Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Sound of Sugar....Gary Dop

Have You Heard The One About

7 the madwoman who gave birth without screaming
till she held her child? She wailed:
He’s going to die. He’s going to die. And he did

eighty-four years later in a fishing village where he retired
with his wife and their latest Shih Tzu, Dreamy.
I know there’s no satisfying punch line, no

little joke about mom’s prediction, and nothing
to barb with the sanity of a mother’s pain—
nothing, that is, till you examine

your satisfied sigh when you heard that the baby
lived. Distracted, you pranced past the little truth—
every joke’s companion—the madwoman

was right: The boy died. The crazy mother
mourned the death to come, the death
of the old man in the infant, the death we forget

in favor of what we call sanity, that flimsy gift
of some other madwoman who birthed
the rest of us and the jokes we bear.



About the Poet:
Gary Dop teaches writing at Randolph College on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His essays have aired on All Things Considered, and his poems have appeared recently in Prairie Schooner, Agni, Rattle, New Letters, among others. His first collection of poems, Father, Child, Water, is forthcom­ing from Red Hen Press.



About the Sound of Sugar:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Sound of Sugar....Shangrila Willy

HUNGER

 came down from the hills
stealing in through a slight break
in the fence, a thoughtless day’s work
of forgetting. He slinks round the back way
looking for scraps I’ve left. Rough-furred
and bony under hand, I’d lost sight of him
in summer’s bustling seeds and furrows.
Now, as the days thin,
pared sliver by sliver at twilight’s
widening rim, I think of his warm burr
curled at my spine. I begin leaving him bowls
of empty and scraped plates of watching.
Soon, he is my sleek companion again,
his footsteps dogging mine.



About the Poet:
Shangrila Willy is a collector of words, shoes, fables, and other em­broidered things. She lives in Baltimore with her lugubrious Great Dane and her husband who mucks about in brains. She has most recently been pub­lished in Pear Noir!, Rattle, and Gargoyle; and has work forthcoming in Mea­sure, Magma, and cream city review.


About the Sound of Sugar:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Sound of Sugar....Juan J. Morales



Boy Scouts vs. Zombies

In my elementary school
gymnasium, Scout Master tells us
to do our civic duty
with sticks we sharpened
and pockets knives we aren’t supposed
to know how to use yet.

There are no merit badges for this.
We are never prepared
for parents and teachers possessed
with the undead gait
that rips through school to eat children
and anyone in between.

If I survive, I will join
the future leaders of a hellish country,
rebuilt by the orphans who sob
for forgiveness to their hungry-for-flesh
families we execute
against our will.

I don’t want to wear
this uniform anymore. I don’t want
to think about being
loyal to my den or being
a good citizen by putting down
our bit up Scout Master.

I will not think about my absent mother
or my reanimated father
attacking towards me. I will
pretend I get a pin or patch for this. I will
act like it’s not him anymore
and other lies to keep myself alive.



About the Poet:
Juan J. Morales’ collection of poems, Friday and the Year That Followed, won the 2005 Rhea and Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition and was pub­lished in 2006 by Bedbug Press. His poetry has also appeared in Acentos Re­view, Many Mountains Moving, PALABRA, Poet Lore, Washington Square, Zone 3, and other journals.


About the Sound of Sugar:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Entanglement of Class and Care: A Conversation Between Sara Henning and Laura Medline Wiseman

Laura Madeline Wiseman: Both you and I have recently had books released from Lavender Ink that focus on the body, love, and relationships that turn violent. My book Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), addresses a contemporary recasting of the Bluebeard myth, focusing on the romantic encounters of three sisters who marry the man who will murder them. Rather than centering on Bluebeard’s bloody travails, my retelling meditates on love and its exhibitions. Your debut collection, A Sweeter Water (2013), is really an examination of elegy, as it traces a father’s suicide and its devastating complications on a speaker aching to find her voice among loss. Through the book’s development, loss becomes its own lyric predicated by the chimerical dahlia—one part talisman, one part anchor, and one part taboo. Thinking about our books together, I’m curious about the brutality of loss. For example, the loss of a parent is brutal in all its many guises because it’s also the loss of support, including financial. This is especially so for women and mothers. How do poets negotiate issues of class and privilege in their work?

Sara Henning: Oh yes, the loss of a loved one is ruthless. Yet, I agree that loss has far reaching socioeconomic repercussions, especially for women left to suffer with children in the quagmire of patriarchal hegemony. Loss is a rhizomatic conception, an issue important to contemporary poetry because it is as much a psychological issue as it is a class issue.

