Saturday, January 27, 2018

Call Me Sisyphus: A Dream of Creative Nonfiction

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast

We've celebrated the unique talent of Charlotte M. Porter before, applauding her imaginative use of language in writing that "sweeps enthusiastically through poetry, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, fiction," with examples from her poetry and fiction.

In this post we bring you Porter's Flash Story Honorable Mention for a creative nonfiction piece that will rearrange your ideas about dreams. Notice Porter's unique voice and poetic near-rhymes in the first paragraphs of "Terminal Trance":
Disguised as moderns, poets Homer and Dante duped me with a junket to the Netherworld, an alumni reunion in Hades. I arrive, revive, await Homer in hip hop, Dante in high tops. What a gas! But no. My escorts are grim, thin as shadows.
One is my handsome brother Michael. The other, a former beau always late, a pretty fellow I'll call JoJo. Both lacking likeness to album photos seem taller in black manteaux, their eyes dull cupped candles of souls departed.
In dark dress, too, mine with hood, I lug two drab duffel bags, which a person my size has to slide on well-traveled floors.
Sorry, camp gear, says Michael, younger brother lost to cancer, too tired to lift--he the college batboy with metal plates in his arm, magnets for true North, our family joke, now rusty under skin so grey.
Through her dream travels, she loses and finds and loses her brother:
Call me Sisyphus, but you try pushing duffels across raft of air-filled mattresses. I falter, and Michael disappears. Has JoJo pulled him between creases of my visual field?
Was JoJo always after Michael, not me?
Through sheer will, I bring my brother back, for an instant in existence. His black coat stands grand against the milling crowd. I blink. He's gone--too big for me to see. Or too fleet like river flux or flame on silk.
                                                   Jojo and his yoyo coins evaporate. He, always beyond my ilk, the darling thief dream released through ivory and horn to steal sweet kisses. If this is closure, must I wake?
In what has become an elegy to her brother, our clever prize winner uses travel gear as a telling metaphor in her final paragraph:
A cur guards Hades, but my trusty dogs fail to keep the dead in place as I tarry on the Styx, ferry my stone-cold brother without toll for those duffels--his luggage, my baggage.
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For more about flash nonfiction:
Our own Kaye Linden, author of 35 Tips for Writing A Brilliant Flash Story, describes what she's looking for in Bacopa Literary Review 2018's Short Story genre, with an example of her own flash memoir in "How Can a Mother?"
Beth Ann Fennelly offers suggestions for crafting excellent flash nonfiction in "Making much of the moment," suggesting the best micro-memoir combines "the extreme abbreviation of poetry, the narrative tension of fiction, and the truth-telling of creative nonfiction. . . ." As examples Fennelly cites Anne Carson's Short Talks, J. Robert Lennon's Pieces for the Left Hand, Sarah Manguso's 300 Arguments, and James Richardson's Vectors

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Life's Unexpected Bits of Sweetness

by Editor in Chief Mary Bast

Anyone who's been a long-time caregiver has experienced the mixed emotions inherent in that role. Having cared for my mother the final sixteen years of her long life, I know the quiet tug between strength and fatigue, compassion and anger, willingness and rebellion. So it was my personal and professional pleasure to support Editor Susie H. Baxter's 2017 Creative Nonfiction Prize award to Raphel Helena Kosek for Caregiver's Journal: How to Survive, or Not.

Kosek wrote so movingly, in fact, we also nominated her piece for a Pushcart Prize.

Described by the author as "one of the most honest and heartfelt pieces I've ever written," Kosek's three-part essay begins, "The Caregiver Addresses Herself at a Distance:"
The night path so often covered between your mother's house and yours falls like reprieve, like freedom, when you are able to leave her--pajamaed and ready for bed--return to your own world. . . Never in all your sixty-one years have you counted the air so sweetly. . . the next step, next breath, next page, word, desire, longing, gratitude--a swell rising like the tide, sand unresisting sweeping you along the sea of night where you are washed from your mother's bitterness. . . .  
Then "Taking Stock:"
. . . my mother slowly heading towards immobility next door in her house where the rituals of dressing and undressing, mollifying and tolerating, are endlessly repeated. . . No happy burden here. Age knocking at my door, I am still the rebellious teenager inside questioning, how did this happen to me? I want to take drugs, sleep too long, head into the woods. I don't do any of that. . . I am a monk in my skin. . . Aware of life's unexpected bits of sweetness, I hoard them like jewels. . . .
And in the final section, "Barking Dog in the Night:"
Stranded on the island of night, I try to navigate to the next minute, next moment. A neighbor's dog is barking but without urgency. . . He has been left out or let outside. . . My husband, more tired than I, has gone to bed. . . Now the dog and I are left to contemplate the vast universe that steams and dreams around us. . . If I try hard enough, I might arrive at some profound thought, but like the dog, feel no urgency to do so. Restless, I send some tentative feelers out--my bark to verify my existence. . . .
You'll find Kosek's eloquent, prize-winning piece in its entirety 

For more about Raphael Helena Kosek:
Q & A with Eastern Iowa Review
Showcased Writer at Silk Road Review
Rough Grace (poems), 2014 Winner, Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition