Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Prize Winners

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast

We're delighted to announce this year's prize winners:

Fiction
First Prize: "The Calligrapher," by Avra Margariti (Greece)
Honorable Mention: "Inheritance," by B.W. Jackson (NY)
Creative Nonfiction
First Prize: "From One Field to Another," by Hugh E. Suggs (FL)
Honorable Mention: "The Madonna of Main Street," by Erica Verrillo (MA)
Mixed Genre
First Prize: "A Brindle Bull, After Kuòān Shīyuǎn," by Jeff Streeby (MI)
Honorable Mention: "Photograph of a Very Young Boy," by CB Follett (CA)
Haiku
First Prize: "Shēngxiào / 生肖," by Michael Dylan Welch (WA)
Honorable Mention: "old oak tree," by Ed Bremson (NC)
Poetry
First Prize: "When the saints come among us," by Raphael Kosek (NY)
Honorable Mention: "Red Elegy," by Miranda Sun (IL)



Friday, May 31, 2019

To Be, Or Not To Be

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast 
The verb "To be" ("I am," "I was," "I have been," etc.) is the most protean of the English language, constantly changing in form (the word protean's namesake, the Greek sea god Proteus, could change form in an instant--lion, wild boar, snake, tree, running stream).
Thus protean means "versatile," and has the positive connotations of flexibility and adaptability. You'd think writers would find its versatility useful. Yes and no. Search Google for "why not use to-be verbs" and you'll see such articles as "How to Eliminate 'To-Be' Verbs," "Avoid Unnecessary 'to be' Verbs in Writing," and "Not to be: Removing be verbs from your writing."

I'm a "show-me" learner. The first time a fellow writer pointed out the number of to-be verbs in my work, I thought "So?"

Well, "show-me" is in fact the key to improving your writing, a specific version of the "show, don't tell" rule we've all heard. For example, "This cherry pie tastes delicious" is more descriptive than "This cherry pie is delicious." Another example from Gail Radley: to improve "His failure to make the goal was unfortunate," try "Unfortunately, he failed to make the goal."

For a quick and easy way to get a feel for this process, go to Aztekera's "To Be" Verbs Analyzer, where you can paste an entire document and receive a list of sentences containing all the to-be verbs.

I tried it with a flash memoir piece written years ago, "Bread and Butter," picked at random from my Autobiography Passed Through the Sieve of Maya. The result? "54.5% of your sentences have to-be verbs." That doesn't sound good!

Below I've placed in bold the to-be verbs identified by the Aztekera tool. Be my guest: see how you might improve this piece with alternative verbs that "show" vs. "tell." 

Bread and Butter 
Young couples used to say "Bread and Butter" if separated by an obstacle when walking together, to keep something from coming between them. This is based on the difficulty of separating butter from bread once spread.
My mother, Ruth, still has an old-fashioned beaded bag my father, Clovis, gave her for high school graduation, and I'm struck by how like her it is: small, pretty, many colorful pieces forming the whole, smooth to the touch but with attitude. I imagine my father fell in love instantly. They were fourteen years old when they met, and neither time nor distance ever separated them in spirit.

Ruth's father, Lake Starkey, was a physician, her mother, Mary Bosworth Starkey, a descendant of early English settlers. Clovis Ritter was the rough-cut son of immigrant German stock--his mother, Ida, a short, fat, bossy sort and his father, C.H., a tall, skinny, quiet man, her Jack Sprat counterpart.

I don't know how my maternal grandparents viewed this bright, farm-grown young man, because they died in a car crash before I was born. I can guess they hoped their middle daughter would find a better catch if they moved her away from La Feria, Texas--population 1,594.

Ruth tried to follow her parents' wish that she go to college in Chicago, where her aunt and uncle lived. Once there, however, she schemed to move closer to Texas A&M, where Clovis was studying agriculture. She went to three different colleges in as many years and finally--after her third year away--they were married, with fifty dollars between them.

My father, enforcer of his own rules, scared me when I was growing up. Determined to have his way, he'd paint himself into a corner where to say yes would be to give in, a loss of face he couldn't tolerate. Mom, though, saw through his tough exterior, and would act as go-between--placating me without challenging his decisions.
She has never liked conflict. Even now, at age 102, when we're out together if I walk on the other side of a post in the sidewalk she'll say, "Bread and Butter!" and insist I say it, too.