As a white woman, I will never argue against the fact that I come from a privileged subject position. I have never been watched closely at Walgreens by a female clerk who feared me, due to the color of my skin or my gender. I have never had a well-to-do couple cross the street out of fear that I might stab or hustle them. If anything, the clerk is always friendly and the woman in the couple often smiles or makes pleasantries. To these women, I am simply a sister, a member of their tribe. But I am also the product of an impoverished background, which is an intimidating psychosocial space to incorporate when standing at the staircase of academia’s often lush and exclusionary ivory towers. Without my father, my mother couldn’t make it on her own, and in turn, she was forced to solicit the support of her parents, and as a package deal, an environment of multigenerational abuse. As a motivated child, I often “passed” as part of my general cohort, middle and upper middle class families with a two-parent income, though I felt like a paradox: a member of the underprivileged privileged who belonged in neither world.

LMW: You say this so beautifully. It reminds me of Audre Lorde’s words: “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence.” Poetry collections like A Sweeter Water are not luxury, they are vital, because if I might quote Lorde again, “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”

SH: If we are not taking Lorde’s advice, as women, we are failing the institution of poetry and each other. Perhaps by saying this, I can be criticized as essentializing the role of the female poet or confining poetry to an act of agenda. Let me clarify: in a space where we have supposedly transcended race, gender, and sexuality as functional sociocultural definitions, I simply hope that literature that addresses reclamation, resistance, and witness will continue to garner respect. As I was writing A Sweeter Water, I addressed the loss of a father through notions of physical and emotional absence, but I also felt the need to examine next door prostitutes, physically abusive lovers, wild girls who fall by the wayside—our contemporary culture’s very real broken birds.

Since we are thinking about ways that gender and privilege inform art, would you talk about your work with the Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, which directly confronts gender violence?

LMW: My new book Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience grew out of my work with WWR. By the time I started researching what would become WWR—a task that took seven years to complete—I already had intimate experience working with survivors and resistors of gender violence. As an undergrad at Iowa State University, I first volunteered in a women’s crisis shelter and participated in events like Take Back the Night. I continued this volunteer work as I completed an MA in women’s studies and a PhD in English. Because I had a small part in the vital force that seeks to help women resist gender violence and because I was now in a privileged place—a doctoral student with an assistantship and fellowships—I wanted to see what else I might be able to do. That what else was the anthology. Since its release we’ve been able to raise money for organizations that support women, donate copies of the anthology to their libraries, and participate in events such as Week Without Violence, One Billion Rising, and Women’s History Month. There have also been readings at AWP, Split this Rock: Poetry of Provocation and Witness, Omaha Lit Fest, and the Indiana Writers’ Consortium. It’s a privilege and honor to do this work. It is my hope that such events resist gender violence by raising awareness and initiating action.

SH: I am amazed by how your focus on resistance surpasses the page. Literary work that engenders transformation (personal and/or cultural) does so much more than simply being an exercise in mastering metaphor, and this is the timeless literature that demands re-reading. Our mother of resistance, Muriel Rukeyser, would be so proud of you.

LMW: Thank you for that. I’ve always admired Muriel Rukeyser’s work. In the critical introduction to WWR, I quote her words: “If there was no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger.” She’s right. We hunger for poetry, for what work poetry can do.

In ASW there is this unexpected violence, a disregard for self and place, another kind of class violence. In “Psalm” there are “soda cans floating down river” and a “father shot-gunning beer,” and this is contrasted with a girl trying to save a chicken being hollowed out by maggots in “Three Themes on Rescue.” Can you talk about how care and class are intertwined in offering full portraits of survival and love?

SH: Love and survival are fraught subjects in ASW. In the work, the self is often forsaken for the more immediate goal of subsistence. One could argue that taking the burden upon oneself to alleviate the struggle of others is a way that the collection’s characters often demonstrate love. Your mention of “Psalm,” the fact that soda cans are as conspicuous a part of the natural landscape, as say, oak roots, reveals how far the speaker has internalized an ecological disregard that informs her emotional experience. In this particular poem, a father driven by addiction and self-indifference is similarly normalized, a sentiment that resurrects itself in different incarnations throughout the work.

As you noted, the collection contains poems that, I think, validate an attempt to surpass these attitudes and enact salvation. In “Three Themes on Rescue,” the speaker attempts to rescue an already dead hen in order to preserve her body’s integrity. When she finds the animal already debilitated by maggots, she recognizes that the animal’s steadfast spirit bests any violence inflicted upon her, and that notions of survival and endurance are not necessarily interdependent.

So to answer your question of how care and class are entangled in the book, I would argue that the speaker’s experience is as paradoxical as the hen’s. Through the book, an attempt to champion integrity while normalizing disregard makes for poems that modulate between these extremes, often to subversive ends.

