Editors’ Notes (Posit 19)

 

Welcome to Posit 19!  If literature is a movable feast, then the prose and poetry in this issue is especially rich: rich in imagination, rich in resonance, and rich in story.

Given that, as Buzz Spector points out, “in modern America / we need a new understanding of myth” (In Modern America), we’ve brought together a variety of tales whose brevity belies the depth of their emotional register, as does the thin and potent line on which they tread — or rather, dance: between universal and specific, archetype and individual. We’re thinking not only of the powerful prose of Jefferson Navicky, Marvin Shackelford, Stephen Nelson, and Daniel Uncapher, but also (since, as Matthew Cooperman reminds us in Gaseous Ode, “we don’t have to balkanize”) the lineated verses of Elizabeth Robinson’s After the Flood, Adam Day’s ‘neighbor’ poems, David Rock’s ‘homunculus’ poems, and Tongo Eisen-Martin’s unvarnished yet rousing evocations of our shamefully culpable polis.

And stretching that thin line even further to challenge the notion of authorship itself, we include a remarkable sampling of Laurie Kolp’s centos, and Buzz Spector’s collage poems.

Here’s what you will find in this delicious issue:

In Matthew Cooperman’s diverse trio of new poems, “[p]oetry readings are pretty cool but the format’s all wrong,” although “the awkward fumbling human figure and voice . . .[is] a good messenger” due, perhaps, to the way “senses / merge in the strange O chasm of the throat.” With unpretentious erudition, sonorous fluency, and a relaxed mastery of the line, he contemplates the Mother, the “Futurity of [her] Absence, stitchery in its indigo” and asks “What is it to make same and different? / What is it to make a difference?” when “[t]he earth is hot tonight with all of its angers.” Perhaps it is to “write a poem / with everything in it — ‘a beautiful abundance’” like we find in these rich new works.

With irresistible grace and unflinching directness, Adam Day’s terse, tightly-packed verses probe the resonant physicality of nameless but entirely specific, deeply recognizable ‘neighbors.’ These poems are populated with Everywomen and men who, like our ‘real’ neighbors, “believe most fantastic statements; nothing / to do with truth but opinions // which change” in this “[w]orld bent // on splitting itself” in a time — this time — when “[h]istory / [is] deformed by facts no longer.”

Turning his powerful attention to the forgotten and the ignored in plain sight, Tongo Eisen-Martin embraces his “new existence as living graffiti” to expose how “[t]he ruling class floats baskets of swathed neighborhoods off to be adopted” according to the “terrible rituals they have around the corner. . . let[ting] their elders beg for public mercy …beg for settler polity.” In a history covered up and buried by religion, “heaven sure is secretive” despite “[t]he staircase under this slavery / And one hundred slaves.” On these streets, in this country, Eisen-Martin deeply listens, making it impossible not to hear: “please give me / spare change and your word that I won’t be missing in a year,” since, “as is the custom, two humans make a humanity.”

In these haunting poems, Jessica Goodfellow sends us postcards from insomnia and relates grief to the “paradox of Gabriel’s Horn” which “can be explained by the method of infinitesimals, by partitions so small you can never see them.” Postcards evokes the punishing wakefulness of “all night turning sinistral shells over and over in your hand. At daybreak, lobbing them back into the sea,” at times when “[t]he night sky might think of stars as scars — pinpoints where memory burns and burns” — not unlike the revived bereavement that strikes when we reconsider what we thought we knew, “stupidly forgetting” what the reader of these poems cannot, that “depthless means both shallow and unfathomably deep.”

Built entirely from the phrasings of other poets, Laurie Kolp’s centos display remarkable conceptual unity as well as seamless musicality. These poems combine lines by poets such as Neruda, Frost, Bukowski, Smith, and Voung to trace the arcs of their internal arguments with a grace which not only gives the lie to the dread anxiety of influence, but poses a fundamental challenge to our concept of the meaning — and the significance — of originality. In so doing, they broaden our idea of what constitutes poetic ‘material,’ and demonstrate the transformative impact of context.

In Matthew Kosinski’s hands, the poetic phrase beguiles and challenges in equal measure, daring us to keep up with the honed force of its clarity and paradox. Like the “savior music” they describe, these verses “accomplish transfiguration” by ranging “from a shiver to a howl” in the face of which, happily, “conventional wisdom balks.”

Jefferson Navicky’s bracingly original yet understated tales flicker between the surreal and the recognizable. The Butler’s Life depicts an unexpected and yet recognizable servitude, considering how much we will sacrifice to avoid abandoning another post. And the dark fairy tale, Moon Park, contemplates what we will do to “smell all the smells under the smells,” and “hear what’s really there.”

Stephen Nelson’s The Woods Are Mine tweaks such tropes of the 19th century novel as the train, the woods, the castle, the Duke, the convent, and the intimate narration by a mysterious stranger who “wanted people in passing trains to see [him] covered in leaves” because he “thought that might be of interest.” In Nelson’s hands, these familiar elements are subtly and intriguingly skewed, inhabiting a dream-like world in which “[t]he clouds were entertaining divas” and “[t]he leaves were sad songs the man hummed along to;” an interior world, perhaps, in which “nothing can ever be proven” and “[t]here is no political answer for loneliness.”

In After the Flood, Elizabeth Robinson ponders the uneasy state of our relationship to nature and each other. “What is your stake in this?” the narrator is asked, while volunteering at a homeless shelter. Although she offers food to a man “whose presence is fundamentally unhoused” he ends up disappearing. It occurs to her “that all attention is a form of loss because it cannot create perfect reciprocity with its focus.” Nonetheless, despite the fact that “[t]he world, we may agree, is ending badly,” “there are ameliorating coincidences. There are pleasures.” Perhaps the poet’s stake, and our own, is that “[d]espair may always be true, with its glare,” but “beside or aside it, rapture has its own kind of patience, groping in the dark.”

David Rock’s meditations on human agency borrow Descartes’ notion of the ‘homunculus’ to juxtapose and collapse the trappings of ordinary contemporary life with that of a Tibetan Monk, Odysseus, the victims of the Siege of Leningrad, and Moses, demonstrating that “[a]ll situations are life-and-death situations” in a reality, like ours, in which “the world could always end / but hasn’t” and “it would be a shame / to bail on what’s left of a pretty good party.”

Marvin Shackelford returns to Posit with two more exceptional stories, proffering their characteristically unsentimental but deeply compassionate insight into the messy interior of the human predicament. With masterful, economical, and often lyrical prose, these stories suggest what it is to “take to the world and empty your soul into it,” trying your best to get “’[f]ar as forever until now gets you.”

Even while they fashion new wholes from the found language, colors, and textures which Buzz Spector dismantles and reassembles, his collages underscore the pervasive quality of disconnection permeating literary culture “in modern America” — especially “the dangerous effects of living a lie.” What emerges from these recombined and fractionated book blurbs floating on colored paper fields are meta-texts built from meta-texts. The results not only expose but repurpose the misleading grandiosity of blurbs as a cultural convention — even, and perhaps especially, in the face of their raison d’être, as inherently secondary to the books they praise. In the process, these collages offer a clear but pixelated view — and hence, critique — of the culture from which they spring: the “hypocrisies, and desires” “that characterize our historical moment.”

And Daniel Uncapher’s Vanishing Point is a hypnotic incantation to an individual psyche (Sam) as well as to the infinite multiplicity of psyches contemplated by reincarnation (Samsara). In this rhythmic, compelling litany of sound and image, the narrator’s identity “remain[s] a mystery” even as we “[come] to terms with far more impenetrable myths.” This piece opens the reader’s mind to no less than “the defining quality of things” inherent in the beautiful truth of “meaning without mark, presence without trace . . . the suprastructure of mappable worlds.”

With our gratitude for your interest and attention,

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 19!

Gabe Brown offers a beautifully designed meditation upon the balance between the natural and man-made worlds. Her thoughtfully constructed paintings consistently evoke a gentle back and forth between naturalistic elements and a synthesized universe. They are suffused with rich and generous color which harmonizes the elements in each painting to imagine the possibility of an artistic universe free of conflict, suffused by beauty and delight.

Riffing on the form of hat known as a ‘fez,’ Camille Eskell works with complex notions of identity, cultural heritage, and religion. Her pieces tell her own family story, tracing their journey through the Middle East and India. At the same time, this work embraces a wider sense of history and storytelling, posing questions applicable to all families with rich and complex histories. Exquisitely crafted from both traditional and non- traditional materials, this body of work is deeply moving, even as it transcends genres.

Though the timeline of the work represented here is wide, this selection demonstrates Melissa Meyer’s longstanding interest in collage, and the consistent way in which she has approached it. The works from the early 70’s reveal deep connections to the pieces from 2018. Rich layers of jewel-tones carry an almost musical beat, and her forms practically dance off the page. They are joyful and vibrant, expressing a deep love of the medium, and of the act of creation.

In his current work, Joakim Ojanen creates a gentle, funny, universe full of humor and emotion. His deceptively childlike figures portray a profoundly human desire to connect with each other, and with and us. They smile at the viewer with a delicate and goofy plea to be liked. Ojanen creates a beguiling mixture of tenderness, humor, innocence, and technical sophistication. Working in clay and simple glazed colors, he captures the small moments in life that often linger in our memories.

Etty Yaniv’s densely layered assemblage and collage works make one keenly aware of the materiality of her practice. Her pieces pop off of the canvas, and then sink back into it. The fluidity with which her rich and wide array of materials are handled —from found objects to paint and paper — creates the impression that her pieces were “born” the way we find them. Although labor- and process-intensive, this work has a deep sense of grace. Each of these pieces carries us through its private narrative, enveloping us in its own story.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editors’ Notes (Posit 18)

 

Welcome to Posit 18! We are very excited to offer this stellar selection of poetry, prose, and visual art for your summer reading pleasure. And we do mean pleasure! For as varied and innovative as these works are, we believe they are unified by a subtle and surprising kind of classicism.

We are thinking, in part, of the time-honored approach to art-making captured with such charm and perspicacity by Helen Hofling’s process statement for her pieces from Tender the Night, which “muse on roaring nights, given and profited from, pilfering mass media, art, the vault of my life and the lives of near ones, poking around the basement of theft and offer.”

We have in mind, as well, the equally subtle, surprising, and essential ways these works are animated by a sense of story. By which we mean Ravitte Kentwortz’s notion of the juncture “in between / things, the story, an act / of fissure,” “between / an anima and an other.” (On Notes on Wall). As well as the kind of verses in which “no one knows what is coming,” although they are “cooler than duke ellington / on a swedish night.” (Kwame Opoku-Duku, politics, the old head verses (ecclesiastes) 1-20). And poems that “(wavelike) swing / . . . floating free” to offer “a new view” of the “curvings of curvature” that we “rise / and fall / back into.” (Stephanie Strickland, Contemporary Physics 1). Not to mention works in which “the quest widen[s]/ the terms” (Jessica Lee Richardson, Art Hat), and “complicated strata of meanings [are] compiled.” (Ryan Nowlin, Crossings).

Whether or not, as Rusty Morrison might have it, the felicity of these stories was “found unexpectedly which is the way luck finds someone” “at an angle of unfinished conversation” (“as if imagining her thinking about me makes me real” (1, 4)), it is our great good luck to offer them to you now, in the hope that you will be inspired to take up the conversations they ignite.

In her solo piece, Lifelike, Devon Balwit considers the vitality of art, at once enduring (“500 years of hounds . . . gone to bones since the artist’s hand clustered the russet branches”) and vulnerable to the stultifying influence of reverence, “the mute solemnity of the archive.” In her powerful and disturbing collaboration with Jeff Whitney, History of the Knife, the darkness at the core of life is explored, and ultimately, embraced: “There is a knife in everything, in all stories of suffering, beetle to hanged man, finches at a feeder. Every so often, one sings.”

With “a mind made of drills” deploying “potions of temporality,” Laynie Browne mines the riches of language and memory. The resonance of these poems’ inquiries is far more satisfying than any attempt to answer the questions they pose, such as “how to turn twinge—to dawn? / How to rise up and twist threads together until they learn to cling—until—like letters you find your strand.”

Shira Dentz may not mean “to write a celebration, / not even in hindsight,” but the grace and power of her “still lines / waiting to converge” evoke such beauties as “the sky marbled with fat the trees/satin with delight” in these consummate celebrations of the wonder and power of verse.

Helen Hofling’s collage and text work both separately and in tandem to offer the viewer/reader multiple possibilities of interpretation. Her visuals are as fragmented and resonant as dreams, and as entire unto themselves. Hofling’s work makes the case for a poetry that describes the unsaid: ‘bird north bird the sound that silver makes.”

In Ravitte Kentwortz’s poems, the physical world is at once closely observed and commented upon by the multiple implications of her language: “a girl on a street. The wind rolling her faster. // . . . A plastic bag in the snow/skid marks hold it faster.” In these poems, the words wind, accelerate, fall, and roll through sense after sense, darkening in retrospect: “a girl before the bear/the bear rises and falls,” “the girl’s skin as it is skinned/ the bear’s head in a bag.” These images take on a gravity and a presence that live both in and alongside our own psyches, as befits these “stor[ies]. . . between an anima and another.”

In this series titled with Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s line, “as if imagining her thinking about me makes me real,” Rusty Morrison weaves the psychological, spiritual, and linguistic implications of damage and loss into a mysterious tapestry “throbbing in an idiom of flow/through the verb-form of pain” “at an angle of unfinished conversation,” which is no more nor less than the angle of poetry itself.

With concentrated intensity and startling vision, Ryan Nowlin considers life’s “dream of being and becoming” in light of “the palimpsest of emptiness / troubling your theory / of flowering.” Yet even amidst “the slow asphyxiation of light in November,” where “what failed to be conjured, / reality delivered with a shrug, murmuring bingo,” the moon is nonetheless revealed to “adore . . . the courtyard,” and a lost friend makes a fleeting appearance “in the margin of a dream.”

Kwame Opoku-Duku rouses our consciousness and conscience with these calls to “take off your veil & / get that look up off your face” in order to “see the prison camps for yourself.” These verses are spare, wise, and musical – even as they warn us against the seduction of “bought/status in the land of authenticity” in a life in which “no one knows what is coming” and “time & chance happen to us all.”

In the spectacular poem Meetinghouse, Jennifer Pilch evokes the paradoxical fabric of reality (“glacier sleep in 90 degree weather”) shot through with the unexpected and haunting beauty of deterioration: “snow sliding off // sun-stroked / degradations,” “long faces on opposite sides of a curtain/ wallpaper peeling like waiting onions.”

Jessica Lee Richardson’s delicately beautiful and hallucinatory “parables open doors” in which “you are skeletal in your blossoming” and “bent heads pillow forth with their sincerest apology.” Although “the quest widen[s] the terms,” who’s to say whether “the magic [did] the math” or “how to tell unfurl from furl”?

In Stephanie Strickland’s series School, a theoretically-minded yet entirely poetic eye takes a long view of biology and physics, exploring where we might be on the continuum: “Physical is always Special Case in/animate that slash that little twig that virgule is no physical threshold.” These poems suggest that physics, which is to say, reality, being “not a system/ not a shape” but “a Scenario       ever / transforming” might require less math and more invocation: “Maybe consult a drummer dubmaster houngan/ probably not a drum machine.”

In chiseled verses limned with sharp edges and dangerous insight, AJ Urquidi enacts the poetic equivalent of “sprint[ing]/ on hot coals with napalm scissors in hand.” In these poems which “keep apologizing to posterity” where “honesty fumbles in her bouts of proved worry,” we are grateful to be shown “life in a rusted circle” and urged to “watch the city shrink, then how / it zooms in to prey.”

John Sibley Williams may be “…looking for the world the world doesn’t like to talk about above a whisper,” but in a reality in which “we are bright flecks of light dancing into a back-drop of more light,” his dense and finely-crafted prose poems are as powerful as “clouds that cymbal and the swelling river and names we give to things that fight so hard to shed them.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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And welcome to this issue’s selection of visual art.

The exquisite drawings by Dozier Bell in this issue are lyrical studies of light, sky, water, and land. Seen through her keen eye, the delicate nuances of the natural world are captured as it shimmers and glows through storm, sun, and fog. These drawings create a powerfully moving portrait of life lived by the sea.

The huge (5 x 10 foot) photographs made by Tanya Marcuse transport us into a universe unto themselves. Simultaneously natural and unnatural, her giant tableaux weave together images taken from a natural world in a constant state of dying and being born. The work is dense and rich with details. Step back and they look like giant complex abstract compositions. Step closer and perceive her intricate relationship with a natural world that is endlessly rich and beautiful.

Sam Nhlengethwa’s portraits of goats are examples of beautiful composition, design, and a kind of portraiture. These goats exist as both “personalities” and as careful explorations of form. Simplified shapes and often-abstracted gestures characterize these lyrical compositions.

The dizzying array of materials used by Julie Peppito has often left me in awe of the fluid way that she marries materials into an almost psychedelic vision of the world. Focusing on the political climate of the day, this recent work creates a visual order from a cacophony of images, ideas, and words that is both powerful and magical.

