In these days of Stay in Place, Hunker Down, and Quarantine, I can say assuredly that the world feels as though it has been turned on its head. While there are no known active cases of COVID-19 in the community [yet], the preparation is evident. Businesses are closed down, folks have been furloughed, parking areas and lots once full are largely empty, and pretty much all social activities are canceled indefinitely until this threat passes. Yet many are still on the front lines of working directly with the public at large and these folks have my utmost respect. Their efforts make it easier to accept the reasoning for sheltering.
In Alaska, schools are closed until May 1st [at least]. As with all teachers, I’ve spent too many hours last week online, moving my English classes to an online platform that will hopefully allow my students to keep moving forward in the month ahead. Tuesday will offer a better idea on how effective this plan is while both teachers and students adjust to this learning curve and either gather, assess and post work OR complete and submit assignments. The online platforms in my house will be smoking come Tuesday. My daughter will be taking her online courses while I monitor my online courses. Interesting times!
So it was timely that the literary journal Whatever Keeps the Lights On published its special edition anthology, “Stolen Moments: Poem Written at Desk Jobs” at this given time. One, we all been given this strange time to tend, reflect, and — at least in my home, read. Two, I’m happy to share that I have a couple of poems in this issue, “How to Disappear” and “Tidal Zone.” I’m grateful the editors gave these two a home in their pages.
If you’re not actively writing, take a chance that you’ll find work within these pages that piques your interest. Besides, Old Harbor Books is closed Sundays and this means no home delivery from our locally owned independent bookstore which is also trying to keep a stop in the door and business moving forward.
I think a poet’s four-leaf clover might well be akin to publishing a poem on the 1st of March. Thank you to Halfway Down the Stairs for publishing “Emily’s To-Do List,” a poem I wrote on Emily Dickinson’s birthday. It was actually written to serve as an example of a list poem for my high school students in Creative Writing, but I tinkered enough with it that it hopped into my submissions folder and out it went to to the world. I’m happy that it found its home in this quarterly journal devoted to “Milestones.”
There’s nothing like lush, spring green popping up on Valentine’s Day. It gives me a fresh outlook on the day, regardless of snow and rain and winter temps outside. So you can imagine the delight of reading the Green Light’s Valentine’s Day 2020 Collection. I’m happy they included my “Palmistry of Reading” in this collection. It is an older poem, but one I’m happy to see land on a heartfelt page. Happy [late] Valentine’s Day!
I’ll confess, I’m not much of a cook. Lately, I’ve been more into setting out boards of cheese, crackers, fruits and veggies for the sole reason that chopping is easier than cooking. But there are some things yet I love to make, once I put my mind to it. And there are even some things I make that end up in my poetry, like crepes and Dutch fry baby.
Autumn House Journal promises publication of work that “lingers and haunts…of abandonment, decay, everyday magic, fairy tales, ghosts, nature, paranormal, relationships, solitude, and anything located deep in-between the cracks.” I am grateful to editor Sandy Benitez for including “Beckon” in its fold. I am guessing this poem falls under everyday magic. I look forward to perusing the work gathered here.
Gosh, it’s challenging to write about a magazine for which I have utmost respect. Camashas been in publication since 1992, a vision created by Environmental Studies graduate students at the University of Montana. Their primary goal is to celebrate the land of the American West, the land that connects us all. Another goal is to honor cultural resilience. They hold publishing space for both emerging and established voices.
So I was over the moon to learn my poem, “Awaiting Burial,” was accepted for this winter issue exploring the theme of decay. It’s also not lost on me that Alaskan poet and former faculty member of the UAA MFA program, Eva Saulitis, has also walked among these pages.
I leave you with the blog announcement introducing this latest issue because editors generally say it best about a given issue.
Verb: rot or decompose through the action of bacteria and fungi.
Noun: the state or process of rotting or decomposition.
The theme “Decay” may sound grim, but unsurprisingly, the talented writers and artists
in this edition of Camas Magazine have teased glimmers of hope and beauty into their work. Throughout the pages of the winter issue, the magazine presents varied and very human responses to one of the things that is most terrifying—and in some ways, comforting—about life on earth.
Decay evokes startling imagery—the writers, photographers and artists didn’t shy away from the occasional grotesque images. “Skulls and Moths” by Kathy Bruce illustrates two animal skulls in the process of being treated in a water-bleach solution. Moths and leaves on the surface of the water add an accidental artistry to the image of the waterlogged skin peeling away from bone. The artist described this process by saying, “the effect is often mysterious and ethereal.”
Chris La Tray, our featured writer for this issue, invites readers into a midnight rumination on both the seriousness and lightheartedness of death in his essay, “Back to the Mud: or, Melodramatic Thoughts on Death and Decay.”
La Tray is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. His book “One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large”(Riverfeet Press) won the 2018 Montana Book Award and a 2019 High Plains Book Award. His next book will be published by Milkweed Editions in Spring 2021. La Tray can also be found at Missoula’s favorite community bookstore Fact & Fiction.
Kitty Galloway’s nonfiction essay “Crossings” examines the effects—physical and psychological—of the roadways that cut across our landscapes. Her essay is paired with “Iguanot” by Chris Daley, an image of a lizard that has been flattened on the roadway.
One fiction piece “Volumes” by Natalie Storey is set in modern rural Montana, and uses gritty realism in combination with artistic fantasy. In contrast, “On Speaking Terms” by B.A. Van Sise is set amid the backdrop of high-society, mid-century New York City. Both pieces are compelling in communicating the theme of decay in ways that makes them feel like natural companions despite the difference in time and setting.
Poetry in this issue ranges from verses honoring the dead body of a raven in “Awaiting Burial” by Kersten Christianson to a microscopic look at dead skin cells in “Marauders All” by Jan Harris.
Join us for the magazine release this Friday, December 6th from 6-8 p.m. at Imagination Brewery. Copies of the magazine are available for $8.50 for purchase.
Thank you to the Florence Poets Society out of Florence, Massachusetts for including “Curate” in the Annual Review devoted to Survival and dedicated to the “memory of fierce poets and friends” Martina Robinson and Teri O’Shea. While I’ve not read this collection in its entirety, nor chronologically, it is within reach of my thinking chair, available to pick up and open to a random page to see what poem presents itself. Sometimes this is the best way to read poetry. And so I leave you with the quote by Audre Lorde that begins this collection: