

    And it did. Metaphorically I was "on my knees," in awe that such music is possible. Organically I experienced, in minor-key consonant chords, what one study refers to as "the neural correlates of the perception of beauty."

    Consonant minor key chords are echoed in fictional depictions of loss that burn into our bones quietly.

    Thus does Fiction Honorable Mention winner B.W. Jackson's "Inheritance" draw readers in, with stoic, sotto voce tones, to the unfolding of events in the life of Jacob and the dog Max:
    . . . When Gabe was gone, Jacob returned to the living room and sat back down in the armchair next to the bookcase. . .
          "Max," called Jacob.
          The dog did not move. Jacob stood up in front of the bookcase, where some books had fallen down and others were leaning precariously. He let his eyes glide over the shelves, seeing only the negative space between the books. He looked across the room to the bare carpet, compressed where the legs of a sofa had been. The emptied room seemed to have shrunk. As Jacob stared at the carpet, Max slowly approached and nestled his head under his hand. . .
          Jacob had moved back home to tend to his father . . . developed a routine . . began going through boxes of fabric and knickknacks in the attic . . ferreted out expired condiments in cabinets . . . Slowly, the house changed. . .
          As clutter receded, Jacob added touches of carpentry .  . With each passing year, Jacob's eyes opened to the beauty and character of the house. . .
         In the year before his death, their father had suggested that Jacob should inherit the family home. The siblings had agreed that the house was fair compensation for Jacob's years as caretaker. . .
         Every moment he had spent tending to his father, he devoted to working on the house.
         Max stayed by his side.
         When the movers were gone . . An enervating sadness swept over Jacob. He sensed that the soul of the house had fled. . . got down onto the hard floor on his knees and put his hands on Max. . . lay on his stomach next to the dog, remaining there with his hand on the dog's ribs until the sun went down . . .
         "Richard. I didn't expect you."
         The brothers nodded at each other. They shook hands. . .
         Jacob slumped into the armchair next to the bookcase. Richard sat down adjacent from him, holding the book on his lap. Max roamed into the room and pushed his head beneath Jacob 's hand, which was hanging off the armrest.
          "The kids want the dog, Jacob". . .
    (Read the rest of B.W. Jackson's "Inheritance" (pp. 141-147) and other works
    in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, Print Edition or Digital Format)
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    B.W. Jackson lives in New York's Hudson Valley. His story "Write and Wrong" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.