My parents were not without arguments, however.

Mom and I wear the same size shoe, and on one visit I brought her a pair of discount store stilettos, just for fun. She pranced around in them for Dad, expecting something flirty, I guess. Instead he gave her a dour look and said, "You're not going anywhere with me in those shoes."

Mom wept, I was furious. When she asked me what she could do, I said, "LEAVE the son-of-a-bitch!"

That was out of the question, of course. Until he died at age 69, whenever I visited and walked into a room where they were sitting, I'd find them whispering, Mom on Dad's lap, her arm protectively around him.

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.  

Yea.  

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.

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.


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":
#58
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."

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.

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):

2010
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"

2011
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"

2012
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"

2013
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" 

2014
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"

2015
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"

2016
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..."

2017
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"

2018
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
(Higginson)
after the funeral--
a blood-red moon
Now write your haiku.

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):




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.

*     *     *

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.  


Monday, December 10, 2018

A Fast-Paced Ride

by Prose Poetry Editor Kaye Linden

Cynthia Roby won Bacopa Literary Review 2018's Prose Poetry Prize because of "U-Turn's" powerful voice: the vivid tapestry of sub-text, theme, word choice, visual and aural imagery, and minimal but effective dialogue produce a fast-paced ride that takes readers to the edge and leaves us there:

  Mami is driving. Straight. Fast. She has no license.
  No detenga el coche! I yell. Don't stop the car! I want her to drive
  to the end of the world. Her scarred brown knuckles turn white
  as she squeezes the steering wheel of Papi's prize: a 1956 Mercury Montclair.
  In the back seat, Felix and Edwin peel, squeeze, and suck sweet,
  sticky guavas. No napkins. This is an adventure.
  And this is why Papi will kill Mami dead.

The voice of the narrator comes through with a jittery, nervous cry for help that never arrives. Bordering on a flash story, this piece is a vignette that provides an implied story where readers fill in the gaps. The subtext, or implied information and backstory, is well-handled without offering us too many specifics or too much dialogue. This is a piece that fits the "diffusionist" category of mixed genre:

  We chase the 1 train north on Broadway to another world: The Bronx.
  The light quickly turns red at 145th Street. I squeeze my eyes shut and point.
  Mami slams her bare foot on the brake. Felix and Edwin scream.
  Mami holds out her arm; I don't hit the dashboard.
  The 1 train continues without us. Hey Jude is playing on the radio.
  Mami pounds her tiny fists on the steering wheel, curses my father: hijo de puta!
  Bruises on her wrists and neck are spilled paint:
  hues of red, black, blue, purple, and pain.
  Her eyes are ruddy worm-like slits
  wrapped in tar-black circles--like the tire swings
  behind our old house in La Romana.
  Papi es un monstruo, a monster. Mami kisses her crucifix.

  In La Romana Papi held Mami close; they danced bachata;
  he chased us around our leaky chabola, catching only her.
  Eres bella, he would say, tickling her waist; kissing her neck,
  her fingertips, her earlobe. We giggled.

"Bruises on her wrists and neck... Papi es un monstruo" gives us a clear visual of what kind of man "Papi" might be. However, Papi also "held Mami close; they danced bachata... tickling her waist, kissing her neck..." The juxtaposed scenes and theme of an abusive relationship bleed nicely into this piece, offering a clear picture of a family in crisis:

  The traffic light ticks, clicks hard;
  gives us permission to continue up Broadway.
  But Mami blinks hard, makes a sharp right and then another.
  The seat covers are polished floors. I slide beneath her armpit.
  Our boy hips collide. She squirms; grunts from Papi's old pain.
  Felix and Edwin tumble onto the floor. Scream. Drop what's left of
  sticky-fruit-Papi-will-kill-Mami-for onto no-longer-flawless upholstery.
  It's still an adventure.

  Mami! Que estas haciendo? I scream. What are you doing?
  Siga el tren 1! Follow the 1 train!
  Her face is wet. She leans her head back, screams,
  rocks back and forth. Drives faster.
  Dios mio! We're going back. Back to my wetting the mattress
  I share on the dining room floor with Felix and Edwin.
  Back to Mami forgiving Papi for being a pendejo. Back to the beatings
  and the screams in the night. Back to the mujeres malvadas
  and rum and parties and money and cars that have changed my Papi
  into someone I no longer like.

