Monday, January 27, 2020

Submit, Submit, Submit

by Bacopa Literary Review Senior Editor Mary Bast

Lynn Geri, contributor to Bacopa Literary Review 2016 and one of our Pushcart nominees, has recently published two collections with Brierly Press, Mother and I Submit.

In the letter to us that accompanied copies of her books, Lynn wrote ". . . you were the first people to give me encouragement to continue writing. Thank you with all my heart for your support."

Lynn included the following in I Submit's "About the Author" section:
After a lifetime of moving around the world, Lynn Geri has settled on the west coast of the United States, Bellinghham, Washington, with her sweetheart Richard. She has moved from Alaska to Florida, Salt Lake to Los Angeles, China to Germany and too many stops between.
     She didn't begin writing until she reached her seventh decade. She bought one of those old people's recliners and picked up a computer. It's all been flying pages since.
     Her 356th submission was accepted for publication in a literary magazine. So, she tells all dear beginning writers, rejection letters are part of the process. Laugh, actively surrender . . . Submit, Submit, Submit. It's such a good life practice.

Monday, January 20, 2020

What Aches: A Special Affection for Place

By Bacopa Literary Review 2019 poetry contributor Elena Botts

These sentences of what aches, below, broken into a verse, are (of course) formed due to memories. I expect I'll always be the kind to think that memories are a marvelous place to dwell. Of course, one might embrace a certain number of ideas over a lifetime, and these are often so broad they may account for a great amount of devotion in a person--religiosity or spirituality might come to be foundational for much of one's worldview and therein one might cultivate all sorts of emotion. Also, one might love people, which is particular though not small.

Place, though, fits somewhere in between, and I have a special affection for place, perhaps because it answers naturally to one's spiritual affectations while maintaining real substance and form, and as such, just being somewhere can be like contact with the beyond. Perhaps because mountains do not "feel" in return; they simply are, set against the sky. Here was something that was greater than anyone, but still I felt particular towards: I spent some time in "the hills" of Elizaville and Milan, in the wintertime, a landscape to which I suffered in addiction, one that I considered sacred and even now am still glad of, and mourn.

Eventually, however, I reached an end and due to my complete commitment to these brown hills and staccato power lines, I suffered from an illness profound enough to take me from this sacred place. It was a heartbreak derived from the thing I loved, from the insanity of my continuous destructive and holy escape, that caused me to part from it, not due to the end of desire but due to my own extinguishment, as paralleled by the limitations of my body, and thereafter I was as weak as an old man, moving slowly about an 18th century farmhouse, nearly falling through the white wooden floors, always in the delirium of loss, and beginning to summon ghosts with my thoughts. This was an easy death; this was the inevitable and sought-after end.

Of course, this was all but a tremendous mental exercise and even writing here demonstrates the extent to which one might come to delude oneself in the pursuit of meaning or feeling anything after all. Still, were you to ask if I believed in anything, I'd say: "the hills."

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Elena Botts is author of six published books, winner of four poetry contests, her poems have appeared in dozens of literary magazines (including Madness Muse Press, The Opiate, ), and her award-winning visual artwork exhibited in various galleries. She's collaborated on, released, and exhibited sound and moving image art.

Read Elena Botts' "what aches" (p. 152) and other works
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Format).

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Three Haiku Sequences: “Shēngxiào / 生肖,” “Haiku Lessons,” “Still I Go”

by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Haiku contributor Michael Dylan Welch

I am grateful to Bacopa editors to have had three haiku sequences in the 2019 issue of the journal. They are "Shēngxiào / 生肖," "Haiku Lessons," and "Still I Go." I'd like to share a few words about each of them.

Shēngxiào / 生肖
I wrote the first sequence at the very end of December in 2017 when the turn to the new year was high in everyone's consciousness. The year of the dog wasn't set to start until February 16, 2018, but the Western new year of January 1 got me thinking about the year of the dog a little early. I also knew my birth year was the year of the tiger. But I found myself curious about the other years and started surfing online to learn more.

Along the way it occurred to me to write a haiku for each of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, also called shēngxiào. I learned that specific flowers are associated with each sign, too, as well as moods or tones, so I set myself the task to combine each zodiac sign with its associated flower, in as natural a way as I could, and hopefully to match the appropriate mood. I was not thoroughly familiar with all the flowers, such as cineraria and bleeding hearts, so that took some research.

Each poem is meant to stand on its own, rather than contributing to any kind of narrative. Haiku, as the starting verse for a longer lined form known as renga (or renku, a more modern and less rule-bound evolution), grew out of the tradition of linking from verse to verse but always shifting away--and thus "tasting all of life." I sought to present variety as much as I could, too, even while the flowers and zodiac names added common threads to each of the twelve verses.

As a result, the sequence turns from a violin to a letterbox, from a misty moon to an unfinished painting, from a fireplace mantel to an election, from a vase to a journalist's suit, from an encyclopedia (where the flower is present in name only) to a garden (where the flower is actually present), and finally, from a garden gnome to the concluding abstraction of abundance. Some of the links from verse to verse, such as going from a garden to a garden gnome, may be readily apparent, but other links may not be, such as a violin being a kind of enclosed box, which might obliquely connect to the next verse's letterbox.

I ended with the abstraction of "abundance" on purpose (in contrast to the more concrete images in the other verses). I hoped that the entire sequence would offer an abundance of spices, tasting all of life, with each of the animals, each of the flowers, and each of the other elements I added contributing their own flavours. Individually, too, I hoped that each verse might engage on its own terms. For example, if there's an abundance of hydrangeas, how does that benefit the pig? I do hope that readers will picture a real pig or other animal in at least some of these verses. Perhaps the pig will enjoy eating those flowers!

In many ways the sequence wrote itself, once the structure came to mind, and any mysteries it might have may be beyond my conscious explication. I hope it pleases and stimulates, and perhaps provides zodiac and flower information as well, reminding us of the cycles of life, and perhaps how we can be grateful for each year of our unfolding lives.

Haiku Lessons

The second sequence, "Haiku Lessons," is perhaps more playful. Haiku is widely misunderstood as being anything that fits a set syllable count. But no, haiku do not have to be 5-7-5 syllables in English (see this page at the website I run for National Haiku Writing Month, held for ten years every February--the shortest month for the shortest genre of poetry). Mere syllable counting takes no account of seasonal reference (using a season word or kigo in Japanese), a two-part structure (using, in Japanese, what's called a kireji, or cutting word), primarily objective sensory imagery, and other strategies.

Within this framework, though, haiku can fall into seemingly overused syntactical structures, using all-too-common tropes or images, which I poke a bit of fun at. The poet's challenge is always to keep things fresh, but that can be difficult with poems as short as haiku. How many poems can be written freshly about cherry blossoms, for example? Actually, a lot, but poets will sometimes have to cure themselves of the easiest or most obvious choices (such as equating falling blossoms to snow or to confetti--that's been done to death). It's in this context that I tried to have a little fun.

By some definitions the poems in this sequence are just short poems rather than haiku, but I hope they're at least in the ballpark. I've kept juxtaposition in each of the verses, and often a concrete image and seasonal reference, and then I name various parts of speech, almost as if one could "mad lib" the rest of each verse. In fact, why not give it a try? I also play with various modes of writing haiku in English, such as the pure nature image, abstractions more common in so-called gendai or "modern" haiku, and other variations. As such, perhaps the sequence might offer "haiku lessons." Or maybe not.

Still I Go

The third sequence, "Still I Go," is more personal, written about a time I had surgery. I ruptured my Achilles tendon in February of 2016, was not able to drive for three months, and could walk only short distances with crutches. After a surgery and months of rehab, I was finally able to walk in the woods again. But before then, I was glad I could still visit the infamous cherry trees in full bloom at the University of Washington campus in Seattle, near where I live, even if just on crutches. I wrote the poems for this sequence in February and March of 2016, around the time of my surgery. It took almost a full year to recover fully. And still I go to view the cherry blossoms when I can--taking the opportunity to do so much less for granted than I did before.

I have many other haiku sequences on my website. Of special note is "Avonlea," which appeared in Bacopa in 2016. It was written in 2008 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Anne of Green Gables. I use stars on the site to mark other favourite sequences (featuring both haiku and tanka), and if I might recommend a few of them, they would be "Fine Lines" (incorporating lines borrowed from famous poems), "The Haijin's Tweed Coat" (with each verse using names of haiku journals), "Kazooku" (for something fun), "Pop Fly" (baseball haiku), "Separation" (which appeared in Rattle magazine), "Text-ku" (a sequence from 2008, working in younger-generation texting acronyms), and "Thornewood Poems" (a spilling-out of nature poems from twenty-five years ago).

