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 17)

 

“What does love have to do with history,” asks MC Hyland in her poem, The End, a question which nicely sets the stage for the remarkable work we’ve gathered for you here. This 17th issue of Posit is a weighty one, to be dived into; to be savored. Many of these poems address identity and personal relation, contextualized. Some convey public dismay along with private encouragement, because, as Jessica Wickens points out in Department Store Days, “real life is still awesome.” Some resemble status reports, or instructions on how to move forward in a “culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become” (Paul Hoover, Chinese Figures) — a society guilty of “underestimating the underestimated” (Patricia Hartnett, Silos) — an “established order” characterized by “the horror” and “meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture” (Andrew Levy, Summertime Blues). Others address the “hidden interiors” of art-making, and all that is “racing against / its very own appearance” (Steve Barbaro, Articles of Capitulation), or its nurturance and conservation, in light of “the impossibility / of repetition” (Norma Cole, Ongoing). Yet, even while “[p]lanes arc overhead while history seems to plunge” (Hyland), there is good news amidst the bad, since who knows what “will ignite from / the smallest spark” (Cole).

Despite what Adorno identified as the “complicity that enfolds all those who, in the face of unspeakable collective events, speak of individual matters at all,” these works make the case for its necessity — for the necessity to “be the blueprint” (Asiya Wadud), “[t]o build a face from the materials of history” (Hyland), to take personal responsibility in a reality in which “no one is a spectator” (Hartnett, Complicit). In fact, they make the case for the necessity of poetry itself, whose “reaching keeps us from never nursing doom” (Wadud, my decent one). Because, as Denise Leto puts it in Mystic with a Dishtowel: “A hole in the air that empties air: this is what it is not to be able to read poems.”

Here, then, is the physic for that affliction.

In Steve Barbaro’s poems, an elegant voice contemplates fumaroles, insects, the desire to be away from the world, and a painting by Cezanne. In The Pond, narrative content and the composition of the painting blend into the dream of one of the painted “sitters” and then into the viewer’s own “fall” into the painting, “their face gradually mixing with the scarcely shown face of the water… not that one must necessarily see something to see, of course,” going on to muse that nothing can ever really be seen, “except as something racing against its very own appearance.” And in Articles of Capitulation, the narrator makes a revelatory/revealing inquiry into nature and self: “Is it surprising that the world flaunts only such coy hints of its most ominous flutterings?”

In keeping with the title, Norma Cole’s Ongoing transcends reductive notions of beginnings, endings, or progress itself, “unfurling” like a textile or an “ascending raga” to explore riches below the surface, like the Dunhuang caves they consider, or any “tumulus . . . barrow . . .[or] kurgan.” Like those caves, these stanzas are “placeholder[s] / filled with treasure,” charged with an energy not to be defeated, any more than “magma,” “carpels tough as nails / surviving ice ages,” that which “will ignite from / the smallest spark,” or the intensity humming beneath the quiet calm of this powerful work.

In magical collages that partake of landscape and anatomical section drawings to create their own genre, David Felix “balanc[es] verse and sign” so “we [can] scan the horizon.” Against delicate color, the bold play/puzzle of typography, in which the repeated ‘a’ in one poem marks the visual row where a “draughtsman’s hand had planted limes” reveals the perfect fit of “making bared,” creating a shared ground for philosophy and lyric to reveal that “Time is a horse in a field and no horse in another” and the future “is certainly not here with you and I right now.”

Patricia Hartnett’s philosophical/psychological investigations of the “harm and charm” of complicity, risk, maturation/self-definition, and the contest between mammon and the “unruly” issue their Delphic pronouncements with mystery and precision. To the exquisite sensitivity of a narrator “stranded out here in America / with everyone else equal parts greed and fable” on “another morning under the newly revealed metal fist of the grin,” the “harm and charm and hazard” of America, aging, and perhaps existence itself, “sound . . . down the body like an alarm” even as they look, as do these finely chiseled poems, “like brilliant kites.”

In aphoristic verses whose melodic prosody is propelled by a driving rhythm peppered with thought-provoking turns and returns, Paul Hoover considers how we navigate Time and art-making in a moment when prosperity means “everyone sleeps alone / on the ice of his choosing” and “no one spends attention // we’re overloaded now / every surface known” in “a culture numbed and stung // by the image it’s become.” At the same time they remind us that, thankfully, “what isn’t is // what could be” — that it’s still possible to let go of the “zig-zag parade,” to “read the reader /and be read // . . . by the ones [we] / soon will be.”

Woven into the powerful prose of MC Hyland’s The End are the meditations of a “trespass artist” “trying to build a face from the materials of history” in the “affective prehistory of the crisis” of these difficult times, in which “capital sleeps like a shark,” we are “unmade by uncertainty and the theatrical rollout of the new order” and “joy arrives with a political undertow,” even if we are sometimes “buoyed by tiny lucks” — such as the pleasure of reading these rich and wise poems.

Denise Leto’s dreamlike poems explore a sea to which she holds a magical and “Mythical Map,” treating us to mysterious images like the “radical gloss of radiation” or a “face scattering the shorebirds.” In these spellbinding stanzas, a “Sicilian fishing port no longer maps” and “[e]ating is a womb…of those who are under” in a world in which the “church can’t think—it is more like a spoon.”

Andrew Levy entices us to gorge on his feasts of observations and pronouncements, exhortations and advice for navigating “another heartbreaking day” faced with “the meaner purposes of an / intolerable culture.” His wry linguistic turns and ominous bluntness bring a “kaleidoscopic return of clarity” to a devastating critique of our “unconscious sojourn dropped in final / spasms of dislocation,” even while reminding us to “digest and finish the mission, ride the fall” in light of “the small pleasures in the / wondersome by all this perfect smart.”

Laura McCullough’s stunning suite of poems reluctantly accepts and does not accept the difficulty of intimacy. The objects in the poems — knife, bulldozer, tree — participate like living partners in the despair. Marriage (intergenerational) introduces “a man … bending his wife … around something she has bent herself around all her life,” who then “gets this knife … if she likes… — one with a curved tip — and skin[s] her like she’s never been skinned.” In Marriage (wood and dog) the ordinary situation of chopping wood for the winter reveals the couple’s “separate fantasies” for the use of an abandoned bulldozer, “things they are each ashamed of and can’t’ imagine sharing.”

Douglas Piccinnini’s bleak but graceful verses contemplate identity and suffering in a world of our constant construction in which “you” (i.e. we) “”teach/your hands” with your hands” until you “become yourself in spite of yourself.” With spare lyricism, these poems land us neck-deep in a frightening, if universal, human condition in which a “house is like a house on fire” inside of which “there is no news at all.”

Brad Rose’s prose poems employ a laconic, dark humor to present a narrator who “lead[s] a quiet life” which “[y]ou can read about … in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems,” even while he needs to speak to an attorney “who knows about the death penalty.” One of Rose’s concerns is the act of thinking: “I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation,” and the way thoughts connect, as in nerve synapses or a cracked mirror, yet holding deep lyrical truth: “It’s quiet inside a mountain — coal dark, the aftertaste of ants.”

With an “exactness which / Takes courage,” Asiya Wadud offers prose and verse poems which glow with “a faultless aura” of embodied yet ethereal light. Like the narrator in Be the blueprint, each form manages to organically unfurl the precise architecture of its unique project, offering “this complete orb, this leaden strobe, this searing, direct heat . . . this . . . weighted gold” of her finely wrought prosody, “as delicate as a new quail cupped in [her] light,” capable of “fillet[ing] the softest parts // To glean the glowing parts” with the grace and power of “a quake on a tender fault line.”

The unflinching gaze and bracingly direct voice of Jessica Wickens’ “stories from fragments” find cause for celebration even amidst the painful reality of our existence. These poems remind us that “happiness is a journey not a destination” and “real life is still awesome,” even for those who “nap. . . on the couch at salvation army” and other “casualties of our superficial train” in an America that “is a nonstop fucker of / prosperity and peace.”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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Raven Halfmoon has a fierce story to tell. In her majestic ceramic sculptures, she examines questions of identity and cultural heritage, while at the same time making art that is deeply affecting. Her work, primarily images of women and their “accessories,” feels immediate and fresh. Big gestural marks in the clay combine with drips and flow of glossy glaze to remind us that the maker’s hand is always present. The work is bold and self-assured. These women with handbags, cigarettes and lipstick are not to be messed with!

William Eckhardt Kohler’s work harkens back to an earlier era when painting dealt with meaty issues such as surface and ground, representation and meaning. Richly painted, these canvases are admirable in their desire to ponder such questions, coming up with answers that are entirely personal. Kohler’s paintings are quite formally structured, while at the same time painted with a control and purpose that become an important part of the story. With a palette that is generally somber, he enlightens the visual stories he tells with hits of brilliant color, like the sun shining through clouds on a stormy day.

The sublimely beautiful paintings of Sarah Lutz dance between abstraction and representation with lovely grace. We see hints of what might be possible, like architectural detail, or a horizon line, but in these delicate works, nothing is certain. These paintings raise questions the viewer must answer. The open quality of the work means that each response is correct. Are these canvases scientific illustrations of an imaginary world? Are they landscapes of the mind? References to the natural world, as well as the history of decoration, abound. The resulting paintings are lyrical, mysterious, and deeply satisfying.