Adams Puryear uses mixed materials and video to make projects that are inventive, funny, and provocative. His ceramic sculptures literally ooze with a strange slime that is at once reminiscent of childhood (think Slime Time Live) and something escaped from a laboratory. The video images offer a potent contrast to the forms in which they are housed. Endlessly amusing, his work conveys a perpetual sense of unease.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editors’ Notes (Posit 13)

 

Spring may be imminent, but, as will likely be the case for some time to come, this issue of Posit arrives in less-than-optimistic times. However, once again, the work in this issue has the potential to address, and even salve, our pervasive distress, in ways that are no less satisfying for being indirect. Much of the art in this issue is about making — and all of it makes the case for the value of its having been made. Which is to say, for the value of art itself — not as luxury, as the current US regime might have it — but as emotional, intellectual necessity. One facet of which is its uncanny capacity to speak to situations that did not exist when it was created. Although the poetry and prose in this issue was written before the advent of the current political crisis, many of these pieces find a way to speak to it. Thus, that “we have somehow, / in haste and hubris, walked / into a deep night” is, unfortunately, incontestable (Matthew Burns, The Border). As is the fact that “even sanity ain’t sane today” (Anselm Berrigan, Degrets). Or that we are asked to believe that “once spoken, every word is true, even / all the words yoked to great chains of lies” (Gregory Crosby, The Marquis of Sad).

Happily, the works in this issue also have “a harmony that makes us forget the incontestable” (Dennis Barone, Vast Oculus). For one thing, we are reminded “not to fear the truth, to understand the neighbor, the houses, and this land” (Vast Oculus). And we are offered the grave and ethereal beauty of G.C. Waldrep’s “root & its entourage / ark-in-the-forest, / zither-lit & -strung” (first person). We are exhorted, with ringing, if enigmatic, energy, to “substitute optimistically!” (Rae Armantrout, Going Somewhere). Which I take the liberty of interpreting, at least in part, as an injunction to continue making, and imbibing, the arts, including:

Rae Armantrout’s tantalizing chains of Delphic utterances, guiding our gaze in “the fullness of time” from the spare beauty of the resonant particulars to the universes coiled within them, bringing to mind Bashō, W. C. Williams, Hansel and Gretel, and the inspiriting newborn whose “just opened eyes / see we can’t see what;”

Dennis Barone’s Vast Oculus, opening its generous aperture from the tangible familiar to “another world . . . beyond the armchair — like the point of a rapier” in prose that captures the ultimate essence of poetry, “leap[ing] from the enormous weight” of reality to “follow ideas without bodies;”

The urgent yet playful poetics of Anselm Berrigan’s Pregrets, Degrets, and Regrets, which may not expect “fragment bump” but delivers that and more, “revers[ing] the outer corners until specific arrival” of something very much like revelation “mandates itself / into existence” despite the possibility that there may be “no time for poems / with all this e-sociology poised to bite in disparate / need of absolute paragons;”

Matthew Burns’ lithe and slender verse columns exploring absence and corporeality, boundaries and trajectories, hope and despair: “zero / being nothing / but, like / the past: / still there / and affecting” as these spare and melancholy verses;

James Capozzi’s eerily relevant evocations of the demise of the mighty, from Nimrod, “basted by the city’s voice” to the conquistadores, having lost the nerve to defend their “sham heaven” in the face of the “troubling questions” posed by the earth they have just torched;

Rob Cook’s sharp yet lyrical elegies to the existential divide between self and other, be they one’s own shadow or the companion of one’s dreams, until even “the wind is just my shadow / moving its weapons from tree to tree;”

Gregory Crosby’s aphoristic verses masterfully evoking the pathos and humor of existence in which “[a]ll this death [is] another sticky note: Live!” in a universe “so / magnanimous that it breaks your heart in two;”

Julia Leverone’s exploration of the paradoxical interdependence of creation and destruction, adhesion and repulsion, as voiced by an unregretful Medusa hoping “never to return to the beforehand” and a lover observing the “force of keeping / together against pulling away;”

Caolan Madden’s penetrating exploration of isolation, “[t]he silence, the league of witches . . . that unclaimed feeling,” along with the ambivalence of a mother who doesn’t “want to grow up I want to spoil” rather than “fold . . . up her I” “when [the baby] made [her] shape known;”

