online magazine for short, good writing

Month: December, 2013

5 Words I’m in Love with Right Now and Want to Use in a Poem

by a contributor

from Kathleen Brewin Lewis, author of Ars Poetica, Sort Of:

  1. gravid – 1. Pregnant, carrying eggs or young. 2. Full of meaning or a specified quality. A weighty word for a world of possibility.
  2. facsimile (as opposed to a regular simile) – a copy. But why say something with two syllables when you could say it with four?
  3. pierce – go into or through. Picture a silver needle and scarlet thread pushed through a taught hoop of white cotton. Consider its alliterative synonyms: puncture, penetrate, perceive, permeate. Linger on the ultimate sibilance.
  4. conjure – make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. Isn’t this what poets are supposed to do?
  5. sumac – a flowering tree of the cashew family with red fruit and feathery leaves. Because this earth is full of particulars and I want to be able to name as many of them as I possibly can.

Ars Poetica, Sort Of

by a contributor

Kathleen Brewin Lewis

Because you think your poetry has become too full of clear skies and morning birdsong, you begin breaking your pills in half. There’s a little line in the middle of the peachy, oval medication you take each day indicating it is designed to be divided. The act makes a small but satisfying popping sound. Now you take only half of a pill per diem.

After a couple of days, a little fog rolls in, but just around the periphery. You can feel your bruises again, can finger the bumpy ridges on your scars—old friends. You’re back to arranging your words in a beat-up notebook in random coffee shops, and what you write about has an edge. Not a black hole, just an edge. You can still be chirpy with your friends and family, like they like you to be, which is why you keep taking half a pill.

You realize you had actually missed crying, like you’d miss the rain if it never fell anymore. Similarly there are days you think you just might jiggle for joy. And there are other benefits to cutting your dose in half: You can have two glasses of wine without feeling like your tongue is malfunctioning. You don’t fall asleep with your mouth hanging open in the movies. You write better poetry when you are pissed at your boyfriend. Or at least you write faster, pounding away on the keyboard or bearing down hard with that pencil, putting urgency–and a kind of insurgency–into your work.

Here’s the thing: it’s supposed to hurt when the hardwoods start to drop their leaves; it’s appropriate to be filled with feeling when the sun lowers itself into the sea.  Hunky-dory turns out to be half-hearted. There’s no more riveting place from which to write than what feels like the beginning of the end.

Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yemassee, Southern Humanities Review, Foundling Review, Heron Tree, Weave Magazine, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. V: Georgia. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is senior editor of Flycatcher journal. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University.

5 Things I Read at Christmastime (and Maybe You Should Too)

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

’Tis the season for joy and generosity and good cheer and family.  And after about five minutes of that, ’tis the season for a break, amiright?  Let’s be honest: we love our families…in doses.  Anyone who’s pushed small children to the ground on their way to bethe first volunteer to make a last-minute grocery run alone knows exactly what I’m talking about.

And that’s why God (or Santa, if that’s your thing) invented books.  These are my five favorites to escape into during this joyous season of love and sharing.

Editor’s note: I realize the last entry on this list is a movie.  I couldn’t think of any other books that I read at Christmastime, and didn’t want to lie, what with Santa watching, so just go with it.