  Mami made a U-turn. And this is why Papi will kill her dead.

Mami's crazy driving epitomizes the speed at which such a family might "U-turn" between violence and a false sense of safety. Mami is angry at the "hijo de puta!" but during the insane ride, decides to make a U-turn back to Papi, who will "kill her dead." The author has captured the insanity of abuse within a tiny piece of writing. This takes precision of language and skill.

The visuals are prose-poetry-appropriate and paint an event with its backstory in medias res on a wild ride where the mother decides to head back "to the screams in the night... to the Papi I no longer like." Once we realize Mami is heading back to the violence, we feel the true chill of this amazing piece. Not only is Mami's driving endangering her kids, but now she is heading back to the original situation from which they fled. The train winds in and out of this narrative, emphasizing and symbolizing the threatening force of Papi. In addition, the vehicle Mami is driving offers no safety for the family. The vehicle and the train are fabulous metaphors for the instability and insanity of a family in chaos.

The circular motion and veering back and forth come through the language with a fast and breathless pacing. The first line comes like an unexpected punch--hard and fast, a set-up for the zigzagging and fast-paced movement. "Mami is driving. Straight. Fast. She has no license." What an excellent set-up for this piece.

"U-Turn" has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize Anthology XLIV by Pushcart Contributing Editor Carolyne Wright, also a former Bacopa contributor and Poetry prize winner.

 *     *     *
Cynthia Roby lives in Bronx, New York, where she works as an adjunct professor of academic writing. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in publications including The Penman Review ("Boomerang And Sadie," "Faltered Footwear"/"After My Five Cents, I Ran," "Lust"), The Lindenwood Review, Rat's Ass Review, Thrice Fiction, and Black Denim Lit. Cynthia earned her MFA from Lindenwood University. Find her on Twitter and her Amazon author page

Friday, November 23, 2018

She Said NO

(by Creative Nonfiction Editor Susie H. Baxter)

In her Creative Nonfiction Prize Winning work, "I Said No," Roberta Marstellar's words paint a tranquil picture of Tuscany as she eases the reader into a gripping story:
The picturesque Tuscan valley spread out like one of Mom's quilts, fields stitched together with black-green cypresses, billowing as if thrown over a giant's pillows...
The drama becomes more intense with each paragraph. There is no way readers could walk away from it without reading to the end, and the last line does not disappoint. A tale told with finesse and a thought-provoking ending you are not likely to forget. What follows are excerpts leading up to this short memoir's critical events: 
Rinaldo rumbled to a stop outside the window and smiled, an awkward smile the color of my morning's cappuccino... "Buon giorno," he said. I slammed the door and immediately regretted it. Washing crates was shit work, but he wasn't to blame.
      We flew down the gravel road, the farm filling our rear view... My gaze drifted left and caught Rinaldo scratching at this crotch. I snapped my head to the passenger window. He turned down a narrow road and reduced my view to nothing but vines... So much feels wrong I can't breathe. I slip my hand into my purse and fish around for my phone. When Rinaldo takes the next turn, I slide it out--no bars... "Be careful," I almost hear my husband Greg warning from five thousand miles away... my heart, wild with fear, inches up in my throat as Rinaldo approaches...
      "Tu riposo con me," he says and breaks into an awful smile. My head says run, but my body is frozen...
      I feel him on me, yet I'm watching it happen to someone else from a distance. Greg's voice comes through again, clear as a well this time, "Be careful!" My head oscillates back and forth like I'm shaking off a punch. Coming to, I jump back, waving my arms overhead like a referee. "NO! NO! NO!"....
(You can read what happened in Bacopa Literary Review 2018)
Roberta Marstellar is a writer and storyteller. Her career path is a circuitous one, defined by detours: Structural engineer—marketing specialist—finance manager—general contractor—food blogger—entrepreneur. Since the age of twelve, writing is the one endeavor Roberta has faithfully pursued. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two beehives, and a lifetime of books.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Making the World Felt

By Senior Editor Mary Bast
"We do not feel strongly enough that we are part of a global community, part of a larger we . . . This is where art can make a difference . . . engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt." Alafus Eliasson, "Why art has the power to change the world," World Economic Forum,
This year's contributors in all genres reflected social issues as a felt experience, none more than Patrick Synan, winner of Bacopa Literary Review 2018's Poetry Prize for "Outside the Clinic." Synan paints the scene so clearly that without being told directly, we understand this woman waiting outside the clinic is poor and ill, driving a van she could only afford because it was auctioned off, and we cannot look away.

