online magazine for short, good writing

Month: February, 2013

5 Poets You Should Devour (if you haven’t already)

by a contributor

from Gina Vaynshteyn, author of We Have Two More Months to Live:

  1. Mindy Nettifee
    Her name literally means “Nice Fairy” in German and thus, her poetry is blessed by infinite fairy dust magic. Mindy Nettifee is honest, poignant, and funny; her poems explore her upbringing and what it means to rise up when you have fallen so deeply and devastatingly. Read Rise of the Trust Fall or Sleepyhead Assassins.
  2. Daphne Gottlieb
    Daphne is in your face and her words punch through brick walls. Her poetry deals with feminism, brutality, and violence; it’s not a soft read and it’s a tremendous experience. She finds words and phrases for things that no one else can or would. Read Final Girl and find her on YouTube for the full Daphne experience.
  3. Ilya Kaminsky
    Ilya is one of my professors, so maybe I’m biased when I say that his poetry transcends music and goes beyond wavelengths. But I don’t think so. Ilya Kaminsky is a talented writer who has won almost every single poetry prize there is. Read Dancing in Odessa and be prepared to simultaneously sob and grin like a six year-old.
  4. Maggie Nelson
    Using the words “beautiful,” “serene,” and “complex” doesn’t even justify or half-heartedly describe Maggie Nelson’s poetry. In  Bluets, she writes this gorgeous dissertation on the color “blue” and its longing implications. I’ve never seen a poet do that. When I graduated college, I used one of the poems from her book, Something Bright, Then Holes to decorate my cap. I glittered with hope.
  5. Allison Benis White
    I was lucky enough to study under her during my undergrad. Allison is one of the nicest, smartest poets I know. Self-Portrait with Crayon is one of those books that masterfully illustrates absence, loneliness, and broken families, and she does this through the lens of Degas.

We Have Two More Months to Live

by a contributor

Gina Vaynshteyn

And the neighbors have been stocking up on water bottles and canned sweet potatoes,
they have been hoarding the grocery store’s supply of chewable vitamins, original flavor Top Ramen, concentrated orange juice for the scurvy, and paperback Sudoku for the brain.
The grandparents have been crying tears of unabashed ecstasy and relief;
they want to be there already.

Google assures us it’s pure miscalculation,
but I know better. Everyone is going a little bit crazy, even the level-headed
12th grade calculus teacher, who keeps writing the sign infinity on the white board,
going over the loops again and again in blue marker.

I walk into town like a delinquent cowgirl,
and I promise myself to really take it over like a true conquistador:
no mercy, possible bloodshed.

Every bar is offering drinks half-off and doomsday specials;
I am already drunk off my own self-power, it radiates like purple test-tubes,
like the x-rays of Hernan Cortez or Queen Elizabeth I.
I have already won over the night, now it’s time to show this city,
weak from fear and abandonment that all I wanted was everything,
like all adventurous women do.

For two months, everything is mine.
The trees uproot themselves for me, and begin to formulate tree-branch paintings.
The hunky, heartless wrestlers on T.V. weep, just to prove me wrong.
The Bachelor from season three elopes with his chunky high-school lover,
and the constellations admit there was an error five hundred years back;
with this star-dust knowledge, we are all brand new people.

The very last day on earth is beautiful.
The farmer’s market announces everything must go; everyone takes glorious
bites of black cherries and papayas all day long. There is no stopping us.
The beach is extra cold and salty, some dip their hands and feet
into the water to feel the tingle on their skin; everyone will especially miss this
I have made sure there is no stupidity, no last-minute Nordstrom robberies
or jealousy-fueled stabbings.
If you ruin this for me, I promise you’ll pay for it
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun set in a darker orange.

Gina Vaynshteyn studies and writes poetry in San Diego. So far, her work has been featured in Bop Dead City, The California Journal of Women Writers, and is forthcoming in Milk Sugar. You can read her book reviews on The Rumpus and light-hearted words of advice on HelloGiggles. Gina frequently updates her twitter @ginainterrupted, especially if she thinks she’s being funny.

See Gina’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

This Week in Words – Feb 23

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Gulf Coast managing editor Karyna McGlynn lists her (fantastic) choices for the top sixteen “sexiest lit mag covers in the last six years.” Side note: this is not a bad source if you’re looking to pick up a new lit mag subscription.

Avi Steinberg writes about Louis C.K. in The New Yorker this week, comparing him to Gogol. Technically, this is a lit-related link; if nothing else, it’s writing-related, and why am I explaining my decision-making process? (Full disclosure: I’m mostly including this because my sister and I love Louis C.K. and think you should too. So there’s the truth.)

This mini-interview in Book Riot led to my favorite recent discovery: Paperless Posts. Apparently, this mostly online correspondence company draws inspiration from their literary background when drafting the sample print for their invitations and cards. An invitation to the Kennedy family’s Easter party at the White House in 1961, for example. A Mother’s Day card from Sigmund Freud. You get the idea.

And if you need a fiction fix until our next piece publishes on Monday, check out “All She Had” by Jessica Richardson in Hobart Pulp. A story about a girl and her grandfathers.

Personal Investments

by a contributor

a brief encounter by JJ Lynne

Two minutes to departure.
I bet you won’t show,
and the pug-nosed conductor says
I ought to board alone
if I want to break into
Boston before six – riding
in a gun’s predestined slug,
loaded with bodies lurching
toward home, lunging
for each discoteca, porno bistro,
hardcore show burning
at the fringe of the bullet hole.

In this explosion, we
could be the nucleus –
catalyst, if you prefer speed
to stability. I, for one –
better for all – subscribe
to an allegiance of agility,
admiring the dotted line
that traces Scorpio on this
ballerina’s back, or the mark
on your hand where a once frozen
pizza – hissing, molten –
burned a map of Florida’s coast.
I’ve been burned, too,
you just haven’t seen the scars yet,
etched onto blood cells
and pressed into the reverse side
of tacky paper skin.
Even after scraping at tar-
black toast, the taste is the same,
that of metal coils and their aftermath.

It’s a minute past.
You’re damn lucky
the engineer’s bladder –
fat jellyfish sac –
bulged with a beg for delay.
First dates are too much
like physical exams.
The anticipations and wait,
applied pressure and probing –
a mental disrobing with a
dressed-up shakedown
of experience, then and now.
Like any doctor, you treat
clients as you treat dates
and times – with acknowledgment,
without priority – the difference
is that years into the game
you will be worth the late start
and uninsured co-pay –
an investment well placed
on a map of City Hall Plaza;
in a game of show to tell.

JJ Lynne is a recent graduate of Merrimack College where she earned her BA in English. Her poems have won first and second prizes in the annual Rev. John R. Aherne Poetry Contest and her poetry and photography have recently appeared in The ScramblerCommon Ground Review, and [PANK] under her birth name.

5 Things About Two Worlds

by a contributor

from Michael Landweber, author of Climate Change:

  1. A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
    Antarctica (life during the apocalyse) and the City (afterlife during the apocalypse)
  2. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
    Tokyo (vaguely apocalyptic) and the Town (surreal subconscious walled community)
  3. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
    Los Angeles (approaching apocalyptic) and the Metaverse (virtual reality of the prophetic variety)
  4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    Midwest U.S. (pre-inevitable-apocalyptic) and the OASIS (virtual reality of the nostalgic variety)
  5. Hannah Montana
    Teenage Life (domestic OMG apocalyptic) and Pop Stardom (virtual reality of the Disney variety)

Climate Change

by a contributor

Michael Landweber

The Storm came for Jimmy last Tuesday. Me, Cal and Ralston were sitting on the porch, drinking beer, watching the street like usual, when it appeared ’cross the way in front of Jimmy’s house.

It was just like we’d seen on the news. Just like all those videos on YouTube.

My favorite video is one of the first ones. You know the one that was took in the subway in New York. Some tourist was shooting movies of his family when the cloud appeared, that dark familiar cloud, a thunderhead in a bottle. It just oozed out of the ceiling and hovered there for a moment, growing larger, blocking out a couple of the fluorescent lights. There’d been some reports by then, so folks knew what was coming and they started screaming and running, but they’re on a subway platform, so there’s really no place to go. This was before we all knew running didn’t make no difference. The tourist kept rolling, though his wife told him to get the hell out of there and his kids were crying in the background. He just keeps shooting, steady as a government job, keeping the Storm in his sights, even as it moves toward him, then over him, then past him. It stops over this young guy with scraggly hair on his face and none on the top of his head. Now we all know what’s coming, but he didn’t really, not then. So, he moves left and the cloud stays over him and then he moves right and it follows. The rain starts down on him. Everyone else has scattered away, so he’s the only one getting wet. And he stops fighting it, just stands there, soaking in it, as the tornado drops down around him and the lightning starts crackling inside it. After a minute, it all just disappears, the tornado, the lightning, the cloud, the guy, gone.

Turns out the cloud is really small. No bigger than a Buick. And in person, it ain’t that big a deal, just hanging there, threatening to rain on someone. For a moment, before it headed toward Jimmy’s front door, I wondered if it was gonna come get one of us instead. You do feel that in your throat, I have to admit, the possibility of it.

“Should we call Jimmy,” Cal said, not really a question.

“Nah,” Ralston said, reaching down for his spare bottle. “Wouldn’t matter none.”

He was right about that, of course. When the Storm comes for you, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. Just let it take you. That’s why me and Cal and Ralston sat on the porch and drank a bit in our spare time, rather than hiding like some folks. Folks like Jimmy who didn’t go to work no more and stayed in their basements all day and read the websites trying to figure out how to outsmart the Storm. I like some of the websites, the one with the ticker in particular, that one that tells you how many people the Storm’s gotten so far. Don’t know how the guy knows how many have disappeared – the Storm’s popping up in more and more places these days – but he claims to know and it’s more interesting than the sites that want $19.95 to tell you how to survive, more honest I think. Last I checked, the Storm had taken nearly ten thousand, but that was a couple of days ago, before Jimmy.

People been praying a lot, saying this is the apocalypse. The End Days, one person at a time. Others think it is aliens or maybe the government or maybe someone else’s government. No one really knows.

The lights went out in Jimmy’s house, all of them. That’s one of the first things the websites say to do, like the Storm has eyes or something, like it can’t see in the dark. Those sites are full of it – no one knows what the Storm is. No one knows why it comes for some or who’s gonna be next. No one knows. Jimmy must’ve figured out it had come for him – maybe he heard the rustling of the wind or felt the change in air pressure. So what’d he do? Turned out his goddamned lights.

The Storm disappeared through Jimmy’s front door. So much for all that security we saw him installing a couple weeks ago. For a few minutes, nothing happened and we thought maybe Jimmy got this one covered, maybe he’s got this rap beat, maybe he’d be a celebrity living through the Storm and all, and folks would want to talk to us and put us on the news because we were there when it happened.

No such luck. We saw the flashes through the basement windows. One two three, then gone. Then, silence and darkness from Jimmy’s house. Cal took out his cell phone to call the hotline just like they said to do on the TV. Scientists and government folks will come out and check out Jimmy’s house and take some samples that won’t help much. No one needs to get the body – there ain’t none to be got.

I reached into the cooler for another beer and listened to Cal call in the sighting.

“Jimmy oughta known better,” Ralston said, handing me the bottle opener.

I cracked the cap right off and took a long, deep swig, knowing without a doubt that that was the damn whole truth.

Michael Landweber’s stories have appeared in Fugue, Fourteen Hills, Gargoyle, Barrelhouse and a bunch of other places. His first novel, We, will be published by Coffeetown Press in September 2013. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor at Pop Matters. He won’t find it at all creepy if you follow him @mlandweber.

See Michael’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

This Week in Words – Feb 16

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

The Millions resumes their practice of judging books by their covers this week, comparing U.S. and U.K. cover art for the books in the Morning News Tournament of Books.

Flavorwire’s got a list of 17 essays by women that are must-reads, thanks to Creative Nonfiction and the VIDA Count. (Incidentally, CNF published an interview/conversation between Elissa Bassist and Cheryl Strayed about writing “like a motherfucker.” It’s also worth reading.)

In the realm of fiction and poetry, these pieces caught my eye this week:

Kate Wheeler’s “Girltown” in Electric Lit’s Recommended Reading is a story in which, oddly refreshingly, “nothing happens.”

In [PANK], Rae Gouirand’s poem “In Lieu of Questions” caught me for the pieces: “this suspension we call late,” “between our two houses,” “let me strip you of name and skin like this.”

And Brenda Ordonez’s fiction piece “Ghosts” in matchbook has its roots in the very real element of alienation.