These Jennie Ottinger paintings are both hilarious and scary. They depict men and women (or boys and girls) in scenes of constant conflict. These works are painted with a deceptively loose, gestural hand, in a slightly sickly sweet palette; the color pink is used almost as weapon. Upon first glance, they could seem childish, but they are deadly serious. The people in Ottinger’s universe laugh, grimace, fight, and triumph within traditional American scenes. Her “cheerleaders” smile at the world through maniacal grins. The men in Ottinger’s paintings bear expressions of ambivalence. Perhaps they know their time is up.

The work of P. Elaine Sharpe raises more questions than it answers. Her mysterious “portraits” of hair are painted in such a way that they dance back and forth between “hair” and “brushstroke.” A self- described “pleasure- bot,” she makes work that conveys a passionate love of mark making, with seductive swirls and whorls of gleaming pigment. The sole figurative portrait, that of the artist observing her own work, hints, perhaps, to one meaning of this body of work, “Diary of a Seducer.”

Jerry Siegel photographs the world he knows. A lifelong resident of the South, he captures the people in his world with deep affection. Deeply saturated with rich, vibrant color, his photographs are portraits of people and places suffused with his own Southern identity. He is a master of catching the perfect moment that makes a photograph magical. He clearly has the street photographer’s gift of relating to strangers and drawing them out in his work. In their own way, the still lives are also portraits — of time and place rather than individuals.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editors’ Notes (Posit 16)

 

Greetings, and welcome to Posit 16! It has been four years since we came out with our first issue, and our new contributors’ page gets to the root of my gratitude — to the extraordinary writers and artists who have entrusted their work to this publication; to the wise and wonderful fellow editors I have the pleasure to work with; and especially to you, our readers. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll through the list — and perhaps revisit some favorites, or check out something you previously missed.

But be sure to save time for the gorgeous work in this new issue, much of which has a certain coiled and quiet potency, enfolding us in its figurative and figured fabrics against the “pale glove / of winter” — “because a legacy of facts / Tramples the empty pages of an early white snow tonight / & because the sky is still falling like a stuntman” (Raymond Farr, “Realism is in Bloom!”). Here you will encounter a number of more or less direct engagements with our alarmingly falling sky, including Peter Leight’s topical (if not literal) “Wall,” and Barbara Henning’s dispatches from our news-menaced daily lives, evocatively dubbed Digigrams. Other works, like those by Charlie D’Eve, Grey Vild, and Alexa Doran, grapple with more personal if no less urgent intersections of justice and identity. Still other pieces apply a calm and sometimes light touch to the grave task of “shaking [their] tags to wake the jangling chorus in [our] wreck” (Jennifer Fossenbell, “Preface to Salivation”).

Herein:

Charlie D’Eve’s frank yet elliptical verses, juggling the harmonies and tensions of confidence and self-protection, advance and retreat, “the times when one part / wants thing / And the other part / wants Thing,” and “it’s all political all;”

the virtuosic profundity of Alexa Doran’s love-songs to the “half party, half sustained injury” that characterizes motherhood at its most passionate, which can be as transfixing and devastating as “a Buick at the back of my knees;”

Raymond Farr’s artfully relaxed couplets to the ordinary miracle of mortality, in which “life is big but not grandiose,” “History is a lot like life & the facts are a lot like / Our own lives in particular” and “death is a sink stacked high with dirty dishes / After we’ve eaten our fill of everything;”

Jennifer Fossenbell’s “Preface to the Obvious” which is anything but, popping with energy and weighted with foreboding, “sparked, in other words . . . Signified” by imaginative leaps and dazzling wordplay that entices us to “lean . . . in closer to hear what [she is] hymning about” and “call[ing] for a ritual, a cerebration!”

Jeff Hardin’s provocative interrogations of existence via query and negotiation with what “Stand[s] in a Center That Is Too Often Tuneless,” deploying his art to “usher us out of the staid and the worn;”

the staccato reportage of Barbara Henning’s Digigrams, a series of “ecliptic telegrams” delivering their condensed amalgam of happenings interior and exterior, optimistic and grim, inflected by the moral failings of our contemporary political moment, with its “truth and lies viral,” “2400 migrants rescued – four children dead;”

the vibrant tension barely contained by these excerpts from Caroline Knapp’s forthcoming chapbooks, The Hunters Enter the Wood and Tanzsprachen, mining the “ditch beside song where // quiet gathers” to reach “the invisible that / shows like stars” and “salvage . . . [from] silence . . . / a fixed and savage song;”

the sly and suggestive counterpoint of Peter Leight’s “Needlework” and “Wall,” their content embodied in their forms, the connective stitches of the first poem’s lineation juxtaposed tellingly with the second’s solid block of prose, reminding us to ask: “is this the only way? Will it always be like this? Or is this an episode that ends when everybody stops watching?”

these cryptic and provocative excerpts from Barbara Tomash’s forthcoming book, Pre–, mining the suggestive instability of “the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience” via the “automatic relay” of the versatile and ubiquitous prefix, “a temporary modulation . . . // leaping from its horizontal transverse axis / into a remote key;”

the wry humor of J.T. Townley’s “Dead Cat Bounce,” a Q and A of contemporary reality in which “we’re all enmeshed in a web or wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired” while “a bottoming process is being experienced” in which “switches might start flipping;”

the gorgeously screamed incantations of Grey Vild’s “carnal, carnival sun-drenched, scavenged throat of worship” of idols which “can only be flesh” yet “refuse to be flesh” like “chalk screeching down a bald board” or “a soundless thunder rumbling a dry sky;”

and the quiet lament of Nicolette Wong’s collaborations with photographer David Heg, the counterpoint of their words and images “reverberating through the blinds” with “the rhythm of rust” “in a room of dust singed by erasure.”

My thanks to them all, and to you who read this, for being here.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to Posit 16’s visual art!

Lou Beach makes the most deliciously wicked and subversive collage pieces I’ve ever seen. His universe jumps into yours with the antics of the creatures, human and sub-, that he creates. Beach is a technical virtuoso. Laboriously constructed, these seamless collages appear effortless. His sly, cock-eyed yet clear-eyed view of the world is both personal and universal. He skewers politicians with fearless precision. Plus they are just so damn beautiful!

Karen Hampton is a visual storyteller. Her profoundly moving mixed-media pieces tell tales of hope and despair, slavery and freedom. Made from stitched fabric, these pieces harken back to the tradition of ‘women’s work,’ and Hampton plays with these resonances to tell stories of urgent immediacy. She utilizes digital printing and hand-sewing to literally and figuratively weave together narratives that are both contemporary and historical, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to our collective histories.

The work of Bryce Honeycutt is intensely tied to her relationship with the natural world. She takes her interactions with the land and delicately filters them into exquisite artifacts. Her marks, whether drawn or stitched, are like poetic maps of these experiences. Her fluent use of a wide range of materials imbues the work with a sense of life. Rather than looking fabricated, the work seems to have ‘grown’ into the forms it takes.

Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantell have collaborated on an intriguing project entitled “Pages from the Frozen Sea” (referring to a quote by Franz Kafka). The photographic project explores the endlessly fascinating, ever-changing nature of ice as a material both solid and ephemeral. Their photographs of embedded objects play with the ways light interacts with the ice and the objects inside it. It takes a minute to gain your footing with this mysterious work. Once you figure out the construct, you are left to wonder, with a measure of awe, at this work’s marriage of materials.

Viewing the sculptures and drawings of Millicent Young, I am drawn into a meditative state. I begin to think of the passing of time – how long must it have taken to tie those knots, or wait for so much ink to evaporate? Her work addresses time in a way that evokes the creation of the earth and the very slow movement of geology. These pieces asks us to consider the possibilities inherent in ‘patience.’ Young’s use of natural materials and a neutral palette speak to her gentle approach to our world and her acceptance of the transitory nature of life itself.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editor’s Notes (Posit 15)

 

It is a bittersweet pleasure to introduce this magnificent fifteenth issue of Posit, coming as it does in the wake of what feels like an avalanche of national and global upheaval — both natural and human-made, toxically entangled as those categories are. But also: coming out on the heels of such a great loss for anyone interested in contemporary poetry. I’m referring, of course, to the death of John Ashbery, one of the greatest and most beloved poets of the past half-century. Although his loss hits hard, I find consolation in detecting his influence on so much of the poetry I love — and publish.

This issue is a perfect case in point, notable as it is for the singularity and variety of the voices it assembles — an aesthetic capaciousness which owes no small thanks to Ashbery’s paradigm-shifting work, which demonstrated by contagious example the extent of what is possible. Which ranges, in this issue, from the sizzling imaginative fertility of Will Alexander’s monumental monologue to the analytic calm of Robert Okaji’s meditations; from the poignant crises of Louis Bourgeois’ beautifully drawn protagonists to the understated humor of David Lehman’s and Stephen Paul Miller’s riffs on Frank O’Hara’s famous Lana Turner poem; from John Beer’s tidal flow of verbal riches to Charles Borkhuis’ razor-sharp yet deadly serious wit; from Patty Seyburn’s evocative experimentalism to Aliesa Zoecklein’s equally evocative lyric odes to love and loss.