Do you think that violence against women still confounds and surpasses class hierarchy in our contemporary moment? Fatal Effects seems to confront these issues, so could you focus your discussion here?

LMW: Fatal Effects is a campy, contemporary retelling of the Bluebeard myth that charts the love of three sisters who each marry the same man upon the demise of the sister who preceded her. Bluebeard is usually framed as a story of blood and gore, but this retelling focuses on the love each of his unfortunate wives felt. As a kid, I was drawn to fairy tales and myth in literature, even though the life presented there was not a life I knew. I’ve never lived in a castle (okay, full disclosure: when I studied abroad as an undergrad at Swansea University, one of the dorms I lived in was a castle, but I’m not sure the co-ed residence halls count as full-castle life). I’ve never kissed a former lover of my siblings—that would be weird. I’ve never experienced the kind of wealth an estate like Bluebeard owned, though I’ve watched each season of Downton Abby. I’ve never married a murderer.

Fatal Effects is not my life, but you are correct to point out that the violence the book outlines is a violence experienced by women across class. My poem “Inquisitive Faces” explores the ways a woman can be trapped in such a marriage permeated by domestic violence, and despite the privileges class may make available to some, the most dangerous time for any woman is when she leaves her husband. About one third of women murdered are murdered by their intimate partners. The poem “Widower’s Insomnia” seeks to capture what has been called the rising action in the cycle of violence, the time between the honeymoon phase and the violent outburst, when the threat of violence lingers, when the thrum of it vibrates even as he sleeps.

Though I’ve written more on gender violence, I am invested in issues of class and the ways in which such depictions are represented in literature and popular culture. In 2012, the Guerilla Girls performed at the local art museum on campus in the city where I live. I was particularly provoked by their skit on what things have changed since the second wave of the feminist movement and what things have not. For example, they demonstrated how despite forty years of feminist work, still today: “Women make less than men.”

Much as I don’t know what it’s like to live in a world of castles and multiple murdered wives of which the current wife is seemingly unaware, I can imagine a world of equitable pay. I can imagine a world where women are not the victims of violence. Part of why I wrote Fatal Effects is that I sought to imagine that world. In my book, violence is the threat that is the unsaid and the undescribed. It lingers. It is not front and center, blood and gore. I wanted to know the life these women lived, not their demise.

 I think one of our jobs as poets is to bring texts into our classroom that challenge assumptions about privilege, gender, and oppression. I’ve taught Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia, Joy Castro’s The Truth Book, Anne Sexton’s Transformations, as well as books by Dorothy Allison, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Marjane Satrapi, texts that have provided rich opportunities for discussions. I’m wondering if you can talk about important texts in your own teaching and why those texts have helped you be a better writer.

SH: Of course. But first, I just want to say, I’ve had a wonderful time discussing these issues with you, Madeline. Your work speaks for itself, and I have enjoyed, and grown from, the candor and rigor that informs your stunning answers.

I’d like to focus my response on texts for a graduate class that I cannot wait to teach: Contemporary Women’s Trauma Literature. In the course, I’m envisioning teaching works such as Edwidge Dandicat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory; Nancy Venable Raine’s After Silence: Rape & My Journey Back; Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth; Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina; the list goes on—works that directly confront loss, violence, and suffering as it enters and antagonizes a woman’s body, and what is left in those traumatic wakes. One cannot be an effective writer without being an effective reader, and the converse application is true—these things necessarily inform each other. The cycle of reading, writing, and teaching should beautifully intermingle. My goal is to honor these texts by writing passionately in their wake and teaching others to grow from their words.

LMW: It sounds like a wonderful class. Your students will be lucky to have such a smart, talented teacher among them. By the way, I know that you are working on a manuscript that involves the themes we have discussed today, and that a chapbook manuscript from the effort has been circulating. Can you talk about it?

SH: Of course, and thank you so much for your kind words. In 2011, I lost my grandfather to implications related to Korsakoff’s Dementia, a condition onset by chronic alcohol abuse. Because he was as close to a father as I had growing up, his loss got me thinking about how drinking affected my familial relationships at microscopic and macroscopic levels. My grandfather was an accomplished professor, but a heartless man. He would often put my grandmother on bare-bones grocery allowances so he could buy top-shelf gin. When inebriated, he would go into rages that would take a physical toll on his daughters. Yet his behavior, and its intergenerational manifestations, are systemic of the larger negotiation placed on families plagued by shame, addiction and the secrets that inform them. Like many with his condition, he had a secret that none of us learned until his death that I am exploring in my current collection. Many of the women in our family, myself included, spent years drawn to addicted men who would be cruel to us, and many of my aunts and cousins never escaped this tendency. My manuscript concerns memory and addiction as embodied processes, and explores the aftermath of their liaison. I also know you have a chapbook of prose poems forthcoming. Would you talk about it?