  1. Lamb! The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal:  You can’t have a Christmas-themed list without including a Jesus-themed book, right?  Regardless of your creed, this book hits the spot, so long as you have a sense of humor.  Chapter One opens with a six-year-old Jesus repeatedly resurrecting a lizard every time his little brother bashes it to death with a rock; so right away, you know you’re in good hands.  Christopher Moore takes tremendous creative liberty in theorizing what Jesus (and his wacky pal, Biff) did during those mysterious years the Bible doesn’t cover.  It’s important to note: this is 100% fiction, hardly historically accurate, and all in good fun.  And (spoiler alert), the ending is a tearjerker.
  2. Pride and Prejudice: I can’t explain why I read this one at Christmas; something about winter just inspires the desire to do so.  (Gloomy weather makes me feel British, maybe?)  A friend of mine dubbed P&P the quintessential “chick lit,” and I can’t argue with him.  I laugh, I cry, I curse the obstacles that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy face, and cheer when they overcome them.  This is the 18th century’s version of When Harry Met Sally, or literally any other romantic comedy ever.  Thanks for setting the standard, Jane Austen.
  3. Any of the Harry Potter books:  Except the last one, because Christmas in that one is kind of a bummer.  But any of the others will suffice, because J.K. Rowling never fails to include some kind of holiday cheer in each book.  Personally, I think the first one is best, because c’mon, who doesn’t read that and wish they were getting their own invisibility cloak under the tree?
  4. A Visit from St. Nicholas: First of all, I didn’t realize this poem wasn’t simply called “Twas the Night before Christmas,” until I Googled it.  Anyway, my father has read this book aloud to my brothers and sister and I every year for as long as I can remember, probably since my sister was a toddler.  We’ve been scattered across cities, states, and continents – rarely in the same place anymore – but without fail, come Christmas Eve, we’re gathered around the phone on speaker, or FaceTime on someone’s iPad, or Skype on someone’s laptop, anxiously awaiting the moment when Dad gleefully recites, “That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly,” exactly the same way he does every year.
  5. A Muppet Christmas Carol:  I realize this is based on an incredibly famous and beloved Christmas book, but since I don’t read A Christmas Carol every year, suggesting I do would be disingenuous (and like I said, Santa is watching).  However, I do make every effort to watch some movie version of the story, and this one is my favorite.  There is Muppet greatness from start to finish: from the talking vegetable shrieking as a street urchin steals it, to those rats singing, “This is my island in the sun, oyoy!”  But if Muppets aren’t your thing – I hope you’re getting coal in your stocking! – you can default to another excellent rendition of Dickens’s classic tale: Scrooged!

Merry Christmas, boys and girls.  I hope you got everything you wanted.  Now put a smile on your face and go back to your family!

Happy holidays from the Treehouse crew!

by Treehouse Editors

We hope you enjoy yourself this week with friends, family, and—most importantly—good things to read.

This Week in Words – Dec 21

by Treehouse Editors

compiled by Rachel Bondurant

We’re still in the market for readers, so send me an e-mail at if you’re interested!

Coming up this week: some holiday goodness from us here at Treehouse.

And because it’s Christmas, I only have this to say.

And this.

And also, of course: Happy Holidays.

5 Places I Have Taken Accidental Naps

by a contributor

from Sarah Kay, author of Yolk:

  1. In a pew at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
  2. In a car parked in the middle of the crowds of tourists at the San Francisco Wharf.
  3. On a bus that was driving through the West Bank.
  4. On the rock beach in Nice, France.
  5. On Amtrak, somewhere between Providence and NYC.


by a contributor

Sarah Kay

For the guy who threw an egg at me from his car window.

Hey. Thanks for coming.
You know, I haven’t ever done one of these before,
and I didn’t know whether you’d show up,
so I’m glad I recognized you.

I mean, you were exactly like your description said you’d be—
Big black sports car,
muscular ego,
really good aim.

And I’m glad, because I hate when people advertise themselves as something they’re not
and then you meet them in person and are disappointed.
It’s why I don’t wear makeup. So you always know that what you see
is pretty much what you get. That’s why my description reads:

Skin—inclined towards bruising.
Hair for days—of face hiding.
Big, giant—self-consciousness that you can really grab with both hands.
I’m glad we’re both honest.

Look, I know it’s past my bedtime,
and a nice girl like me probably shouldn’t be out on the street but
if you get to know me better, you’ll find my eye-lashes are the most stubborn part of me.
They love late night haunts, wouldn’t trade them for all the pillows in the world.

Plus, if I was at home right now,
this street corner never would have served its purpose:
the perfect spot for this rendez-vous.
You—tall, dark and speeding.
Me—bottomless pit of bad reflexes.
What a perfect match.

I wish I had had more time to prepare,
I could have gotten dressed up for the occasion.
Now I’m embarrassed, really,
that you put in so much effort, and here I am
wearing nothing but an easy target.

Sarah Kay is a poet from New York City who has been performing her spoken word poetry since she was fourteen years old. She is perhaps best known for her talk at the 2011 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA, which garnered two standing ovations and has moved audiences around the world. Sarah holds a Masters Degree in The Art of Teaching from Brown University and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Grinnell College. Her first book, B was ranked #1 Poetry Book on Amazon. Her second book, No Matter the Wreckage is available from Write Bloody Publishing. Sarah is the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry as a literacy and empowerment tool in schools and communities around the world. For more, see:

See Sarah’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.