To quote Mr. Ashbery, all of the work in this issue offers “what we need now:” these “unlikely / Challenger[s] pounding on the gates of an amazed / Castle” (“Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”). So I hope you’ll honor his passing by reading, or re-reading, his work — and theirs:

the revolutionary heat and devastating light of this fragment from Will Alexander’s tome, The Ganges, the “supreme toil” of its “treasonous instruction” in the voice of an Untouchable, that “remnant outside a palace of hoaxes” banned “to exclusion voiced through tainted opinion,” with its grim echoes of the meanness and menace in our contemporary political landscape;

the rhythmic fluidity of John Beer’s “The Fictive Hour,” “split[ting] the feast of [its] intentions” in wave after melodic wave, enacting the sensitive pursuit of meaning embedded in the quiddity of the moment becoming “the mother of itself;”

Charles Borkhuis’ grave yet bemused invitations to puzzle over “the truth . . . which withdraws from the slightest observation,” deploying the insights of meta-and particle physics in his signature precise yet playful demotic idiom to “thread the eye through an ear / and . . . wing it outward on a word;”

the tragicomedy of Louis Bourgeois’ Salingeresque tale of the clash of integrity with pragmatism under the pressure of social reality and, especially, of time;

Lauren Camp’s evocative lyrics lifting off from the springboard of the personal to touch the universal, rising from the “rant in my inbox” which “is many / fresh-fallen failures /masquerading as failures” to the desert clouds over a party which “plump / then conjugate / all the pleasure for hours;”

Robert Farrell’s aphoristic, incantatory meditations delving, like “a vehicle into a vehicle,” into works by Anscombe, Aristotle, Zosimus, and Hala Mohammed to propose that “[a]ll / things hang together even lives that meet their natural / ends;”

the sensitivity of Cal Freeman’s meditations on literary and personal heritage in which “no one knows / what to measure or how” in light of “the terrible affront and tacit / threat [our] presence constitutes / for every seen and unseen creature;”

David Lehman’s tribute to Stephen Paul Miller’s variation on Frank O’Hara’s “Poem [Lana Turner Has Collapsed!]” — each as wryly gentle in their counsel as the charming original — Miller’s version literally raising the stakes on O’Hara’s by virtue of the weight of what’s at stake (“oh Hillary Clinton you’re going to lose get up!”)— while Lehman’s version hovers with understated complexity between empathetic optimism and doubt of a candidate who might or might not share the social ease of the kind of gregarious narrator who “want[s] to meet you / whoever you are;”

The contemplative focus of Robert Okaji’s koan-like meditations on perception filtered through the metaphorical and philosophical implications of abstraction, in which “[t]he images consume no space but the effect is of distance;”

Patty Seyburn’s richly elliptical and compelling investigations into the vulnerability of the human body and the mythography of swans, entailing “something about anomaly” and “mimesis overload;”

Devon Wootten’s delicious excerpt from Gimme the Pretty, enlisting the reader to partner its probing of the nature and value of its own endeavor (yes, poetry, but not only), achieving any number of “truly epic volta[s]” as it delivers “what [we] came for— / realer done right,”

and Aliesa Zoecklein’s elegant explorations of the grief and hazard embedded in the paraphernalia of the ordinary: the sequin dress of a former lover, the sustenance of a grieving survivor, the “convincing curve” of a swimming pool beyond which “there’s a gate-latch moment when the stranger arrives.”

Thank you for honoring these artists with your time and attention.

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 15!

Jodi Colella uses traditional needlework skills to create artworks that are referential to the great traditions she is working within while also building a commentary on her travels throughout the world. Her work speaks to the evolving roles of women in Western and Non-Western cultures as well her experiences of the natural world.

Brandon Graving, a master printmaker, uses paper in interesting and innovative ways. She casts it, creating three-dimensional sculptures that seem to defy gravity. Her mastery of printmaking technique enables her to push the medium past its known limits until the results defy categorization.

There is a palpable visual rhythm and rhyme in the graphic work of Francis Pavy. His visual interpretations of the music of his native Louisiana dance and jump off the page. His ties to Southern American folklore and culture are deep, and he expresses them in a distinctly contemporary way.

The complex sculptures of Lina Puerta present a delicate and beautifully crafted view of the confluence of the natural and manmade worlds. Her great sensitivity to the found objects she often uses and her skills in combining them creates a universe that is simultaneously natural and artificial—as well as beautiful to look at.

Umar Rashid has created a new history of the American Empire. Through his brilliant and subversive series of faux-historical painting and writings he imagines a national history quite different from that taught in school. His pictorial style riffs on many historic sources and the result is something completely original. A self-taught artist, Rashid has combined his keen intellect with a sly sense of humor and political outrage.

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

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

Editors’ Notes (Posit 11)

 

Welcome to September, and to Posit 11!

It is a special thrill to introduce the masterful poetry and prose Bernd and I have gathered for this issue. Not only has another summer come and gone, but we are in the last stages (if not throes) of an American election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” have been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible. In its own provocative and evocative ways, the work in this issue addresses that anxiety, and even musters some degree of optimism. For tragedy rendered inseparable from the beauty of its vehicle, consider the stark profundity of new work by Michael Palmer and Fady Joudah; the disturbing resonance of two parables by Marvin Shackelford and Eric Wilson; or the tender melancholy of verse by Jeffrey Jullich, Stephen Massimilla, and Simon Perchik. For an inspiring balance of critique and optimism, take a look at Sharon Mesmer’s tragic yet emancipatory tributes to undervalued women poets, Sheila Murphy’s inimitable and ineffable pull-no-punches constructs, Sharon Dolin’s disciplined frolics, ambitiously braiding tribute and lampoon, or Anne Gorrick’s high-octane mash-ups of web-commerce parlance examined and re-examined to reveal rich veins of resonance. And on the brighter side, bask in Felino Soriano’s linguistically untethered odes to transformation.

Whether you are absorbed by the anxiety of our historical moment or weary of its seep, I hope you’ll take some moments to explore:

the tightly packed wit and wisdom of Sharon Dolin’s allusive riffs on Conceptismo, W. C. Williams’ So Much Depends, Niedecker’s ‘condensery,’ and the fraudulence of linguistic obscurantism;

the looping logic of Anne Gorrick’s expansive assemblages, artistic antidotes to our day-to-day “doses of forgetting” the “fine tunings built into” these rocking, rollicking litanies in which “invisible empires of products, fireflies and songs add to the beauty;”

Fady Joudah’s profound and miraculous condensations, with their masterfully chiseled, spare, and haunting visions of oppression and its internalization (“Election Year Dream”) sanctuary in the face of damage (“Monastery”) and the devastation of love (“Coda: A Fragment”);

Jeffrey Jullich’s grimly beautiful constructs, evoking the hazard, sorrow, and insignificance of existence as revealed by the “metamorphosis of seraphim,” “Nostradamus contradictions,” and “a cloud/hung between my life—and life itself” in which “intelligence is only – a fraction – a niche for omniscience;”

the mystery and beauty of Stephen Massimilla’s chiseled lyrics, gesturing towards the elusive and tragic lightness of love, loss, and existence itself, in which “so many little masks (marks, tasks) / make a life” until one is reluctant “to come down from the lightfastness / of this insomnia high;”

Sharon Mesmer’s lyrical tributes to women poets of the Americas which, by “beating all sorrows/into beauty” themselves fulfill the determination to be “no mere witness/to inertia” by evoking, among other notions of liberation, the freedom of radical departure — in what her fans will recognize as a masterful departure from the pyrotechnical virtuosity of her signature Flarfian poetics;

Sheila E. Murphy’s confidently quiet, powerfully enigmatic new works evoking the intimacies of existence anchored by “the palpable act of witness, witnessing” in which “pounce marks levitate a posse / of connect points” in our appreciation of her bracing linguistic montage;

the incomparable music of Michael Palmer’s austere and profound masterpieces of compression, sternly confronting us with the tragedy and horror of a world — our world — in which a child is “set afire / before blindered eyes / a world’s eyes” and authors “lost at sea / in a storm of words” stand idly by as their “books consume . . . the fire”;

Simon Perchik’s moving lyrics of love, loss, and memory, gently guiding us to “listen / the way all marble is crushed” and witness how “inside each embrace // the first thunderclap and shrug / no longer dries”;

Marvin Shackelford’s haunting parable of shipwreck, survival, and friendship, with its “reversed exploration” of the great parable, Before the Law, replacing Kafka’s eternally-withheld judgment with rescue, but, gratifyingly, perhaps not redemption;

Felino Soriano’s “relocated” lyrics, as musical as they are disjunctive, enacting the generative power of the transformations of which they sing; “alters” “of improvised becoming” in which the day is “a dangle of marbled light, an / algebra of sun” for the reader to gratefully absorb;

and the disturbingly resonant infinite regress powering Eric G. Wilson’s “Bowl,” ruled by the labyrinthine, archetypal, Escher-esque logic of nightmares.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Susan Lewis

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Welcome to the visual art of Posit 11!

Christopher Adams’ background in biology and science informs these environmental installations of ceramic sculpture. He creates small universes of hundreds of individual elements reminiscent of creatures from the biological world, as filtered through Adams’ imagination. Installed on walls painted in brilliant, deeply saturated colors, they seem to vibrate with energy, transporting us into another dimension.

Yura Adams works in a diverse vocabulary of forms united by her nuanced and thoughtful vision of the world. Based on both scientific and intuitive observation of the natural world, this work encompasses a lovely tension between loose drawing and complex patterning. Her use of rich and beautiful color reinforces this dynamic.

Kate Brown’s solidly painted compositions address one of the basic constructs of painting – the push and pull between positive and negative space. Using a carefully controlled palette of color, she has created an exploration of figure and ground that transcends the academic idea and emerges as glorious paintings. Big gestures are offset by architectural spaces. These works are luscious and bursting with energy.

In John Hundt’s hilarious and odd collage pieces, we see a world of biology and evolution gone strangely awry. Unlikely combinations of creatures are meticulously constructed from Hundt’s trove of imagery. Building upon the grand tradition of Surrealist collage, he has created a world of creatures found (hopefully) only in dreams.