LMW: Sure! While I was a fellow at a residency program in Taos, I started a new series on death personified and gendered female. My interests in violence against women (done by men) are evident in what we’ve discussed here. I’m also interested in the ways women are violent. While visiting museums in New Mexico, I discovered art and history exhibits from the nineteenth century on la muerta. For years, I’ve been fascinated with stories of female death such as Demeter and Persephone from Greek mythology, and Inanna from Sumerian mythology. A concurrent interest has been the culture and traditions of the Southwest. I studied Spanish in school and I lived in Arizona during graduate work. Suddenly, all these interests coalesced, sparking the new series and forthcoming chapbook Threnody. The lady of death walked into my poetry, a series about finding and inviting those that needed to climb into her cart.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Sound of Sugar....Erica Dawson

Everybody Down

Around this time of year, someone will fall
Over Great Falls. It could be me if I
Left Tampa’s flatness for Virginia’s drawl.
Altiloquent, high-flying cardinals’ cry

Whit chew. The Civil War has its own app,
e-iPhone forts; but, love rides war roughshod
Over Virginia for lovers and sap
Sugar maples. I could get right with God

Here, and descend from blue preoccupations
Catching humidity latching on white
Oak trees, and tangle with indoctrinations:
Survival of the fittest; fright or flight;

Heat rising. Metamorphic slab for miles
Above the water table, stipule spines
Float somewhere for a stagnant spot. Rock stiles
Tease ticks to Climb back up. The ripples’ brine

Is really schist’s sharp grains. How do you like
Me now, God? Accident of fractured bone,
One with nature, the solstice, and a hike.
I bloom in spring. In spring, I die as stone.




About the Poet:

Erica Dawson’s first collection of poems,
Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser 2007), won the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her new collection, The Small Blades Hurt, is forthcoming from Measure Press. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Poetry: A Pocket Anthology, Harvard Review, and other journals and anthologies. She teaches in the undergraduate, and the low-residency MFA, program at University of Tampa.

About the Sound of Sugar:

We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Sound of Sugar....Charlie Malone

Illusive, Weeded

white chicken feathers scatter across the lawn
red specks glisten wet grass thick with
dandelions.
                  the door to the coop is ajar.

beyond this    flight    thick rows of pine

dead limbs scratch and snap

                                               heart slows
deeper in the woods     skittish deer bed down
within the rectangle of a toppled sugarhouse
bucket rust.

                        pick up a brick and the wet
rotting leaf smell it holds down rises

the cold mass fills small hands.

an earthworm writhes in the vacancy
reddish centipedes scatter

a potato bug rolls in the palm.






About the Poet:
Charlie Malone recently returned to the Midwest to occupy a house in the woods outside a small town home to a not-exactly-small university, Ferris State. Malone studied literature and writing at Kent State and Colorado State and liked it just fine. He is grateful to all his students, teachers, colleagues, his wife, and the the kind editors who see something worthwhile in his work. Charlie's writings can be found in or are forthcoming with The Dunes Review, Phoebe, The Laurel Review, as well as the anthology A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park. 


About the Sound of Sugar:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Sound of Sugar....Steve Langan



THE MIDWEST

I remember this old guy at the bar
where I worked gestured toward a girl
seated with friends at a round table
and said, You really need to learn to pause,
study the small of a woman’s back,
the parallel lines subtly curving upward—
are her shoulders little shouts or whispers?—
and her neck, slightly untuned, does it plead?—
to know how best to begin to pursue her.
But I was mainly interested in scoring then,
in showing you how many bottles I could
hold aloft in the dim light, and getting
and staying loaded for days at a time.

It’s rude to talk too much about yourself.
That’s what we learn here in the Midwest.
Days are numbered, we ask you to contribute
to the bottom line, to catch one another
in your sullen reproaches, crashing swoons,
make it look easy these next squalid hours.
Some little nitpickers claim we’re improving.
But we can’t all be angels of mercy or pain,
hunting and gathering, failing and building,
saving nothing for later, sleeping it all off.



About the Poet:
Steve Langan was born in Milwaukee and raised in Omaha. He earned degrees from the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Langan is the author of Freezing (2001), Notes on Exile and Other Poems (2005), Meet Me at the Happy Bar (2009), and What It Looks Like, How It Flies (2013).




About the Sound of Sugar:
We’ve loved reading the work that we’ve published (clearly), so now we want an opportunity to better hear our contributors. We will feature an audio recording of a poem from one of our seven issues, read by the poet and updated every couple of weeks. This an open invitation to all contributors from any of our issues, we were delighted to print your work, now we’re eager to hear it.