online magazine for short, good writing

Month: September, 2013

This Week in Words – Sept 28

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

I’ve been talking about this book a lot.  So how about I let someone else give it a try for a change?  Say, Steve Almond?

This past Tuesday was National Punctuation Day!!! ! &…. That’s how one celebrates, I suppose? — Anyway, Mary Norris ruminates about NPD (that acronym is going to catch on, I can feel it) over at The New Yorker.

Also this week, and ending today, is Banned Books Week!  My favorite literary week of the year!  MediaBistro offers a list of this year’s most challenged books – which you can also find here – and links to samples of each.  Do yourself a favor though: don’t read the sample for 50 Shades of Grey.  It claims to have been banned for being “sexually explicit” and containing “offensive language,” which I think means curse words and such, but if you’ve read any of it, you know they mean it’s offensive to the institution of language.

Recommended reading: Go here, read about banned or challenged books, then select one and read it.  If you’re overwhelmed with too many choices, you can start with the list of my favorites I wrote last year.


by a contributor

John Grey

Drummer recedes into his brushes.
Pianist’s hands barely scrape the keyboard.
Trumpeter’s instrument drops to his side
like the wing of a golden eagle at rest.
No guitar. No vibes. No saxophone.
Six feet of lanky legs, horn-rimmed glasses,
black matted hair, step forward.
Clarinet floats to the lips.
The band form one glistening shadow
to the breezy spotlight of wind through wood.
Breath follows the sound in his head.
His fingers dance proof of the resonance of ring-keys.
The melody passed around like a last cigarette
now takes its delight in the one mouth,
the one brisk sweat drop
drying over the vent hole.

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Chrysalis and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze” with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Sanskrit and Fox Cry Review.

Brief Encounter: Lost Things

by Treehouse Editors

Supposedly the average person spends at least 16 minutes a day looking for lost items. This could end up being almost a year of your lifetime looking for all those mismatched socks, keys, phones, debit cards, or glasses (good luck with that one). What were you looking for in that year?

As always, Brief Encounters should be no longer than 400 words. BE’s should be labeled as such in a Word .doc to distinguish from general submissions. Feel free to send more than one. Deadline is October 10th.

This Week in Words – Sept 21

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Kelly Ramsey’s “Senator Max Baucus Leaves Five Tips” (published in Treehouse on August 7) is featured this month as The Committee Room’s Story of the Month! If you haven’t already, you can read the story here.

Jack Handey, brilliant comedy writer who worked on “The Simpsons” and “Saturday Night Live,” has a new book out. It’s a novel, but it reads as if the main character is the guy who was thinking all those Deep Thoughts we loved so much from the 90s. It’s called The Stench of Honolulu and you can buy it here.

Here’s a whole mess of books you should read that have been translated into English somewhere down the line, brought to you by Flavorwire.

This has nothing to do with anything, but it made me laugh so there you go.

Ode to Pablo Neruda

by a contributor

Meghan Flaherty

Dear Pablo Neruda,

They exhumed you on April 8th. Matilde will be furious. They cracked wide your crypt and jimmied out your casket, just like they did to Salvador Allende. There were reporters, television cameras, flashbulbs. And the sickly scent of death – real or imagined – in the nostrils of all present, lingering for weeks. Perhaps they’ll find that you were poisoned, correcting the myth you died of prostate cancer – that blocked old man’s disease.

Certainly in art you were not blocked. Truth is I hate you for being so prolific. As of 1968, your Obras Completas boasted 3,237 poems. Everybody translates you. Everybody buys the slim pink volume of your love poems. Men call you the Godfather of Love. I don’t even know why I am writing you. I’m not that big a fan. There are so many other poets – under-sung and under-read (and unexhumed) – trampled by your flat-foot stomping across the public heart.

In school, it was nice to have my nakedness compared to one of my hands (I feel more ladylike with you than with edward estlin, my hands being so much bigger than the rain’s). I’ve always wanted to be lisa, terrestre, mínima, redonda, transparente. You’re like the Billy Collins of Chile of your time – if he had had a dictator to cross, a civil war to wail about. You both are impure poets. You write of “flowers, wheat, and water” … “stained by food and shame” and “wrinkles, observations, dreams” … “beasts, blows, idylls” and et cetera. You both write with the “sentimentalism of another age, the pure imperfect fruit.”

(“moonlight, the swan at dusk, ‘my beloved’”)

My bad taste cometh before my fall.

But you persist. You hold the reader’s hand.

Your cronies say “we aren’t romantic soloists on this sky island of earth.” But if not that then what were you?

It’s not that you didn’t say anything. It’s that you said so much. You wrote an ode to everything. The darling of the lettered world.

I’m not excited by your words so much as comforted by them. They sound like poetry sounds to anyone in elementary school – bland and universally beautiful – trancelike – clichés cascading over river stones – subjectless – the language barriers broken down.

Animals and elements we do not need to see to touch.

You are all sex, pastoral love, shadowy fish, and butterflies of dreams. Breasts that smell of honeysuckle. And gunpowder and bells and docks and trees. Leather oceans and multiplied tomatoes rolling down to sea. It’s easy poetry. It flows now as it flowed from you. It’s background music, words to be incanted in the background.

Yet, dear nonetheless, melancólico varón varonil, was it all that simple? Did you not struggle? Did you not say you sometimes found yourself somewhere between shadow and space (sombra, espacio). Did you not labor just like everybody else to answer all those objects knocking, struggling to be named? To get that first green petal of an ode to show herself your sister?

You wrote a poem in just once sentence – as if running out of time (or space, or breath). You spoke of absent thirst for the invisible water, for wisps of sound to come out to your nascent ear, for Erato to come begging for lo profético in you. Your translators don’t seem to understand the title – Arte Poética – or that here, finally, this (and maybe also in your ode to la pereza) is where you confess to being just like every other writer grappling in the darkness (blankness) of the empty page. Maybe you didn’t fuss too much with words. But you surely wrassled images and sounds. You lassoed ideas from the ether, then fumbled to identify them. Just like everybody else.

You weren’t quite so hubristic as I thought. You let yourself be seen as a humiliated waiter, an old mirror, the smell of a house alone (not lonely) that’s been strewn with drunken guests and piles of clothes. You stayed up nights and let the wind whip through your chest and it was melancholy, violent.

You were Adam naming animals.
Making real from trembling abstract.

You were apportioned with that singular heart (or did you mean ‘unique,’ ‘unusual,’ ‘peculiar’? did you mean ‘endowed’?).

You were like a bell that’s gone a little hoarse. Your dreams were fatal too.

But, so wrote Jim Harrison, your poetry “always returns to earth.”

Always back to dust, enormous calabashes, plums in mouths.

Sometime late this summer, so will you.

Meghan Flaherty is an MFA Candidate at Columbia University in Nonfiction and Literary Translation. She writes memoir, translates poetry and prose from Spanish, and is currently working on a book-length personal history of Argentine tango. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Alchemy, PrintedColumbia: A Journal Of Literature and Art, The New Inquiry, and the Iowa Review

This Week in Words – Sept 14

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

Happy Football Season from the folks at American Short Fiction!

The shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize has been released. You can watch the Vine version or read a list that won’t give you a headache instead.

Good things abound for our friends at A Strange Object.The Austin Chronicle is simply raving over them. And there’s a wicked little book trailer getting the word out for their first release Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce. It comes out October 1st but you can pre-order here. (I’ve read it and – spoiler alert! – it’s a truly excellent collection of stories.)

You’re on your own for reading recommendations this week. Or how about this: Write something remarkable. Read that.

5 Things Not to Say to a Person Writing a 5 Things Piece at the Very Last Minute

by a contributor

from Vicki Wilson, author of Love, The Finger Bullets, and The Widow:

  1. “Oh, for God’s sake, it’s only five things, how hard can it be?”
  2. [Whispered]“Are you sure this Tree Swing magazine is, well, legit?”
  3. “The lawn is not going to mow itself.”
  4. “Hmm, I’m not sure people will really ‘get’ that.”
  5. “It’s okay, honey, but did you read the other ones? I mean, they’re, like, good.”