We know she's not one of the chosen ones (deadened to the weather / of the season and the soul...), but part of the rest of nature, rising to another chapter of slow death. And we readers--even if chosen ones driving a late-model car on our way to a private doctor--feel this woman's panic as she calls the same three names, knowing she won't get in today:

Patrick Synan is a young poet from New Hampshire who studied literature at Boston College and teaches in Boston. "Outside the Clinic" will be included in his forthcoming chapbook, The Walls Around the Ring (The Orchard Street Press Ltd)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Deciphering: Layers Upon Layers of Art, Poetry, Art

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

I've written before of my love for ekphrasis, traditionally understood as poetry written in response to visual art. Wikipedia now more accurately describes the broader applications of ekphrasis: "Given the right circumstances, any art may describe any other art."

Thus my pleasure when Prose Poetry Editor Kaye Linden accepted Devon Balwit's ekphrastic poem for Bacopa Literary Review 2018, dedicated to the artist Melvin Way:



Melvin Way With One of His Poems
Seeing images of Way's work draws us deeper into Balwit's poem, especially the ending lines, You cannot look at surface only / but must dig down. Beneath is where you find / the much we rest on, the clamor, the ever- / multiplying root.

Balwit's title "Deciphering is Something Only I Can Do" echoes a line in Alanna Martinez's Observer article: "Deciphering the drawings is something only Mr. Way can do, but each is a sort of three dimensional thesis... compressed to four-inches-by-five-inches of a reused scrap of paper... a refined--almost elegant--haiku." Jerry Saltz, in "Studying the Masterpieces of Visionary Artist Melvin Way," further describes Way's artwork as "creating synaptic connections between real things in possible and impossible ways, all with great graphic imagination."

And Balwit does the same, creating synaptic connections between the possible and impossible layers of Way's art and the possible and impossible layers of the world around us.

Artwork by Mary Bast
Feasting upon this interstitching of poetry and artwork, I felt drawn to include a response to both in my mixed media piece, "Something Only Melvin Way Can Do," among a series of tributes to artists traditionally ignored in a white-male-dominated art world. (Melvin Way studied briefly at the Technical Career Institute before mental illness left him homeless, in and out of psychiatric care and the city's shelter system.)

*     *     *

Devon Balwit lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Rattle, Peacock Journal, Fire Poetry Journal, The Wild Word, The Ekphrastic Review, and many others. Her chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, is available at dancing girl press & studio.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

From the Editor: Bacopa Literary Review 2018

What always impressed me about Zaki's work was that she was able to keep that just anger hot and alive, but she also knew how to keep it properly focused, to keep it in check and not to let it consume her entire being. "Combat breath" she calls it in one of her essays. Mastering the anger rather than being mastered by it. (Michael Dennehy: "Ntozake Shange: On a Brilliant Balance of Anger and Poetry," Literary Hub, December 1, 2016)
Last year our contributors sought meaning and inspiration in the face of environmental concerns, political dissent, divisiveness, war, discrimination, and suffering. In Bacopa Literary Review's 2018 edition, the work as a whole is even tougher, more demanding, angrier. Metaphorically knocked out by the clout and courage in these poets' and writers' voices, I found heart in the notion of combat breath.

Readers, you too will benefit from combat breathing as you engage with the works in these pages. As a prelude to this issue, I've devised the found poem below of key phrases from its contents. Inhale, exhale, slowly, deeply. Release your fear, inspire a survival mindset.
A culture ignorant of reverence, currency cold, hard,
dark hills, cultivation of scabs, scratchings of desire,
stand before the bar charged with racism, tangles, decays.
So much feels wrong, another chapter of slow death,

waiting to take your heart in its teeth. Reams
of dark matter unravel as nature rises through depths
of lantern shadows, to the thread Atropos will cut
for each of us: oh, this conflux is fucked for sure. 

Earth locks us by hard turns in its round embrace, and
don't we tremble at our stations with bleak temptation
to despair? To raise is to bend, not break, yet how
the heart contrives to tint the glare of a boisterous sun.