F. Daniel Rzicznek’s prose poems from Leafmold, an inventory of poetic makings, including dogs and doctors, hawks and herons, history and science, “[i]naccuacies and errata smuggled via alternate versions of this weird life” brilliantly assembled, not “to deliver something heinous . . . but a text like a free state, a paregoric of the brain;”

Alina Stefanescu’s high-octane prose pieces expanding from a sense of lived experience (insomnia, scars, selfies) to wider implications in “this era of anodyne-paradigms pocked upon our model houses” where “a promise might be less than an omen as a toothache is less than a broken jar as a head circles the room without one single landing strip in sight;”

and G.C. Waldrep’s elegant, emotionally charged jewels of melodic and depictive compression, “lobed with the literal,” in which “the dream sweeps / through, & puts music away–,” evoking worlds in each parsed and potent word — luminous worlds in which meaning and music are not only married, but inseparable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the newest member of the Posit team. Carol Ciavonne is an accomplished poet, teacher, editor, and past contributor, who promises to bring discernment, dedication, and generosity to her work as Associate Editor. We are delighted and grateful to welcome her aboard.

With thanks to you, our readers, for being here.
Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 13!

Nathan Brujis makes lyrical and luscious abstract paintings, loosely based on nature and autobiographical experience. Working in a rich palette of saturated colors, he weaves ribbons of form in, under, over, and around one another. These canvases hint at abstract narratives while always retaining their joyful exploration of the painting process.

The almost ritualistic patternings of Jeanne Heifetz’s drawings are hypnotic. They seem to meander across the page, yet there is always an underlying logic to the journey of her lines. Using a visual ordering system based on the branching of natural structures, her work investigates the organic growth of form and the movement of marks on paper.

Eva Kwong’s miraculous sculptures exist somewhere between the natural and fabricated worlds. Drawing upon her interest in the spiritual and visual interconnectedness of the universe, she creates beautiful objects that manage to make reference to many different realities simultaneously. Her animated sculptures delight the eye while defying categorization.

The sculptures of Greely Myatt build upon the notion of “transformation.” His impeccably crafted found and fabricated mixed-media sculptures are funny and provocative, playing with artistic and social conventions in an amusing and elegant manner. Myatt references everything from rural southern culture to contemporary art, creating both installation and intimate scale works that welcome the viewer in, with a wink and a nod.

And Brian Sargent’s deep dive photographic investigations into light and the landscape capture an eerie mood. The sky seems on the verge of dusk, the light fading… or is it about to dawn? They are full of mystery and quietude. The occasional flash of a silhouetted figure, a ghost or a vision? The choice is yours.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern

Carol Ciavonne

reconstruction of the world on the model of the action by which I shift a pencil

—after Simone Weil

with the line leading to form, texture, color
and all speaking
the single vowel heard, or the consonant
which takes longer.
Then there is the growth of the water plants and each of them
a tempest of atoms
this wat’ry world, not a short sighted longshot
not a turning but a returning
revolving but no revolution no big bang.
Here is a globe shaded with pen strokes
and the night is not long enough or the day
is too long and the width of the line doesn’t
show the delicacy of evening.
The line is short, utilitarian.
It lacks beauty
except for the beauty (some say) of economy.
Is this beauty truth or truth beauty?
There is no kindly stopping here.
No one is singing.
No one, likewise, is murdering.

the action by which I shift a pencil

is a rolling of the wrist and a rightward movement
that slides according to the length of the word.
My fist, that is, moves with friction across the paper
and it’s a pen not a pencil but this act
as if considered by my hand, the length of the word
and the shift against friction, this is also the model of the world
as gravity or obstacle. Dancing
because the air resists and does not resist movement.
Buzzing caused by wings, transparent, glittering.
Breathing, watching the sides move in and out,
A cycle, a revolution.
Writing is revolving
continuing on another line, but always returning,
if you move in space, you get somewhere.
Where do you get to? The destination
will be important in a world where the model is the shift
of a pencil. It will matter: right left up down and the weight
given to those movements intended as writing
but more like the waves children draw as imitation of cursive.
This world will not matter if no one understands
the meaning of the imitation, its limits,
the weight even of air.

