Monday, July 20, 2020

Our 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. 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. And while self-isolating to help flatten the curve (two phrases most of us had never uttered before this spring), things have been, perhaps, a little too quiet. In fact, we had three times as many submissions to Creative Nonfiction this year as in 2019.

Long before rumors emerged of the scary year to come, we decided to expand our Creative Nonfiction genre to include literary essays as well as personal memoir. Those we accepted provided balance in these otherwise off-balance times, including "Singultus," in which Ann Kathryn Kelly describes the unfolding diagnosis of her persistent hiccups; "The Garden in Eclipse," a late September elegy by gardener, birder, and naturalist Paul Grindrod ("On any day you might still see hummingbirds squabbling over feeding rights at the tubular pastel flowers of a sunset hyssop . . .");  and Cynthia Close's "Just Looking: A reflection on John Updike and what it means to write about art"--so intriguing to me as artist, writer, and Updike fan that I bought her key reference, Just Looking: Essays on Art by John Updike

In this 2020 Year of the Plague we also reviewed a number of  submissions specific to living with the novel coronavirus, including two accepted in Creative Nonfiction, Una Lomax-Emrick's "Chores" (When I washed my hands, I began to balance my phone on the edge of the bathroom mirror and play sitcoms into the basin to time the rinsing.) and "The Mouth on the Mountain" by Virginia Watts, who recalls her childhood trips through tunnels on the Pennsylvania turnpike (Even though this is not a place you are used to, you must take this journey . . .)

Our new Humor genre also brought plague year work. The elected representative of the Canine Association for Normal Exercise and Moderation expresses the concerns of its over-walked membership in Stuart Stromin's "An Open Letter to the Secretary General." In "Coronabrain," Ashley Chang amuses us with family quarantine scenes:
From my room, I can hear Mom and my brother Taylor getting popsicles from the fridge.
Taylor: I miss being able to go out to eat and having options.
Mom: I miss you having friends.
Finally, one of the rejection letter editors in Cadence Mandybura's Humor contribution, "Notes From the Editors on Orange is the Darkest Color" writes, "I personally loved this novel: a surreal black comedy with the stakes of truth vs. fiction winding higher and higher. Throwing in a worldwide pandemic is a daring, hyperbolic choice . . . This idea also has the potential for an episodic series, if you're interested in shifting the format to television."

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Our 2020 issue, featuring these authors and many more
will be available mid-September in print and digital format.
Meanwhile, you can find Bacopa Literary Review at

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Blood in the Asphalt, by Jesse Sensibar

Jesse Sensibar, contributor to Bacopa Literary Review 2019, has a new book  of poetry, photography, and memoir, Blood in the Asphalt: Prayers from the Highway, shortlisted for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize.
"We are so often moving at breakneck speed, and this book is that rare thing, a quiet, commanding voice that says, stop. Stop, and notice . . ."  Carolyn Guinzio, author of Ozark Crows.

"Jesse Sensibar is a son of anarchy who crosses over the road and pauses to respect the lost, preserving their memory and laying bare his own mortality . . ." Brian Jabas Smith, author of Spent Saints & Other Stories.
Sensibar's Creative Nonfiction work in our 2019 issue shows the emotional power that can be packed into a few, well-chosen words:

Mi Madre tattooed across your clavicles at the top of your breastplate, and in her 3rd Street apartment she slapped your five-year-old face in rage anytime you called her mom.
     Me, putting on orange-and-white-striped cotton, my best collarless cowboy shirt, and talking to the judge. How surprised everyone was when she gave us a chance and released you to me.
     Both you and that blue Spanish Star .45 automatic I kept in my top dresser drawer were gone. Your betrayal hurt, but your mother's satisfied laughter hurt a little more.
     Seeing your face named Tucson's Most Wanted on the side of a city bus. Hearing how you stuck him in the neck with a hollow metal table leg. They said he bled out fast on your Wilmont Prison classroom floor.
     Four-thirty a.m., sitting across a round dining room table in flipflops with a highway patrolman your age. He'd come to tell me how you'd died.

I was glad it was not an expensive gun.
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Jesse Sensibar spends his time writing and promoting the art of storytelling. He helped develop the Narrow Chimney Reading Series, has been a judge for poetry and play writing awards, was a Visiting Author of Arizona State University, and served as executive director of the Northern Arizona Book Festival. He has received awards for play writing and creative nonfiction and his poetry and prose have appeared in more than 40 publications.