Minds go mad to plot the coming revenge. Un-
penitent seekers, almost-reformed skeptics squinting
in the bright light: though all departures taste like loss,
step away from the comfort of narrow familiarity,

leave a trail of shredded paper, cry, curse, forget every-
thing on your way. You cannot look at surface only, must
dig down, smell the perfume of righteous anger, see how
a poet--neither angel nor beast--can make you feel. 

Stare into the eyes of the tiger, push that Sisyphean
boulder up the hill, one foot then the other, scraping
against the pull of gravity and family. Release
the breath you didn't realize you were holding.

Become less fear, more sigh.
Mary Bast
Senor Editor
    

Monday, August 13, 2018

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, indeed, 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've described the following criteria in previous calls for submission:
  • Well-wrought poems that intrigue us, move us, surprise us with stunning imagery, lyricism, soundplay, structure, and disturb our well-trod patterns of thought.
  • Creative nonfiction that has a moving inner voice and holds to the same standards as other literary forms while remaining grounded in fact.
  • Short stories with tight and concise writing that include characterization, conflict, change, and draw in readers with their depth, clarity, and powerful, authentic voice.
  • Prose poetry at the playful, daring edge of poetry; pure creation, powerful lyrical language and a truthful, commanding voice.
However, as we wrote notes within Submittable about entries during the 2018 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:
Mary Bast (Editor in Chief): 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.
Susie Baxter (Creative Nonfiction Editor): 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.
Kaye Linden (Short Fiction, Prose Poetry Editor): 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. 
J.N. Fishhawk (Poetry Editor): 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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What is it About Shoes?





by Bacopa Literary Review Editor in Chief Mary Bast

I've written before about ekphrasis, the intersection of verbal and visual arts. Not included in that post are Marianne Moore's poem "Nine Nectarines and Other Porcelain" and Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Large Bad Picture" (based on George Wylie Hutchinson's "Seascape," right).

As Bishop's title implies, creating ekphrastic poetry can be enormous fun.

In the same Melanie Almeder workshop that inspired my Bacopa 2012-published "plummet" (imagining Icarus in Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" as a woman), Almeder also asked us to to make a list of terms describing something ordinary in our lives, and then to write an ode to that item. My most ordinary and also cherished possession, after years of corporate-consulting-required-suits-and-oh-so-uncomfortable-high-heels, were (and are still) my Birkenstocks:

ode to my birkenstocks 
(from "Eeek Love")
sole-mates I am barely
clothed in you
so easy to slide into
walking me
away from suits
you've taken me
to places high-
class shoes would fear
you relish luscious mud
& sand & bits of twigs
that hang on tightly
to your treads
I am besotted birkies
with the child in you
who tastes & smudges
oh you messy shoes
this simple-minded
search for ground
may wear us down
you mortal stumble-bums
Then, just this morning, I read a a friend's post about a Poetry Workshop on Ekphrastic with Pauletta Hansel [Cincinnati Poet Laureate Emeritus (April 2016-March 2018)].

Barbara Sliter's ekphrastic poem "The Red Shoe," much like mine, remembers "a time . . . / before the guy selling lettuce / said "I don't think of you / as an old person. . . a time before / shoes became practical. . . ."

I'm still smiling.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Yamaraja Das, Back to Godhead

Today we learned that Yamaraja Das (born Robert Wintermute II), who created the layout for Bacopa Literary Review since its inception in 2010, passed away on June 22. A Krishna devotee, Yama (as we knew him) was, indeed, "a quiet hero."

As one of his friends said, "It irked Yamaraja to see badly produced books. Even after many years of working with him, I continued to be impressed by how he always produced attractively designed articles with extremely limited resources."

We join Kesihanta Das, who visited Yama in his final days, in imagining Yamaraja Das "already Back to Godhead."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bacopa Literary Review 2018 Prize Winners

Congratulations to our 2018 Bacopa Literary Review prize winners:

Creative Nonfiction Prize: "I said No"
Roberta Marstellar

Roberta Marstellar is a writer and storyteller. Her career path is a circuitous one, defined by detours: Structural engineer—marketing specialist—finance manager—general contractor—food blogger—entrepreneur. Since the age of twelve, writing is the one endeavor Roberta has faithfully pursued. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two beehives, and a lifetime of books.

Short Story Prize: "Nobody Knows How Much You Love Him"
Dean Gessie

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.