reconstruction of world is

just a stroke, a partial letter, the action of shifting,
so yes, a stroke, a large stroke like the
base of the letter I, strong, insistent but reconstructing.
As well change the stroke, but not to I. Just a small stroke of a letter
because every movement must have an equal and
opposite reaction. Sometimes more. So the idea of a ripple or
a wave, compounding as it travels. The stroke becomes larger but more
uncertain, or certain in a different way, physically longer, taking more space in
every dimension, and adding sound. A wave crashing. Because that changes
the world. Not a reconstruction making over again (but never the same)
but as many times as need be in the necessity of reparation.
Repairing the world we have grievously harmed.

reconstruction of the world by my action

small minute action and I can’t be aware of this
each shift reconstructs so the world is not recognizable.
Like getting old, the shift not deliberate but inevitable
the hand releasing–oh that shift is wobbly, wide open
things spill out: some freed prisoners, some that should not be freed.
The world stabilizes, reconstructs and the body is something different.
My body has two hearts, the body of the
world has only valleys and no mountains
canyons are the feature of this planet and ink
is white but the pages are too, so what’s written is unreadable
and writing disappears except for me holding my pen
which is a shovel and I will need to shift again to find
the familiar tight ache in the space between
thumb and palm. Did I mention I write with my thumb
and someone learned in thumb language will easily be
able to decipher these words until I shift my pen.
In the next shift, I have three hands and there’s no need now to worry
because I have dug with my shovel and this world is fed.

reconstruction of sky

as reconstruction of snow in Antarctic.
The loving blue of ice. Requirement for poet. Being sentimental
and disguising it. The bark of this tree to make paper,
a book with hundreds of tiny colors each different
wanting to eat and smell and wear them. A certain blue
with a lot of grey in it. Reconstruction of the world according
to the slip of the pencil in which I write what I did not mean
and it becomes a wound or a poem. a slip:
small, quick, a slip of the tongue bungled, a slip of a girl
and the reconstruction of the world based on the slip of the shore
the shift of it. The shift of my pencil, what time
does in that shift. A bird outside clearly tweets.
Calls and tweets and drumming we
name their speech, and yet can’t learn it.

the journey of the pencil

it’s studied some of it like a map and made
deliberate but other lines crowd—short but close,
part of another time and place maybe ripped off
torn and replaced, marked into in another state of being
a place it will find, have to find its way, a shift into being from being other.
If the pencil shifts onto the paint it’s ok, just harder to make it go over the texture
of the canvas so much more rough than rice paper soft under the feet
the shift of a pencil because it was jostled or left off to watch the rain
what to call it if the title comes first these things are the dual nature.
With paint you are offering and asking
the blue paint, the skid of the brayer, the taking away, taking away blue.

These poems are from a work in progress based on ideas/ phrases taken from Simone Weil’s notebook.
Carol Ciavonne’s poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Boston Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Concīs, and How2, among other journals. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Poetry Flash, Xantippe, Pleiades, Colorado Review, and Entropy. She is the author of Birdhouse Dialogues (LaFi 2013) (with artist Susana Amundaraín) and a collection of poetry, Azimuth (Jaded Ibis Press 2014). Ciavonne has also collaborated with Amundaraín on several theater pieces, and has worked with the innovative The Imaginists theater group in Santa Rosa, California.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 12)

 

In these most anxious and somber political times, it is my honor to introduce the enormously relevant and genuinely fortifying creations we have gathered for this 12th issue of Posit.

When I introduced our last issue, the United States was in the midst of an “election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” [had] been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible.” Three months and a globe-rattling election later, that anxiety has proven to be nothing if not accurate. Many in the arts find ourselves questioning the relevance of our projects, and even our ultimate endeavors. In this moment when the (non-fake) news carries a toxicity which strikes fear into the hearts of so many, I believe the poetry and prose in this issue makes a solid case for the ability and even duty of writers everywhere to deliver the kind of news William Carlos Williams reminded us we “die miserably every day / for lack of.”

So I hope you will wrest your gaze from the ominous spectacle of our political moment to bolster your courage with the extraordinary literature in this issue — assured that, to quote from Andrew Cantrell’s The Gate is Open: “There is no speaking here not undertaken in defiance.”

To wit:

Sam Ace’s urgently tender love song to both the “fairy body in my bed” and our planet itself, from “north of the mountains” to “the fields spread below in a buoyancy of grains,” from “a tarry bit of hot sidewalk” to “the still bare woods” cradling “our nights scavenged in a sleep of mortars” while “others make slings for the dense matter of broken things;”

Andrew Cantrell’s deceptively simple declarations, the matter-of-fact intonations of which belie the profundity of their personal and political investigations into “how practice makes of movement another moment” able to “bear witness to an era of despair” and “construct the artwork as a figure of collective liberation;”

the delicate, suggestive mystery of Laton Carter’s prose poems, which, like the grace of the ballerina in his first piece, “[i]gnoring the straight lines of the boat and the physics of its ways . . . serves to uncontain what . . . is contained;”

Carol Ciavonne’s gorgeous riffs on Simone Weil’s notebooks, evoking Weil’s phenomenological approach to epistemology by unpacking how the physicality of writing echoes and illuminates our very existence, this “tempest of atoms/this wat’ry world,” the universal “shift into being from being other;”

Benjamin Hollander’s tragically posthumous parable about the slippery nature of art, memory, and communication — its bricolage of memoir, art criticism and sociological critique evoking echoes of Pynchon and Murakami, even as it revels in the inimitability of its own voice;

the elegant, elemental, and wry verse of Rich Ives, “dutiful and divided in the single intention of arriving” at such surprising and deeply satisfying revelations as “[t]he opposite of now is not always then” and “time is transparent. You cannot live there, but you can visit/constantly;”

the mystery and paradox of Philip Kobylarz’ densely potent declaratives, “an alternative the same as its opposite” in which “[g]ranite by another name is akin to granite” and “[t]he end is an end and the beginning is a false start towards making ends meet;”

Lori Anderson Moseman’s delicate, genre-defying response to disruption and mortality on the global as well as personal level, stitched together by the rich implications of darning (the collection’s title trope), with its suggestion of mending even while ruing the “nesting artifacts jettisoned” to spawn this “story [which] flaunts its missing gown;”

Trace Peterson’s inspiring monologue, manifesto, and cri de cœur, issuing from a narrative ‘I’ simmering with exultation, defiance, and irony, a self “invisible but . . . unavoidable,” “an ampersand and . . . a pronoun,” a presence which “belong[s] here, where I cannot not appear” in the course of an arrival which “is final as in completely incomplete;”

Jerome Sala’s self-sufficient, comically profound ode to ‘content’ in all of its elusive potency, “a textual form of meat product . . . nothing in itself / but the something out of which all is made;”

Dale Smith’s lyrical prose/verse memoir with its arrestingly beautiful meditations on “past selves pillowed by labor or expansive regimens of age” via stories which do “not focus — they spill” along “a pretended wilderness interiorized like dream energy” even while “hold[ing] in mind the certainty of erasure;”

Leanne Staples’ resonant verbal collage, “a bed of borrowed ease” in which “metaphor leaks of thingness . . . easing into selfness” “not waiting. / Or weighting. Without noun or renown;”

Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino’s enigmatic and tantalizing excerpt from his flash fiction novel, Suicide by Language, enacting its own prescription that “[t]o be poetic is everything;”

and Laurie Stone’s masterful flash fictions, buzzing with the energy of unpredictable yet penetrating juxtapositions fueled by the lived intensity of imagined experience.

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the art of Posit 12!

Beth Dary’s sculpture reflect an intense and thoughtful response to the natural world and our relationship with it. Using a wide variety of materials, she draws attention to the delicacy and strength of barnacles and bubbles. Her installations of masses of small objects create artificial universes that mimic nature, asking us to consider life’s interconnectivity.

In the accomplished compositions of Steven De Frank, we see an exuberant embrace of life’s absurd, gut-wrenching, nutty beauty. His work seems to flow from id to paper or wood. The result are artworks that are funny and intense, accessible and mysterious. This is work that demands a second look.

Mie Kim’s paintings offer both a humorous commentary on Asian pop culture and a serious examination of painterly issues. She marries the two trains of thought effortlessly, producing riotous and sensually beautiful paintings that dance the line between abstraction and figuration. Her color palette is downright delicious.

Sandy Litchfield’s paintings play with the balance between urban and green space. She paints portraits of cities, with their tangle of buildings, roads, color and energy. At the same time she often portrays the relationship of urban growth to nature. The intertwining of natural and man-made forms creates an interesting conversation about space and place.

And Amy Pleasant’s spare and elegant work reflects her interest in the body and how it can be broken down into simplified shapes without losing its humanity. Her use of repetitive gesture and reduced palette focuses our attention exclusively on form. There is a deceptive simplicity to her work; deeper consideration reveals the subtlety of its form and content.

I hope you enjoy!
Melissa Stern