Of course, good haiku don't have to be in sequences at all. Sometimes just a single haiku, all by itself, will do.

Michael Dylan Welch
Sammamish, Washington
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Read Michael Dylan Welch's haiku and other works
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Format).

Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Loving Look at the Journey of Failure

by 2019 Bacopa Literary Review poetry contributor stephanie roberts

Gymnastics must be the definitive sport that is the purview only of the young. Naturally flexible, I enjoyed its tests of strength and mental courage, but it wasn't long before I was too inelastic to compete.

The poem, "Middle-Age Cartwheel" is a loving look at the journey of failure. What the body can no longer execute still lives vividly in muscle memory. Sitting here, I can feel the completed act in every limb but I'm terrified at the challenge of attempt.
how i loathe the moment
the happiness of life
pivots on the webbing of carpus
and unity of eight innocent bones 
 In the poem the loss of the body's strength mirrors a loss of vitality attributed to life as people move farther from youth. It begins to seem like silliness to even attempt any apprehension of magnificence.
all for now this aching love
this tumbled shaken hour
upend and recovery now         breath
foot    handoverhand      foot    foot

*     *     *
stephanie roberts won first prize in The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2018. An avid dreamer, she is a four time Pushcart Prize nominee, and three time nominee for Best of the Net. Her full poetry collection rushes from the river disappointment, which includes "Middle-Age Cartwheel," will be released with McGill-Queen's University Press in May 2020. Twitter (@ringtales), Instagram (@ringtales), SoundCloud.

Read stephanie roberts' "Middle-Age Cartwheel" (pp. 120-121),
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Format).

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Threats of Execution: "Blood is Not Thicker"

by fiction contributor to Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Lucille Bellucci

I grew up in Shanghai and lived three years under the Communist regime, which was as brutal as depicted in my story "Blood is Not Thicker." In 1952 my parents, sister and I applied for exit visas but she and I were told we could not leave because we were spies for America. Six weeks of interrogation ensued, with threats of execution unless we signed a confession.

We refused. The pressure mounted. We were Italian nationals, which saved us from being shot, and in the end the police threw the visas at us and told us to get out. We left China for Italy with $50 each and one suitcase. Five years later the remainder of my family immigrated to the United States. After ten years in San Francisco I moved to Brazil, where my engineer husband worked on a hydroelectric project. We returned to California 15 years later. It is good to be home.

My novels and story collections are posted on Amazon and elsewhere, including Winning Writers and Narrative.

(Click on image to see a page from Bellucci's "Blood is Not Thicker)

Read Lucille Bellucci's "Blood is Not Thicker" (pp. 83-88), and other works
in Bacopa Literary Review 2019 (Print Edition or Digital Format).

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Disenchanted: On Fairy Tales and Their Modern Uses

by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 Poetry contributor Yania Padilla Sierra

What happens to the fairy princess when no one will rescue her? What becomes of the girl who decides to take instead of wait? To plot instead of pray? Fairy tales have always fascinated me; as I grow older, I am relating more to the 'villains,' often women who are 'past their prime;' women who are angry, who will have their due.
It's in the tower, it's through the wood; it's behind the curtain, up to no good.
The poem begins with a bit of song,perhaps a nursery rhyme sung about the speaker of the poem. A woman who wields power invisibly, who has knowledge born of difficult experiences. In this new world where only the young, naive, and beautiful matter, the woman is invisible. She watches the parade, the endless parade of her 'replacements,' full of sorrow and rage. She is sorrowful because their innocence means ignorance. She is rageful because their focus on baubles and underwire things means they may not be up to the task of wielding power as she does. She is rageful because the world will destroy the sweet things once their beauty is used up.
Little ones, follow me, let down your hair--the lace front tresses--no one will care  
The speaker wants to guide and save the sweet things before it's too late, before they become victims. The speaker may be inexorably drawn to helping the bad bitches and their too plump legs and cruelty free lips, but they are too trusting, too compliant, too beautiful. She then realizes that it is She who will devour them, as all predators do with prey, as it was meant to be. She also realizes She will likely meet her end in their undoing.
I love them like a stepmother with cinders in her mouth.

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Yania Padilla Sierra is a Puerto Rican bruja/writer/artist and suicide prevention SME. Her work has been featured in various online literary journals, including Military Experience & The  Arts and The Write Launch, and will be published in the first AROHO anthology.