Prose Poetry Prize: "U-Turn"
Cynthia Roby

Cynthia Roby lives in Bronx, New York, where she works as an adjunct professor of academic writing. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in publications including The Penman Review ("Boomerang And Sadie," "Faltered Footwear"/"After My Five Cents, I Ran," "Lust"), The Lindenwood Review, Rat's Ass Review, Thrice Fiction, and Black Denim Lit. Cynthia earned her MFA from Lindenwood University.

Poetry Prize: "Outside the Clinic"
Patrick Synan

Patrick Synan is a young poet from New Hampshire. He studied literature at Boston College and teaches in Boston. His first poems appeared in Crosswinds Poetry Journal.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Art Imitates Life: Every Story has Two Sides

by Bacopa Literary Review Editor in Chief Mary Bast
Charles Baxter pursues his tough-minded ideas -- steeled as they are by paradox and contradiction -- without ever losing sight of the quieter truths revealed in ordinary lives. Kirkus Review
After reading Charles Baxter's First Light, I sat quite stunned at how completely individual and well-wrought were each of his very different characters. Hugh Welch is an ordinary guy who sells cars and thinks about sports. His sister Dorsey is a brilliant astrophysicist. The thoughts and actions of Hugh and Dorsey are so completely drawn, I felt as if I'd been transported inside their brains, each with distinctive cognitive ability.

I was also impressed by the range of Baxter's own mind, to be able to identify so fully with each of his characters. And I was reminded of how differently each of us views the world, quite evident in the contrast between Hugh's and Dorsey's perspectives.

Those reactions to First Light reminded me of my response upon reading Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet  (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea). Still in my early twenties, this was the first time I learned from brilliant writing how different perspectives color individual interpretations of the world. I'd just finished reading Justine and turned to Balthazar, expecting a continuation of events described by Justine in the first novel. Instead, I was surprised to read about the same events Justine had described, only now from Balthazar's point of view.

Durrell brilliantly illustrated how our limited perspectives create completely different interpretations of the world. Now it's quite common to read novels in which the remarkable differences among characters' points of view underlie apparent reality. In a more contemporary example, Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, the entire first half is from Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite's point of view, the second half from his wife Mathilde Yoder's. 

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

How to Die Happy: An Incentive to Excellence

Guest post by Diane E. Hoch: 

Here's an example of two paragraphs that justify Andrew Sean Greer's Less winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. While the novel is deemed comedic, one paragraph riffs on Shylock and they both not only deal with aging and loneliness, self-deprecation and all the other attendant emotions, but the language... no other writer compares a human being to a soft-shelled crab; nor does any other writer consider the crab's transparent carapace. Those lines (about Arthur Less, a failed writer) are ones you can die happy after having written:
Once, in his twenties, a poet he had been talking with extinguished her cigarette in a potted plant and said, "You're like a person without skin." A poet had said this. One who made her living flaying herself alive in public had said that he, tall and young and hopeful Arthur Less, was without skin. But it was true. "You need to get an edge," his old rival Carlos constantly told him in the old days, but Less had not known what that meant. To be mean? No, it meant to be protected, armored against the world, but can one 'get' an edge any more than one can 'get' a sense of humor? Or do you fake it, the way a humorless businessman memorizes jokes and is considered 'a riot,' leaving parties before he runs out of material?"
Whatever, it is, Less never learned it. By his forties, all he has managed to grow is a gentle sense of himself, akin to the transparent carapace of a soft-shelled crab. A mediocre review or careless slight can no longer harm him, but heartbreak, real true heartbreak, can pierce his thin hide and bring out the same shade of blood as ever. How can so many things become a bore by middle age -- philosophy, radicalism -- but heartbreak keep its sting?
*     *     * 
(The Pulitzer Prize is an annual award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, poetry, music, and photography in the United States, funded since 1917, as an incentive to excellence, from the will of publisher, passionate crusader, and visionary Joseph Pulitzer. List of Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction here.)

 *     *     *
From Bacopa Literary Review Editor in Chief Mary Bast:

As many talented writers have insisted, the best way to become a better writer is to read, read, read. Have you read every novel that's won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction? That might be a good place to start. During National Poetry Month 2013, I participated in "Pulitzer Remix," a project of The Found Poetry Review. Eighty-five poets from seven countries each wrote a poem a day from one of the 85 Pulitzer-Prize-winning works of fiction published to that date, and posted on the Pulitzer Remix website. Toward the River is a collection of my Pulitzer Remix poems from Michael Cunningham's The Hours.