With intricate and delicate etched lines, Renee Robbins explores the biology of the ocean. Her etchings, all based on actual creatures, evoke the undersea world caught in mid-motion. Her images are simultaneously scientific and dreamily ethereal. Rendered in softly psychedelic tones, they are like specimens on view through Robbins’ artistic microscope.

I hope you enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editor’s Notes (Posit 10)

 
Welcome to summer, and with it, to our 10th issue!

While not what is most often referred to as “summer reading,” this issue’s poetry and prose is energetic, surprising, pleasurable, and above all, various. From Martine Bellen’s Delphic utterances to James Capozzi’s lush expansiveness; from Joe Pan’s virtuosic fecundity to the compressed insightfulness of Alec Hershman, Call Freeman, and Becka Mara McKay, the work aggregated in these pages gives rise to its own poetic chiarascuro, an emphatic energy of contrasts fed as well by the moving micro-fiction of Anthony Schneider, Randee Silv’s suggestive “wordslabs,” an excerpt from a new collaboration by Thomas Cook and Tyler Flynn Dorholt, and the accomplished poetics of TJ Beitelman, Brett Salsbury, and Patrick Williams. So here’s to the delights of summer, and of Posit 10:

T.J. Beitelman’s probings of the intersection of truth and creation, vanity and desire, futility and hope, exploring “the real imagined” and the “imagined real” in which “none of this is holy. This is only art”;

Martine Bellen’s spare and exquisite excerpt from , inspired by Brazilian jujitsu, invoking “the efficacious arc of hatching” the insight that “delusions are inexhaustible”;

the expansive richness of James Capozzi’s verses, grappling with the psychic implications of “film that is a litany of artifacts ragged behind the rest of our evolution” as well as the elusive notion of “our majesty” which “blows the petals that form us” whether it resides in “maps of the coast the length of the coast” or “the life and the sub-life”;

Thomas Cook’s and Tyler Flynn Dorholt’s masterful collaborative meditation on time, identity, and language, which “keep[s] breaking perfectly with commas into slight unknowns” in order to remind us that “no matter what, what is always the thing mattering,” which “is not news nor is news not us”;

Cal Freeman’s sure-footed gems of energy, imagination, and insight, in which, as the author tells “The Innocent” in the epistle addressed to her, “grace is the shape of light that isn’t cast”;

the range yet compression of Alec Hershman’s lyrics, which convey meditative melancholy, wry humor, and philosophical rumination by tapping a well of surprise in which “the megaphone’s a dunce-cap; the helicopter lands with a limp”;

Becka Mara McKay’s lyrical yet gently wry investigations of relationship and faith, in which the “heart is/a dropped bottle,” “sorrow sags,” and “God leaves unlatched//the shore of sleep”;

Joe Pan’s virtuosically individuated monologues on one love which is wistfully “awash in what [she] cannot keep/or keep private,” while another struggles with her own “humble fidelity to [her] infidel’s lovely bits & bargaining chips” such as the beloved’s “ol’ stigmata’d-mouth-by-unforgiving-knuckles exploitation show”;

The wry melancholy and deadpan humor of Brett Salsbury’s pitch-perfect timing, reminding us “how your dreams rearrange the day” until “eventually gravity takes its whole toll”;

Anthony Schneider’s poignant fiction about personal constriction as coping mechanism and abuse, ringing with the potency of what is left unsaid;

Randee Silv’s ‘wordslabs’ constructed from resonant declaratives colliding productively like “circuits of cascading autumn clouds,” their “inward attentions inexhaustible”;

and Patrick Williams’ elegies to memory and mortality, in which “the lake is dead as a dream” although “we are too unfixed” and “someone is calling, but really/who picks up the phone anymore?”

Thank you for reading!

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

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And welcome to the visual art of Posit 10!

Alex Bunn’s photographs bedazzle and confound the viewer. Through his meticulous studio arrangements he creates temporary universes that leave us wondering at exactly what we are looking at. They are both delicious and decidedly creepy at the same time.

In Cynthia Carlson’s recent body of paintings, “Beyond the Rectangle,” we see a group of rigorously constructed, geometric compositions. Each painting is made of up many smaller canvases, combining to make compositions that inhabit the walls with architectural presence. The paintings are deeply and lushly painted: Carlson uses color to both harmonize and connect the compositions. Like jazz, they are syncopated and alive with energy.

Mary DeVincentis presents us with a world where darkness, both physical and psychological, is ever present. Beneath the cheerful colors and vigorous brushwork we see hints of the troubled life inside.

Carl Heyward creates mixed media works that are elegant and lyrical. With graceful gesture he mixes found and fabricated imagery to suggest visual short stories. Each work provides us with a bit of the narrative, leaving it up to the viewer to complete the story.

And Matt Nolen’s ceramic sculptures are richly layered with color, texture and meaning. Like surrealist narratives, they lead us along a dreamlike path where all interpretations are the rights ones.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Editors’ Notes (Posit 9)

 

Welcome to Posit 9!

We love this first issue of 2016, which makes us think, in a number of different ways, about the expansive potential of artistic innovation. First, there is the incorporation and re-appropriation managed by the procedural poetry of Carlo Matos and Travis Macdonald, offering glimpses of the erased and remixed words of writers like Simone Muench, Mark Lamoureux, and Paul Killibrew. In addition, there is the implicit dialogue between new and previous work by returning contributors — in this issue: Darren C. Demaree, Howie Good, and Travis Macdonald. All of which reminds us of the extent to which art is, by definition, about incorporation and re-imagination, whether it is Anis Shivani’s Great Wall, Howie Good’s tornado, Robert McBrearty life story, Eileen Tabios’s litany of wonders and horrors, or the alchemical transformation of source material aced by every artist (visual as well as literary) featured in this exciting issue. So, it is with great pleasure that we invite you to peruse:

Darren C. Demaree’s spare, suggestive, “quiet, lowered /. . . roaring/ . . .& ecstatic” probings of identity, intimacy, and the quest for grace;

Samantha Duncan’s smart, tightly-wound, vivid constructions tracking a paradoxical “graduation from the gradient” via “veins that listen” to her extremely telling “curl/ of words;”

Raymond Farr’s wistful prosody, revealing “the sublime the ironic like a 5 o’clock shadow” where “love is a man ruled by the sun & not the itch in his bones” and “even this sad yellow paint has seven shades of itself;”

Howie Good’s somber prose poems populated by “a new god seated on a throne of razor wire,” “gray gulls, their shrieks like symptoms of dementia,” and “words, some bandaged, others still bleeding” mercifully leavened by irony, imagination, and even love;

Maja Lukic’s quietly intense evocations of cityscapes furnished with “gutted wind” and a sky which “promises to rain / money bags and emoji,” or offers snow like “cracked glitter, paw imprints in new dustings, / effigies of our old breath, frozen in the air;”

Travis Macdonald’s compelling remixes of poems by Killibrew and Lamoureux, demonstrating “how all true/going is taking” and raising intriguing questions about the relationship between vocabulary and voice;

Carlo Matos’ haunting erasures of Simone Muench’s Wolf Centos (themselves reconfigurations of other poetic texts), troubling our assumptions about center vs periphery, absence vs presence, and the loud voice of the unsaid, “when tenderness/nestles down/with her she-mask” — “sans teeth, sans/you;”

Robert Garner McBrearty’s impossibly compressed microfiction, in which the task of writing his companion’s life story deteriorates to stunning effect;

Cindy Savett’s intriguing invitation to follow her on “a trip where the babies lie flat/ tracing resistance with their fingertips” leading us careening “down the middle in an instant of delight,” only to stand speechless wondering “how do I sing of white lilacs and pine?”

Anis Shivani’s virtuosic bricolage of allusive musicality and aphoristic insights nailing “art, the fleabite to time,” transforming “partial manuscripts signed/ by the angels of detritus” into “experimental gardens . . . [imbued with] the nuance of musicality;”

Eileen R. Tabios’ masterful litany of all that could never again be forgotten, once she “composed this song that would turn you into ice, so that you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore;”

and Leah Umansky’s inspired revelations of the “satisfaction in seeing the day as something clear for landing or for sending off” where “once, there was the falling of night and I was alone with its steepness, and . . . felt I was a pooling of light; a door-sliver and golden beam.”

Thank you, as ever, for reading.

Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann

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And welcome to the visual art of Posit 9!

Keren Kroul’s complex and beautiful paintings evoke maps of imaginary countries or the pathways of the brain. The individual sections stand strongly on their own, but conjoined in the large grids presented here, they make a statement that is simultaneously bold and intimate. The sum is as beautiful as the parts.

The mixed media sculptures of Sydney Ewerth turn our expectations about space and materials topsy-turvy. Her play with the object and its painted shadows confounds our expectations even while her materials and colors delight the eye. Her aesthetic is clear and the work masterful.

Don Porcaro choreographs an elegant dance between the two- and three-dimensional pieces presented here. It is evident how his work in one medium reverberates into another. His colorful and almost playful forms belie the serious artistic concerns that underlie this evocative body of work.

The lyrical paintings of Sarah Slavick are reminiscent of the movement of water, wind and sand. The rhythm and dynamism of her patterns are mesmerizing, with light and color moving through and around them, underscoring their complexity.

Mariah Karson presents a fascinating vision of landscape, whether it be the interior landscapes of abandoned school buildings or the poetics of isolated buildings in desolate settings. The solitude in her photographs is profound, and perhaps a little lonely. However, she frames this vision with a clarity that is elegant and precise.

Cheers!
Melissa Stern